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):

From 1987-'88:



From 2001-'02:


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:

From 1983-'84:

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?

6 comments:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I've done this off and on for many years. When I was home with the kids, I read 3-4 books a week. Now it's one a week at most. Interestingly to me, I just listed any "mystery" at the back of the book for years. The rest were "literary" or non-fiction. But over the years, the mysteries took over. I also list the movies and those I rate.
I originally included a line or two about each book but stopped at some point. I guess we take it seriously enough to keep a log. But maybe now I'm just afraid of reading a book again.

tintin said...

Does it smell like liquid smoke?

Jmags said...

I read Talked to Death: The Life and Murder of Alan Berg by Stephen Singular sometime in the 80s, in paperback. I think it was during the talk radio boom of the late 80s, it was the basis for the Eric Bogosian play and subsequent Oliver Stone film. Also I notice you don't write using a lower case "a", instead always using a capital "A".

Will Errickson said...

Absolutely; I've kept a record of every book read and movie seen since 1988 or '89. In the last year or so I haven't written them down because I use sites like Goodreads.com and Flixster/NetFlix to keep track of stuff. I also write my name & the date when I read the book inside the front cover. Lots of book geeks do these kinds of things!

Bill Crider said...

Didn't do it. Not organized enough. I wish I were, and I wish I had.

wstroby said...

Will Errickson said...
Absolutely; I've kept a record of every book read and movie seen since 1988 or '89.


I used to do it for movies I'd seen in their entirety, ie. theatrically (or in a class screening) as opposed to on TV. I stopped in the early-80s though, because the proliferation of home video was making it too hard to keep up with what I'd seen.