Fifteen things about me and books


“15 Things About Me and Books”  is a meme moving slowly across the biblioblogosphere started by John Scalzi in 2005.  I’ve seen it done by Steve Lawson, Michael Sauers, Jenica Rogers, Iris Jastram, and Angel Rivera.  Now it’s my turn.

1.  The first book I read on my own as a child was about cats.  I read it at my grandparents’ apartment in Brooklyn.  It started with cats in Egypt.  It also had a page about how cats like to sleep on top of books.  My cat demonstrated by laying down on this book.

2. I never read a lot of the children’s classics as a child (for example – Where the Wild Things Are, The Phantom Tollbooth, Winnie the Pooh, Make Way for Ducklings, Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, A Wrinkle in Time, many more).  From an early age I was interested in reading about history and specifically biographies of colonial and early American figures.  To this day I read more non-fiction than fiction.

3.  I did read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books twice, with the exception of Farmer Boy which I wasn’t interested in at all.

4.  It always annoyed me when TV shows had a kid reading a book and that kid suddenly appears in the book participating in the action.  Reading was never like that for me and I always thought I was doing something wrong.  I still think they need a way to illustrate imagination in a way that works for more literal-minded children.

5. Defying the stereotype of librarians and bibliophiles, I’ve made a conscious effort to not collect lots of books in my own home.  I strive to check out books I can from the library.  The only books I own are reference books, gifts, books by people I know, and books I could not get through a library.  When I finish a book I give it away.  It helps that I live in Boston with access to all the Boston Public Libraries, the Minuteman Library Network and the Harvard Libraries. Of course with my wife’s books and son’s books, the house is still cluttered with books, but imagine how much more so it would be if I weren’t so disciplined.

6.  I was an anti-audiobook snob for a long time.  I listened to one for the first time in 2007 and now I listen to them regularly especially while doing processing work in the archives.

7. In order to remember the books I read I started keeping a list in the back of my journal in 1990.  Around 2000, that list became a spreadsheet.  In 2003, I started writing summary reviews of every book I read.  In 2006, I started publishing those reviews on this blog.  In 2008, I entered every book I’ve ever read* into LibraryThing.  To date I’ve reviewed 292 books on this blog and 765 books on LibraryThing (making me the 58th most prolific reviewer). Last year I ranked my 100 Favorite Books of All Time, although the list ended up having 125 books because I included series under one title.

8. I rarely reread books although I’m going to make a conscious effort to reread my 100 favorites starting this year.

8. When I was in high school I thought I would become a novelist & short story writer when I grew up.  To date I still have not written any books.

9.  The longest book I’ve ever read was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo which was over 1200 pages in the edition I read.  Surprisingly I read it in only 12 days, devouring it during a family vacation on Martha’s Vineyard.

10.  In college when struggling with a difficult assignment for my physics course I reached a point of stress where I tossed the textbook out the window.  It landed with a resounding boom that echoed off the neighboring buildings.  Tension relieved, I retrieved the book and finished up the assignment in 15 minutes and went to bed.

11.  Since 2003, I’ve been trying to read a novel (in English translation) by an author from every country in the world.  I call it Around the World for a Good Book.

12. Second semester senior year I took 3 English literature courses and a history course based on Southern writers and had to buy something like 25 volumes of fiction.  Instead of going to the bookstore I went to the local book exchange and picked up paperbacks and ended up spending less than $20 for the semester.

13. For much of my life I could spend hours looking through The World Almanac and Book of Facts, staying up late learning things.  Now I surf the web.  There’s something lost and something gained.

14. In the winter of 1997 during a temporary layoff from Colonial Williamsburg I worked at the college bookstore at William & Mary.  It was the only retail-type I ever had and it was relatively relaxing but I wouldn’t want to do it again.  I loved the special dollies designed the carry the books around for shelving.

15. People sometimes make fun of me for reading too much.  I feel I can never read enough.