Monday, March 05, 2012

Masked Mom's Media Monday: The "Little" Notebooks

"Not long ago I had an unsettling epiphany that probably shouldn't have come as a surprise but nevertheless left me disheartened for the better part of an afternoon.
I won't get to all the books I want to read in my lifetime. "

~~Joshua Bodwell, "You Are What You Read: The Art Of Inspired Reading Lists," Poets & Writers, Jan/Feb 2012

By popular demand--Jane asked and Melanie seconded and they're both pretty popular in my book--and because I was too pressed for time this week to do a traditional review, I have decided to devote this week's review space to a tour of my current To-Read Notebooks. (Yes, plural.)

First, like many writerly type folks, I'm a bit of an office supply fetishist, drawn to that aisle in almost every store--and don't even get me started on what happens when I'm in Staples. Sometimes, I will buy something just because I can't not buy it, even though I haven't yet figured out what I might "need" (or even use) it for. The very first To-Read notebook was like that. I liked it so much, I kept the cover even after the rest of the notebook was retired:
This is the cart that came before the horse.

I bought it because it had an adorable toddler and a Chekhov quote on the cover (cute and smart!), but I carried it around for quite a while before I figured out what to do with it. And what I finally did was take notes--mostly on books I want to read, songs I want to download, websites I want to check out, but also various observations of the world around me that I may use elsewhere some day.

Since then, I look for 5" x 7"-ish notebooks on clearance, especially the ones with the plastic covers that are more likely to withstand the abuse they get being lugged around with me almost everywhere. The current pile that I carry with me looks like this from the top:




Notice the rubber band. This is my fourth rubber band in the twelve years I've been keeping To-Read notebooks. It's not as easy finding the perfect rubber band as you might think. And it's probably not as easy being the perfect rubber band as you might think either. This is the end view of what-all that rubber band is keeping together:


Off to the left in the background there, obscuring the horizon of our dining room, are the very edges of the mountain range of paperback books I have been in the process of "sorting" for the past two weeks. In the meantime, they occupy a good half of the dining room table. The wicker basket holds Seventh Niece's toys for my house. She was playing with Play-Doh just off camera during this photo shoot.



Several of the little notebooks that have served time with me have come with a little pocket just inside the cover. Three of the four in my current stack have this handy little pocket, but for some reason, I cram a decade's worth of  loose notes and clippings, written and collected in those relatively rare moments when the notebooks are out of reach, into the single pocket of the top notebook:

Removing that rubber band is kind of like loosening the belt after Thanksgiving dinner.


Emptying out that pocket makes me feel a little like an archaeologist--layer upon layer of hieroglyphic scraps that were important to someone at some point, but I can't always figure out why or even to whom. Yet I've been transferring some of these things from notebook pocket to notebook pocket for going on ten years now, I'm pretty sure:




Certain pages of each notebook tend to be quite tidy because they are usually full of information I've transcribed all in one sitting from an about-to-be-retired notebook. They look like this:




Information that I've stumbled upon in the wild, on the fly, looks more like this:







Used information gets a red "X" through it. Like this:





Once the red marks build up to a critical mass or the notebook otherwise starts to fall apart, I will transfer anything not already made use of into another notebook (the neat pages).

No discussion of reading lists would be complete without the Have-Read Notebook. So far there is only one, which lists all the books I've read since 2002.

Yes, that's classy lavender faux suede with a protective plastic cover not  unlike the ones some grandmothers have on their couches. I have no explanation other than: 90 cents on clearance!

A sample of my reading from 2006:




Seeing it all laid out like this, it occurs to me there's a fine line between hobby and obsession and, in this case, that line's probably about the width of a perfect rubber band.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Obsessive.

PS--The combination of phone camera and jiggly table (aforementioned Play-Doh-playing-niece) made for some blurryish photos. If you click them, you may be able to see more or better--or maybe not. "Real"-ish camera is inching ever closer to the top of my wish list.

17 comments:

  1. Being the perfect rubber band is wicked hard.

    I've been meaning to get myself a little notebook for years, so that I can write down things that I want to write about. I have so many ideas that I forget. Its really time I get with the program.

