Friday, April 23, 2010

On books

I am surprised that I haven’t used this title before. Perhaps it is because it is too obvious? Well, it never fitted better. Today, April 23rd, is the World Book Day. It is “…a day chosen by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading which is observed worldwide in over 100 countries.” Personally, I intend to observe it by finishing beta reading my friend Tara’s excellent novel (that will be in a bookstore near you, soonish, I bet), finishing my annual spring reading of The Secret Garden (that I eventually bought another version of… A review should follow soonish, I bet), and then do a little cleaning in the apartment. The latter is not actually book-related, except that cleaning any place I live always requires dusting and moving a lot of books.

As a final book-related thing to celebrate the World Book Day, however, I want to introduce you to a current project I have going. I am planning to catalogue every book I’ve ever read.

I know. It sounds like a hopeless task (and it is). But it is also fun. I will never manage to remember every single book I have read during the past 20 years (man, that made me feel old), but just searching my mind for the ones I do remember is interesting (and occasionally a little embarrassing). The rule is that I can only include books I have definitely read, and by read I mean finished. There are a million (alright, maybe not a million, but you know. A lot) books out there I have started, but never finished. These do not count! Other than that, I am including everything from 40-page children’s books to the Bible. Well, not the Bible since that would be one of those I never finished, but you get the idea. The only books I have read that I deliberately have excluded from the list are books I have read for classes. Of Mice and Men is fine, but Europe in the 17th Century is not. This does not mean I have disqualified all sorts of non-fiction, but seeing as I don’t read all that much non-fiction off-curriculum, it certainly limits the selection.

I haven’t spent an abundance of time on this list yet, but I thought I’d give a few samples. Currently I’ve managed to remember the titles of 309 books I have definitely read. To some of you this might sound like a lot. Many others will simply go “pft!” and wonder if I have just been pretending to like books all this time. To the former, bless your hearts. To the latter, it’s an incomplete list. There are many that just haven’t made it to the list yet (because I haven’t had the time/memory to include them, not because I haven’t read them. Although there are a few of those as well). Finally, keeping track of which books I have and have not read has been considerably complicated by the fact that most of my book collection is currently packed away in boxes in storage (which is fortunate for the cleaning task ahead, but not so fortunate for keeping track of reading records).

I alphabetized the list according to the last name of the author. I know, it’s hardly a revolutionary tactic, but I thought it was worth including this piece of information to assure you that I am not crazy enough to believe I will be able to memorize all the books I’ve read in the order I read them. I do not have a photographic memory, folks! Also, this system makes it easier to identify any doubles on the list, since I am strictly including books once, no matter how many times I have read them *cough*HarryPotter*cough*. I also only include them once even if I have read the same book in more than one language. It doesn’t happen a lot, but it has occurred… *cough*HarryPotter*cough* (Bloody cough…)

Now that I have spent all this time excusing the length of my list (I never thought I’d say this, but I feel like a 13 year old boy in the shower with a measuring stick…); and the rules of my list (the reason I wrote “measuring stick” and not “ruler” which is what I was taught it was called when I learned school related English words some 15 years ago, is that the phrase “13 year old boy in the shower with a Ruler” can have a completely different and terribly disgusting meaning…) – it is time to get to the actual list. Randomly (I swear) selected:

# 1: Acebe, Chinua – Things Fall Apart

# 15: Brink, Carol Ryrie – Barna på lilleøya [Baby Island]

# 33: Connolly, John – The Gates

# 69: Gaiman, Neil – American Gods

# 108: Hauger, Torhild Torstad – Kristin og Haakon

# 115: Highsmith Patricia – Ripley 4 [I occasionally got bored and stopped figuring out exact titles. This would refer to number 4 of the Ripliad – the books about (the talented) Mr. Ripley, of which I wrote a review of sorts a few months ago. While I didn’t actually like the (first) book all that much, at least not compared to the movie (which almost never happens), I apparently liked it well enough to go on and read four more books in the same series…]

# 147: Lindell, Unni – Drømmefangeren [The Dream Catcher. If there ever was a doubt that I was choosing titles from the list randomly, this ought to clarify it. I am generally not very fond of crime/thriller/suspense literature at all, and there is a special place of grudge in my heart reserved for the kind of bestseller spewing purple lady authors such as Lindell. I have read one – one – of her books, and on my list it was cropped in between Lewis (Narnia – all seven, multiple times, first in Norwegian then in English) and Lindgren (Astrid, possibly my favourite author of all times, and the mother of such rememberable (why is my spell check not accepting the word rememberable? It IS a word! …right?) characters as Pippi Longstockings and Ronja the Robber’s Daughter). And yet I managed to get Lindell… I fear that my random selections aren’t reflecting what I actually read all that well…]

# 188: Montgomery, Lucy Maude – Anne’s House of Dreams [Which is of course only one out of a set of 8 Anne-books I read. And re-read. And re-read. And then read again.]

