For ten years, I have maintained a reading log. Back in 2003, I was given a hardcover, spiral bound book from a kindergarten student as an end-of-the-year gift. At first, I wasn’t sure what to do with the book with the pretty heart cover. And that summer, I saw a store selling a “reading log.” It was also a hardcover book, with lined pages inside (just like mine), but the store’s version had pre-printed prompts to record a book’s title, author, and the reader’s critique.
Thus, my reading log was born. I document the books I read by recording each book’s title, author, date completed, and my thoughts.
Browsing through my reading log is like looking at a scrapbook of my life. You can trace stages of my life by looking at the books I have read.
For instance, during my teaching career I have sought inspiration and encouragement from books including Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen; One Day, All Children by Wendy Kopp; A Cup of Comfort for Teachers edited by Colleen Sell; and The Essential 55 by Ron Clark to name just a few. Teaching can be a solitary endeavor, and I found it infinitely helpful to read of others’ adventures (and mis-adventures), sometimes finding ideas to implement in my own classroom, sometimes a laugh, sometimes a virtual pat on the shoulder.
In terms of my writing aspirations, I have sought guidance and inspiration from books such as Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; Escaping Into the Open by Elizabeth Berg; Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See; Pen on Fire by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett; and A Year of Writing Dangerously by Barbara Abercrombie. For me, writing is even more solitary than teaching. Most times, there is no one for me to brainstorm with, and books like these give me the helping hand I need to keep going.
As a Mommy, my preoccupations, concerns, and anxieties changed and I sought reassurance and levity from It’s a Boy edited by Andrea J. Buchanan; Momfidence by Paula Spencer; Babyhood and Familyhood by Paul Reiser; and Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott.
And in my journey as a woman turned wife turned mother, a woman who sometimes forgets to take care of herself, I have found refuge in books such as Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love; Julie and Julia by Julie Powell; and C’est La Vie by Suzy Gershman to name just a few.
For the duration of my pregnancy, I kept a journal. I documented every doctor’s appointment, every change - the first time I wore maternity jeans, the night my husband and I decorated my son’s bedroom with the alphabet, the day my husband and my dad built my son’s crib. For the first two years of my son’s life, I tried to maintain a journal documenting his growth, my return to teaching, time spent with his babysitter. Life got busy, I became ill, and somehow or another, Ryan’s journal was put away.
Intermittently I have written in random journals, but life seems to get in the way of me maintaining a consistent journal. However, it is my reading log that I have faithfully maintained. It doesn’t report on the weather or our daily activities, but it does provide a glimpse into my life. The books I have read and the connections I have made with the written material are my way of documenting my growth -- as a reader, and also as a wife, a mother, a teacher, a woman.