Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My personal reading list

Writing about the reading list feature in SWAN, the library’s online catalog, made me think of my own personal reading list. Like many librarians, I keep a personal reading list. It is just a notebook in which I write down every book that I read. I started my written list long before SWAN would keep the list for me. I only write down the title, author, and date I finished reading the book. Once I intended to include comments or even mini-reviews, but the Downers Grove librarian who advocated that everyone should keep a personal reading list years ago also recommend keeping the entries brief, so you actually bother to do it every time you finish a book. If you wait until you have enough time to write comments about each book it becomes work, and you will never get around to it.

That was very good advice because I really have written down every one of the books that I have read since I started keeping the list. I would absolutely not have kept up with the list if I forced myself to write more about each title. Even with that small amount of information, a glance through the pages of my notebook brings back an amazing number of memories of my life at the time I read each one.

The Field Guide to North American Spiders reminded me of September 2007, when a large spider had taken up residence on our back porch and every night would construct a beautiful web in the open door way. Every morning the web would be in tatters, sometimes from the wind, sometimes because I forgot about it and walked through it when I let the dog out. But every evening for over a week she would come out of hiding at sundown and begin spinning a new web for the night’s hunting. My wife and I would sometimes just stand and watch. We did identify her, though I don’t remember what kind of spider she was. But I can vividly recall how beautifully her web shone in the moonlight every night during that magical week.

The other day I wanted to find a recipe for orecchio pasta with cherry tomatoes. I remembered that I had cooked it from a new cook book that I was reading, when my wife’s yoga teacher/mentor from California came over for dinner when she was in town to do a workshop a couple of years ago. Sure enough, I looked through my notebook and found “My Italian Garden” by Viana LaPlace, a wonderful collection of recipes for cooking the produce from the author’s garden in southern Italy. Then I remembered the lovely evening we spent in our tiny kitchen full of yoga teachers and friends.

Other books remind me of occasions as varied as vacations at the beach or long hours in the hospital while my wife recovered from a serious illness. Sometimes I just want to be reminded a about a favorite series that I read in the past. Looking at my list reminded me that it has been a while since I have checked to see if C.J. Box has written any more mysteries featuring Wyoming game warden Joe Picket. A quick search of SWAN shows that, yes, there is one I haven’t read yet!

So if you are reader, get yourself a spiral notebook and keep it in the place that works best for you. My wife keeps hers on her dresser and writes her notes before she goes to sleep at night. I keep mine in the dining room and add my books while drinking my morning coffee. Your reading list will soon become part of your regular routine.