Do you ever come across an old list and have almost no memory of the events connected to it? Maybe you’re skimming through a notebook, and you find the jotted-down menu you were planning for Thanksgiving dinner, 2006. Or you find an old, much-scribbled-on Christmas list, and ask yourself, “Did I really get my husband a socket set that year?” The older I get, the more events seem to slip into one side of my brain and slide right out the other, leaving no memory imprint at all. Details I think I’ll never forget become—sooner than I anticipate—more blurry impression than sharp image. Our lives are made up of the small things, and I can hardly remember any of them.


Tim’s grandmother was a dedicated journal-writer. Every evening, for the first two decades I knew her, she wrote a page about the day she had just passed.  This used to fascinate me. Here, I thought, was a life well-chronicled! Here was surely a treasure trove of detail; a veritable time machine on paper! When I expressed my interest in the journals, Grammie gave them to me: stacks and stacks and bags and boxes of them.

I sat down to read. And I read with growing astonishment at the things that weren't written. The pages covered, in minute detail, what she had eaten for supper each day, how many miles they had driven, whom they had stopped to see along the way, and what the weather had been, but not a single hint about her personality. Always, the temperature written on the upper right-hand corner of the page.  Nothing else. No colorful descriptions; no sentiment or opinion ever expressed; not a single mention of world events or even family events, like great-grandchildren being born. I know, because I looked up the dates of my own children’s births and…nothing. Just a report that the day had been sunny, and the fact that they’d eaten lamb chops with Nellie, and what the meal had cost. This is not the kind of remembering I want to do.

A year ago, I made a New Year’s Resolution: I can’t write down everything, but I resolved to write down the title of every book I read in 2017. Books are mile-markers for me. What I read tells me much about where I am in life. So I did it. I didn’t count books I’ve only partially read: I always have a circulating pile of those. And I didn’t count individual poems or short stories, unless I’d read an entire collection. Keeping a list taught me a few things about my reading habits:

1. I re-read old favorites too often, because it’s easier than doing the work of reading something for the first time.

2. I am a slow reader.

3. I wish I read more current fiction than I do. But Tim just got me an Audible account for my birthday, so maybe that’s a good resolution for 2018.

Now, without further ado, here is what I read in 2017:

(a =audiobook; rr =re-read)


Reading Lolita in Tehran  Azar Nafisi

The Power of Self-Forgetfulness  Tim Keller

The Road to Character  David Brooks

David and Goliath (a, rr) Malcolm Gladwell

Blink (a, rr) Malcolm Gladwell

Outliers, the Story of Success (a, rr) Malcolm Gladwell

The Rainbow Comes and Goes  Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt

My Descent Into Death  Howard Storm

Little Heathens  Mildred Armstrong Kalisch

The Body Keeps the Score  Bessell Van Der Kolk

Mystery & Manners (Occasional Prose)  Flannery O’Connor

The Rain in Portugal  Billy Collins

Favorite On the List: Mystery & Manners


Medicus (rr)  Ruth Downie

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (a, rr) J.K. Rowling

The Westing Game (rr) Ellen Raskin

The Bell Jar  Sylvia Plath

Whistling Past the Graveyard  Susan Crandall

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt  Ann Rice

Christ the Lord: the Road to Cana  Ann Rice

The Secret Diary of Adrian Plass, Age 37 ½  (rr) Adrian Plass

Black Duck (a) Janet Taylor Lisle

A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories (rr) Flannery O’Connor

The Magician’s Nephew (a, rr) C.S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces  C.S. Lewis

The Good Life (Short Stories) Erin McGraw

Favorite On the List: Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt

2017 was a watershed year for me in many ways: it’s the year I became a grandmother, and a foster mother, and finished writing a book with my sister. I’m glad I chronicled a sliver of my life this year, even if it’s only to write down the books I read. I’m going to do it again in 2018.

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