Tuesday, February 01, 2005


The other day I mentioned my old shoebox method of keeping--or not keeping--track of books I wanted to read. My shoebox and I were friends for a very long time (since I was a teenager). It actually began life as an envelope, first a small one and then a long #10. I'd clip titles from book catalogs, magazines and newspapers and toss them in the envelope. Pretty soon the envelope became full. Then I separated it into two envelopes, one for fiction and one for nonfiction. I clipped at a fast rate when I was a teen--part time minimum wage jobs barely keep a girl in clothes and gas for the car--books were what I bought with all my birthday and Christmas money. Sometime around the age of 18 my envelopes moved into a wide bodied shoebox. There wasn't much time for reading book reviews in college but my shoebox could handle reading lists from classes and torn edges of notebook paper where I had written down book titles that professors or fellow students mentioned. Once college was over my snipping ways returned with a vengeance--there were all sorts of books out there that I had missed because I was too busy with school to read much for fun. My shoebox was beginning to get full and I had to tape the corners of the lid and box because they were coming apart. Sure I could have gotten a new shoebox but we had been through so much together I couldn't let go. Once in a while I'd browse through all of the little clips in the box and toss out titles I had read or bought or decided that I didn't want to read anymore. Often there would be several different clips and scribbles for the same book, usually one I was no longer interested in, and I would wonder, "what was I thinking?" Finally, just this last summer, I decided the shoebox was out of control--the taped corners were splitting and the lid kept falling off because it was too full. It also didn't help me when I wanted to take a list to the bookstore. I'd have to take a handful of little snips in my pocket or spend time writing a list to take with me. So I went through the box and turned it into a computerized list (lists really, one for fiction and one for nonfiction). I still clip reviews and scribble titles on scratch paper. These bits usually end up on a corner of my desk. Every month or so I am obliged to look them over and decide if I am still interested enough to put them on my list. Sometimes I miss my shoebox; when I dipped my hand in I never knew what I would pull out. But for ease of tracking, I like the computer list better. How do you keep track of books you want to read?