Sunday, August 16, 2009
The Book of books
Back in June 1982, when I was attending college and living in St. Augustine, Fla., I decided to begin keeping an ongoing log of every book I read, noting the title, author and whether it was fiction or non-fiction.
Why I did it, I'm not sure. But I still have that original black-and-white composition notebook - even though it's falling apart slightly - and list every new book as I finish it. I break the lists up by year, drawing a demarcation line every June to make it easier to keep track of the titles and be able to tell what books I'd read in a given (June-to-June) year. Nowadays though, when I look back at earlier pages, I sometimes see titles I have no memory of reading at all - they ring not even the slightest bell.
Looking through the lists now, I can see that I read a lot of junk over the years - paperback action series, movie tie-ins and the like - but a lot of good stuff too. It's also a walk down Memory Lane. I can remember where I was and what I was doing in specific years based on the books I read. I see the first book I ever reviewed (Stephen King's THINNER, review published in the Asbury Park Press in Feb. 1985, shortly after the news of the "Richard Bachman" pseudonym broke). I also see books I remember vividly - as if I'd read them yesterday, instead of 20 years ago - listed right next to books I have absolutely no recall of whatsoever, and if you'd asked me if I'd read them, I'd answer no.
Here are some sample pages (click on images to enlarge):
And here's a quick by-the-numbers run-down:
Total Number of Books (June 1, 1982 to Aug. 10, 2009): 1,358
First Book Listed (June 1982): THE WAGES OF FEAR by Georges Arnaud (French suspenser about dynamite-hauling truck drivers, basis of 1953 film).
Most Recent Book Listed (Aug. 10, 2009): BREAKFAST IN THE RUINS by Barry N. Malzberg (a collection of essays by the N.J. science fiction/mystery author).
Most Read Year: June 1985 to June 1986, 81 books. (I had a lot of free time on my hands, I guess).
Least Read Year: June 2005 to June 2006, 20 books (Hey, I had other things going on).
Yearly Average: 50.2 books
Ratio of Fiction to Non-Fiction: 21 to 1
Complete Listing of Titles From a Single Page Chosen at Random, in the Order I Read Them:
THE SIEGE OF TRENCHER'S FARM (source of the Peckinpah film STRAW DOGS) - Gordon M. Williams
THE RIGHT STUFF - Tom Wolfe
THE TIN CRAVAT - Jack D. Hunter (second sequel to THE BLUE MAX)
THE REVOLT OF THE COCKROACH PEOPLE - Oscar Zeta Acosta (fictionalized memoir by Chicano activist immortalized in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS)
I MARRIED A DEAD MAN - Cornell Woolrich (deep into my Woolrich phase by this point)
ASSIGNMENT: BLACK VIKING - Edward S. Aarons (No. #25 in the Sam Durell action series published by Fawcett Gold Medal)
MASTER-AT-ARMS - Rafael Sabatini (one of my favorite novelists)
TOMOE GOZEN - Jessica Amanda Salmonson (samurai fantasy fiction)
THE OUTRIDER - Richard Harding (first of a futuristic series in a ROAD WARRIOR vein)
SCOUNDREL TIME - Lillian Hellman
THE STRANGER - Albert Camus
GONJI #3: SAMURAI COMBAT - T.C. Rypel (more samurai action)
THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE - John Godey
THE BIG GRAB - John Trinian (pseudonymous caper novel by screenwriter/author Zekial Marko. Filmed in France as ANY NUMBER CAN WIN)
THE HUNTER - Richard Stark
THE MAN WITH THE GETAWAY FACE - Richard Stark (the Avon Stark reprints were starting to come out)
THE DOGS OF WAR - Frederick Forsyth
HORRIDO! - Col. Raymond Toliver and Trevor Constabile (profiles of WWII Luftwaffe fighter pilots)
I guess it doesn't get more eclectic than that. And that's just one page.
Anybody out there do something similar?