At the beginning of the year I made several resolutions, which included giving up smoking (semi-successful so far; my willpower has been tested but still holds), writing one short story a month (very successful as I wrote two in January and have a short thingy written for February, but we’ll see how that one holds up) and writing down all the books I read this year.

I read a lot of books, but I am incredibly bad at writing them all down. It sounds silly, because surely it can’t be that hard to remember to write down their names?

It isn’t that hard, so I’ve started making more of an effort. In fact, I’ve noticed that a lot of my resolutions and goals for the year involve wasting less time – but more on that as the year goes by. For now, I’ll talk about the books.

I first came across the Moleskine book journal when I gave it as a Christmas present, and since then I’ve bought one for myself. I’ve so far used it to record:

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

(I’m now reading On Writing by Stephen King, and it’s just as entertaining as his novels, with the added bonus of conveying the writing habits and tips of one of the most successful authors of the 20th Century.)

Each page in the journal has sections for the book’s author, their nationality, the book’s original language, publisher(s), year of first edition, and two larger sections for quotations and opinion. The star rating goes at the bottom of ‘opinion’. I’ve never been dedicated enough to give most books I read a proper review, but the book journal has helped a lot in distilling my thoughts.

It affects my reading, too. Each time I read something quoteworthy a mental trigger goes off. “I must remember that and put it in the quotes,” I think, which is the sort of thought that I wish I didn’t have. I have a good memory for trivia, but being a person who quotes often and eloquently is not in my nature. In fact, I find such gifted individuals frustrating because how can you really enjoy something if you’re constantly on the lookout for good quotes, or the need to show them off to people?

The quotations section has, though, become my favourite part of the journal. Probably because when I read To Kill a Mockingbird – this year being the first time I’ve ever read it, unlike thousands of people who were forced to read it at school – I encountered some of the most profound and moving prose I’ve ever read. I also fell in love with the characters, especially Scout and Atticus.

Here’s what I wrote in the quotation section in my entry for Mockingbird:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” (Atticus, pg. 33)

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” (Atticus, pg. 124)

There were many passages in the book that made an impression on me, but it would have been greedy to have gone back and meticulously excised each one of them until I had a neat collection. Novels are meant to be enjoyed as a whole, aren’t they?

Keeping those kind of quotations close, easy to find and all in one place feels kind of like hoarding treasure. Literature is full of such treasures. I mostly read good, entertaining, hugely enjoyable books by authors who know how to convey some of the deepest experiences of being human. I say ‘mostly read’, because I don’t love every single book I read. But there are still things – lessons, unique moments, pages where sunlight breaks through the cloud – in those books that are worth writing down somewhere.

Advertisements