Last week, I read, actually listened to, All the Broken Pieces, by Ann Burg. What a powerful novel in verse about Matt, a Vietnamese boy adopted by an American family. His struggles are as big as the Vietnam War and as small as the bully on his baseball team. I cared about Matt. I teared up while listening. I finished the book feeling content and hopeful and richer, all the things we hope books will do for readers. I’ll remember this one.
Except I apparently won’t. I went to note it in Goodreads, and I found that I already read it, back in April of 2011.
I have memory issues. The whole reason I started using Goodreads, in fact, is that I can’t remember which books I’ve already read, especially mysteries (my usual adult fiction fare). But I can’t believe I picked up this novel in verse, listened to the ENTIRE thing, felt it deeply, and didn’t realize I’d read it before. I will try to look on the bright side and say it just allowed me to enjoy it two times!
But it brings home to me, once again, how little I remember about the books I read. Books are as essential to me as breathing, even though I do not remember my individual breaths. Books form me as fully as the lakes, swimming pools, and beach days of my youth formed me, even though all those days in the water swirl together into one beautiful wet blur. Books build me, page by page, bone by bone, tear by tear, even though I do not remember titles, authors, and plot details of most of the books I read.
This causes me no end of embarrassment when I’m talking with other book people. It’s a source of shame, and when I know I’m going to be chatting books with teachers, I bone up by looking at my Goodreads shelves and reminding myself of some recent favorites. Luckily, even though I’m sure I couldn’t pass an AR test on a book if I finished it more than a day before, the knowledge that I won’t remember the book doesn’t stop me from living in its world, caring about my friends there, and growing from what I learn from them.