Every Book I’ve Ever Read

My Goodreads ‘read’ folder is not all the books I have read in my life.

I didn’t discover Goodreads until recently, the past few years or so, and though I have tried, I cannot remember every book I’ve ever read. I took all the series I could remember–thinks like Dragonlance and The Legend of Drizzt and The Belgariad–and plugged them into my ‘read’ folder, watching the number steadily grow but knowing it was never true, not exactly.

I spent too much time in libraries as a child, too much time borrowing and returning books, and so many of the ones I bothered to buy have gone missing–lost while moving, destroyed by nesting mice in our shed–that there is no way I could ever dig them out and look through them all either.

It bothers me that I don’t remember them all.

Recently, I have started remembering books less by the titles and authors and more by the music I assigned to them. The song “Verse” by Sleeping At Last will always remind me of Paula Hawkins’ Into the Water, even though I’ve listened to it while reading other books; “The Ink from Books” by the same artist will always remind me of Garth Nix’s The Old Kingdom Series, but especially Sabriel; “Southampton” by Adam Young reminds me of Isabella Steiger’s The Empire’s Ghost; “Elephant Island”, also by Adam Young, reminds me of The Cruel Prince by Holly Black; “Quand Je Suis Mis Au Retour” by John Lunn reminds me of The Selection Series by Kiera Cass; “Water Ripples” by Enno Aare reminds me of The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden; “Quiet Resource” by Evelyn Stein reminds me of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, and so on.

Sometimes I wonder, if I had assigned music to books when I was younger, would I remember all the books I had read.

A few from my childhood stand out because of this. I listened to the soundtrack of the anime Haibane Renmei on repeat while reading The Belgariad, and now its music reminds me of nothing else. The Bourne Supremacy soundtrack, in particular the song “Goa”, reminds me of the Konishi Zenta and Ishihara Matsuzo mysteries by Lensey Namioka. The song “A Window to the Past” by John Williams reminds me of the series So You Want to be a Wizard?, even though I didn’t like that series. But I remember it, because of that song.

Some people think it’s silly that I think about this so much, but it just feels like a part of me is missing, a part I will recover if I remember those books.

Every once in a while, when I open a new book, I feel some surge of memory–perhaps the smell of the book, the feel, the cover, the words within, triggered it; or perhaps it was just the situation, where I was sitting, the coffee I drank, the smell on the air. Either way, there will be just a glimpse, a ghost of a memory involving a book in this same place, this same way, but then it always slips through my fingers before I can grasp it.

I want to know every book I’ve ever read.

A couple weeks ago, while thinking about a book I’d just finished and how to properly convey everything it made me feel, I wrote this paragraph:

“Some people don’t get it.

The smell of a new book, the hardcover or paperback smooth beneath your fingers, the way the spine creaks as you open it; the first time and the thousandth time you look at its cover, the knowledge of the story within reaching out to pull you deeper; shelves lined with books read and reread but never falling apart because you care too much to treat them poorly, tucking in bookmarks and keeping them away from food and water that might dampen or crinkle or stain, taking off the dust jackets when you read so they don’t get chipped or worn; making playlists for each book so every time you listen to that song you are once again thrown back into that world; and how sometimes, just looking at the book itself creates a pull of longing in your chest, a pang you will never truly be able to describe, an Itch you cannot scratch no matter how many books you read.

Some people don’t get it, and that’s okay, but it’s hard when you have to keep your books a secret–the story within too much and too beautiful to tell someone who doesn’t care.”

I feel the same about this dilemma. Some people don’t get it, and that’s okay, but when I try to describe to them my need to remember every book I’ve ever read, the aching want of it, they don’t understand no matter what comparisons I draw. It’s frustrating. That’s the problem here. It’s frustrating that I can’t remember them all, and it’s frustrating that most people around me don’t understand why.

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