Over 1000 books in 40 years seems like a lot, but it averages out to around 25 books a year, which is reasonable for your average avid reader. I wish I had the ambition to keep track of every book I read and when I read them. There’s no time like the present right?
Keeping track of what you read is fantastic; I recommend it to any reader. It’s been a few years since I started writing down every book that I finish (complete with shorthand comments and a complicated, indecipherable-to-anyone-but-me rating system). I was inspired to it by the inheritance of one of my greatest treasures: my grandmother’s notebook of 30 years of books. Her notebook is a beautiful portrait of her mind, and I have egotistical fantasies that some descendent of me might take something of the same delight from mine some day. Snobbish fascination with my own imaginary legacy aside, it’s really invaluable to see where my brain has been—it’s astounding to me how many patterns emerge when I look back on what I’ve read and try to remember what was going on at the time. Like tumblr itself, it provides a map of where my brain has been dwelling in any given period of time.
The only downside is that it can set up all sorts of silly expectations—it creates an awareness of a quota, of having to live up to or beat my past reading self. In the year that I started the record I went through a long illness and spent a month and a half in bed, doing nothing but reading, sleeping, and eating pancakes. In that May alone I think I read something crazy like 32 books, which set up an unreasonable standard for all following Mays—“What?! Only ten books this May?? I am a failure as a human being! My youthful intelligence has degraded into plodding mundanity!!”—but oh well, that’s just neurosis. At least the apex of my literary mind—and it really was a significant time, a turning point, the time when I embarked upon my life project of being monstrously well-read—is documented.
It’s not all self-centeredness! I also delight in other peoples’ reading lists, like Mr. Garfunkel’s above. It’s one of my favourite ways to get recommendations—and, conversely, I use my book notebook for giving them. Have I sung the praises of the book notebook high enough to heaven? Good. Now everyone should go start one of their own. And then post it on the internet for me to peruse.