I May Require Help

I’ve said before that one awesome part of being in the Army is working with people, but I do have to admit that sometimes it backfires just a bit. While talking to some folks about books and reading, I mentioned that I love to read and have a lot of books. Someone else piped up that they had a fairly huge collection also. At that point I stated that I keep a spreadsheet of every book I’ve read, and that it goes back to 1986.

That was the proverbial ‘needle across the record’ moment as the room went silent and everyone stared at me. I stopped and mentally rewound what I’d said to make sure I didn’t accidentally tell the one about the Pope, the dildo and the flying chinchillas. A brief excerpt of the conversation that followed went like this:

  • Me: “What?!?”
  • Dude: “You have a twenty-six year old list of books you’ve read”
  • Me: “Of course. That’s how I keep track of them. Why are you looking at me like I just told the Pope, dildo, and flying chinchilla joke?”
  • Dude: “Man, that’s just not right.”

Apparently my buddy found this beyond comprehension. I find it to be a question of practicality. I do read a lot, and the list is creeping up on 1000 entries. Some years are better than others. One year I finished 90 books. Another I barely squeaked out 24. I also figured that while I was at it, I might as well tally up the pages too, and so I’m hovering at around 420,000 or so. As-of the end of last year that is.

At some point, I added some columns so I could categorize my list, so I can sort it by whether or not it was a military subject, hardcover, and whether or not I own it or it was one I read from the library. It has the obvious stuff for author name and date I finished the book, of course.

The List has rules, too. For example, I don’t count newspapers, office paperwork and memos, mail, and other shit like that in my assessment of reading as I go. I do count the bibliograpy and index sections of academic works though, and I figure it all evens out that way. I have yet to come up with a method to best capture e-books, mainly because I don’t have an e-book reader nor do I have any particular desire to get one. Yet.

Your question of ‘why’ is obvious. Here’s the deal: with 960 books I’ve read in my life thus far, and knowing my tastes fall along pretty well-worn genre grooves, the odds of me buying a paperback I already read back when I was 14 is actually pretty high. Also, with the additions I’ve made to improve the list, I know that if I’m looking for a book I have on record as still owning, it’s either on a shelf or in a box in the basement. Since I do re-read great books, this is a handy tool to have, and I’ve been known to use my military and history collections to do school-related writing (and therefore documentation) and research.

I still don’t know why you’re staring at me. It’s not like OCD or something.

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73 Responses to “I May Require Help”

  1. krystyn Says:

    Unadulterated genius! I am implementing one right now. I am only sorry I missed out on the last few decades – can I include ones I know I previously read?

  2. I think that is an amazing idea! I read a lot too and have purchased the same book twice before. I give all my books to my sister when I finish so I can never remember if I have read it! Now…please tell me the joke about the Pope, dildo and flying chinchilla!

  3. You’ve only read 960 books? What’s wrong with you?
    I actually started keeping a list a couple years ago, though my list has not nearly as many rules as yours does….

  4. Dude, my spreadsheet goes back to 1990. This creeps me out a bit.

  5. whiteladyinthehood Says:

    Actually, that’s pretty cool..I love me some Excel.

  6. I’m staring at you in an admiring way. It isn’t that weird at all! I have a diary in which I sometimes write about a book I’m reading, to keep it in mind and stuff. Your system is in fact quite useful.
    (I hope people aren’t staring at me too now…)

  7. This is actually one of the more intelligent ideas I have heard all week, wait.. month… no, no.. decade.. yes, decade.
    I have bought (more than once) a book I already owned (whether or not I already read it) and then had a violent altercation with myself after realizing I did so.
    This “book list” could save me some serious pain.
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. I have a similar spreadsheet except mine is for books I want to read instead of for books I have read. From time to time i will hear or read a really good recommendation for a book & a few minutes later it’s gone – whoosh – from my overworked brain. So I started this spreadsheet to keep me on the straight & narrow when I am in the mood to purchase a book (or an e-book because I do have an e-reader which I now love even though I wasn’t sure I would). Unhappily, I bought a few duplicate books before coming up with this (what I thought was a brilliant) idea!

  9. This sounds like something I would do, or should have done. In just the last month I think I’ve read 30 books (my hubby has unlimited access at his 2nd hand store) and while I have re-read some books, it’s annoying to pick one up thinking I haven’t read it before and get 1/4 of the way and I figure it out.

    People catalog records, CD’s, comics, and movies so it is not abnormal to do it with books too. In my opinion.

  10. In the 80s, I started to do a library-style card file of books I owned. Typed title, author and precis on blank business cards. For old-style Ace, double pocketbooks I typed both sides of two cards. Ran out of steam after about 400. Should look at computerising. Best year was 76 books. Averaged 52 pages a day. Lifetime total probably 3000+, but I’ve been at mine a bit longer than you. Keep readin’!

