My Book Diary and Why I Write Book Reviews

I began my diary of read books in August of 1976. It was The CampCamp of Saints of the Saints by Jean Raspail. First published in 1973 it is an apocalyptic story of mass migration from poverty-stricken India to Belgium. I remember a feeling of body weakness as I read that book that I still periodically feel when I hear certain news.

The notebook I had on hand to record reading.

The notebook I had on hand to record reading.

That book gave me an ungodly awful feeling of moral turmoil and dilemma. The poor who would give up their babies to the rich, the world’s desperate in a ship anchored offshore of France with thousands of hungry people. The people with the beautiful and the plentiful on their plates unable to feed the legions heading to their shores.

It may have been that one book and its lifetime memory that caused me to start recording every book I’ve read since then that wasn’t strictly research. The first full year I kept was 1977 and I read 44 books. In 2013 I read 39. There are books I don’t remember much about like Queen of Dreams by Heather Valencia about a Yaqui dreaming woman, but reading my scrawls in red, blue, black ink and pencil prompts me. Makes me remember a mood, impression or subject.

It’s like a black and white photo of childhood. There is recorded proof something happened and sometimes just seeing that small bit of fabric in the dress I was wearing or the curl on my head that I had through all my adult years until recently as I’ve started to age and it has softened and fallen like evidence in sand, I will be reminded of a sound or a feeling.

Many books I would have forgotten without the written prompt, but with the title, author and when I read it, I can recall more of the story though I can never quote. But what is better is that with the year and the month recorded I can recall a few more tatters of life memory.

In 1999 I told a woman I had read 7 Tattoos by Peter Trachtenberg. We had an animated, ego centric, culturally hungry conversation about that book being way over-rated by a New York agent who had never traveled west of the Hudson and was probably being black-mailed by Trachtenberg. Yup, that was our view and we bonded over it. I’ve come to like Easterners now (now that I know a few) and I’ve learned myopic vision usually goes two ways.

My mind is not a steel trap, but I’ve admired its quirkiness and willingness to explore or at least entertain new ideas. But it needs help. Prompts help me recall submerged thinking, pull up what is at the bottom of my mental ocean. So to speak. That’s why I started writing reviews. Not for my electric brilliance in skewing authors in insightful literary examination of the deepest sort. Nope. I want to sit myself down and make myself listen to my thoughts, hear them rattle, make them coherent, force myself to make connections, and for gawdsakes Rebecca, learn something.

On the front page of the notebook is a line written by my son when he had recently learned to write in cursive. “What’s for lunch desert?” He was impressed with my book listing and we opened to a 41kdYd8514L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_new page about two-thirds in and began his list. His began with Whose Nose Is This? by Dr. Richard Von Gelder and ended a few years later with Firestarter by Stephen King.

When I was in Toastmasters I mentioned the list in a talk and teased myself that perhaps when the book is filled with entries I’ll be obligated to die. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ve wondered if I should slow down my reading.

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13 Responses to My Book Diary and Why I Write Book Reviews

  1. I love this idea of writing a review after you read a book. My year was supposed to be January 2013. I don’t know what took so long to come to this conclusion but I didn’t make it to the starting gate. I had the same reason you give. Sure I can open the front flap and the story might come back but writing in your own hand, your own feelings about the book is entirely different.

    If I wasn’t doing blah blah blah, then I would have time for…all the things I’ve dropped and keep cutting out. Either I must learn to work better, work faster or give up sleep to catch up. Anyway, this is only January 3. I still have a chance. Last night I finished my first book for this year. Hmm.

    Kudos to you for what you’ve accomplished and for writing this post. ;-)

  2. Write in pencil, Rebecca, then if the end seems imminent start erasing entries, like Ulysses wife undoing her weaving. :) I keep most of my books, certainly the ones I find memorable. My records stare at me as I look up at the far-too-many bookcases Peggy and I have in our house. –Curt

    • That’s a good idea. Maybe changing my name to Penelope would even work better to elude finishing the book. I like keeping books too. It was awful having to get rid of some when we moved. Loved your mail walk.

  3. NO, no, don’t slow down your reading – get another book and read faster to fill it !!!!
    I love reading about other people’s reading and the books they’ve read – lovely, thank you…

  4. Would this work, do you think? Get to the last page and never finish it–just go on to the next notebook. Yes, knowing what others read always broadens my appreciation of them.

  5. katecrimmins says:

    This is a wonderful idea! There have been times I picked up a book I had already read because I didn’t remember I read it until I was at Chapter 2. For some reason I am bad with titles. I remember authors and plots but not the title!

    • I’ve done that, too! I also have a pile of books “to read,” that more than once I’ve bought a second copy of a book I already have. I envy remembering much about plots. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  6. Smaktakula says:

    A book journal (as a dude, I can’t call it a diary–I hope you understand) is such an awesome idea, and one which I can’t believe I’ve never thought of. I’ve kept a journal (not a diary, mind you!) pretty much all my adult life, and it’s been such an asset. To a limited degree I do talk about the things I read and see in that journal, but the idea of a dedicated forum for those kinds of things seems both fun and beneficial.

  7. I certainly understand the word journal over diary. Similarly, my husband will wear a hat, but never a “sunhat” and he’s told me men really don’t like being called cute even if it is complimentary. I think keeping track of life, even if it’s just casually, can be helpful and even entertaining as the decades start to pile up. Thanks for commenting!

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