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What was the Name of That Book?

The name of the author is the first to go

Followed obediently by the title, the plot, the heartbreaking conclusion

the entire novel, which suddenly becomes

one you have never read, never even

heard of


Long before I read those lines from Billy Collins’ poem, “Forgetfulness,” I kept running lists of the books I read. Now in late, late middle edge, teetering on the cusp of dotage with a memory that seems increasingly porous, I find the lists more important than ever.

I just completed this book list, started nine years ago in the “Book Lovers Diary” my sister-in-law Connie gave me. Some of my favorites from the decade were Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” and “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.

Book Lover's Diary

This is my new reading record book. God (or Buddha) willing, I’ll use it for the next 10 years or so.  I’m not sure Buddha would be down with the big font, but I like the sentiment.

 Buddha Book List

So far in 2015 I’ve entered “Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life” by Hermione Lee, “The Secret Wisdom of the Earth” by Christopher Scotton, and “Honeydew” by Edith Pearlman.  Next is the daunting “Americanah” by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichi,  588 pages I am supposed to finish by Sunday, when my book group meets. I just started it last night, and so far it’s wonderful.

Then I’m going to read “Panic in a Suitcase” by Yelena Akhtiorskaya. Isn’t that a great title? I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I confess that I often select a book just because its title intrigues me. How could I not read a book called “Old Filth”? I loved it, and went on to read Jane Gardem’s “God on the Rocks” too. “Beyond the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo is another I chose for its title, and it did not disappoint me.

My mother had the same habit of keeping a book list. We never talked about it; it was something we both did. Here is the last list of books she kept before she died.  When I got it out to look at it as I was writing this, I laughed when I saw that she had written “Let’s Not Let the Dogs Out” and crossed it out, writing the correct title of Alexandra Fuller’s novel, “Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.” Her editorial comments, written in her unique hand, are succinct: “Delightful.”  “Good.”  “Boring.” “Good, but not equal to author’s previous books.” “Silly, but quick summer read.”

AQC Book list

My mother taught me to read long before I started school. Today, kids are reading a few hours after they leave the womb, but back in those days an early reader was precocious. I still miss being able to talk about books with my mother. Love of reading was one of many gifts she gave me.

What are you reading now? What books are on your list to read in 2015?

About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

7 responses »

  1. A nonfiction: “Cro-Magnon: How the Ice Age Gave Birth to the First Modern Humans” by Brian Fagan. Does that count? 🙂 Treacy, you’ve given me a few to add to my “to read” list. Thanks!

  2. I was going to write you JUST THIS WEEK to ask for your book recommendations since my credit arrived in the emailbox. I ADORED Americanah, and it was read by the most wonderful narrator–Adjoa Andoh–who does great NAB accents. All the Light We Cannot See was enjoyable (surprisingly), as was The Invention of Wings, which made me want to know much more about the Grimke sisters. I’m adding all the books you just mentioned to my 2015 list. Plus Rachel Kushner’s Flamethrowers, The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and am currently reading Loving Frank, a novel about Mamah Borthwick Cheney’s affair with Frank Lloyd Wright.

  3. Oh, this hits home… I started to reread To Kill a Mockingbird, and was amazed that I remember so little of it, even though I’ve read it at least four times! (Images from the movie, now, that’s another story.)

    Wonderful that you have your mother’s book list. I wish mine did that. She reads a lot and we enjoy similar books.

    I’ve been keeping lists of books in the backs of my journals for–gosh, a long, long time. I only put an asterisk behind books that I particularly liked. And then when GoodReads came online I started doing little reviews there.

    So far this year I’ve read both State of Wonder and Bel Canto by Ann Patchett, after hearing a wonderful NPR interview with her and realizing I hadn’t read her. Now I’m on The Patron Saint of Liars. I’ve also read The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 and plan to read all of The Best American… series. They are not always the best for me, but they usually interest me.

    Oh, and I’ll probably poach some titles from your interesting list!


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