# 210: Nærum, Knut – Døde men går på ski [Dead Men Are Skiing. If you are Norwegian you know who this man is. If you are not, I pity you, because knowing who Knut Nærum is is one of the advantages of being Norwegian.]

# 254: Tan, Amy – The Bonesetter’s Daughter

# 267: Vestly, Anne-Cath. – Aurora og pappa [Very little speaks childhood to me like the gentle voice of Anne-Cath. Vestly. Fortunately she will live on through her books even though she passed away not long ago]

# 299: Vestly, Anne-Cath. – Mormor og en til hos Rosa [She wrote a lot of books, and I have read most of them. She takes up almost a page alone on the list. A great role model, and a great author.]

# 307: Zafon, Carlos Ruiz – Shadow of the Wind

# 309: Zusak, Mark – The Book Thief [this was the only non-random selection, as it in addition to being the last on the list also is one of my favourite books]

This is but a small selection, of course, and again, I am not at all sure that it reflects my reading preferences all that well (at least not the current one). What the list does tell me, however, is that it is shocking how my reading habits have changed. For one thing, I read a lot more when I was younger. The list if severely overloaded with children/young adult books. Partly this can be explained by the fact that I also read books several times when I was younger. These days I rarely have the time/desire to do so. It is understandable that you remember a book better if you have read it five times than if you have read it only once.

I really do read a lot less now, though, and this saddens me. I want to read more, but I either don’t have the time or I don’t prioritize it (or both). These days I am lucky if I get through a book in a month, while I used to devour three or four per week. There are so many other things fighting for my attention these days that books often don’t make the cut. The solution is simple – make time.

Therefore, I am making a vow on the World Book Day. With my left hand on The Secret Garden (which makes typing a lot more difficult…), I hereby declare that I am going to read more books!


If you’ve been booked out by this post, I have a non-book addition at the end. Today is not just World Book Day, but it is also the day after I discovered one of the most hilarious blogs in history. Gloating over the misfortune of other females’ fashion disasters constitutes a very special branch of female viciousness. Now, I am no fashionista myself, but seeing that even beauties such as Keira Knightley or Charlize Theron can make horrible, horrible clothing choices really brightens my day. If you have a similar condition, check out


M.J. Nicholls said...

I tried to do this recently. You can create online bookshelves and chronologise your book history on the website Goodreads.

My memory being poor, I was only able to recall books I've read in the last five years. Boo!

Cruella Collett said...

Oh, this was interesting and entirely too addictive! A website where you plot in books you've read! And you can link it up to Facebook and everything! And you can post reviews/read reviews! And you can browse titles/covers/reviews to find matched that suits your reading preferences! And I totally need to stop starting every sentence with "and"!
Brilliant! I love it!

Marjorie said...

Your posts are always so amusing, Mari. I'll be checking out that website now.

hopelessmoo said...

(I am hoping I can remember how to comment on one of theses things)

I enjoy your posts, especially the booky ones.

Rememberable is sorta a word, but a better one would be memorable.

(aha! It still works!)

Watery Tart said...

This was GREAT Mari, and now I know where the Goodreads discussion initiated *gooses Mark*. Say, that's the firmest bottom I've goosed in a long time?

I'm pretty sure I've read Things Fall Apart, but the others on your list have no overlap, in spite of the fact I know you have read a ton of the same books I have... This makes me want to fill in my list...

Cruella Collett said...

Marjorie - do check it out! It is way fun! Make sure to friend me (Cruella Collett - not too hard to find) if you make an account. Lots of great reading tips there!

Maria - ah! Memorable! That was the word I was looking for. Still, as you said, rememberable is (and should be) a word too!
And with this new website thingie taking all my time (bad Mark!) I won't be able to post anything book booky posts...

Tartini - yeah, I did a "compare books" thing on us, and not only do we not overlap a lot, but we also seem to have strikingly differing taste. Or so I thought (based on the number of stars we had rated the books that did overlap), but then the system told me we were 75% similar or something like that.
I guess one basic flaw with the rating system as a base of comparison, though, is that it doesn't take into account whether the books I didn't rate (thus didn't read) weren't read because I chose not to because I didn't want to, or because I just didn't get to them yet. So it doesn't necessarily reflect taste (much like the excerpt of my list above).

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