Thursday, January 30, 2014

Reading Resolutions - Will 2014 be your year?

As January reaches its closing date, my mind keeps wandering to the New Year's resolutions that aren't going to see February.  Remember how simple our resolutions were on December 31st?  We wanted to eat better, have more experiences, take more vacation days, exercise more, save more money...and now the cold weather and the start of the new year make those resolutions more daunting.

To this I say - take heart, furious readers!  You CAN meet your resolutions and you can succeed in 2014.  You can get your "more."  But may I suggest just ONE more resolution to add to your list?

Buzzfeed (one of my favorite cultural information sites) offers a great New Year's Reading Resolution checklist.  If you can't complete all of them, here are a few that you should try to do in 2014:

#1 "Read a a classic novel" - this reading resolution is one of the hardest to do.  We all know that we should read a "classic novel," but what exactly counts as a classic novel? The OED defines "classic" as a period of time labeled as the "most outstanding" of its kind.  Just the definition sounds intimidating - especially to readers who don't make it a habit of reading classics (since this is a part of my job, I forget that classics are considered "homework" to the mainstream culture).  Most classics are blamed for being too boring or too outdated, but reading a classic work can be rewarding and inspiring - as well as a historical experience.  The learning experience from reading a classic cannot be compared to anything else. Some of my favorites:  To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; 1984 by George Orwell; Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens; Dracula by Bram Stoker; and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.  Once you work your way through the mainstream classics, you can discover the lesser-known works by these authors or attempt to read those classics that everyone claims to read, but can barely make it through Ulysses (the famous James Joyce masterpiece - this is not a terrible book - in fact it is fascinating and exciting - but beware the reader that claims Ulysses is his/her favorite book.  Chances are that person is lying), War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy), Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco - this is so worth the read), Nightwood (Djuna Barnes), or The Waste Land (T.S. Eliot). If these oldies are too much to start, then try a contemporary classic such as Kurt Vonnegut (Cat's Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five) or Toni Morrison (Beloved, Jazz, Song of Solomon).

#7 "Shop at your local independent bookstore" - Shopping locally is great no matter where you go, but frequenting a local bookstore allows you to form a friendship with the owner.  My favorite part of my week is going to my booktrader, and I've enjoyed every recommendation that she's given me.  One day we were discussing whether or not we liked a particular series, and she said passionately, "If you don't love this book as much as I do, I will refund your money."  I love that!  And she was right - I did love the book as much as she did.  I was honored that she took a chance on me.

#11 "Set a book reading goal" - I read once that Stephen King reads 100 books a year.  I've read a memoir where the author read a book every day for a year.  With everything I have to do, I don't always reach my book goal, but I usually read between 50-75 novels a year.  If you're new to the reading goal idea, pick five to ten books that you've been meaning to read and work through that list.  Even if you don't reach your goal, your reading time was never wasted.

#13 "Get the non-reader in your life to start reading" - Every year I like to participate in World Book Night, which promises to spread "the love of reading, person to person."  If your application is accepted, you have the opportunity to pass out books to non-readers.  But even without World Book Night, you can celebrate this gesture by sharing something from your bookshelf.  Over the weekend, a friend of mine confessed that she needed to read more so I brought her a Willa Cather novel that I enjoyed.  I love Cather, but I didn't need this novel anymore - it deserved to have a new home.  She was so excited, even though she confessed that it may collect dust at first.  : )  I told her what I tell all non-readers, "When you are meant to read it, you will."  Reading isn't about pressuring someone or making yourself seem better than others  - it is about spreading joy and knowledge, which should be available to everyone.  Sometimes a person doesn't read regularly because he/she doesn't know where to start - it is up to the furious readers to serve as guides for their new journey.

Continue to read furiously in 2014!  Eleven more months to go!

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