When you’re looking for an expert cutting jibe, you can’t go wrong with Mark Twain, really.
Mark Twain on Jane Austen: “Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.”
Mark Twain on politicians: “Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”
Mark Twain on school boards: “In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made school boards.”
Mark Twain on New Year’s resolutions: "Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”
Let us pause here, shall we? With New Year’s eve bearing down on us, I’ve been thinking about reading resolutions, as is custom this time of year.
I rather like the idea of New Year’s resolutions (reading and otherwise) … mostly around mid-summer, when it’s balmy out, and I’m feeling the need for change but no real incentive to actuate it. Maybe I’ll make that a New Year’s resolution, I’ll think, then carry on doing exactly what I do, with a side of iced coffee, and probably a donut. When I’m really resolved to do something, I do it straightaway, without waiting for the calendar to give me permission.
Back in 2015, I resolved to spend 2016 reading my own books. It went … mediocrely, in that I barely hit the 50 percent mark. But I learned about myself. Mainly that I spend too much money on books but also that I can’t accurately predict what I’ll want to read next month, or even next week. So don't buy books planning to read them in the indeterminate future. Buy books because I want to read them right now. Also, maybe don’t buy so many [expletive deleted] books.
In 2017, I downgraded from “resolution” to “effort.” As in, I’m going to give it a shot. We’ll see how it goes. I am here to tell you that it did not “go.” I decided, sometime around late spring, that I needed to read ancient literature, books inspired by ancient literature, and books about ancient literature, many of which I did not have in my library. But I’m not fussed about my failure to read from my existing library. Instead, it has inspired me to donate large sacks of books that, I now know, I will likely never read.
In 2018, my plan is simply to keep on reading … whatever I feel like reading, whether it’s books in my existing library or from my local library or new books. The point is to continue finding pleasure and enrichment in reading. Will you think me pedantic if I insist it's not a resolution but an intention?
How about you? Do you find reading resolutions helpful, or do you try to keep your reading loose?