Do you have a BOB?

With no small amount of trepidation, I lay open here the first page of my diary — high-­schoolish stabs at intellectualism, fleeting girlish obsessions, deliberately obscure annotations and all. After many failed adolescent attempts at keeping a journal, the summer after my junior year in high school, I finally found a format I could adhere to: Never mind describing the back-and-lack-of-forths of unrequited crushes and falling-outs with friends. I decided to list the books I read instead.

And I’ve stuck with this Book of Books, or Bob, as I’ve come to call it, ever since. Were my house to burst suddenly into flames, I would bypass the laptop and photo albums and even, God forgive me, my children’s artwork in order to rescue Bob, the record of every book I’ve read or didn’t finish reading since the summer of 1988.

So begins Pamela Paul’s essay in this last Sunday’s NYT Book Review.

I have had several BOB’s through the years. I started with the ubiquitous Index Card but soon moved into a Theme Book, the kind I regularly used to take class notes in my college courses (I disliked spiral notebooks and hated 3-Ring Binders). I continued that early BOB until I went to work at Bell Telephone Laboratories where the stock room had stacks of these wonderful sturdily sewn Lab Books with faux leather corners and numbered pages. I rapidly moved my reading record into the new BOB and it sits on my shelf today. I keep my regular reading record in Bento now but every few weeks I take out my spent bookmarks, which are also a record of my reading on Index Cards, check them against my Bento records, and then add the new entries into my tattered old BOB (although mine is just called READINGS).

The interesting thing about Paul’s essay isn’t her BOB—they’re not that uncommon—but rather the observation she makes which I very much agree with:  you can tell a lot about a person just by reviewing the books they have read (and the books they have not read).

Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends. — Dawn Adams

2 thoughts on “Do you have a BOB?

  1. I have maintained a digital BOB ever since I got my first Apple II in 1977. But at the same time, I continue with the paper record in the Lab book and on the index cards (a rubber band and toss the years worth of reading in the drawer). Maybe I don’t trust computers?

    My daughter liked the idea of keeping track of her reading and started a theme-book listing back when she was in Junior High. An early version of ACOR even had a sad little section where she intended to both itemize her reading and also write long, careful analyses of the texts. Well, she’s teaching film and literature at the university now and I actually have her original BOB on my shelf (I tore out the two used pages and now scribble my own thoughts in it).

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  2. I love this. I am trying to get my son to do this because he reads so voraciously. I shoudl encourage him, I think it’s worthwhile. I’ve been using Goodreads now for this purpose. The digital version of a BoB.

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