I have a book addiction.
I read ALL THE TIME. My nightstand usually has a couple books waiting patiently for me. I journal about the books I read (I am on the second volume of said journal). It contains all the books I have read for about a decade, plus it is crammed with lists and slips of paper and articles of books waiting to be devoured.
Why journal about this, besides my compulsion to make lists? I have this weird self-important idea that someday a kid or grandkid of mine will want to see what I read and pick a few books out themselves., just to be closer to me. But honestly, the journaling is also about keeping track; I read so much that sometimes I forget I read something until several pages in. Time waste!
Besides the journal, the website Goodreads has made me even more obsessed with chronicling my reading habits. Now I write my reviews there, then print them out and paste in my journal.
Mind you, I don’t buy most of the books I read. I am a frequent flyer at the library (when I do need a book that I can’t get from the library, I visit my local independent bookseller, Excelsior Bay Books. They are awesome).
Recently I started looking for books about an upcoming trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Got on the library website, and looked for everything I could find about the area — essays, travel books, fiction, etc.
At the same time, Amazon started sending me book suggestions “based on my history/interest.” I frankly don’t remember ordering any books from them. So somehow the internet Gremlins cyber stalked me and realized I am a sucker for historical fiction, especially about British royalty.
Amazon’s suggestions sent me down a rabbit hole back on the library website, and I added a bunch of books to my reserve list from that realm.
I am not sure how many books I reserved, but I do know that at some point they told me I had to stop, having exceeded the number allowed to reserve.
And then I got the call: I had books waiting.
A lot of books.
My first trip home netted about 25 books.
A few days later: a dozen more.
I was in trouble. I quickly organized them in order of size, knowing that I would never get through all of thee in 3 weeks, but that I needed to get through as many as possible in that time. The library has a fantastic new auto-renewal system, but I needed to get these books going on my own.
So far this year I have returned 37 books (love that the library now tracks this!).
This is my current pile:
Books, of course, allow you access to amazing stories. True ones, fictional ones, and everything in between.
In the piles of books I recently brought home, there were some quite old ones — published in the 1920s, 30s, etc.
Frankly, I didn’t get through them, but just holding them made me feel something. When you open them up, they still have the cool old handwritten check-out slips in them, and I couldn’t help but wonder: who read these books back then? Why? Were these hot new publications back in the day, or did they just hear about them from friends? Did they stumble across them, fall in love, or hate them and not finish them.
These books made me feel a little better about my weird book journal because I am leaving a document of what I read, when, why and what I thought about it. Maybe no one cares, and that’s ok. But maybe someone will. Or maybe, 80 years from now, someone else will check out a book I read, and it will have the patina of age, with butter-soft pages worn silky from years of love. And the reader will go — man, this book is old!
I wonder who read it?
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Another name from my adolescence died recently — the author, Judith Krantz. I think her first big hit was Princess Daisy, and it was chock full of all the sex and shopping that fascinated an almost teenager. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to read books like that, but I did. All the time. In secret.
When my mom would go to work, I would go into her room and read whatever book she had on the nightstand. I was oh so careful to put the bookmark back in the right place! I was often frustrated that she didn’t read as quickly as I did. I wanted a new book to read all the time!
My favorite Krantz book was Scruples, published in 1978. Publishing companies say it single-handedly create the excessive-lifestyle genre. Can you imagine that publishing company meeting when they got that manuscript? In my opinion, it not only spawned a new era of books, but it might also be the catalyst for tv shows like Dallas and Dynasty, which lead us to today’s Keeping up with The Kardashians.
Judith Krantz was but one of the illicit authors I coveted. Another fave was Jackie Collins, whose book Chances (1981) spawned a series of books that I followed with fervor. I wanted to be Lucky Santangelo when I grew up! An earlier book, The Other Side of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon, also captured my attention, although not as naughty. It was thrilling in a way the books I had loved as a child did not.
Reading has been an integral part of my life since I was a child in the way that sports or the arts are for other kids, and it got me in trouble a lot. My first memory about reading was in kindergarten. My teacher, Mrs, Greenfield, gave us all a big reading book filled with stories to read over the course of the year. I remember one day I got in trouble because I wasn’t doing silent reading like the rest of the kids. I told her I’d already read it. She gently corrected me, saying that we were starting a new story today. I corrected her, saying that I had read all the stories. She didn’t believe me, of course, but I was emphatic. She quizzed me on a few stories, and quickly realized that I was being honest — and that she had to come up with a new curriculum for me!
I fell in love with so many books over the years — Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was one of my cherished possessions. I read every Little House on the Prairie book and even competed in a school speech contest entitled “My Favorite Character,” where I talked about introducing Laura Ingalls Wilder to today’s world. At night I would “sleep” with the door cracked open, furtively reading by the hallway light. Years later I would actually be grounded from reading, as my parents thought I spent to much time inside with my nose buried in a book.
My love affair with reading has never abated. I am busy in a book club of course and read several books each month — sometimes simultaneously. I must read in bed before I sleep, much to my husband’s frustration (he swears he can’t sleep with the light on, but his snoring tells me otherwise).
You won’t get me reading on an e-reader. Only real paper books for me. I have notebooks full of synopses all the books I have read over the past 10 years or so and have a long wait list at the library. I have an even longer to-read list tucked int the current notebook. I am super active on the website Goodreads (you can follow me there if you like!). Currently, I am reading two books: The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Phillip Sendker for my book club, and Behind the Throne: A Domestic History of the British Royal Household by Adrian Tinniswood for me.
When I finish an especially engrossing book, I often feel a sense of loss, as those characters are now gone forever. When I find a favorite author, I am compelled to read everything they have ever written. And if that author passes away, I mourn the books they will never write for me. Pat Conroy, famous for novels such as The Great Santini and Prince of Tides, and James Clavell, who penned the Sho-Gun series, are two whose deaths I felt intimately.
So now I have lost another. Granted, I haven’t read a Judith Krantz novel in decades, but her death has brought me back to such memories that I can’t help but feel a sense of loss. I think, in her honor, I will head to my library and check out a couple vintage beach reads — after, of course, I get through the 8 library books currently on my nightstand. And I don’t have to hide any of them!