Friday, May 15, 2009

Book Lists

1. That look people get right before they start backing away from the crazy lady.
2. They laugh and roll their eyes and say "Oh, that is SO you." Then they back away slowly from the crazy lady.

The lists started out innocently enough as an Excel spreadsheet I used to keep track of which Nora Roberts books I had read and which I wanted to read. Nana always br
ought me NRs when she visited--the findings of trips to her favorite used book store or flea markets she stopped at with Grandaddy. I probably got my book addiction from her--she too is a big fan of paperbacks.

Eventually, I stopped limiting myself to just tracking NRs and adding books that were recommended to me by friends, family etc. It was basically titles and authors, not very organized.

Then I discovered Microsoft Access. This program was invented for obsessive list keepers like me. I now have one database that houses not only book lists but also movies and music. At last count, I had 948 books on my "Books to Read" list. This list is not only titles and authors. With Access, I can also track where I can find them:

1. Kennedy Library
2. M-H Library
3. Bookins (kind of an online used bookstore/trading club)
4. My own shelves

Once I read a book, it then gets transferred to the "Books Read" list. It gets rated:

1. Good
2. Ok
3. Bad
4. Didn't finish

Aside from satisfying my one OCD compulsion, this list does create an unintentional benefit. While many of these books come from reviews and summaries I've read, once they get put on the list, I rarely remember what each is about, with the few exceptions that stand out to me. What this does is allow me to pick a book off the library shelf and dive into it. I know it came off of my list (If I'm going to Kennedy that day, I can print off a query of ONLY Kennedy books, then walk around that horribly arranged library trying to find the books on the list), so it is one I wanted to read. I don't read the jacket summary, I just start reading. I don't always know if it is a love story or a mystery or a memoir. Because I have no expectations about the characters or the plot, I can get far more involved in the story.

For example, while I love NRs for easy reading between more difficult novels, every plot line is basically the same. The entire time I'm reading, I'm putting the characters into their expected scenes:  The Meet, The Rivalry, The Big Fight, The Sex, The Second Big Fight That Causes a Separation, The Engagement, The Big Happy Family With Pregnant Main Character. It's the same in every book.

In contrast, when I picked up The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allandre, I had no idea what it was about (a memoir of the days, weeks, years after her daughter's death). I was not anticipating the lesbian affair, the "chapel" in the woods, the Chilean conflicts. I felt real emotions that could only be felt by completely immersing myself in the lives of the characters. That connection is the reason I read, and unfortunately, it is what many poeple lack. They read the same things ove rand over and never experiment with literature.

Now, I'm not saying that you should stop reading your favorite genre. Nana still brings me NRs every time I see her. I love them. But, I alternate with one of the other 943 (I deleted a few while writing this, I discovered last week that I do NOT like John Barth's style) books on my list. Make your own list. Don't read the jacket, just dive in. Try it!

Reading currently:  Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

(And yes, I know there is a weird thing going on with my font. No idea why the top is black and bold and the bottom is normal. Does not show up like that in editing, not sure how to get rid of it.)


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