The other day, I found a random box of “childhood treasures” in a closet. The most interesting thing I found in it was a folder with a number of book-related items, some old, some recent.
I found lists. Some are photocopies from high school teachers of “books to read.” I’d crossed out the ones I’d already read and highlighted ones that I had already read. Some lists had stars by the books I wanted to read. (One list is “25 Must Reads”: by now I’ve read all but five, and that makes me happy.) I found “top ten” lists from the newspaper. I found book club lists from when I went with my mom to her book club meetings (at least four years ago). I found corners ripped from my high school appointment book with random book and movie titles scribbled on it –
The Picture of Dorian Gray! Casablanca. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Stowe.
I found notes. Most of them are notes from book reports my fellow students gave: Laura: Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut. Lawrence: The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien.
I found a notebook, and this to me is a most amazing find. At some point after all the notes scribbled in margins, I started listing all the books I want to read in a notebook. When I read the book, I highlighted it in the notebook. If I decided not to read it, I crossed it out and highlighted it. I recall imagining a notebook full of blue highlighted pages. Alas, there are fourteen pages of lists of books, both fiction and nonfiction and there is only a line or two of highlighting on each page. I look at it now and no, I still haven’t read most of the books. (But I don’t want to read most of them anymore; interesting how tastes change.)
I also found a list of “Books I Read” kept for a short time when I was 16 to 17. It is just one page, and it starts with an entry for May 1997 (Pride and Prejudice) and ends December 1998. I sure didn’t read very much in that period of time! There are a number of classics: some of them I don’t recall reading at all. Heart of Darkness in July 1998? Are you serious? I can’t recall a thing about it. There are also a few Mary Higgins Clark and John Grisham novels, and I don’t recall reading those either.
The favorite thing about this list is July 13-July 15. I read Beloved over those two days. I’m pretty sure that was my first read of it, and I do remember the impressions I had when I read that. I mentioned them when I talked about The Book That Changed My Life, although I misremembered and thought I was a bit younger when I read it the first time.
I’m reading Beloved again this week, and I love it still. I don’t want to rush through it this time, though. I want to slow down and reread passages again and again.
I really did enjoy the “blast from the past” as I looked at past reading habits. I look at my ways of keeping track now (all computerized) and I wonder if I haven’t lost some of the charm: no more notebook with lists of books, no more newspaper clippings, and no notes in an appointment book (I don’t even have an appointment book other than my phone’s calendar).
And then I see how easily it is to track and organize my TBR list. No, notebooks are not better. I definitely prefer the digital age.
How do you track your TBR? Are you a list writer? Do you keep track of the books you’ve read? Do you save “must read” lists you come across?