  11. Lists are awesome! Personally I’m a big fan, mostly because I have a stack of books sitting at home that are duplicates of ones I already own. Would you be mad if I emulate? And I might need some help too since all this talk of lists has brought on a flood of euphoria…

  12. John Erickson Says:

    I don’t use a list, I just keep track in my head (I have a good memory of book covers). I’ve only been sabotaged once – when a publisher re-released a book of World War 1 maps with a different cover, but identical contents! Thanks goodness for used book stores! (South Bend, IN, has a mother-lode of used bookstores. Around here, zip. I’m overdue for a pilgrimage to Columbus to raid the multiple outlets of – creatively named – Half-Price Books.)
    Now all I need is a good used-game store, for hardcore gaming like RPGs. (Role-playing games, not rocket-propelled grenades, you twip! 😉 )

    • Unfortunately I have been caught by publishers changing covers one too many times to trust my memory anymore!

      • John Erickson Says:

        Well,much like our host, my tastes tend to veer to one of two aisles – military history and science fiction. So re-releases tend to be rather few and far between, thankfully. Especially in the military history item, ’cause I like obscure subjects – for instance, I have all but one book written about the Dieppe invasion in 1942, and I have all but 2 books available on the battles for the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska (one of which I browsed and swore never to own, due to glaring errors).
        It helps to have bizarre tastes! 😀

        • I’m glad you admitted to the bizarre tastes.

          • John Erickson Says:

            Well, when something like 85% of US citizens have no idea of where the Aleutian Islands are (much less that there were battles there) and a lot of Canadians never heard of (or have forgotten about) the disastrous Dieppe raid, I think “bizarre” is one of the … gentler adjectives I could use! 😉

          • Don’t know if you’ve read anything by him, but Pierre Burton has some interesting books out about the Canadian role in World War II. You may find them interesting. I’m not drawn to this type of book & I thoroughly enjoyed what he wrote about Vimy Ridge.

          • Hmm… Pierre Burton doesn’t ring a bell right off the bat. Then again, US bookstores tend to frown on non-US books about non-US events written by non-US authors. 😉 But thanks for the referral. I’ll see what I can dig up about his titles online.
            Yet another reason I am WAY overdue for a visit to the Great White North. Especially that monster bookstore in Toronto (whose name also escapes me at the moment). Not to mention wandering aimlessly around Hamilton – ALWAYS a good time! 😀

          • Sorry, Amazon is against my religion – especially the vow of poverty I unwillingly made ten years ago! 😀
            Not a bad idea, though I’d go to ABE books first. They seem to like the same weird stuff I do. 😉

          • Torture yourself as you like.

          • I may have hit a few of those myself.

          • It was ill-advised, yes.

      • I have been snagged that way too.

  13. I have also bought several books that I read years ago, title meant nothing until I got the book home and started reading it, again. A list? 26 years old? 🙂 It has rules? I can’t even keep a list going for a week, how you doing that!??!?!?!? 🙂

  14. Oh….get an e-reader, you will LOVEEEE it. I love mine. My sister bought it for me for my bday in October. I now carry my library with me everywhere I go and occasionally I have to remind myself I still have books in my house to read. 🙂 It is great to have, let me tell you.

  15. Sorry, I keep adding on replies, forgot, I didn’t think I would like the reader either. With my Kindle I can make notes, upload/share them and I like that. I haven’t yet, but I do share them so I can, if the mood strikes, use it for a blog post later. NICEEE!

    • No idea they did that too.

      • They sure do. There is also an “app”, for lack of a better word, found online, called “Clipdo”, if you see something online you like you can send it to your Kindle with “Clipdo”. I have the regular Kindle but I was able to put a calendar on it. The calendar is a Kindle app, and there are a few that are free, some you pay for. You can also browse the net. (Even if it is in black and white, still nice to be able to do so if I have my Kindle with me and not my netbook). It is actually quite nice. I want to get the latest, but that would offend my sister who bought this for me just a few months ago. 🙂 I love it. Sorry, didn’t mean to go on and on. I just really like it much more than I thought I would. Nothing like a good old-fashioned book in your hands, ya know?

  16. John Haslett Says:

    Wish I had such a list. Could have saved me hundreds of dollars in duplicate purchases.

  17. I think it’s perfectly normal but want to hear the one about the pope, the dildo, and the flying chinchillas.

  18. Nobody’s staring at you. Apparently, we all think you are brilliant beyond words…at least I think you are! I wish I had started such a spreadsheet decades ago, but that would have been before Excel.
    🙂

  19. Shimoniac Says:

    All I could think while I read this post was “God what a fantastic idea, why didn’t I think of that!” Seriously.

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