The Blue Notebook of a Thousand Titles

The Blue Notebook of a Thousand Titles

In 1996, I began writing down the titles of books I was interested in reading. I bought a beautiful small notebook and began a practice I continued until very recently. I read about most of the books in the NYT Book Review, which I subscribed to for over 20 years. I eventually cancelled my subscription due to non-book related issues, and began tracking the books on my Mac. However, the notebook is a great time capsule of my long history as a bookworm (which preceded 1996 by a long shot!).

I started digitizing the notebook this weekend; here is the very first page:

The books crossed out are the ones I ending up buying. I had to carry this with me to bookstores because often, I would buy a book I already had. I’m sure I’m not the only one!

I really got going on page 2 forward as far as the percentage of books listed vs. books bought:

Just because I didn’t cross a book out doesn’t mean I decided not to buy it; as long as it’s in print or I can find it used, it’s always on the “to be read” list.

AN URGENT PLEA: Please buy or order any books that catch your eye at your local independent bookstore. For physical books from US indies, check Indiebound. For audiobooks, check In the UK and Ireland, check Booksellers Association.

Although my reading tastes are pretty eclectic, there are some genres and topics that always catch my eye:

  • British and Scandinavian/Nordic mysteries
  • Polar history and exploration, both Arctic and Antarctic
  • Travel, mountain climbing and other types of non-fiction adventure
  • Books about books, libraries, museums, booksellers, bookstores and bibliomaniacs
  • Popular science
  • Disasters such as shipwrecks, hurricanes, pandemics
  • History and historical fiction

There are also many authors whose books I will always buy because I already know how much I love their writing; in the interests of space I’ve only included a few, followed by their Twitter handles if they have an account:

  • Simon Winchester @simonwwriter
  • Oliver Sacks @OliverSacks (now the account of the Oliver Sacks Foundation)
  • Jennifer Egan @egangoonsquad
  • Hilary Mantel @hilarymantel (she does not tweet)
  • Steve Silberman @stevesilberman
  • Erik Larson @exlarson
  • Bill Bryson @billbrysonn
  • Bill Hayes @BillHayesNYC
  • Stephen King and his son, Joe Hill @stepheking and @joe_hill
  • Erin Morgenstern @erinmorgensterm
  • Sebastian Junger @sebastianjunger
  • Susan Orlean @susanorlean
  • Lisa See @lisa_see

I also have a large collection of Scandinavian/Nordic mysteries; I can recommend any book by any of these authors. Please note that most of these books are best read chronologically, since the characters and some personal details persist and grow from book to book.

  • Maj Sjöwall/Per Wahlöö
  • Henning Mankell
  • Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
  • Lene Kaaberbøl & Agnete Friis
  • Jo Nesbo
  • Karin Fossum
  • Håkan Nesser
  • Quentin Bates (also an excellent translator)
  • Lars Kepler
  • Niklas Natt Och Dag
  • Jussi Adler-Olsen
  • Arnaldur Indriðason
  • Kjell Eriksson
  • Kristina Ohlsson
  • Anne Holt
  • Ragnar Jónasson
  • Asa Larsson
  • Sofie Sarenbrant
  • Janwillem van de Vetering (cheating in the category here; he is Dutch and the books take place in Amsterdam.)

The following images go up to page 10 in my notebook so there will be several future posts about the rest. Do we share any book interests? If so, please let me know on Twitter at @angryalgonquin!

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