Some would call me compulsive, some might admire my extreme sense of organization and record-keeping, both of which I inherited from my mother. Case in point: Since 1970, I have kept a record of books I have read. It started as an index card file; I’d enter the title, author, date finished and a short synopsis of the plot and evaluation of the book. Approximately 20 years later, I entered all the information into a computer in the form of a sortable spreadsheet but kept all the index cards. Amazingly, when I computerized the stack of cards, I realized that there were several books I had unknowingly read twice!
Nowadays, upon completing a book, I fill out a card and at some point when I’ve got quite a few, enter them into the computer.
The first entry is Thank You, Dr. Lamaze. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time and practicing “natural childbirth.” The last book I finished was by Elizabeth Berg, Until the Real Thing Comes Along. There are 1348 entries (I’m not a very fast reader) and include audiobooks which I listened to during my working years of commuting 25 minutes each way for about 20 years.
There are several advantages to this spreadsheet, the main one being that at my age, I often choose a book from the library, read a few pages, and say, “hmmmm, this looks familiar. I wonder if I read it before?” And whaddya know? There it is in the spreadsheet … I read it 3 years ago! Once, I started a book and was sure I had read it but it was not in the computer. I was so sure, however, that I looked through the index cards yet to be entered and guess what? I had read it 3 months before!
Another advantage is when someone asks me to recommend a book, I can do so with ease. Even tho I don’t include my evaluations in the spreadsheet, I can find the index card by simply knowing the date and provide the information.
Last night we watched the movie “The Land of Steady Habits” and I knew I had read the book. Looked it up, discovered it was “good, not great” and the author grew up here in Westport. That would explain why recognizable scenes of downtown Westport could be viewed in the movie. Movie, too, was not good; we gave up after ½ hour.
I am often asked by other readers, “Who’s your favorite author” and I peruse my e-books. I’ve read 5 by Augusten Burroughs, 6 each by Bill Bryson, Larry McMurtry, Michael Crichton and Pat Conroy, 7 each by Alice Hoffman, Fred Mustard Stewart (I wrote him a fan letter in the ‘70’s and he answered; I still have it), Anna Quindlen, Meg Wolitzer (just found out that she wrote the wonderful film starring Glenn Close called “The Wife” which I never read), 8 Elinor Lippman, 9 each by Jon Irving, Ed McBain, Calvin Trillin, Lawrence Sanders, Elizabeth Berg and Stephen King, 10 Ann Rule, 11 Dean Koontz, , and the winner is 18 by Anne Tyler! I can quickly find the index card to go with the entry if my friend wants a synopsis or a recommendation.
I enjoy looking over my reading history, thinking of what was going on in my life at the time and seeing how my taste in books have changed with age and the times. And … my two favorite books I’ve read twice each: The World According to Garp by Jon Irving and Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins. Time to read each again!