I’ve kept physical and mental book lists for as long as I can remember. The physical list began at school when my class was handed a recommended reading list for that term. Others dreaded it, while I was more than happy to accept a list that included books on various subjects that were going to expand my knowledge and feed my imagination. However, a physical book list soon brought connotations of work, stress and exams and I resented it. As a lover of books, I was afraid of spoiling a treasured hobby and so began my mental list: a list full of books that I could read for pleasure and escape with, recommended by friends, bookshops and magazines.
This was why, post-university and post-education, I kept a simple mental list. It didn’t tie me down and I had the freedom to trade books on it as often as I liked with no stark reminder in black and white detailing expectation and failure. The only downside to my excellent mental list, I soon forgot what was on it unless someone or something reminded me.
Instead I tried an alternative approach, my review list. I was already working in publishing by this point and was reading so many fantastic books that I began writing mini reviews on note cards I kept in a review box (for some it’s a jewellery box, my box was a record of my reading history). It was helpful for me to see what I had read, what I had thought at the time, and it was similar to a record of achievement. It also gave me the resources to start a book review blog and opened up the opportunity for me to review books for other websites as well. After a lot of extra hours spent reviewing – I had yet again begun to see reading only as work.
Now I have found a method that suits me and appears to be popular with others. I have changed the title of my list altogether and renamed it my Reading Pile (a popular Twitter and bookish term). Like the word ‘pile’ suggests it’s a variety of things that are brought together haphazardly from a number of sources; recommendations on Twitter or from friends/colleagues, photos of reviews in newspapers and magazines, my Amazon wish list and a pile of physical books on my nightstand.
It may sound cluttered but it’s a reflection on how I now receive recommendations. The master Reading Pile is stored on my phone with no restriction of when I can add or delete a title. I also write down what book(s) I read that week in my diary as a simple mental prompt and a list I can happily reflect on at the end of that year. This list is a list of achievement, reading habits and tastes.
I would always suggest a list of some sort, where you write it or how you keep it is subject to the individual. At work everyone’s To Do Lists are different and that will be the same for a reading list. But one thing is sure; there’s nothing quite like the a universal sense of satisfaction that ticking something off or striking through a task with a clean line.