Ten years ago, in early June, 2001, a year out of college, and hoping desperately to devise a way so that all the books I read wouldn't be stowed on the shelf and totally forgotten, I started my "list" — essentially, my book journal. So for the last 10 years, after finishing a book, I sit for 20 minutes or so (longer for better books, usually — I wrote about Infinite Jest for almost two hours) and type out unorganized thoughts about the book. It always must be the day after I've finished reading, to give the book a bit of time to percolate. I'll never start another book until I've finished writing in the list. And I've never shown the list to anyone.
At some level, it's a bit obsessive-compulsive, I grant. However, it's also comforting. What was Augie March's girlfriend's name? What was Amir's big regret in The Kite Runner? Was it liver or roast beef that Portnoy, um, defiles in Roth's novel? Yes, the answers to those questions are trivial and inconsequential to understanding what these books are actually about, but still, to have a place to be able to go back and look up stuff like that eases my mind when I'm reading. (And whether or not we're remembering the specifics of books, they're still adding something to our "worldview," as this fantastic NY Times piece from last year argues. )
In addition, for me, the list has also been hugely beneficial over the last two years as I've read and commented on others' blogs. It's great being able to remind myself whether I agree(d) with what someone's written about a book, and to be add to the conversation more so than "I know I read this, and I think I liked it, but I don't remember specifics. Good review."
Norwegian Wood, the list has grown to 364 single-spaced typed page. It is 250,744 words. By way of comparison, War and Peace is 568,880 words. Just under halfway there, baby! The first book I wrote about on the list is Rabbit, Run, by John Updike and the first line is "This book started out pretty slow, plotwise, but I really could appreciate Updike’s writing style. His work reads like a manual for any sort of writing student." Man, beyond being downright cringe-inducing, that is some Grade A-mateur analysis, isn't it?
But I bring up the Ten-Year Anniversary of The List not just to pat myself on the back for keeping this up for 10 years and to open myself up for the potential ribbing that will surely ensue, I also bring it up to find out how others remember books they've read?
I realize the idea of a "reading journal" isn't exactly original, but how do you keep yours? What personal flavor does your journal have? Other than just storing your titles on GoodReads, what have you found to be effective for remembering the particulars of books you've read? Let me know — I'm excited to hear about what other readers do.