What is noteworthy is the obsession with maintaining such a list and the eagerness with which Garfunkel shares it with the world. Assuming his veracity, his bookish intake is steady and his tastes are eclectic, so I suppose we ought to congratulate him. Who expects a pop singer even to be literate? I’ve never kept a book list. Such a log would have minor autobiographical interest for me: When did I read Tristram Shandy for the first time? It might help chart the growth of my sensibility but who cares? Even I hardly care. I’ve kept a diary at various times but always ended up burning it – out of boredom, not guilt. Anyway, in 2020, spouting off about how many books you’ve read is unlikely to result in celebrity or make you popular with the opposite sex.
This week at The Imaginative Conservative, Christine Norvell posted a brief article about the keeping of book lists. Apparently the custom is more popular than I realized. She makes an interesting suggestion:
“In these same personal lists, many of Mrs. Bogel’s [host of the reading podcast Modern Mrs. Darcy] listeners included a reference category for where they first heard of the book. Imagine looking back ten years from now and seeing what you read because a good friend at the time, a work colleague, family member, or random stranger recommended something you enjoyed.”
I would like to know how one book leads to another. That might amount to a genuinely revealing autobiography, though I suspect no one else would care. Almost fourteen years ago I wrote:
“The late Guy Davenport believed every book was created by its author, often unknowingly, as a response, one half of a virtual dialogue, sometimes disguised, to an already existing book. If we accept this highly ecological premise, and I do, then every book is linked inevitably to every other book in a vast Borgesian weave of overt and occult connections.”