How to Keep a Commonplace Book: Background information when reading Why We Broke Up

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Why We Broke Up

by Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman X
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Maira Kalman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 2011, 368 pages

    Paperback:
    Dec 2013, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Lucia Silva
Buy This Book

About this Book

How to Keep a Commonplace Book

This article relates to Why We Broke Up

Print Review

Min's narrative-through-objects reminded me of a "commonplace book" I kept in high school at the urging of my (wonderful) 10th grade English teacher. Commonplace books became very popular during the Renaissance, used as a kind of intellectual filing system, whereby one collected poems, proverbs, quotes, and other material around a particular subject or theme.* Over time, the idea expanded to encompass a more modern combination of a scrapbook and a diary filled with sketches, photographs, articles, mementos, even mathematical equations.

Commonplace Book Freed of the aesthetic demands of a traditional scrapbook, or the literary expectations of a diary, the rules are yours to make and break. I was never good at keeping up with a diary, but I loved my commonplace journal. I would select a seemingly unimportant artifact from my day, paste or tape it into my journal, and use that as a jumping-off point for reflection. I'd pocket an empty sugar-packet and pair it with reflections on a conversation I had with a friend over coffee; a torn-off grade from a test might inspire a rant over the stupidity of high school; a seedpod might have inspired a poem or a sketch. I loved how the journal bulged with its contents, and was often surprised by where my thoughts went.

Have you ever seen a teenager's notebook, covered in collage, quotes, and song lyrics? Keeping a commonplace book is a low-pressure way to develop this natural impulse to collect, exalt, and memorialize, and take it to another level. The reflection can be just a few words, or a few pages. Anything one might collect in a drawer or stick on a bulletin board could be used for inspiration. Try dumping out your backpack or your purse at the end of the day, and see if anything bound for the trashcan catches your eye. Tape it in, grab a pen, and see where it takes you.

*It's interesting to note that several characters in Lemony Snicket's (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) Series of Unfortunate Events keep commonplace books of this more traditional variety.

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Lucia Silva

This "beyond the book article" relates to Why We Broke Up. It originally ran in January 2012 and has been updated for the December 2013 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join and Save 20%!

Become a member and
discover exceptional books.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: I'm the Girl
    I'm the Girl
    by Courtney Summers
    YA author Courtney Summers doesn't believe in shielding her teenage readers from the world's darkest...
  • Book Jacket: They're Going to Love You
    They're Going to Love You
    by Meg Howrey
    Teenage Carlisle lives with her mother in Ohio, but their relationship has never felt particularly ...
  • Book Jacket: The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen
    by Isaac Blum
    That irreplaceable feeling of everyone knowing your name. The yearning to be anonymous. Parents ...
  • Book Jacket: Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    Now Is Not the Time to Panic
    by Kevin Wilson
    The edge is a shantytown filled with gold seekers. We are fugitives, and the law is skinny with ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Honor
by Thrity Umrigar
Set in India, a tender and evocative novel about love across a cultural divide, familial devotion and betrayal.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

W N, W Not

and be entered to win..

Who Said...

It was one of the worst speeches I ever heard ... when a simple apology was all that was required.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.