I’m a private person. As such, I don’t share information about my personal life online; at least, not much beyond the inconsequential. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to offer up a few tidbits about my personality and interests. In fact, I bet if I were to give you a peek at my library checkout list, you could glean from it quite a bit about me. So how about we play a little game called “Know Me by My Books”? Below is a complete list of items I checked out from my (then) local library from between April 2010 to January 2013.
I’ll let you browse first before remarking on some obvious conclusions you can draw from the list, but I’ve divided it by color into three general categories to make it easier to comb through: items checked out for school, items checked out for pleasure, and items checked out because I’m a tree-hugging health nut. (There, you see? You already know a little something about be now.) I’ll meet you below the list so you can compare what you think with what I know:
What do you think? It’s like getting a peek behind the great wizard’s curtain of my mind.
Let’s get the least interesting stuff out of the way first: the items highlighted gray. Certainly you’ve figured out those are books I checked out for school. They constituted the bulk of the research for my master’s program. Now, what do they tell you about my degree or concentration? If your guess is international studies with a concentration on politics and war in Afghanistan, that’s close enough. (And that’s as much as I’ll confirm.)
Now, how about the items highlighted green? The tree-hugging health nut books? You probably deduced that I was at least interested in—if not following—a vegan/vegetarian diet. And you would be right! I still tend to eat vegetarian most days, with a few seafood dishes here and there. The books will also tell you my interest in this dietary lifestyle is based on philosophical, physiological and environmental reasons. In other words, I respect the importance of animal welfare, my body and the earth. Feel like you know me yet?
Speaking of environmental . . . my library habits must have whispered to you of my soft spot for our one and only planet. That part holds true—I strive to live as gently as possible on this world (I don’t always succeed) and make conscious choices about my lifestyle. If I were to suggest one item on the above list to those interested in learning more about environmental issues, check out The World is Blue by “Her Deepness” Sylvia Earle. It was an impactful read.
On a side note, you’ll notice all the healthy-eating books disappeared about the same time the research books appeared. That’s not coincidence. That was me working a full-time job while spending an additional forty hours a week on studies and research. I ate whatever my spouse put in front of me. It was still vegetarian, just not healthy—but who can complain when dinner magically appears before you?
Now, let’s talk about the items in blue. You may have determined that my interest in the Middle East extends past my research for my master’s degree. I went through a significant period in which I was keenly interested in women’s issues, religion and war recovery in the Middle East. Honeymoon in Tehran by Azadeh Moaveni was particularly riveting, as was Babylon’s Ark by Lawrence Anthony.
Did you also note my interest in satire, wry humor, and witticisms? Books by Augusten Buroughs and David Sedaris are dead giveaways, as was The Origins of the Specious (a must read for pretentious English majors.) And I’m willing to bet the most astute of you suspected I took a trip “across the pond” sometime in late 2010 or early 2011. If so, good work—I did!
Finally, did you pick up on the fact that not everything I checked out was for me? One book was for my college-age kid still living at home. He needed it for a reading assignment at community college. At least one DVD on that list was for my spouse, one was for my daughter, and one DVD was rented under false pretenses (i.e., I didn’t know what it was when I checked it out—the box description was vague, but I only made it 5 or 10 minutes into the video before I shut it off.) I’ll let you guess which ones might be which.
So there you have it—a light biography of me, as told by the books I checked out nearly six to eight years ago. I would offer you a more recent list, but it wouldn’t reveal as much about me as it would about my writing projects. Authors are encouraged to read heavily in their primary genres to get an understanding of the market and style. If you are interested, I wrote a post about it titled “My Year of Reading YA.”
Besides, I couldn’t offer a complete and accurate list like the one above, as my current library doesn’t maintain a loan history. I suppose it’s better they not track everything I’m reading, but at the same time, it was nice to capture the above partial list from my old library before we moved. It’s a walk down memory lane on a trail paved with the books I’ve read, and I cherish it.