Since 1997, I have kept a log of the books I’ve read. I’ve forgotten what inspired me to do this. My love of books and reading, sure. But I think it also was to document growth and changing tastes. Plus, each year there is an instinctual challenge to try to beat the previous year’s numbers.
It turns out I’m not the only one to do this. If only I had thought that others would be interested in seeing what I’ve read.
Pamela Paul beat me to it. Paul, whose already enviable life includes living abroad in her 20s as well as working as the New York Times Book Review editor (dream job!), is the author of the new “My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues.” Bob stands for Book of Books and it is her record of all she’s read since she was 17.
For 28 years, she has documented her reading history (and her life). It’s not just a list of books. A news release says: “It’s about the deep and powerful relationship between book and reader. It’s about the way books provide each of us the perspective, courage, companionship, and imperfect self-knowledge to forge our own path. It’s about why we read what we read and how those choices make us who we are. It’s about how we make our own stories.”
I think I may have to get this book. Reason 1: I can relate to this. I can track what was going on in my life, to some extent, by what I read. Reason 2: I love hearing what other people are reading and how books have shaped their lives. It’s a bit voyeuristic, but in a civilized way.
I think of my reading log as a personal document. A living document.
I find keeping track to be soothing in a way, leaving proof of something I’ve accomplished. A historical document, if you will. I can tell you by the selection of books each year where I was in my life. I would love to think of myself as a bibliophile, but really I’m just finding my way. Still. I like historical fiction, thrillers, best-sellers. I wish I liked nonfiction more. I dislike chick lit.
Another writer who loves keep tracking is Jenny Rosenstrach. She’s documented every dinner she’s had since 1998.
This tally morphed into a blog and a series of cookbooks, starting with “Dinner a Love Story: It All Begins at the Family Table.” Her cookbooks and blog are about food, family, struggling for a work/life balance and reading.
Both Rosenstrach and Paul are journalists, with a history in magazines and newspapers. Both were able to craft careers documenting issues of importance in their personal lives, whether it’s marriage (Paul’s “The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony” or her research on childrearing, “Parenting, Inc.: How the Billion-Dollar Baby Business Has Changed the Way We Raise Our Children”) or Rosenstrach’s desire to keep the traditional family dinner alive despite picky children and crazy schedules.
I have all of Rosenstrach’s books and cook from them regularly. (Solid recipes, great writing.) I think it’s commendable when people commit to something, whether it’s logging in hours at the gym, documenting the food you put on the table for your family or noting which books you’ve read.
Perhaps you’ll find some favorites among the book selections pictured in my journal. I think reading about what others like to read is so insightful. Paul is also responsible for the “By the Book” series in the New York Times, a favorite of mine. It takes “What book would you take with you on a deserted island?” a step further. (Can her life be any better?!)