New Year’s Non-Resolutions

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.


Filed under Books, Reading

15 responses to “New Year’s Non-Resolutions

  1. Sometimes I don’t join the challenge, but I read in the category of the challenge by choosing titles from other people’s lists. I don’t like the “required” feeling if I sign up for too many challenges–it doesn’t leave me enough room for my personal choices. Often when I do join a challenge, it is one that has more of an “enjoyment” factor than a “I really should” factor.

    My favorite challenge this year was my own (with no set number) challenge to read more nonfiction, especially biographies. It was easy, as I had read very little nonfiction the year before (!), but fascinating as I read some scientific books (albeit, popular science – written for the lay reader).

    Or maybe it was Carl’s Once Upon a Time Challenge in which I could indulge in fairy tales, fantasy, and science fiction. Oh, I wallowed in that one, reading the tales and nonfiction about them!

    You read such good stuff, Dorothy. You have no reason to feel guilty about not meeting a few challenges!


  2. I do so agree with you about not worrying about the number of books read each year. I tell myself I’ll not do this at beginning of every year but I always do. It’s silly because what does it matter how many? I even worry if a book is really long, that it’ll reduce my number that particular month. Ridiculous. This year, as I keep note of each book read, I’m not going to number them and will see if that makes a difference. I can only hope…


  3. I always believe goals should just be “guidelines” – a general direction you go towards, but it shouldn’t prevent you from stopping once a while to try something new.

    A calmer, less goal-oriented year sounds really smart.

    Have a great reading year ahead.


  4. It sounds as though you did very well actually with your goals last year. I think you have a nice varied reading approach. I’m not so much worried about how much I will read, but it is more a matter of there is so much that I know I really want to read, and knowing that I’ll never get it all in, I try and fit as much as I can in. I’ll never catch up, but oh well. I like the idea of calling these guidelines–that’s how I’m trying to think as well. I’m sure whatever you choose to read it will be good!


  5. Happy 2008 Dorothy! I love your take on reading plans. I tend to be vague about mine because I just know I’ll change my mind a million times. If I’m a bit more vague and leave room for change then I’ll just be happy with whatever the outcome and won’t feel any guilt. Hope you have a great reading year.


  6. Eva

    I didn’t make any number resolutions this year, just genre ones. 🙂 I also am trying the new approach to challenges, where I don’t get mad at myself if I don’t finish them. Must remember that reading is a hobby, lol.


  7. I like your reading plan for this year, and I do think you read in a very varied way. I can’t remember if you’ve read Alice Munro or not, but I’m going to be reading more of her short stories this year. I’m in awe of her style!


  8. Ted

    Despite my own jokey (and failed) challenge to get to 50 books last year – I say, so what! Happy quality reading to you in 2008.


  9. Happy 2008! I like your take on reading challenges. I need to cut myself some slack when I don’t finish them as well (since I only rarely finish them it seems). I hope that 2008 brings you a fabulous year of reading!


  10. I couldn’t agree more, Dorothy! There’s enough pressure on us all every single day, so there just has to be a break from it when it comes to leisure activities. I love to read and I know I’ll spoil it if I decide to make myself read certain books rather than choose them out of my heart’s desire. I think you did fantastically well with your reading in 2007 and can’t wait to see what you’ll be telling us all about in 2008!


  11. Good luck with the resolutions – I was really tempted to join Kate’s short story challenge but decided to follow your example and not get too tied down by challenges! I read so many ghost short story collections, I’ll join you all in spirit. Is the Plutarch you’ve ordered the Lives? I’ve really enjoyed the few I’ve read (in a translation by Dryden), I’ll be interested to know what you think of them.


  12. With all your triathlete training and bike training, having something you do that doesn’t require goals is a nice balance. Even though I flirted with the idea of not making any reading plans, in the end I just couldn’t do it. Your casual approach is very appealing. Happy reading!


  13. That’s a good way to deal with challenges, Jenclair — to take part in the spirit of them without necessarily committing yourself. Perhaps I’ll use that approach this coming year.

    Cath — I like the idea of not numbering your list! That would help take the focus off the length.

    Dark Orpheus — yes, if only I could keep the word “guidelines” in my head! It’s much better than goals or resolutions.

    Thanks Danielle — I first thought I’d done badly, but when I really looked, I realized it wasn’t so bad after all. I didn’t complete everything, but I did complete a lot.

    Iliana — setting vague goals is a wonderful thing, isn’t it! Because then it’s very easy to meet them …

    Eva — that’s right, reading IS a hobby, and a hobby shouldn’t be guilt-inducing at all.

    Charlotte — I read Munro’s book Runaway and loved it; perhaps I’ll read more Munro this year — it would certainly be a pleasure.

    Ted — “so what” is right! And happy reading in 2008 to you too.

    Sarah — well, we’re certainly not alone in not finishing challenges! 🙂 We should take some comfort in that, right?

    Litlove — you’re so right about the pressure — no need to bring it into the leisure part of our lives. And I can’t wait to see what YOU will be reading in 2008!

    Eloise — I didn’t order the Lives; rather, I ordered a collection of his essays — it’s one Lopate recommended. If I like it, though, perhaps I’ll have to read the Lives.

    Stefanie — you’re right — triathlon training is structure and discipline enough! No need to bring that into my reading life.


  14. Your non-resolutions seem perfect to me and very realistic. Reading should always be fun and not make you worry about deadlines, quantity, targets and the nagging guilt that goes with it… we have all enough of that in the rest of our lives already!


  15. Not having been very successful with reading goals and reading challenges in 2007, I am a bit reluctant to make big plans for 2008. However, I think I may try to do the Year of Reading Dangerously and possibly the Short Story Challenge. Drats, I’ve already broken my resolution to not make resolutions!! Have a healthy and happy 2008!


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