Continuing my obsession with words, I watered the topic and it grew into books.
I love books. If you slathered frosting on a book, I would totally eat it.
As I mentioned recently, I’m caught in the trap of school, where I HAVE to read, which is totally cutting into my time for what I WANT to read. And with the Kindle Daily Deal offering books for $1.99, my owned-books collection has grown to 40. And that’s not counting the eBook collection a friend gave me that is multi-thousand titles long.
So I’m busy. My main problem with eBooks is that you can’t spread them over your bed and roll around in them like money or whip cream.
At 3am, lots of things seem like a good idea. And one night several weeks ago I decided, in my wakefulness, to start a spreadsheet of every book I’ve ever read. I don’t know why this became important to me, but I’m just really curious about the total amount of verbiage I’ve consumed in my lifetime. Reading is genetic with me.
As of right now, my list is only 345 books long. This is a bit disappointing, but I understand why. There have been gaps in my reading, periods where I was too distracted by life and theatre to read a book. I only read travel magazines for a year or two.
And also, I just can’t remember everything. Currently most of my books are in my storage unit, so I can’t jog my own memory with a book shelf. I can’t remember a lot of what I read in college, no matter how hard I try.
But the trying is revealing a lot of really interesting things to me. For example, I remember much more vividly the books I read when I was a child/teenager than anything I’ve read in my adult life. I remember the authors I love, and reading every single title I could find by them. I’m aided in this task by the most fabulous website ever, Goodreads.com. It’s Facebook for book nerds, and it’s so helpful to just type in an author and get their entire bibliography.
But why do I remember those books so much more viscerally than almost anything I read as an adult? I remember Cynthia Voigt and Ann Rinaldi. I remembered having such a strong reaction to Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart mysteries that I actually reread them over Christmas. I remember the Anastasia Krupnik books by Lois Lowry, and how she wanted a turret/tower bedroom when her family was moving. Patricia Beatty wrote a slew of Civil War historical fiction that I was in love with.
These books have stuck with me more than ninety percent of what I read in college. What does this say about adult literature? Or, I guess, about me, and my interest in being adult?
Here’s where things get hairy. I’m not sure what is considered a “book.” How many pages, or how small does the type have to be to be worthy of my list? At what point can something be considered not a “kid’s book”? Or do kid’s books have their own validity, even if they are short? Can I include all the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary? Do books you read in second grade “count” toward your lifetime reading tally? Can I count The Babysitters Club even though I probably skipped the first ten pages of every book?
Here’s another question: plays. Part of why my book reading is a bit lean in some years is that I was exclusively reading plays. Do these make it on the list? I tend to think no, they are not complete texts in and of themselves. They need a third dimension to live, so I can’t count them. But am I wrong?
Finally, the problem with college reading is I would frequently be forced to buy a book only to read a chapter or two. I’ve read a lot of Emerson and Thoreau, and Edgar Allan Poe short stories, but I don’t know that I’ve read a complete text by any of them. Do I/How do I incorporate these fragments?
If you have any opinions about these questions, I’d love to hear them. I’m at an impasse. I haven’t added Bridge to Terabithia or Summer of the Swans or There’s a Bat In Bunk Five yet because I’m just not sure. The fate of The Babysitters Club hangs in the balance. What do you think?
Ah, the metaphysics of books. I’m about ready to start throwing wads of paper in the air and dancing ecstatically in my book rain.
In any case, you might think it’s a crazy project, but I can’t even tell you how fascinating it is. Remembering one book will spark another title that has been buried in my subconscious for years. I’m remembering authors whom I’d like to revisit, books I’d like to give a second chance to see if my opinion is the same. It’s a lot of fun to look back and remember this facet of my life that has been so important to me for redemption, catharsis, escapism, education, growing up.
I dare you to try it. You’ll learn a lot about yourself.