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My Reading Journal

I know plenty of people who keep a food diary. They’re really serious about it. They record in great detail what they ate, when they ate, how much they ate, the calorie count and their emotional state at the time. I consider this an excellent idea. After all, as a great business guru once pointed out, what gets measured gets managed. Your health is important so it makes perfect sense to monitor in detail what goes into your body. Your body, as many health nuts pompously point out, is a temple and should be treated with religious respect.

I myself don’t keep a food diary. I don’t keep one since I can’t imagine how depressed I’d be every time I looked back through the pages. There would be entries like these:

- Entire Camembert cheese – 2 a.m. Tuesday. Emotional state – triumphant, very hungry.

- Chocolate truffles. Quantity: all of them – 8 a.m. Saturday. Emotional state – selfish.

- Bucket of butterscotch ice cream shared with best friend while childishly hiding under her dining room table waiting for unusually persistent Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking at her front door to give up and go away – 3pm Monday. Emotional state – defiant, giggly and not hungry at all.

See. How would I be able to live with myself?

So I don’t keep a food diary but I do keep a reading journal. For more than ten years I’ve faithfully recorded every book I’ve read, where and when I read it and how I felt about it. I strive for a balanced diet but I’m as bad with books as I am with food. I try to include all the basic food groups: fiction, nonfiction, foreign and domestic, old and new, bestsellers, the forgotten and the utterly obscure. It’s not easy. I’ve got my moods and weaknesses and lots of other factors come into play too, some of them beyond my control. The roles of fate and luck in book choosing should never be underestimated.

Sometimes people ask me why I bother to record my books. To them a reading journal seems pointless, one more task to clutter up life, a waste of time. I don’t think it’s a waste of time at all. If it’s true that what gets measured gets managed and if it’s true that you are what you read and if the body is a temple then the mind is a palace – a palace to be furnished with the very finest materials and all the lavish splendour that the literary world has to offer.


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