The splendid Wartime Housewife has a potsage* about her reading life, in which she notes that “if I stopped reading, I would feel that I had completely lost control of my life and my sense of self”, a sentiment with which I’d concur. (“Melodramatic, I know” she adds, but, ah!, where would we be without a leavening of melodrama?)
What surprised me was for one so bookish to state that it was only in the last couple of years she began to keep a record of the books she reads. From the time I began reading books – as opposed to The Beano and Wham! – it never occurred to me not to keep a list. Alas, somewhere along the line the first few years’ of my records were lost, but I have a note of every book I have read since 1982. (Which year began, since you ask, with The Annotated Snark by Martin Gardner.)
It is not often I browse back over the list – now maintained, of course, on what Dr Alan Statham at one point calls a “compyoodah” – but when I do I am struck by two things in particular. There are the books of which I retain no memory whatsoever, and could thus reread as if for the first time, and there are the ones which, even if ill-remembered, summon for me the time and the place they were read with astonishing clarity. (Why do I recall so vividly, for example, that I read the bulk of The Tax Inspector by Peter Carey sitting by a lake, to the sound of birdsong? I remember the setting, but almost nothing of the novel.)
Of late, visitors to Hooting Yard could probably piece together what I’ve been reading, day by day and week by week. There’s something to keep you occupied when you find yourselves at a loose end.
*NOTE : This is a deliberate error. It is a clue to a book which appears more than once on my twenty-eight-year reading list. But which book?