Change How You Read in 2014
Some suggested resolutions for a year’s worth of interesting reading.
For the dedicated reader, each passing year can be a cruel enemy. “So many books – so little time” goes the popular saw. We all have our secret reading lists, sometimes never voiced, but always urging us forward. We carve out time for our precious reading. We borrow and lend beloved volumes, hoping to make our book-buying budgets more long-lived. For the reader, 2014 promises to be every bit as challenging as this year was.
So, in the spirit of the New Year, I offer some advice for “Readers’ Resolutions.” I’m actually not a fan of the practice, because we so seldom keep them. I usually call mine New Year’s goals instead. I will work toward a goal for years, so I feel that more aptly expresses a practical approach.
As a kid, growing up in the desert land of southern New Mexico, I relied on encyclopedias, magazines, and newspapers to suggest what to read. Later teachers, librarians, and booksellers became my experts. I compiled lists of classics to read, authors to experience, and series to complete. I still do this today and I hope you’ll join me in at least a few of these:
Read the Nobel Prize-Winning Author of the Year – We are indeed fortunate this year, because Canadian 2013 Laureate and short story writer, Alice Munro, is readily available in paperback and at your local library. One of the best places to start is with her hand-picked collection, “Carried Away: A Selection of Stories,” edited by Munro and Margaret Atwood. (Everyman’s Library, 2006).
Read an Award-Winning Book – Most literary prizes, unlike the Nobel Prize for Literature, are awarded to a specific book. Some of the most reliable awards include the Pulitzer Prizes (given each year for Biography/Autobiography, Drama, Fiction, General Nonfiction, History, and Poetry), the Man Booker Prize for fiction written in English , and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly The Orange Prize) . You might resolve to read at least one of these.
Read a Children’s or Young Adult’s Book – The ALA (American Library Association) gives many prizes for books written specifically for young readers. The Newbery Award is for chapter books written for readers from 8-17. The Caldecott Award is given for the year’s best picture book. The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are for the best African American children’s books. When you read a book meant for the youngest readers, you begin to remember why you love this form of virtual reality so much.
Read a Book of Short Stories – This often neglected form of fiction is published less and less each year. It is important, however, because most great writers start publishing short fiction. Here is where you will discover the classic writers of the future. It’s also a wonderful way to encourage publishers to take risks on unknown writers.
Read a Classic – You always meant to read it. It was assigned in school, but you avoided it. Others have recommended it all of your reading life, but you find it daunting. This is the year to pick up that classic everyone else seems to have enjoyed. Don’t be afraid to pick up the Cliff’s Notes or use the many on-line guides to classic reading. It may be a slow process, but they call them the “great books’ for a reason!
Read Books from Independent Publishers – American publishing has become an ever more corporate endeavor. International conglomerates dictate much of what reaches the American reader. It is an act of independence and creativity to buy a book from a press that is entrepreneurial and not beholden to corporate interests. It is refreshing to get a new perspective and to know that you are helping keep publishing a personal art form. Here again, look to your local book store for suggestions.
And finally… Read Outside the Box – Break out of your rut. Read something completely different from your habit. If you only read fiction, pick up a history book or biography. If nonfiction is your regular fix, pick up a play or a book of poetry. You may not like it at first, but you will be a better reader for it. A new year is filled with opportunities. Don’t let them slip away. Make sure you’re all booked up in 2014!
Send your book club picks and author event information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org And good reading!