I started keeping a diary in high school. It was, of course, full of agony over boys and pimples and is a great embarrassment to me now unless I stand back and consider it an artifact of a vaguely familiar life.

Over the years, I’ve continued with a journal of various forms. In my twenties, it was a date book packed with work and social events I didn’t really want to attend but did anyway because that’s what you do when you’re in your twenties (or at least, so I thought). For the last decade or so, it’s been a mix of diary and visual collage journal with pictures of kids, clippings from magazines and quotes I pick up from books and interviews. When I’m feeling inspired, it’s colorful and detailed; mostly it’s blue or black in scrawl.

Much of the book is valuable to me, but what I tend to reference the most are the write-ups of books I read. Each book gets a few pages of reaction and plot summary. I was thinking about this recently after reading the essay in the New York Times Book Review about BOB, the author’s write-ups of the books she’s read.

Like her, I forget plot points and character names. Sometimes I forget in the middle of the book, even when I love it. I find myself raving about a favorite then flustered when pressed to explain the plot. My memory has never been good, but somehow forgetting books upsets me more than forgetting names. Occasionally though, when I’ve put in a particularly inspired write-up of a book, re-visiting the story in that format can be satisfying, almost as good as settling back in with the book itself.

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