    And I've been on goodreads.com for years and all my booklists are there. I've decided your notebooks are way cooler.

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    1. Leah, I love that you used "wicked" do you have a "secret" New England past that I don't know about? And thanks for reminding again of goodreads.com--this time I'm putting it in my notebook. I really want to get there again.

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    2. Indeed! I lived in Massachusetts for through my high school years. :-)

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  2. I have several current in use notebooks myself...one of books I've read, one of outfits I've worn (that seems a bit crazy but is really helpful in getting ready for work), one is full of funny dog pictures, quotes and what-nots. I love my notebooks!

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    1. They're the most rational solution for catching all the stuff that might otherwise fall right out of my brain and be forgotten.

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  3. This post is both inspiring and quite a relief to me. Inspiring, because you are far more systematic and tidy about the recording of books to read and I think I should do that. Grocery receipts and napkins from the bottom of my purse tend to get a little wadded and illegible.
    A relief because I don't feel as freakish about my bags and boxes of assorted notebooks with various purposes. I cannot pass up a clearance notebook. I live within walking distance of an Office Max and its dastardly clearance corner. I have literally stashed new notebooks places so that no one would question me about the purpose for them or the possibility that it was possibly an unnecessary purchase. Goodwill, FYI, is also a wonderful source of journals. It seems there are people who buy them, don't use them, and then get rid of them! Crazy people.

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    1. Oh, truly crazy. Though I have benefited from their craziness and I am grateful.

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  4. OHHHH! You have a "Have-Read" Notebook? Where have I been that I didn't know it was so common. I thought I was the only one. I use it for "encouragement" because, if I've read "so many" I can so get through my "To-Read" notebook. I will now admit, I have hoarded my notebooks that I used in school, up to now. Through all our moves...I still have them.

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    1. Confirmed notebook hoarder here, too. (But I guess that's obvious.) One of the things I love about blogging is that you often find out you have company even in your "weirdest" characteristics. It's quite comforting.

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  5. On Sunday, I bought a 5"x7" journal to carry around with me in my bag. I knew it when I saw it - it spoke to me and said I must do this. And then I consciously thought, the notebook, yes, it speaks but really Masked Mom has spoken.

    Thank you for indulging my request for a MM Notebook tour :).

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    1. You're welcome, Jane. I'm sure that journal has found a good and useful home with you. :)

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  6. I kept a "have read" notebook starting in about 1988. For some reason, about two years ago, I stopped. Just. Plain. Stopped. It was one of those moments when I asked myself, "And just why do you keep this notebook?" and I couldn't' hear my answer so I stopped.
    I have never kept a "to read' notebook b/c there are so many I want to read that I am afraid if I start writing them down I will get paralyzed and never read any of them!

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    1. I've had the same "why the hell am I doing this?" feeling about the notebooks in general and the have-read one in particular. Sometimes it strikes me as a little ridiculous, but I have also thought to myself, what was the name of that one book by that one guy that I read while I still lived in the yellow house or whatever. And the notebook is helpful in that way.

      As for to-read, I am always torn because I KNOW I'm never getting to them all, but when I see something that intrigues me and I don't write it down, it has a tendency to haunt me in a whole different way. Part of the problem is that I write them down in the notebook, but I also go to the library and (fairly) indiscriminately check out stuff that catches my eye (whether it's on the list or not) so I'm not really making a dent in the to-read notebook most of the time at all, except by accident.

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  7. I have so many blank or partially-used notebooks, it's embarrassing. And Staples is my happy place.

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    1. I will seriously wander Staples for hours in a pleasant zombie-like haze. The pen aisle alone can captivate me beyond all reason.

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  8. I love this. My collection of random notebooks (I totally do the folder and rubber band thing as well!) tends to be all academic material, stuff about which I want to write a paper or present at a conference, etc. But Now that I'm going to have my head out of that sphere for a while, I'm thinking I might adopt some transition notebooks. Thanks for inspiring me:)

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