January 1 has come and gone, and here I sit with no long list of resolutions.
I swore off those things several years ago. They were always the same: lose X pounds, start every task early instead of late, keep a tidy house–I couldn’t say tidier, because it wasn’t tidy in the first place–sit less, move more, lose X pounds. And by the end of the January, I’d have broken them all, some because of my wicked, rebellious nature, and some because I forgot I’d made them.
Then I read these sentences by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman:
We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.
That made me stop and think. I’d always seen New Year’s resolutions as devilish taskmasters whose job was to make me work, toil, labor, so I could greet the next New Year’s Eve minus my flaws: I shouldn’t have gained that weight, so I should punish myself taking it off. I shouldn’t have let the housework go, so I should punish myself getting things back in order.
Shouldn’t shouldn’t shouldn’t. Should should should. Strive strive strive. Don’t let up for a minute.
No wonder my resolutions didn’t last.
Goodman’s suggestion turned my ideas upside down. What if I looked for potential? What am I good at? How might I use my talents? What opportunities might I find if I just looked around? Could I enjoy self-improvement? Forget about the improvement and resolve to simply enjoy? Resolve, as Emily Dickinson wrote, to dwell in possibility?
And to lighten up? I’ve never excelled at lightening. But after reading Goodman’s column, I stopped making I’m-going-to-do-this-if-it-kills-me-and-it-probably-will-and-I-deserve-the-whatever-terrible-things-I-get resolutions.
Just before Christmas of 2014, I found potential for a pleasant and profitable 2015: a reading challenge introduced on Facebook by Goodwill Librarian and later posted in “Literally Challenged,” on the calmgrove blog. Calmgrove calls it fifty-two cues to help the floundering reader lost at sea with no lifelines. The reader can choose to read fifty-two books; or, if he’d rather read fewer, he can cover several categories with one title.
I haven’t examined the list closely, but I’ve been considering all those volumes lined up in and stacked on my bookcases (and tables and chairs and floors and the piano and William the Cat’s [guest room] bed). This will be an opportunity to check them off my TBR list. It’ll also allow me to branch out into bookstore and library shelves.
Here are some of the titles I’ve already–or almost–selected:
A book of more than 500 pages: Donna Tartt‘s The Goldfinch. I’ve read 22% already (percentage–a sure sign it’s an ebook), but for this category, I don’t mind bending the rules and pretending I read the entire novel in 2015.
A book published this year: Mark Pryor’s* The Button Man: A Hugo Marston Prequel. I’ve read the earlier books in the Hugo Marston series, and I see no reason to stop there. (Mark will speak at the Heart of Texas chapter of Sisters in Crime this Sunday, so if you’re near Austin, please join us there–all our meetings are free and open to the public. For details, click here.)
A book written by an author with your same initials: This will take some research. KW, MW, MKW don’t appear to be common author initials. If sequence doesn’t matter, it should be easier to find an author who qualifies. And I’ve decided sequence doesn’t matter.
A book set in your hometown: Jacqueline Kelly’s The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is the only novel that fits the description. It was a Newbury Honor Book in 2010. I’d planned to write the first novel set in my hometown, but Ms Kelly got there before me. So I plan to write the first adult novel set there. I won’t mention the name of the town, because I don’t need any more competition. I’ve read Calpurnia, but I’ll read it again.
A book of short stories: P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. Or any of Wodehouse’s books of short stories. This one can double as a funny book.
A book by a female author: Well, d’oh. You mean girls write books? What is this world coming to? (Forgive the sarcasm, please, but honestly.)
A book you own but have never read: That covers the waterfront. I have stacks of books I’ve never read. Brenda Wineapple’s White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson. I bought it at a Borders in Houston during the last days of a closing sale. That was three, four, five? years ago. I just had to have it. It’s filed very near Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s book. I had to have that one, too. I purchased an armload of books for thirty dollars, and they’ve proved quite decorative strewn around the living room. Lurking in corners. Stacked on William’s bed.
A book you can finish in a day: Truman Capote’s The Grass Harp. 216 pages. I can read that in a day.
A book that came out the year you were born: Graham Green’s The End of the Affair, perhaps. Or Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny. Or Nancy Mitford’s The Blessing.
A banned book: Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants. Definitely. I’ll read several of the series. I didn’t read many of them while I was working because by the time we began buying them for the library, I had turned children’s books over to my best friend and assistant. She and her husband gave me a Captain Underpants doll to hang in my library office window in honor of Banned Books Month. It is a treasured keepsake.
A book your mother loved: Eugenie Marlitt’s The Old Mam’selle’s Secret. My mother used to rave about the book, which she’d read as a girl, but couldn’t remember who wrote it. Ah, the joys of the Internet. I not only know who wrote it, I know where I can find a copy.
Oh, dear. I just looked at the clock.
I didn’t plan to write such a long post. My one true resolution–a rule that shouldn’t be punitive but seems so to me–was to be in bed before midnight, and I’m already four hours late. So I’ll close. Tomorrow I’ll open my Kindle to The Goldfinch and enjoy.
But before I go–Did you resolve to do anything special this year? Do any of your resolutions involve reading? What books are on your TBR list for 2015?
*Mark Pryor the novelist and Travis County Assistant District Attorney, NOT Mark Pryor the Senator from Arkansas.