You Are What You Read
Every year I get really into making New Year’s resolutions. I suspect that my zealousness for the whole idea is usually an attempt to climb out of the deep wintery sadness that consumes me like clockwork at the end of each year. It always comes with a side of personal reflection and the feeling that I am dubiously off mark from where I’d set course twelve months before.
But there is a bright side! It may sound like a terrible idea for me to keep setting these [sometimes] unmanageable goals for myself, but the yearly introspection and scheming gives me a sense of hope and renewed purpose in the midst of an otherwise bleak condition.
I am telling you about this now, in November, because I am not going to accomplish one of my most cherished resolutions, and I am trying to approach this realization in a way that does not invoke the usual shame-spiral of self-imposed failure, but rather celebrates how my habits have changed and what lessons are to be learned and put into use in the coming years.
About The Goal:
I set out to read at least 50 books every year. This is something I have done for at least five or six years, since my humble book-slinging days, when I was surrounded by their beckoning pages every waking moment. Broken down, 50 books in a year is only about a book a week, which seems reasonable, doesn’t it? But life has picked up lately, and for one reason or another, nowadays it’s more difficult to carve out a place for quality reading time in my hectic schedule.
Indulge me, if you will, as I take a look back at 2015’s reading list:
Stet** - Jim Chapman
Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology - Barrie Tullett
Too Loud a Solitude* - Bohumil Hrabal
The Storytelling Animal - Jonathan Gottschall
Re: Quin - Robert Buckeye
In Favor of the Sensitive Man - Anaïs Nin
Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? - Raymond Carver
Pansy - Andrea Gibson
Stuffed and Starved** - Raj Patel
Courage: A Daring Book for Gutsy Girls - Ed. by Karen Finneyfrock
The Hour of the Star* - Clarice Lispector
Can’t and Won’t - Lydia Davis
An Elemental Thing - Eliot Weinberger
The Idea Writers** - Teresa Iezzi
The Hall of Singing Caryatids - Victor Pelevin
The Artist's Way* ** - Julia Cameron
A Picture of Dorian Gray* - Oscar Wilde
We Should All Be Feminists - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Mastering The Art of Soviet Cooking** - Anya von Bremzen
(29 books total - * indicates a re-read, ** indicates a book I am still reading or [temporarily] left unfinished... also I am sure that I have forgotten something...)
We Are What We Read?
If we are what we read, once I stop to think about it, I can say that this year I have been inspired. Inspired most by my peers and friends: their creativity, their art, and their wonderful recommendations (see list above!); inspired by culture, learning new things, discovering new perspectives, and improving myself and my understanding of my own work and the world. Because of the variety and complexity of some of these reads, many of them take more time to read and process, but the results are that much more rewarding. There's a delightful parallel about life tucked in there somewhere, isn't there?
It is worth mentioning that within this list, Chilomé, Judge, Winnette, Clark, and Rosales are all personal friends of mine and very talented, beautiful humans to boot. (Each of them has a very different style and focus of writing, and each of them are worth checking out!) It is exciting to share their celebrations and disappointments, to converse with each other and learn from one another. (I also met Merritt Tierce this year and read her heartbreaking book; she is quite an inspiration too.)
Of course, this messy list of books doesn’t begin to touch the huge quantities of writing I’ve soaked up from online and print magazines, but it is representative of what I am consuming as a whole. When I was younger, I was obsessed with reading classics and studying dead writers. That script has flipped almost entirely in the last several years. Now more than ever, I am reading more living writers, more women writers, more POC, more translations, more books put out by small publishers, and standing in solidarity with the folks I know personally as we face this new era of writing, reading, and publishing together. This is progress.
I may not have had the time to read the sheer number of books that I so ambitiously set out for this year, but considering the quality of the words I have read and their impact on myself and the world puts things into perspective. I look forward to seeing what revelations and adventures next year’s readings have in store...