In November 1984 I decided, for a reason I no longer recall, to make a note of all the books I read. I wrote them down in a fat notebook along with a 1-5 star rating. Some were so good they got a 6. I also noted whether the book was my own, a library book or borrowed. By December 2012 I had to employ a new notebook. To date, I have read and recorded 2,000 books.
How I wish I had noted all those prior to November 1984, but two thousand books later I look back at my choices. They include fiction of course, plays, memoir, biographies, books of short stories and non-fiction including travel literature, but I left out textbooks relating to work or my degree.
Classics have featured throughout - from re-reads of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy novels that I loved in my teen years to those new to me which I studied in the years I did a degree in Literature (for fun) which included Germinal, Middlemarch, and Fathers and Sons. I didn't record all the plays I studied including ten Shakespeare plays and some of Aphra Behn's, probably because I didn't read every singe word! I am nothing if not honest!
Can I remember all these books? Of course not. I often pick lighthearted books when I'm coping with a difficult patch in life as they provide not only a means of escape but add the rose-coloured tint that life sometimes needs. I may not always remember them but I enjoy them while I'm reading which makes them as valuable as those that are more memorable. One such, I can't recall which, was quite a fun read but I was shocked to find a passage in it which I'd read before. Was this blatant plagiarism? No, I was reading a book I'd read about four years previously but had remembered none of it except this particular amusing scene.
My reading style has changed - when younger I always persisted with a book, even if it was a 1-star, providing I'd got past the first chapter, but now I'll abandon it - at my age, life is too short to read something I don't enjoy or value. For that reason I - rather appropriately - abandoned The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante. The book is not in my 2,000 count. I persisted for a while but I had no time for the main character, a vile woman who, in my view, deserved her abandonment. I also found the book unnecessarily crude to the point of vulgarity and I'm pretty sure reading to the end wouldn't have changed my mind! People rave about this author but so far I haven't attempted any others as this foray was so unpleasant.
My recent top reads, if you are curious, appear in my final blog of each year since 2012
Just leafing through my old notebook, which is falling to bits, I see 5 star ratings included Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island, Jonathan Smith's Summer in February (December 96) I didn't rate the subsequent film as 5 stars though, Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace (May 07), Michael Cunninghams's The Hours (February 02) Alice Walker's The Color Purple, which was a re-read for my degree, and William Broderick's A Whispered Name (July 09). Jung Chang's Wild Swans, which I read in July 1998, earned 6 stars.
One noticeable difference is that my earlier reading included more library books than bought books (both new and second-hand.) I had less money to spend on books with a small child to look after when I started my log but I think this also reflects that in recent years there have been fewer books in my local library and especially fewer books suiting my taste than there used to be. On my last visit to the much depleted library since it was recently made much smaller, I could find nothing at all that I wanted to read. How sad. I think Waterstones' 3 for 2 offers (how I miss them) were also responsible for increased purchases in the later years. These days I attend more book events and invariably buy a book or two or three, so increasing my own book stock!
Bought or borrowed (but never stolen) here's to the next 2000 so I'd better get cracking to fit them all in.