The only New Year’s resolution I’ve ever successfully kept is the one I made last year, suffering a dismal hangover but trying to keep up some semblance of good cheer at a New Year’s Day brunch with friends: the resolution was to always finish the toast that came served with my breakfast when I went out to eat. It was a prefect resolution because it had a very manageable and absolutely attainable goal, clearly defined parameters, built-in cheats (Don’t want toast? Don’t go out to eat! Want to go out to eat but still don’t want toast? Order something that doesn’t come with toast!), and flexibility: doggie bags are always an option. With the exception of the time I spilled coffee all over the little saucer of uneaten toast left before me, my resolution was a resounding success. This experience has left me buoyed to make other resolutions, but I’ve had trouble deciding on what, exactly, they should be.
But, now three days into the New Year, I think I’ve decided on one, and it’s book-related, obviously, or I wouldn’t be writing about it here (I say immediately after rambling on for a paragraph about toast eating).
Essentially, my plan is as follows. Each month, I’ll attempt to tackle one or two letters from my fiction shelves (and by letters I mean according to the first letter of the author’s last name. So As include Alcott, Algren, etc. while Bs include Buroughs, Bronte, etc) by a) reading one book from the letter and b) getting rid of at least one book from the letter. I have a frightful lot of books on my shelves that I haven’t read, and while some of them are newer acquisitions I haven’t gotten around to yet, others have been languishing for years, some for nearly a decade, and I need to force myself to be honest about what will and will not get read. I also have a number of books sitting around that I have read and which, for a number of reasons, I have no intention of ever reading again, and these are fair game for the culling, too. I’m also going to apply the same concept to my nonfiction shelves, though I’ll be going less by letter and more by what catches my fancy; still, for each book read, I’m going to choose a book on its shelf to go in the donate pile.
Basically, the goal is to winnow down my TBR list both through reading and through being honest about what I’m not going to read. I’m also going to try to be better about not making as many impulse Amazon purchases as I have in the last two years or so because a) it’s gotten a bit out of hand since I’ve had the disposable income to make it a frequently indulged habit, and b) I want to be able to feel less guilt when I go ham in actual bookshops because I won’t have the overshadowing knowledge that there’s likely a book package coming in the mail for me as I check out with my stack of books in hand. I thought about striving to limit the number of books I bring into the library by assigning myself a monthly limit or something like that, but it’s harder to track that sort of goal as I subscribe to Book of the Month, frequently receive books as gifts year round, love keeping current with a number of contemporary authors, etc. It seems easier to just be a stickler about getting rid of books.
And thus is my New Year’s resolution, 2017 edition. In the past, I’ve made informal attempts to be sure to incorporate more writers from different backgrounds, more recently published works, more nonfiction, et cetera, and I’ve had a lot of success in widening my horizons by just sort of casually committing to different things. I wanted to be a bit more formal in this goal, though, because it’s going to be, I think, a touch more difficult for me to add focus rather than breadth in my reading patterns.