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The Benefits of a Book Journal

31 July 2012

From The Wall Street Journal:

Seven years ago last week, I started keeping a record of the books I had read. I have only my unreliable memory for what I read before July 27, 2005.

However old you are, begin a reading log now. Keep it simple and convenient. I use small Paperblanks notebooks because I like the sound of the covers snapping shut, but there’s an iPhone app, Reader Tracker, or you can tweet book titles to I’vRead.

. . . .

A few weeks ago a friend told me she had recently reread “Julie of the Wolves” by Jean Craighead George. I remembered one of George’s other novels for what are now called young adults, “My Side of the Mountain,” which I reread compulsively when I was a child. That reminded me of how many books I have lost from my early reading years. If you have children who are readers, do them a favor and start keeping a book list for them until they’re ready to do it for themselves.

My book journal charts my vacations—I went to Scotland in 2006 and read “Outlander” by Diane Gabaldon and “The Game of Kings” by Dorothy Dunnett. While in Ireland in 2007, I read “Troubles” by J.G. Farrell; “Round Ireland With a Fridge” by Tony Hawks; and “Famine” by Liam O’Flaherty.

. . . .

My late father-in-law kept a book journal for decades, and at his memorial service, my brother-in-law read excerpts from it. To me it was like listening to poetry, the poet revealing his curiosity and gratification in the condensation of book titles. Keep a book journal, for yourself and for all who follow you.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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4 Comments to “The Benefits of a Book Journal”

  1. I couldn’t agree more! I read SO many books that several years ago, I started an Excel spreadsheet, where I note the name of the book, the author, the narrator (yes I listen to audiobooks), whether it’s part of numerous series I follow, and my own rating. I use a system of 1-5, with 5 being outstanding.

    It has served me well over the years. If I can’t remember whether I read a certain book or not, I refer to this file. It can also tell me whether I liked it or not, based on my ratings.

    Since I love certain narrators, it also reminds me which narrator read the book.

  2. I felt the same loss of my childhood books. I have been keeping a book journal for the past eight years, since I acquired a hand-made blank book at a gift exchange. It is simple. I record the author and title, but I have referred to it many times. One of my best friends has a young daughter who has just made the transition from picture books to chapter books and is very excited to be reading “real” books. I asked my friend to make her a book journal, too, and I will present it to her at a very special lunch just for us. I wish somone had done the same for me when I was young.

  3. Given that I’m fairly sure I’ve read hundreds of thousands of books? No. Nopers. No. Don’t wanna know.

  4. When my son was after some fresh books to read, I dredged some authors and titles from my memory. Alas, the vast majority are unavailable. Perhaps with ebooks, thinks will change. But for me looking over a book journal would have had the same ffect as walking through a cemetery .

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