what i'm reading: what i haven't read and am not reading

Many of my co-workers keep colourful lists like this,
or use Goodreads or Shelfari to track their reading.
I prefer plain old text.
Like most avid readers, my to-read list contains far more titles than I could ever read in a lifetime, even if I did nothing but read. Although I add books at a considerably faster rate than I tick them off, I do still keep The List, and I consult it when I'm looking for my next book. I do this with movies, too.

I also read books not on my list, much more so now that I work in a library, and my reading tastes have broadened. But I don't keep a list of all the books I've read.

This really bothers me. It has bothered me for a very long time. But at no time did I ever start keeping a list of All The Books I Read, because... I didn't start it a long time ago, so it will always be incomplete, so there's no point in starting it, ever. I know this is not rational, I know it's part of All Or Nothing thinking, which I work at avoiding, but... I can't shake the belief.

In library work we are urged to "track our reading," because it's supposed to help us be better readers' advisors. I question whether this is true. Most library workers don't consult their own reading lists when helping customers find reading material. But whether or not this is a useful practice, I don't do it.

I do keep track of movies and series that I watch. I've done this since the late 90s, and for some reason the incompleteness of this list doesn't bother me.

So, here are some book lists, sub-lists of The List.

Three biographies I want to read
Jackie Robinson: A Biography -- Arnold Rampersad*
Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder -- Caroline Fraser
Helen Keller: A Life -- Dorothy Herrmann

Three people I want to read biographies of but don't know which one to read
Muhammad Ali
Bob Dylan

Five books that I want to read but am daunted by because they are so long
This is a stupid category for someone who has read The Power BrokerBleak House, and City on Fire. Nevertheless.
London: The Biography -- Peter Ackcroyd
Dickens -- Peter Ackcroyd*
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 -- Edwin G. Burrows,‎ Mike Wallace**
Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919 -- Mike Wallace
Jackie Robinson: A Biography -- Arnold Rampersad*

Three books I didn't finish but am determined to get back to one day
At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 -- Taylor Branch (This is the third book in Branch's "America in the King Years," and an almost impenetrable read. But I read the first and second books, and half the third. Must finish.)
The Sherston Trilogy -- Siegfried Sassoon
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 -- Tony Judt (also fits under previous category)

Six writers whose books keep appearing on my list but I haven't read yet (there are many more)
Frans De Waal
Carl Safina
Robert Sapolsky
Margaret Laurence
Colm Toibin
Helen Oyeyemi

Three topics I would like to read more about
Utopian communities
Confidence games, grifters, and hoaxes
Language -- acquisition by children, origins of, ASL, Esperanto...other stuff

Orwell still to read
A Clergyman's Daughter
Coming Up for Air
Collected Letters

Dickens still to read
The Pickwick Papers
The Old Curiosity Shop
Barnaby Rudge
The Mystery of Edwin Drood

The Shakespeare Project
In 2003, I decided to read or re-read all of Shakespeare's plays. I re-read all my favourites, then got totally bogged down. Here's a real test of All or Nothing. Even though I haven't read a Shakespeare play in more than a decade, the goal still nags me. I want to drop it! Can I???
Comedy of Errors
Love's Labour's Lost
Merry Wives of Windsor
Henry VI, Part I
Henry VI, Part II
Henry VI, Part III
King John
Antony and Cleopatra
Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus
Troilus and Cressida

* We own this in hardcover.
** We own this in hardcover and we acquired it by trading a box of used books for a new copy of this.


Libspryte said...

[Rachel] I find for me and the way my brain works I seem to get a kick out of trying to record every single book I've read. Sometimes I ca barely remember the plot, sometimes the characters are fuzzy years after reading a work but I don't care. My brain seems to really love lists and any excuse to keep a list going makes me happy. Everyone is different and that's a good thing. I don't judge based on what people read or don't read. :D

With God's Help said...

Permission granted to drop the Shakespeare "All or Nothing" goal!

Lorne said...

Hi Laura. May I suggest a the biography of Muhammad Ali entitled Ali: A Life, by Jonathan Eig. Like the man himself, the book has never a dull moment, and offers insight both into his boxing career and his sometimes contradictory life.

James Redekop said...

I tried posting this from my phone, but I don't know if it worked:

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel is quite good if you want a Galileo bio. It uses the letters between Galileo and his daughter Virginia (Suor Maria Celeste of the San Matteo Convent in Arcetri) as a jumping-off point.

laura k said...

