I keep a spreadsheet of all the books I read. The oldest entry is January 2, 2010: Hyperion, Dan Simmons. The most recent is October 1, 2011: The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis. (Highly recommended, by the way, even if – like me – you’re not a Christian.)
I keep this spreadsheet because 1) I’m the kind of person who requires very little convincing to start a spreadsheet, 2) I think it will be interesting to go back later when I’m older and see what I was into as a young’un, and 3) reading a book gives me a real sense of accomplishment, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to have a record of that.
(Ever noticed how much difference a few degrees make in phraseology? “Warm and fuzzy” sounds nice. “Hot and fuzzy” sounds vaguely illegal. Be careful out there.)
I guess finishing a book makes me feel kind of like leveling up in an RPG. Or if not increasing by a whole level, at least earning some experience points. I feel like I’ve improved myself, somehow, as a person.
(Brian Buckley) < (Brian Buckley + The Crying of Lot 49)
There is some element of actual truth to this. Books do enrich the mind (or, if they don’t, boy have I made some bad life choices). Yet that alone doesn’t entirely account for the sense of accomplishment I get.
If I’m honest, I think part of it is selfish. I like to be that guy – the guy who, when somebody asks “Have you ever read Don Quixote?” can thoughtfully sip his martini and say, “Why yes, in fact, yes I have.” The guy who’s cool and worldly, where cool and worldly is defined as even geekier than normal. I like having lit cred.
(Note: I do not drink martinis.)
So the spreadsheet isn’t quite as noble-minded as I’d like to make it sound. But then, I suppose there are worse sins in this world than literary selfishness. I suppose if I can look back on my life and the worst thing I find is that I’m a little too jazzed about my book list, I’m probably doing all right.
I mean, at least I’m not getting hot and fuzzy.
Do you keep a list of what you’ve read?