I confess to keeping a reading list organized by subject. Partly it’s one of my weird afterlife images. I imagine myself gone to the vast beyond and someone still curious about what I read, finds my list and sees me through my reading history. More likely is the use I make of that list now while I’m still breathing. I like to think that I can share a good book with a friend if I can just remember who wrote it and in what library I found it. The list is what was once called an aide de memoire, a helpful clue for the absent minded who read far too many books. At least that’s how it works for me.
The truth is that I also enter books that I didn’t read to the end. These titles carry a snarky code, DNF—did not finish. It’s a useful approach once out of grad school where it was a mortal sin to close a book before “THE END.” Life, though, is uncertain and any day a comet from outer space might cut short my reading time, but mostly my book list is a stay against confusion. Recently, I checked out a poetry collection, settled down to read and thought the contents seemed familiar. Well, that was because I have that book in my own bookcase. If I had carried my reading list with me, I might have saved the time to check out a book I’ve not only read but purchased. I’d have saved precious time. And time is precious. That comet may be on its way.