Passing Down the Reading List Tradition

I began keeping a list of all of the books I read beginning in 1996. I was almost 24 years old, and I think the inspiration to keep a list came from a list I’d seen online by someone who’d been keeping the list since 1974. I lamented the fact that I’d missed tracking twenty-plus years of books I’d read. Yet when I finally began keeping the list, it was at a time when I decided to try reading a book a week. My list, I figured, would grow quickly. My list has taken various forms online over the years, but my “master” list is contained in a Leuchtturm1917 notebook where, at the moment, the 1,240 books I’ve read take up almost all of the first 60 pages.

Over the weekend, the Littlest Miss discovered a stack of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books on my bookshelf. She is 6-1/2, a very good reader, and she asked me about those books. I explained the concept of them to her, and she seemed excited by it. So much so, that she sat down Friday evening and read through one of them. Now, “reading through” a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book is not a linear process, but she seemed to attempt every possible permutation. She did it in a logic way, too. She told me that when she went back to the beginning, she’d skipped the parts she already read, and only read the new parts.

She finished the book that very evening. When she finished, she came up to me and asked if we could start her own list of books. I’d set aside a fresh Leuchtturm1917 notebook for this very purpose. We opened the wrapping on it together, and I explained to her my simple rules for keeping my list:

  1. Only books I finish go on the list. I don’t track books I don’t finish. Too much work.
  2. Each finished book gets a number.
  3. If I re-read a book, and finish it again, it goes on the list again with another number, but I also indicate it is a re-read with a ^ after the title.
  4. Paper, e-books, and audiobooks all count, so long as I finish them.

Together, we got her notebook setup. I told her that since it was her notebook and her list, she had to complete the list herself. She wrote the title on the cover (you can see it in the photo above). And then, on the first page of the book, she made her first entry. You can see both of our “first pages” in the image below.

The first page of my reading list (left) and the Littlest Miss's reading list (right).

Over the weekend, the Littlest Miss completed 2 more Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books and her list has grown by two additional entries.

I’m envious. If she can keep her list going, not only will she have a more extensive list than I ever had, but her list will reflect the evolution of her thinking and interests from an early age. It will mirror the evolution (and improvement) in her handwriting. And, much as my book list goes, it will act as a kind of memoir of her life. Through some quirk of memory, when I glance through my list, I can remember exactly where I was when I read a particular book on the list, even if I don’t remember the book all that well.

It’s been a delight to see how excited the Littlest Miss was by the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books, and also how excited she was to begin keeping her own list. I’ve already told her that she can use my list any time she wants if she is looking for ideas or recommendations. (All books that I’d recommend are indicated by a * in the margin of the page.) It is a journey we are now taking together.

Written on 26 February 2023.

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  1. I love this. I also have a book where I keep a list of everything I’ve read, which I started at 22. If there was a fire, it’d be the first thing I’d grab.

    I’d give a lot to have a record of those first few reading years. Your daughter is lucky and I hope she keeps up the habit.


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