The other day I posted about the books I was reading on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and I realized on re-reading that post that whatever I finish from now on will have to go on a new year’s list. For better or for worse, 2012 is finished.
For a couple of years I kept lists of my reading religiously, then fell off for a couple years before starting up again in 2009. My lists tell me that I read 101 books in 2012, 102 the year before, and back in 2010 a total of 125 for the year, probably in large part because we spent the late winter and early spring in Florida, where I had few responsibilities to cut into my reading, writing, drawing, walking, and dreaming.
Looking back over my book list (total: 108) for 2009, I enjoy remembering that year’s reading. Farley Mowat’s People of the Deer was a book David and I read aloud to each other at bedtime in Florida. Patrick Smith’s novels, Allapattah and Forever Island, gave me a new appreciation for the history of the Everglades. Still Alice, fiction by Lisa Genovese, and Horse Soldiers, nonfiction by Doug Stanton, opened frightening worlds to me, as did Dreams From the Monster Factory, nonfiction by Sunny Schwartz. I was transported by the new book of Jim Harrison’s poetry, In Search of Small Gods. Don Lystra’s lovely novel, Season of Water and Ice, was part of my reading in 2009, along with Mardi Link’s Isadore’s Secret. It was a good year for Michigan writers! That year inaugurated a reading group I still refer to as “our Ulysses group,” for together we tackled James Joyce in a dozen intense and wonderful sessions.
I highly recommend the keeping of a list of each year’s reading. Part of it for me is purely practical, as titles and authors’ names tend to slip my mind unless I can refer to a list, but there are side benefits to the record, as well. As my eye runs down the list, I remember the time of year and where I was when reading that book; if it was one I read with a group or a book whose author I know or at least met, that adds another dimension; fragments of conversation and discussion with other readers of each book cling associatively to various titles; and, finally, there is the ineradicable but uncommunicable affective ambience that surrounded the reading of the books.
My book list for each year is, then, a shorthand diary, written in a code that only I can decipher. It holds worlds of memories.