Monday, December 15, 2014

My New List Project

I love making lists.  It makes me feel that I'm in control of something in this chaotic world.  Or maybe I just like order.  I've been making lists of one sort or another most of my life.  Christmas lists, grocery lists, lists of errands.

When it comes to books, I've been keeping track of what I've read since 1966.  The only book on my list that year was Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which if I remember correctly, I read over the course of two summers while volunteering at the library.  I know I read more than one book that year, but that's the only one I recorded.  I recorded it in my 'Books I've Read' 3-ring binder and on a 3 x 5 card in my card catalog.  I don't remember where I kept my cards before I bought my antique oak drawers several years ago.  Probably in a cardboard box.

In 1967, I read two more by Hardy:  Far From the Madding Crowd and The Return of the Native.  I read all the well-known books by Hardy when I was in my mid-teens.  (Full disclosure, I was born in the enchanted year of 1952 AD, pre-carseats, pre-playdates, pre-every child having allergies, pre-after school activities.)  I also read Valley of the Dolls, Man-Eaters of Kumeron, Yankee Ghosts, Lizzie Borden:  The Untold Story, and several James Bond books.  

For better or worse, my parents never tried to keep me from reading anything.  I'm sure I read books that other parents would have been horrified to find in their child's possession.  Volunteering at the local library, where it was often just me and whomever was acting librarian that night, gave me access to the racier stuff they kept for adults under the desk.  But this was a small town in southeastern Pennsylvania, so there was nothing to blow off your hat, maybe just Peyton Place or The Group.
I'm making quick progress because it's sort of mindless work and because I'm pretty good at data entry.  I'm good at that and can use the calculator without looking, but my skill on the piano is not what it used to be.  Too much computer and accounting work and not enough piano.  Anyway, I'm up to Janet Evanovich now and have over 600 books logged in.  But I still have a lot to go.

What makes me mad is that I know I've read books that aren't on my list or on a 3 x 5 card.  Damn it! Why wasn't I as obsessive and compulsive when I was younger as I am now?!  There are some years missing completely and some with very few books listed.  

It's rewarding to see that I've consistently increased my reading through the years.  I now average 2+ books a week, although I read several books at once so there are weeks when I don't finish anything and weeks when I finish three.  It's also interesting to see how much I read and what I read during different times of my life.  The years my mother was ill, the years with significant relationship ups and downs, the year I started a new job.

This is an interesting project for me.  I've set up the program I'm logging the books into so I can sort the records by author, title, or year.  It's fun (or embarrassing) to see how many books I've read by certain authors.  I see I'm very heavy on mystery writers, but that's not really a surprise.  I see that I read more classics when I was younger.  I think my powers of concentration were better then and I was more excited about trying to read all the 'great books'. 

It's also interesting to see how my handwriting has changed, from the full and rounded, slightly backhanded teenagerish writing to forced forward slanting script to the almost illegible half printing half cursive I use today.  There are white cards and blue cards, heavier cards and cheap cards.  There are inks of every type and several different colors.  It's personal history in a box.  And now on my laptop.


  1. I love your index card drawers and your scalloped edge table. I'm so jealous that you have so much info at your fingertips. I do know that like you I read far more classics as a youngster, probably for the same reason. I read almost everything Hardy wrote when I was a teenager too. We didn't keep any books under the counter in the libraries I worked in - maybe we just didn't have anything that exciting!

    1. I love them, too! That little table is one of my favorites. I was lucky to find it at an antiques store years ago, I think when we lived in New Hampshire. I've had the oak index card drawers for years, but I don't remember where I bought them. I occasionally see them in antiques stores and am always tempted to buy more, but mine aren't quite full yet!

      I wonder if we'd still enjoy Hardy? He was one of my favorites, so I'm afraid to read him now.

  2. Wow! I am really impressed with how long you have been keeping track of your reading! I only began after I moved to Minnesota in the mid 90s. I don't know why I never thought to keep track before that. When I did start keeping track though it was in a notebook. Then on my computer in a Word file. Then on a spreadsheet. Now, a few years ago I made a database using OpenOffice that's been working out fairly well.

    Isn't it fun to see how your handwriting has changed through the years? Mine used to be fat and rounded too and now it is a kind of half print half cursive that has slimmed down quite a lot.

    1. I think I've always been sort of compulsive. I remember making slips for all our books so I could play librarian. I wish I'd been more consistent when I started to read adult books.

      I like FilemakerPro and that's where all my lists are now (Christmas cards, books I've given to my grandnieces, books on my Kindle, etc.). It's easy to work with, or at least I think it is. And when I make my lists on my laptop, I can actually read them!

      I think a lot of young girls have that rounded writing. I'm sure a graphologist could tell us more about that. I don't believe I've ever dotted my i's with a heart or a happy face, though! I write so fast now that I completely overlook the fact that it should be legible. I truly often can't read my own writing!

  3. I envy you your organization, Joan! I've tried to keep a journal of what I read but never seem to maintain it. Love the drawers! You should pick the next ones up you see, when you want one you won't be able to find them. I will definitely be checking into FilemakerPro! It's never to late to start:)

    1. I'm not sure I'm organized, Peggy, I think I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, perhaps not to be envied!

      You're right about buying the card index files the next time I see them. Haven't we all seen something we didn't need, didn't buy it, and then couldn't find it when we did need it?

      I like FilemakerPro. It's easy to create your own little programs and you can sort the date all different ways based on the fields you set up. We've used it in our business for years and I like it for all my list things.