I got a really interesting pitch email the other day. It wasn’t what was being pitched, but rather, one of the means in which I could highlight the book: I could share it on Instagram.
I’ve become a big fan of taking pictures of what I’m currently reading. I use it both on Instagram, as well as on Litsy (where I’m simply @kelly). Instagram because it’s available on the web; Litsy, since it’s a community limited for the time being to iOS mobile users. The photos are not just about the book. They’re also about where I am right now, in my life, in my space, and the entire atmosphere of reading. Photos capture something more to the reading experience than an update on Twitter or Pinterest or Goodreads or right here on STACKED could.
These images, these ways of sharing, are also very public. There’s intentionality in how I choose to share; I highlight things I like in images, talk about books on social media after I’ve finished them and mulled them over, and I am deliberate in the ways and hows. I like doing it, plan to continue doing it, and cannot imagine a reading life without it.
But despite the new technology and the fun there is to be had on each, I still track my reading in a very personal, private, long standing way: I keep a list of books I’ve read in a spiral-bound notebook.
The notebook on the bottom I began in 2001. That was my sophomore/junior year of high school. I picked up the habit of doing it after my mom began doing it herself as a way to remember what books she’d read. Rather than keeping a “to read” list, I began keeping a “read” list.
It’s weird to look at this list now, 15 years later. I don’t remember reading Harry Potter back then. It mustn’t have left a huge impact, since I didn’t pick up (most of) the rest of the series until well into college. But I do remember why I picked up Ishmael — it was sitting on a bookshelf of a friend’s when we snuck to her house between the end of school and badminton practice and I remember thinking a book about an ape sounded interesting. I remember picking up Innocence and then needing to pick up Mendelsohn’s other book immediately after. Fifteen years later, I still recall the visceral reactions I had to Innocence and how much I loved it.
And there’s no shaking the vivid memory of picking up Push and not just reading it, but being moved by it and immediately seeking the chance to talk about it with fellow book lovers (who, yes, at the time were on the internet — we had a whole teen community of book lovers and writers).
I lost this notebook for a period of time, somewhere between the end of high school in 2003 and the beginning of college in the fall of that same year. I picked up another notebook, same brand, same size, but with a pink cover. From the beginning of college until this very day, this is where I’ve written down every single book I’ve finished.
Between those lines are the memories of the books in some pieces, and in others, it’s the memory of the where, the when, and the why. I read so many debut YA novels in 2011, which is reflected; in 2015, my reading went a little broader, though was still mostly YA. I didn’t snap a shot of this year’s pages, but of the 40ish books I’ve finished so far, it’s almost an even mix of adult novels and non-fiction with YA.
I remember spending a long time on that first day of 2015 debating what my first read should be and choosing my all-time favorite book. I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed then.
I’ve cut back on reviewing here at STACKED, and I’ve also cut back quite a bit on Goodreads. But I still take notes on things, and I still keep my read list up. I’ve added new things to the mix, ways to talk about books with people in a way that will compel them to read it or pair it up with the reader who it’ll be the right book for. Nothing, though, no matter how fun and exciting, will ever take the private part of my handwritten reading notebook away from me. In no way are the stories of the books I read all the kind I need or want to share because they’re for me and me alone.
It’s a reflection of me, my growth, my thinking, a snapshot of time in my life, that I could never capture in any sort of digital world. What began as a simple way of making sure I don’t read something I’ve already read has bloomed into this incredibly personal way of seeing my life and my development as a thinker.
Tell me: do you keep a read list? Do you keep anything of your reading life private, just for you? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!