Even though I entered my Master’s of Library Science program at the age of 27, I’ve been an organized, bookish reader since my elementary school days. Somewhere there exists in my parents’ house a textured 3 ring binder, with wide-ruled notebook paper, where I’ve written details of what I read in my adolescent and teenage years: Berenstain Bears, Boxcar Children, Roald Dahl, Mark Twain award nominees, oh so many Baby Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins, and gentle Christian romance novels by Jeanette Oke and Lori Wick.
Then during the Summer of 2001, I purchased the Books to Check Out journal at Barnes & Noble, which they still have for sale, and began logging the books I read.
That summer, between my Sophomore and Junior years of college, I worked in an ice cream shop in my hometown, contracted a severe strain of mononucleosis, quit said job, and recovered physically, emotionally, and spiritually from having made some very poor choices the previous school year. Looking back, I now see how this journal might have begun as bibliotherapy, but quickly turned into a lifestyle of logging the books and authors I read throughout my young adult years and beyond.
It’s a simple method. I just wrote down the name of the book and the author, noted the season and the year, and, lately, designated if it was an audio book. In another section I recorded favorite quotes and passages that stood out to me.
But at the beginning of September, I filled in the final rows – The Long Way Home by Louise Penny and Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery.
This is my new book journal that I bought from Amazon.
It has a lot more note-taking features, which we’ll see if I actually use, and due to these enhancements, there are fewer actual pages to record the books I’ll read. Therefore, I’ll probably fill up these pages within the year, but it’s a new approach and I’m happy to try something different.
And yet, before I move forward, it’s been fun to take a step back and examine memorable highlights from the book journal I’ve used for the past 17 years.
I discovered authors Adriana Trigiani, Billie Letts (I would later work with one of her sons 9 years after reading Where the Heart Is) and Jan Karon, re-read several Little House books, and bought a hardback copy of a then little known book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and distinctly remember reading it under a tree on the lawn outside my dorm room.
Total books read = 22
I bravely read about Big Brother in 1984 and revisited several books in the Narnia series, which has become an ongoing tradition.
Total books read = 20
I student-taught in the Fall, felt like The DaVinci Code jumped off the shelf at Borders and begged me to read it, graduated from college, discovered Francine Rivers, and yellow-highlighted passages in Fahrenheit 451.
Total books read = 18
The new year found me with my first job as a music teacher in St. Louis where I bought The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke at the school’s Scholastic book fair. I had just traveled to Venice the summer before and vividly pictured Prosper and Bo racing beside the canals. That Fall I transitioned to a job at our local community college, my first glimpse into a love for working in higher education, and found myself laughing out loud to the snarky humor of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris, especially Six to Eight Black Men.
Total books read = 35
Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier was a classic on my unread shelf, which absolutely sucked me in. I read a handful of popular Nicholas Sparks books, several stage plays since I was working in a Fine Arts department, and traveled to London, accompanied by The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Total books read = 29
The writing of Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri was forever etched into my heart, I was left very disappointed after reading/listening to all of the Lemony Snicket series, I used my public library’s reserve system to request numerous Dee Henderson titles, read my first Jodi Picoult, was bowled over by The Time Traveler’s Wife, and was given a book by Neil Clark Warren that firmly established my “must haves” and “can’t stands” in a future spouse.
Total books read = 52
Like a lot of other women, I loved Eat, Pray, Love, enjoyed the friendships of the girls in The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, found the bleak surroundings of The Road mesmerizing, and said goodbye not only to beloved friends on the page in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but also dear friends in real life as I moved away from my hometown to begin graduate school.
Total books read = 34
I began graduate school with an emphasis in vocal music performance, but in 2008 I officially declared myself as a student in the Library Science program. The public library became my home-away-from-home and I gained my first experience as a librarian working as an aide in an elementary school library. Here I discovered loads of wonderful middle-grade novels and The Magic Treehouse series, in particular. Thanks to friends in my MLS program, we all read Twilight at the height of its popularity, even went to the book release party for Breaking Dawn, and around the time of my maternal grandmother’s death, the writings of Karen Kingsbury provided great comfort.
