For some reason, I have always relied on lists for the general management of my day-to-day life. My wife and I make grocery lists almost every time we shop. We’re also both inveterate to-do list makers; she creates a fresh one every morning, and I keep a perpetually-updated list that I synchronize between my phone, my laptop, and my iPad. (You can tell why we’re married, can’t you?) I’ve been making lists since I was young teenager, and I don’t expect to stop any time soon. They’re far too useful to me.
Not all of the lists I make are for getting things done, however, or for the management of life’s necessities. I keep a list of all the North American bird species I’ve seen, as I wrote about here. My wife and I have also occasionally kept a list of the movies we’ve watched, along with a capsule review of each one, in a nice leather journal that sits near our television, though that one has lapsed of late. And off and on, for several years now, I’ve kept a variety of lists of the books I’ve read, for reasons I really don’t fathom.
After a long break, I have decided to revive that tradition. You will now note, in this blog’s navigation, a new Reading List page on which I’ll be tracking the books I consume. (I also read a few magazines and the Sunday paper, but I don’t find those to be worth recording for some reason.) I may not tackle many; I used to consume as many as 100 books in twelve months, but I have a young son now, and my time for reading is short. I’ll get to what I get to.
To be honest, I have no idea why I’ve chosen to do this. I will, however, keep it up for a while… perhaps in hope of figuring out why I’m inclined to do it. My hope is not to tell anyone else what to read, I hasten to note. The wandering one does through books is very personal, and in my experience, very little success comes from proscribing a reading selection. If you like what I link to — and I’ll be linking to the Amazon.com entry for each book, but not because I’m a member of any kind of affiliate program — great. Read and we’ll talk. But if you don’t care for what’s been on my shelves (and on my iPad), let it go. It’s just my path: you don’t have to follow.
One note of difference from my previous reading lists: you’ll note that I’ve also included mention of books I abandoned after starting. The time for reading is too short to persist in consuming what doesn’t feel important or enthralling. I’m sharing the books I stopped reading not to suggest that they aren’t any good, but to emphasize the point that the precious commodity of reading time should not be taken for granted in this life. If you aren’t moved by what’s in front of you, say goodbye.
I feel as if this post wouldn’t be complete if I failed to mention the two great books on the subject of lists and collections that I happen to have read last year. If, like me, you consider the sort of “useful” lists I’ve described to be essential to your daily living, you might enjoy The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande… if only in that it will make you feel better about your wise decision to rely on lists. And if, like me, you find the notion of lists-as-collections bizarrely compelling, then you simply must read William Davies King’s Collections of Nothing. A stranger book on the subject has perhaps never been written.