The Book Files
I have a little black book beside my bed.
It is a diary (an X Files diary actually -- ahem!), but there's no salacious reading in there. It's a record of every book I've read since 1996.
I've always had a habit of jotting down the titles of books I've finished. I used to keep a list at the back of my real diary, the one filled with angsty moanings about the unfairness of life, but I let that journal dry up years ago. Instead I have my X Files list.
Here's a random day's worth and what it tells me:
Time In History: GJ Whitrow (98) Picked this up from the Readings bargain table. Not as interesting as it looked. This was obviously pre-children when I had more patience for dull books.
The Red Queen: Matt Ridley (99) A science book, something about sex and evolution? I used to read a lot of pop science, before my brains got scrambled by child-rearing. Don't know if I could struggle through this now.
The Veiled One: Ruth Rendell (01) When I was pregnant with Alice I read nothing but murder mysteries. Hm, that could explain a lot about Alice actually...!
Venus In Copper: Lindsay Davis (02) Another murder mystery, but set in ancient Rome. Alice was a baby. These were light but diverting reads.
Elsewhere: Gabrielle Zevin (07) Rosalind Price from Allen & Unwin lent me this when I was struggling with Cicada Summer. It didn't really help much but it was... interesting.
So in a way, my book diary does function like a real diary. I can remember what was happening in my life, where I was when I read a particular book, and why I picked it up. I go through phases -- mysteries, favourites from my childhood (in one difficult month I re-read all of Arthur Ransome), research for books I want to write (most recently, lots of books about New Guinea), books about the supernatural. There are books I read for my old book group, and books I've read for the new one.
There are weird pieces of synchronicity. I finished Kate Grenville's Searching For The Secret River three years (less one day!) after The Secret River itself. I seem to read more children's books in winter. I read less in September. There are days overflowing with books, and days that are completely empty, year after year.
But alas, the X Files are almost full. Too many days are crammed. So much in my life has changed since the day I bought it at the newsagents in Clifton Hill. In 1996, I was living in a Collingwood share-house, young and single, optimistically sending off short stories to Meanjin and Island. In 2010, four houses later, I'm in Preston, middle-aged and married, with two school-aged children and eight books to my name. I need a new little black book, for all the reading experiences the next fifteen years will bring.
Does anyone else keep a list of their books? Or is it just the Virgo in me?