One of my favorite things about the reading process, aside from experiencing someone else’s world and learning everything from how to unstop a toilet to how to make a quiche, is logging the books I’ve read. For some weird reason, it gives me great satisfaction to see how many books I’ve read in the last month, year, etc. Here are my top 5 reasons to keep a reading log.
That sounds a little obvious, but documenting the books you read can prove extremely effective in the long run. For example, if someone asks me for book recommendations, I’ll flip through my reading log and skim the titles of the books I’ve read. Documenting also allows you to determine, over the course of time, which books are your absolute favorites, and which ones were just OK. Initially, I’ll mark a lot of the books I read as favorites, but in about a year, when I compare them to the other books I’ve read recently, I realize they aren’t as special as I thought.
I like to make lists, so my reading log has several pages where I list my favorite authors, short stories, poems, and books. I also have lists of the best classics and novels that made an impact on my life. Just because a book or short story was super good doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll remember the name of the work or its author. Nothing is more frustrating that remembering an excellent story you read a few years ago but not remembering its title. Save yourself from that tragic fate by writing down your favorites in their own list.
I know there are tools online, like Goodreads, that help you document the books you’ve read, but something about old-fashioned pen on paper makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Not to mention when the electricity goes out and you can’t charge your phone, you won’t be stuck trying to figure out a good book to re-read while you wait for the repairman. I keep my notebook in my desk drawer, and I pull it out whenever I finish a book to jot down a little something. The notebook is also great for taking to the library. I’ve compiled lists in my reading log of books I’ve found on the online card catalog at home that I want to check out when I get to the library. Yes, I know you can use your phone for all that stuff, but I am the Vintage Book Lady. I’m a little stubborn about giving up my notebooks for the “conveniences” of modern technology.
Starting a reading log can be as simple or as fancy as you want it to be. Personally, I just list the book I’ve read, the author, and the date I finished it. I also keep a running tally of the books I’ve read by numbering them. As of May 28, 2015, for example, I’ve finished my 409th book in the last 5 years. If I really liked the book, I’ll put a heart between the author’s name and the date I finished the book to denote its “favorite” status. I also have special pages to document my favorite authors, poems, books, and short stories, as well as reading lists, names of authors whose work I’d like to further explore, and a list of good book series. I keep all of this in a purple, spiral-bound notebook that has been serving me faithfully for the last 2 1/2 years. Of course, if you’re a techy, you can start a file on your computer, or even break down and open a Goodreads account.:)
Recently, I’ve started another reading-related endeavor, which I call my reading journal. I generally use it when I’m reading classics to pick out all the “hints” and messages in the story. I’ll write down quotes from the characters, passages that seem particularly important, or sometimes, just my reaction to what happened at a certain point in the plot. This is especially helpful if you plan to write about the books (i.e. blog post, etc.) you’ve read as it will allow you to go back and more fully capture the essence of the story. This is also an excellent way to more firmly fixate the book’s concepts in your mind. In a sense, this type of book logging is a lot like eating. When you get a really good book, you tend to gobble it up, and, if you’re like me, you probably forget a lot of the important details within a month, like that monumental thing one of the characters said or the melody of the descriptive passages. With a reading journal, you can more fully digest the book, allowing yourself to chew on the issues, messages, and important concepts of the book. Not only that, but you can also go back and look at your initial reaction a few years down the road if you decide to re-read the same book. It would be really fun to compare your thoughts during your first read-through to your impressions during your 2nd, 3rd, or 4th read-through.
Do you have a post-reading routine? Leave me a comment; I’d love to hear about it!
~The Vintage Book Lady