Keeping Track

Toward the end of last year, a colleague was asking us to vote on favorite books in different categories--e.g. favorite graphic novel, favorite poetry collection, etc. After trying to recall exactly what I'd read in those categories, I suddenly became very grateful for the partial record of books I'd read within the First Monday Book Day posts.

This year, I'm using a bullet journal for the first time (because an author recommended it!), so I've got a few pages set aside at the back for jotting down book titles (and authors and illustrators). It's no spreadsheet, but at least at the end of 2020, I will have a good accounting of what I've read.

Do you keep track of the books you read? If so, how?

27 thoughts on “Keeping Track”

    1. Mrs. Runner has an extensive spreadsheet of all the "historical romance" novels she has read, and still she'll periodically put down a book and complain, "I've read this before!"

  1. I finished William Gibson's latest Agency, Borne by Jeff VanderMeer, and am currently reading John Scalzi's The Collapsing Empire, first book in his latest series. Oh, and I read the newest Umbrella Academy graphic novel Hotel Oblivion.

    1. Oh yeah, I should read the second book in Scalzi's series. Scalzi writes books that I almost always think "yeah, that was pretty good."

      I was a little overwhelmed with Borne and how much environment Vandermeer crammed into every moment of that book. But I loved the novella set in the same world - The Strange Bird. I thought it was devastating. I just finished Dead Astronauts, where the environment of Borne has wasted away to bitterness and emptiness. Interesting, but not as good as the other two books set in the world, I thought.

      Agency is on my list to-read as well. I liked Peripheral and it sounds like this is in that vein.

      1. Agency is in that vein. While an interesting read, I thought the two books lacked a little drama, and they wrap up a little too cleanly.

        It made sense to me when I saw that Borne and Annihilation were by the same author.

        Scalzi's third book is also out, which was was prompted me to start this book. Andy Weir's smart-alecky characters remind me of Scalzi at times.

  2. I finished Le Carre's latest: Agent Running In The Field . It was very good, moved as quickly as most Le Carre novel's I've read. It was different, though, in that this wasn't Cold War spycraft, but modern, Trump/Brexit spycraft. And when I step back and think about it, I'm convinced that this novel is a giant warning about the internal struggles within spy agencies when the political forces are what they currently are. In short, the "good guys" aren't so easily identified anymore, and even the people who were previously good guys are in a much more grey area now that they're ultimately working "bad guy" politicians. Fascinating stuff, really.

  3. I’m reading Mai Der Vang’s Afterland, a collection of poetry published by Graywolf (talk about a dream) and blurbed by Yusef Komunyakaa, who is my favorite living poet. What I’ve read so far — I’m about a third in — is excellent. I’m also picking my way through Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s The Phenomenon of Man (slowly), and reading The Watchmen prior to finally watching the show.

    I’ve used Goodreads for a long time, but increasingly find it tedious to use. The social aspects of Goodreads are still fine, but as a library management tool, it’s lacking. I’ve auditioned Libib as a replacement, and am also considering Book Buddy. Many years ago, I used Library Thing.

  4. I use Goodreads also mainly to find recommendations.

    Sea People by Christina Thompson was extraordinarily good (and a Goodreads recommendation from Chris Jaffe). It's a history of how "we" have pieced together the history of the Polynesians since the first discovery by European explorers. I had no idea that New Zealand has been inhabited by people for fewer than a millennium. Also, the fact that some people managed to set out exploring and find the Easter Islands by canoe is remarkable.

    Yes Please by Amy Poehler didn't do much for me

    I have always enjoyed everything I've read by John Steinbeck, so I read Tortilla Flat. As usual, I found his care with character creation and gift for telling interesting stories about seemingly mundane events to be excellent.

    I should be done with A Gentleman in Moscow within a day or two, and it is most excellent.

    1. A Gentleman in Moscow was on the nightstand in our flat in Malaga. I read the back and considered it, but we weren't there long enough to finish it so I didn't start it.

  5. Things I read in February:

    Mother is a Verb - by Sarah Knott
    A history of pregnancy and mothering and motherhood, told through blended anecdotes. A really interesting approach - one that underscores how common and universal this experience is now and always has been even though it very rarely gets written down and historicized the same way other events do. Knott tries to find common threads across race/class/geography/culture, and makes a pretty good book out of the whole thing.

    Little Fang - by Stephanie Valente
    Short poems. I put this in my jacket pocket and would read a poem or two whenever I had a down moment instead of taking out my phone. The poems were perfect for this, as they were quick and direct. I think that might also mean that I don't remember these much as time goes on. But I enjoyed having this book by my side, so now I'm looking around for other appropriately sized books (literally) to use in this role.

    How to Write an Autobiographical Novel - by Alexander Chee
    Essays by a Korean-American gay novelist. I read this with Mags and a mutual friend, and these were really good essays to sit and think about and talk about. Chee is a really good writer, and it shows here in a couple of well-done essays. Chee talks about living in San Fran during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, learning about writing, finding his place, grief, ridiculously cheap apartments in NYC, rose gardens, everything. Really glad that I read this, and these essays I'll remember for a while.

    Dead Astronauts - by Jeff Vandermeer
    All the fiction in Vandermeer's Borne universe deals with an environment that's aware of humans. This book has withered that environment to desert and now it's angry. As I said above, I enjoyed The Strange Bird more, but this was a good book too.