Libspryte/Rachel, absolutely, I agree! I wish I had started long ago. Like at birth. :) Love the name, by the way.

Kristina, thank you! Wow, so easy! (Not sure I'll accept, but look at that...)

Lorne, I just read a review of that book in a recent NY Times Book Review. It's the first bio written since Ali's death. That might be the way to go. Thank you. :)

laura k said...

Thanks, James. Someone on Facebook suggested that, too. It didn't sound like a bio, though.

johngoldfine said...

"Confidence games, grifters, and hoaxes"

You might try Jack Black's 'You Can't Win.' And then there's the Jim Thompson book 'The Grifters' and the movie too.

James Redekop said...

It's not a traditional biography, but it is biographical. It gets more personal than most other Galileo biographies (generally, those barely mention his daughters -- you could practically think of him as some sort of celibate science-monk), but doesn't skimp on his scientific work.

laura k said...

Thanks, John. I've read and seen The Grifters. But I'm looking for nonfiction about this. I wonder if I can find a copy of You Can't Win anywhere.

James, thanks for that. I will put it on The List.

johngoldfine said...

You might like these. I've read the first two. And there are the two Mamet films: House of Cards & Spanish Prisoner.




The big long cons may be a dying art but:

I had a long chat the other day with a "Microsoft" rep who told me that my "Windows License" was about to expire. And recently a lady called warning me that my computer was full of viruses that she could eliminate if I turned my computer over to her for a few minutes.

My gmail spam file used to be full of offers to ransom Nigerian princes, transfer vast sums to the USA from secret bank files for handsome finder's fees, and rescue friends who had lost their passports and wallets in distant lands. Those do not seem to come through any more, but I have no doubt someone, somewhere is getting them.

I read the other day that one of the reasons the Nigerian scam never changes its ridiculous approach is that anyone gullible and stupid enough to reply to one of those absurd emails is self-selecting as a likely mark. A superficially more sophisticated approach would be less winnowing!

johngoldfine said...

'You Can't Win' is really more about petty thievery in the first decades of the 20th Century than about con games, but it paints a fine picture of that era's criminal underworld. Jack Black calls himself, in a Shakespeare reference, "a snapper up of unconsidered trifles,' which always makes me smile. His descriptions of jewelry store robberies do walk the line between cons and simple thievery, as distraction and misdirection are used in the snapping-up.

laura k said...

We love House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner. We've seen HoG several times and The Spanish Prisoner at least twice. Another one is Nine Queens. Not on the level of the two Mamets, but very good.

Oh those friends who lose their wallets.

In one of my workplaces, I took phone calls from "the phone company," who was testing the phone, and I had to press a series of numbers. This apparently allowed pay-phone users in Times Square to make overseas calls charged to the company I was working for. The callers would pay someone a few bucks cash, that person would rig the phone call.

I once applied for a writing/editing gig, supposedly writing copy for a Taiwanese website. The application was quite involved. Payment would be deposited directly into my account, so I should give them my PayPal and banking information.

Those are the two that I most remember.

I had never heard of You Can't Win. I googled it after your earlier comment. Sounds great.

laura k said...

John, we think alike. Two of those three books are already on my list: The Big Con and "why we fall for it every time". :)

Also this: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/books/review/bunk-kevin-young.html

johngoldfine said...

I was a victim of a three-card-monte game when I visited NYC for the first time, age 14, 1959, innocent lad from the Hub of the Universe--back when Times Square still smelled more Damon Runyon than Walt Disney.

It was the classic con--the dealer, the roper, the shill, the lookout, and...,er, the mark. Ten years later I was in grad school, researching and writing about the criminal underworld of London, circa 1850, not impossibly because of my fleecing at the hands, the very fast hands, of those New York street scammers.

laura k said...

Amazing. Even more so, because I also had a theft experience influence my research and writing. Traveling with a friend after graduating university, I had my wallet stolen by children working outside the train station in Rome. They took my cash, but unbeknownst to them my return plane ticket was in my wallet, so I had to get it back. While I took matters into my own hands, I caught a glimpse of the woman they were working for, giving a quick nod -- permission to throw the wallet back at me.

This led to research about Gypsies (Roma) and fortune-telling scams which led to my first book. (It is unpublished. But pretty good.)