While it's a bit late to be making New Year's resolutions, the first two months of the year gave me time to ponder some of the bookish things I'd like to do in the remaining ten months of 2014. If you procrastinated on making your resolutions—or have checked them all off already (ha!)—here are some to try on for size.
1) Get rid of any book that has been on your bedside table for more than a year. I was inspired to add this resolution after tackling a different New Year's resolution (organizing my bedroom), and finding myself faced with a teetering pile of books on my bedside table. I have a copy of Spice that has been there for at least three and a half years, and which for some reason I’m convinced that I will someday read, a copy of Ragtime, which I keep putting down when something more compelling comes along, and about five other books that are so far down the stack that I don't even remember the titles. I kept James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by my bedside for more than a year before I finally got through it. Every night, I would go to bed and resolutely open it, only to fall asleep within a paragraph or two. As a friend commented, you need to sit in an uncomfortable chair to read Joyce.
2) Cook one item from every cookbook you own. If you’re like me, you have a whole stack--even an entire bookshelf--of cookbooks that you love to peruse, but that you have never actually made anything out of. You may have been attracted to the cover or the paper stock or maybe you thought "Yes! This will be the year I make my own bread," but didn't. I have three crockpot cookbooks from the year my daughter was two and I was working lots of long hours and convinced myself life would be suddenly perfect if I could come home to a delicious crockpot meal each evening. Book editors like to call this aspirational reading, but if you’re going to buy it, you should at least try out a recipe. I already have plans to dust off my crockpot and put it to use—at least three times—before, perhaps, it ends up in the Goodwill bin with the books.
3) Get rid of every textbook from high school and college. Accept that you will never open them again. I know I’m not the only person with dozens of outdated textbooks on my bookshelves. Why do we keep these? Do we think we will have a sudden urge to refresh our knowledge of calculus or 1990s migration patterns? We will not. Get rid of them.
4) Read the books that everyone’s read. You know how there are books that everyone else has read, but you haven't? This is the year to read them—or at least a few of them. Books that become wildly popular do so for a reason: whether because they’re truly good or have simply captured a compelling zeitgeist. Pick five or ten and commit to reading them. This is an easy one for me as I happen to be the only female book editor in the Western world to have not read Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. I cannot count the times I’ve sat in conspicuous silence as my editorial sisters waxed nostalgic over their love of these books. No more! I started with Jane Eyre (eh) and am now slowly reading Emma. Even if you end up hating them, at least you’ll get to join the discussion!
5) Show some love. If you're reading this, you're probably a writer, an editor, a book publicist, or some other person who makes part or all of her living off the sale of books. And as you know, book sales are primarily generated by word-of-mouth. So it's our job to give shout-outs when we can to encourage other readers to get out there and buy more books. Combine #5 with the first four resolutions, and make a commitment to recommend a book per month over your various social media. Your fellow writers/editors/publicists/etc. will thank you for it. Here are a few of mine—a couple I worked on and loved and a couple I just loved:
NW – Zadie Smith
The first half of this book is sloooow. I almost gave up on it. But Smith brings her A-game to the second half. No one knows the characters of London like this writer.
Me On the Floor, Bleeding — Jenny Jagerfeld
Translated Swedish YA – it's simply awesome. Give it to your teenager or read it for yourself.
The Immortal Collection — Eva Saenz Garcia
Another translation — this time from Spanish. Complicated. Epic. Good for readers who like history and science and romance and time travel.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks — Rebecca Skloot
I'm in love with this book. It's science writing that made me cry. (And as a bonus – if you too fall in love with this book, you might be interested in reading Random Family by Adrian Nicole Leblanc—equally compelling non-fiction.)