    The Overstory - by Richard Powers
    Great book. Powers wants the reader to grieve trees and forests. He wants the injustice of deforestation to fester in you for 500 pages. And it works, the narratives are really good. The structure of the book reinforces everything and adds to make a full emphatic statement.

    Dept. of Speculation - by Jenny Offill
    I'm so mad that it took me this long to read this book. This was recommended like crazy back when it came out, and now Offill has released another novel, so I went and picked this up. The lonely parts are so lonely, the funny parts are hilarious, and the clever parts are so amazingly clever. Loved it.

    Indelicacy - by Amina Cain
    Amina Cain writes the quietest and deepest books and characters. It's a short book, but tackles big questions of how we know what life we want, and does figuring ourselves out come before that? or after?

    Spinning Silver - by Naomi Novik
    Novik's fairy tale fantasy is better than anyone elses that I know of. This is Rumplestiltskin re-imagined and it's better than what you're thinking based on that description.

    The Man Who Saw Everything - by Deborah Levy
    So dense. I don't think I picked up everything in this novel. If you do read it, be prepared to read it again.

    Goliath - by Tom Gauld
    I am a sucker for Gauld's minimal drawings and dry, morose humor.

    And Other Disasters - by Malka Older
    Oh, apparently I read this too. I think it was OK? There wasn't any particular story that stuck out to me as memorable.

  6. I decided to focus on middle grade and YA nonfiction for much of January. Here's the list of books I've read this year (excluding picture books):

    The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth by Ian Lendler. MG NF. Surprisingly interesting--it's how paleontology came into being and is focused on England. There are lots of wonderfully eccentric scientists included. I had no idea how awful Mary Anning's life was.

    Torpedoed: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of "The Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman. MG/YA NF. Absolutely harrowing.

    The Poison Eaters: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs by Gail Jarrow. MG NF. Solid.

    Free Lunch by Rex Ogle. YA NF. Tough subject matter (poverty and domestic abuse) and engagingly written. The ending felt a bit rushed and unresolved to me.
    Aside: a few of you might recognize the name of this writer--he won a big award for this book at the end of January, which was pretty cool to see.

    Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo. MG novel. Read aloud to the peperoncino. I love this book so much--and now, so does he. (I've read it before but not aloud.)

    They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. YA graphic novel. I've read a number of other books about the incarceration of Japanese Americans, so I wasn't reading it specifically to learn about what happened, but this is a well told story.

    Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes. YA memoir in verse. A powerful story of Nikki's childhood as the daughter of a mother who struggled with both schizophrenia and alcoholism. I felt that it came across as being a bit unsympathetic toward those who struggle with their mental health, which surprised me a bit.

    Current read: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Adult NF. This book is AMAZING. It's essentially an essay collection focused on bringing together science and Indigenous wisdom, as written by an author who has a PhD in botany and is an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. It's extraordinary, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

    1. I almost picked up Braiding Sweetgrass,* but it was so many pages.**

      Now, you've re-piqued my interest, so I may tackle it.

      * The book was mentioned in Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing, which was a really interesting book.

      **I think I would read a lot more non-fiction if all of their page counts were cut in half. See also, this book that I heard about today.

      1. The nice thing about Braiding Sweetgrass is that you could read an essay (or two or three) and then switch to reading something else and then pick it back up. While it's not dense, there is a fair amount to absorb (particularly for those of us who are not very familiar with Indigenous worldviews), so it's not a book you want to race through. That said, it's really well written, so the reading experience is quite pleasurable.

  7. So generally speaking I don't read much literature anymore. I've read I think 11 novels in the past 10 years, compared to probably 10 a year when I was in my 20's. However, I'm posting because I did read one last month!

    I finished House of Leaves, which I started four years ago. I rather enjoyed it, but even then I found parts where I felt like it was "work." I think I've spent too many hours on computers and phones, because my patience for anything that doesn't grab me and doesn't let go is quite small.

    I also read the first eight pages of Infinite Jest. Estimated finish will be 2052.

  8. Spreadsheet, of course.

    This last month I read: The Count of Monte Christo (A. Dumas), and about 85% of the short stories of Guy de Maupassant (all on Project Gutenberg). Also finished Sharpe's Prey (B. Cornwall),

    A buddy at work just dropped off Pynchon's Mason & Dixon and Vineland. M&D will be a mammoth read - it was too heavy to haul to Hilton Head, so I'm just trying to finish off my 1843, my latest The New Yorker, and Foreign Affairs.

  9. Fun little story about Goodreads:

    About 12 years ago I started a writers' group in D.C. - a handful of people who didn't know each other connected to form the group. For a year or more we would e-mail each other chapters, stories, bits of whatever we were working on (mostly novels), and then we'd get together every week (every other?) to give feedback and talk about our writing. I haven't really kept in touch with any of those folks, though there is the occasional e-mail with one or another. Pretty much everyone moved away or dropped out for various reasons.

    Fast-forward to last Friday, when I got an e-mail from an old group member. Goodreads had suggested to her a book - Sharks In The Time Of Saviors, and she recognized the author's name. Sure enough, it was the guy from our group (he was one of the two most polished writers in the bunch, so this makes sense). It wasn't the book he was working on when we were in our group, but it looks interesting. Even cooler, I checked out a review on the Strib, and they noted that he's a Minnesota author. So somehow he's come from D.C. to MN too. I'll have to reach out.

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