Do You Keep a Book Journal? & Revisiting “Daniel Deronda”

My five book journals.

On a social media break a few weeks ago, I started musing about book journals.

I kept a journal in a notebook, but I also enjoyed a Goodreads account.  Goodreads is fun but, well, there’s too much data.  Did my “friends”  (whom I don’t know at all!) really want to know the percentage of an e-book I’d read, or that I’d voted in the Goodreads Choice Awards?   Plus I had a TBR list of at least 300 books.  I get carried away.

I’m not a Luddite…  but I decided I prefer paper.  (At least for a while.)

I do love a pretty notebook!

I started my first book journal in 1995 or 1996.  I  read fiftysome books.  It seemed a great number, but meaningless out of context.  So many ephemeral books…  but some great ones, like Wright Morris’s Plains Song.

And then there was a hiatus until the 21st century.

Fast forward to book journal fidelity.  My journal takes the simplest form:  I record the title, author, and the date finished.  I have used a Paperblanks journal, a Moleskine, a Miquelrius, a Nava Notes, and something offbrand from Walmart.

I enjoy looking  at the journals.  In the first decade of the 21st century, I read Trollope and middlebrow novels by Pamela Hansford Johnson, Dodie Smith,  Hugh Walpole, and Rose Macaulay.  Many of these “forgotten” writers are back in print now.

But when I asked a friend, Didn’t she find it strange I had finished 174 books?, she said, “What’s strange is that you keep track.”

Keeping the book journal may have been the most normal thing that year.  The feat of reading 174 books reflected a high boredom index. Very high.  I love to read, but I’d felt exhausted all year.  Turned out I had a health problem.  Wouldn’t you know?

Still, it is satisfying to look back at that long, long list. Two of my favorites were Nella Last’s War: The Second World War Diaries of ‘Housewife 49’ and Joyce Dennys’s Henrietta’s War: News from the Home Front, 1939-1942. The former is a fascinating diary written by Nella Last for the Mass Observation Archive in England;  the latter a charming novel in the form of the heroine Henrietta’s letters to a friend during the war.  (It’s a bit like Diary of a Provincial Lady, only epistolary.)

My reading has changed in the last few years. I’ve become a damned scholar. All right, I’m joking.  I’m an enthusiast.  But I do read more classics.  Read enough long books and you don’t have the embarrassment of reading 174 books.  This year I’m down to 138.  That’s a LOT of books, but not ridiculous.

How do you feel about electronic data vs. notebooks?

REVISITING GEORGE ELIOT’S DANIEL DERONDA.  In December I reread Daniel Deronda, George Eliot’s last novel.  In this strange novel, Eliot inverts the myth of Diana and Actaeon, and describes a man’s search for identity and his study of Judaism.

At my blog Mirabile Dictu, I wrote last year:

The heroine of Daniel Deronda, Gwendolen Harleth, is a spoiled, haughty young woman who marries the wrong man. Gwendolen is over-confident, beautiful, witty, snobbish, and rather lazy, and very much reminds me of Austen’s Emma. Gwendolen is accomplished, but she could be more accomplished if she practiced or studied.  She wins a golden star at an archery contest, but the golden arrow goes to someone else. She is a pleasing singer but hasn’t practiced enough to be proficient. She is a Diana, a chaste huntress, who rides to hounds wildly, and at first seems as cruel and powerful as Diana.  When her male escort falls from his inadequate mount and strains his shoulder, she appallingly thinks it funny and has no sympathy. She does not want to marry, and dreams of doing something great. But her mother loses her money, and Gwendolyn must give up her dreams. She marries the wealthy Grandcourt beause she thinks she will be able to control him–but it is the sadistic Grandcourt who controls her.

You can read the rest of the post here.

6 thoughts on “Do You Keep a Book Journal? & Revisiting “Daniel Deronda””

  1. Since 2001 I’ve recorded books I’ve read, in the back of my diaries. Then I made a spreadsheet which is how I keep track of it now! It’s useful because I can search to see what books I’ve read by a particular author, etc, because I’ve read too many to remember! Interesting to hear about your notebooks. I’m not on Goodreads, I try not to be on too many platforms.

    1. The back of a diary sounds like a good place to keep track! And I know a lot of people enjoy the spreadsheets: in fact, we used to keep track of the books on our shelves with a spreadsheet, but we are way, way behind. Whatever the mode it is really nice to keep track. Goodreads provides a nice illustrated spreadsheet! But, like you, I’m limiting the number of platforms now.

      1. Ironically the more time I spend talking about books, the fewer books I actually read!
        Probably if I didn’t have diaries or a blog I would use something like Goodreads to keep track.

        1. The internet is strange that way. At one point I was blogging so much that it did get in the way of reading! Hence the social media breaks…

          On Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 2:51 PM Thornfield Hall: A Book Blog wrote:


  2. Great post, Kat and thanks for sharing your thoughts on DD. I definitely prefer notebooks as they almost make your thoughts tangible. I, too, keep a journal where I write down the books I completed. I started it in 2000 and it’s very interesting to look back and see where my reading took me at different times of life. I also keep journals that are more in-depth; I’ll pick a particular book and jot down chapter summaries, analyses, sort of a là The Well-Educated Mind format. Sadly I don’t have much time to do the latter lately but I would like to get back to it.

    1. I love to read about people’s book journals! Anne Bogeman, author of I’d Rather Be Reading, says book journals are a gift to our future selves. (She also is the blogger, the Modern Mrs. Darcy.) And I love the idea of writing more detailed entries about books we love.

Leave a ReplyCancel reply

Exit mobile version