Here’s a surprise for you: I like to read! Furthermore I like to write reviews about what I read. I have a bad memory as a general rule and taking the time to sit and write out my thoughts helps to cement the ideas of the book in my mind.
However, what do you do when you are reading one of the old great classics? You know the sort – the ones that are so thick and heavy that you could use them to hold down your house against hurricane force winds? Sometimes those books are just so long and thick that writing a review of them seems like a monstrously unappealing task. It’s so easy (for me at least!) to forget the details hidden within the first few chapters by the time I get to page 694. It’s lost on me.
In an effort to remember what I’m reading, and what my impressions of what any such book might be, I’ve started keeping Reader’s Diaries. Basically what I do is record my thoughts per reading day to remind me what I thought of a particular character, perhaps a well-written or thought-provoking paragraph, or a frustration that I am having with the storyline. Then, when I am through reading the book, I can go back and see how my thoughts progressed along with the tale.
This type of review doesn’t really provide for in-depth, soul searching reviews or deep and probing thoughts. However, it does help to solidify the finer points of the story in my own head which I find useful.
My first Reader’s Diary review was of Wives and Daughters, which I read at the encouragement of my friend Sarah from Library Hospital. On this one my thoughts began hopefully, anticipating the best from this story and I landed in a place of some confusion over the significance of this particular piece of work. (Feel free to enlighten me if you’d like.) I was in a different place mentally from Point A, where I began, and Point B, C, D, etc. I learned in this first diary that I appreciated just writing out how I felt about the book on a daily basis.
My second Reader’s Diary review was done in conjunction with the 5 Minutes for Books Classic Bookclub in which we read Jane Eyre. I particularly enjoyed keeping a Reader’s Diary of Jane Eyre. In this case, the book grew on me over a period of days. This was a very fun book to keep a diary of because the characters are so complex and unique and the story so gripping and compelling that, after I got past my initial depression in the story line, I really began to enjoy myself!
The next attempt I made at keeping a Reader’s Diary was with Bleak House which I promised to read alongside Sarah at Library Hospital. And promptly decided I didn’t like. (I have a thing about Dickens. I don’t much care for him.) I can’t really claim it was a valiant effort but oh well.
Lastly, I’m currently working my way through Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queen. I wrote a Readers Diary for Book One of The Faerie Queen. If you’d like to see my conclusion of all six books, well, just stay tuned. There’s a definite reason I’m using the Reader’s Diary approach to this saga!
This approach to journaling and reviewing books might not be the most intellectual. I am well aware of the fact that I’m taking classics of old and downsizing them considerably but I figure if I can glean just a little bit from each book that I read, I”ll be something of a successful reader. Just perhaps.
Do you keep any sort of reader’s diary?
Carrie comes by her book obsession honestly, having descended from a long line of bibliophiles. She blogs about books regularly at Reading to Know.
Mine is of course very simplistic in comparison (Carrie, you amaze me), but I have found something that works for me. My bookmark is a folded sheet of blank 8 1/2 by 11 paper. I always have a pen with me when I am reading, and I make note of page numbers along with the beginning of the paragraph that stuck out to me. I write down the points I like, connections I’m getting, and themes I’m starting to see (that I want to build my review around). I haven’t done it for a Classic yet. In that case, I’m sure I would use multiple sheets before the book is done! But of all the books I’ve reviewed so far I can get it all on 1 page.
Monica Brand | Paper Bridges says
I use my blog to keep track of my reading, that way others can see what I like and comment.
Dickens is tough, isn’t he?
What an excellent idea. Thank you for this tip. I also like Alicia’s idea of bringing the paper and pencil with me as I read. I too have a faulty memory and writing reviews helps me remember the enjoyment or displeasure I had reading a particular book.
Thank you for explaining how you keep a reader’s diary. I am going to try that. When I am writing a review of a book, I am always having to go back through the book to remember what I wanted to write about.
Jennifer, Snapshot (and 5M4B) says
I love seeing all these comments, because even though on the survey people said that “On Reading” isn’t their favorite column, they are always well-received.
I’ve been trying to keep an accurate journal for the past 3 or 4 months, and I like it. Usually I just keep a piece of paper in the book I’m reading for review to help me record my thoughts, but I like a journal much better.
For books that I’m reading to glean something from (generally non-fiction) I’ve started writing notes in a notebook. I never thought to do this with fiction or review books. Thanks for the idea.
Hey, this is a neat idea – thank you for sharing about it. I sometimes find that the length of time it takes me to read a longer book (interrupted by life) makes me forget what I have read – also I tend to read too many books at a time!