17 Jan 2014

2014 reading non-resolutions

Yes, it is halfway through January and I am still talking about New Year’s resolutions. Bear with me, forgive me, shun me, scroll by me, close my tab, do whatever it is you need to do with me.

As much as I enjoy reading about other people’s book-related New Year’s resolutions, I don’t like to make them. Not because I’m anti-NYR, no no no. I love them. They light up some primitive perfectionism in my bones.  I don’t even particularly mind if I fail – and I usually do.

What I don’t like is making resolutions I have no intention of keeping. The last time I made a list of Reading Resolutions, I willfully ignored it. I read around it. I was in grad school. How, exactly, was I going to read 10 books in any category whatsoever? The list was all fluffy aspiration, willing myself to get some reading done I’d been meaning to do but without attention to my current tastes, reading habits, or relatively grueling schedule.

It was a list that was destined never to be finished. A list that reflected a Dream Life, a Dream Jessica, a lifestyle where I had not only the time to read Everything but also the inclination and the focus. If I finished that list, I would be a different reader, a different person. A Manic Pixie Dream List.

Four years later, I *am* a different reader (a different person), but I am still not that reader. And I don’t particularly care if I ever am. I am good with where I am at, reading-wise.

At my advanced age, what I am rejecting is the idea of New Year’s Resolution as a turnaround: a chance for redemption, an opportunity to correct and improve. I felt the same way last year.

But what if New Year’s Resolutions aren’t about aspiration or punishment or self-control? What if they are just about New and Different and Fun?

I blame my dear Boy. He loves NYRs and always keeps them. He is a truly unique species. Last year, he resolved to read 35 books, watching 50 movies, and listen to 100 albums from this book his mom got him for Christmas. This wasn’t particularly easy to accomplish – he spent his Christmas break hogging Spotify and begging me for 3 disc audiobooks – but it was fun, for him and for me. In 2013, I listened to a lot of good music, enjoyed frequent movie dates, and recommended many of my favorite books.

I’ve been thinking about my reading life (and my life in general) and how I can make 2014 different, how I can try some new things, and have more fun.

1) Read more pre-pub titles. Aim for three a month.

I am fairly awful at reading books before they are published. Unless they are by insta-read authors, get incredible amounts of buzz, or are handed to me as part of my Required Reading, then I don’t. I prefer to read books that are recommended by friends, that get good reviews, that win awards, etc.

This is all well and good, but it also leads me toward more Bandwagon type reading. I hear a book is good, I think I will like it, I read it, I like it, repeat, repeat, the end. Well and good, but this doesn’t necessarily let me flex my skills as a literature evaluator. And instead of trying authors that are new to me, that might be worth my time, I end up reading the same books I’d read eventually, anyway. Browsing upcoming titles without assistance is riskier, but will hopefully lead me to discover some new authors, genres, etc. Which will be Fun! And Different!

2)  Read closer. Read longer.

I read too fast. I want to slow down. I want to enjoy sentences for a change. I want to invite longer books into my life; books that read slower, that have something to offer other than a fun voice and zippy plot.

3) Read 100 books.

This is neither New nor Different. This is just what I do now. But I hope it will be fun. It has been for the past five years!

I hope y’all have fun reading this year too, whether you keep reading resolutions or reject them, whether you read 100 books or 1.

Well, I hope you read more than *one* book. Because then maybe we can’t be friends. Come back once you’ve read two.


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