My Book List

January 18, 2008
I just finished reading a book, after a very long time. For the longest time, I had been reading only Archaeology course material. After that, I stumbled across The God Delusion. While it is a very interesting book, it is not one that one can easily skim through to the end of. It takes time and dedication to get from one chapter to the next. I don’t really know when I’m going to finish it.

Meanwhile, I picked up a novel called Transmission, by Hari Kunzru. I’d never heard of the book or the author, but it was gifted to Amit some time ago and neither of us had read it. It turned out to be quite an interesting book, about an Indian computer programmer who unleashes a virus on the world without having the faintest idea of its potency, which is quite unbelievable.

Having finished the book, I promptly entered it in my Book List. While doing so, I was idly turning back the pages of the “list” – it’s in a diary, actually – when it struck me what a wonderful thing this list is. When I started it – almost 12 years ago! – my intention was primarily to note the books I was reading, so that I wouldn’t inadvertently go and buy or read the same book again. In those days, I was a voracious reader, so accidentally buying or reading the same book twice was quite possible.

The list is very simple – the title of the book is written on the left, the author’s name on the right. Below is a short paragraph recording my opinion about the book. For all-time favourites, like P. G. Wodehouse, there might be no more than a single line: “Good, as always.” For new discoveries, there’s usually a bit more, maybe an indication of the theme along with a comment on the style, perhaps the briefest mention of strengths and failings of the book and whether or not I generally liked the book.

It’s nice to go back and read those comments now. Some of them vividly bring back to mind books I had enjoyed but long forgotten. Others leave me bemused – intriguing comments about books I have no recollection of.

At some stage, fairly recently, I started numbering the entries. Hari Kunzru made it 162. That makes it an average of 13.5 books per year. Naturally, there have been peaks and troughs – but it is somehow reassuring to know that after everything, I’m still averaging a little over a book a month.

It was a little nothing when I started it, but now, 12 years down the line, I’m happy to have my book list. It is the one thing in my life that is not yet computerised – and I doubt it will be any time soon. At least, not until well after I get used to reading books on the computer, which is a very, very distant prospect right now.

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