Total books read = 52
The novel American Wife was one of the most sweeping stories I’ve still ever read, I stayed up wayyyy past my bedtime to finish Dead Until Dark at the height of the Sookie Stackhouse craze, wanted to go to culinary school in Paris thanks to The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry, and was enamored with the process of being a couture shoe maker in New York after having read Very Valentine.
Total books read = 53
During my last year of Library School I took a Reader’s Advisory class that exposed me to many wonderful books, including the epistolary classic Dracula, I caught Hunger Games fever, flew to Oklahoma to interview for my (now) job with Little Bee in my carry-on, was hired for my job as an academic librarian and moved to Oklahoma after graduating. Here I discovered the Sequoyah Awards list based on votes by Oklahoma librarians and children.
Total books read = 71
I began the year immersed in Sweden thanks to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the little girl in me who loved (still does) the country group Alabama was thrilled to read lead singer Randy Owen’s memoir Born Country, I re-read/listened to the entire Harry Potter series before the 8th movie released, couldn’t pry myself off the couch to stop reading The Help, loved learning about contemporary application of agrarian themes in the Bible through Scouting the Divine by Margaret Feinberg and finally read the Oklahoma children’s tear-jerker classic Where the Red Fern Grows.
Total books read = 59
The Optometrist asked me to marry him so The Shoemaker’s Wife took on a whole new depth as a woman in love, we married, and I have such fond memories reading Gold by Chris Cleave and Home by Julie Andrews in our upstairs bedroom suite and on the back porch that overlooked a little grove of pine trees outside of our townhouse duplex.
Total books read = 34
This was the year I overcame my luddite fears and The Optometrist convinced me I needed a Kindle Paperwhite; one of the best decisions I’ve ever made as a reader. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson from the public library’s Overdrive collection was my first e-book, followed by many free digital ARCs via NetGalley and Edelweiss. The modern day classic The Red Tent, amazing middle-grade book Wonder, laugh-out-loud funny A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet, and the Lily Bard/Shakespeare murder mysteries by Charlaine Harris rounded out my year.
Total books read = 46
As is often the case, I checked out a book through the library I originally saw in a bookstore, this time being the Songbird series by country singer Sara Evans, I got around to reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane – a surprise end-of-the-2013-fall-semester gift from The Optometrist, we read our first book together aloud, Wicked, after seeing the musical on tour, and I was deeply impressed with the YA novel The Impossible Knife of Memory.
Total books read = 45
2015 was perhaps my best reading year ever with so many newfound favorites I now frequently recommend to others: 11/22/63, The Year of No Sugar, Orange is the New Black, Station Eleven, Grace for the Good Girl, the Wayward Pines trilogy, Kitchens of the Great Midwest, and The Coincidence of Coconut Cake.
Total books read = 40
I finally joined the Jojo Moyes bandwagon, read both Ready Player One and Dark Matter twice (once on my own, once aloud to The Optometrist), participated in reading selections from the Modern Mrs. Darcy summer reading guide for the first time, felt my soul breathe as I read Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines, wanted to bake apple pies from The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, and listened to my first Audible streaming book, Alice in Wonderland.
Total books read = 56
Not since my Mitford days have I enjoyed a series as much as the Chief Inspector Gamache books. The Optometrist patiently bore witness to me starting The Lord of the Rings, I discovered I love southern fiction with The Almost Sisters being a prime example, firmly believe the audio performance of Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan is one worth shouting from the rooftops, finally began my journey with Anne Shirley, and made a conscious effort to read outside my comfort zone.
Total books read = 72
So far, this year Ruth Reichl has proven to be a deliciously safe harbor, I cried buckets of tears during the final pages of Two Across, finished The Lord of the Rings and a re-read of Narnia, and have consumed loads of audiobooks thanks to Overdrive and Hoopla, including Tom Hanks’ Uncommon Type.
Total books read = 71
Total number of books read in this journal = 809
How do you keep track of your reading? Do you have any words of wisdom to share with me as I begin a new book journal? If so, please comment below!