As several of you know, because I’ve left comments on your blogs saying as much, I’m feeling anti-planning and anti-resolutions right now. Which does not mean I’ll be making no plans — at the same time as I’m feeling anti-planning, I’m also rather envious of everyone else’s plans — rather, it means I’m going to try to make them as vague as possible and as realistic as possible. I just looked back at my New Year’s resolutions post from last year, and it began with a similar hesitancy about planning, but I went on to list all kinds of specific goals, most of which I did not meet. I’ll try another method this time around.
So how badly did I do meeting last year’s resolutions? I planned to read 13 classics and got to only 7 of the ones I’d listed, although I did read a number of classics not on the list. But now that I’m looking at it more closely, I see that the rest of my record isn’t so bad. I wanted to read more books of poetry than the previous year, which I did (4); to read more plays than the previous year, which I did (1); to read more short stories, which I did (3 collections); to read more books in translation, which I did (15); and to read one science book, which I did not.
I also did not complete Kate’s Reading Across Borders challenge, although I came close. I committed to reading 5 books in translation from outside Europe, and I read 4 (Eileen Chang’s Love in a Fallen City, Mario Vargas Llosa’s Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walk, and Mariama Ba’s So Long a Letter). I did read 11 books in translation from Europe, so I think I did fairly well in the translation category, even if I didn’t meant my particular challenge.
I’m doing okay with the Outmoded Authors challenge and this one goes on until the end of February, which gives me plenty of time. I committed to reading Walter Scott and a few other authors from the list, and so far I’ve read Scott, plus Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood, and now I’m reading Elizabeth Bowen, which means I need only one other author after Bowen, assuming “a few” means three or more.
So — what’s for next year? First of all, I would like to change some attitudes of mine. I don’t like the way I get down on myself if I don’t read what I set out to read. So any resolutions I make and challenges I sign up for are only suggestions to myself, not requirements. If I don’t meet them, it’s not a big deal. I would like to emulate Kate’s attitude about challenges:
I’ve never regretted signing up for one even when I didn’t finish it, so great is the pleasure of embarking on a reading journey in the company of congenial fellows, and so great the rewards of the encounters with new authors and books thereby provoked.
Next, I’m going to do my best not to worry about the total number of books I read. I do like keeping track of the number, but I don’t like how I notice the number of books I read each month and wonder what the yearly total will be based on the monthly number, and wonder whether this year’s number will be higher or lower than last year’s. I would like to follow Stefanie’s resolution to value quality over quantity.
I’d like to keep reading lots of books from earlier centuries. I won’t name a specific number, but I will try to read regularly from pre-20thC times throughout the year. Last year I read 12 books from earlier centuries, which wasn’t so bad.
I’d also like to join Kate’s Short Story Challenge — keeping in mind my new attitude toward challenges, of course. I do want to keep reading in the genre, so joining the challenge only makes sense. As I prefer to read collections rather than single stories, I’m going to choose Option #3, which entails reading 5 to 10 collections from any author. I’m drawn to Option #4, which involves the same number of books but by authors I haven’t encountered before, but I can think of a few authors such as Raymond Carver whose work I’ve read but would like to read more of, or Flannery O’Connor whom I might want to re-read, so it makes more sense to stick with Option #3.
Finally, I’d like to keep going with my essay project, which involves using a couple essay anthologies I’ve got as guides to a broader survey of the genre. I made some progress on this project today by reading Plutarch’s “Consolation to his Wife” and liking it enough to order a collection of his essays.
And that’s it. I’m hoping to make this coming year a calmer, less goal-oriented reading year.