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On Reading And Resolutions

Published on January 5, 2012 by in Columns

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions.  I normally enjoy enough guilt, shame and disappointment without setting myself up for more.  And, if I’ve made resolutions in years past, I’d seldom remember them when springtime rolled around.

I’ve got several aversions to resolutions, actually.  As it turns out, I’m not really a goal-oriented person.  I’m motivated by a desire to complete the current task, and move on to the next one.  I tend to view life as one long to-do list, and find enjoyment in the completion of each task.

I know many goal-oriented people.  They set an enormous goal for themselves, and then one of two things happens: either they never achieve it, and feel like a failure—or they achieve it and almost-immediately set another goal, taking no time to enjoy their accomplishment.  Either way, they always seem a little unsatisfied.

New Year’s resolutions have always felt the same to me.  I mean, I understand them.  It almost comes naturally, as we close the book on another calendar year, to reflect on improvements we can make going forward.  And yet, so frequently we abandon them before Spring Break—or spring cleaning.

That being said, I think I’m making a resolution this year.  It’s vague, relatively simple, and not at all quantitative.  (I’m hoping this makes it easier to adhere to—and harder to break.)  In 2012, I’d like to read more.  Not 50 pages a day, or a book a week.  Not three books a month, or 50 books a year.  Simply, but substantially, more.


My books, piling up…

I tend to read in cycles.  For a while, I’ll read voraciously—ambitiously finishing books, eager to start the next one.  I’ll read as if the world’s greatest secret is revealed on the next page.  And then, my attention will wane, and I’ll quit reading for a while.  I tend to acquire books when I’m not reading—like a bear preparing for hibernation.  I’ll stockpile a reading cache for the next reading season.  And then, one day I’ll pick up one of the books I’ve collected, and the pendulum will begin swinging the other direction again.

In 2011, I did a lot of stockpiling, and very little reading.  So it’s possible that I’m mischaracterizing what would’ve been my natural tendency, and calling it a “resolution.”  However, I’m committing to reading more in the year ahead, to broadening my horizons, and straying a little from the well-worn and comfortable path.


Another pile…

About three weeks ago, the opportunity arose to join a book club on Facebook.  (I know, the digital age is transforming every aspect of our lives—even book clubs.)  Apparently, The Onion had, until recently, an online book club called “Wrapped Up In Books”—part of their not-spoofy A.V. Club.  It was suspended last March, planting a growing seed of discontent in some really bright friends of mine.  In December, that seedling blossomed and bore fruit, when they decided to launch a Facebook equivalent, to help fill the void.

Of course, another very high-profile book club ended last May, with Oprah Winfrey’s last episode.  (I hope this doesn’t sound snooty, but I usually avoided Oprah’s selections.  I’m not sure why, but it came naturally and I never questioned it.)

The first selection for our Facebook book club will be Michael Newton’s “Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children,” (Picador, 2004).  We’re only reading one book every two months, which seems manageable, and the selections are sure to run the gamut—fiction and non-fiction alike.

If you’d like to be included, just find me on Facebook, and we can begin this journey together.  Here’s to a brilliant and inspired New Year!

Originally printed in “Pulse,” 01/05/2012.
© Damien Willis, 2012.  All rights reserved.

UPDATE:  “Savage Girls and Wild Boys” was, in my estimation, terrible.  Give it a miss.

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