RESOLUTION: Read 52 books in 1 year.
No limits placed on books — long, short, fiction, non-fiction, biographical, poetical, boring, interesting. I just need to read, read, and read some more. Who knows how close I’ll get to accomplishing this — I do read a lot as it is, so I think I stand a pretty good chance — but the point of this challenge is more to have motivation to broaden my horizons continually, to pursue self-education actively and self-improvement aggressively, and to create “culture” for my brain in an environment that’s not naturally conducive to it (as in spending my days at home with two children).
A number of recent experiences have planted this seed of aspiration. I first got the idea from a writer on Huffington Post who said she makes the same resolution to read 52 books every year. Some years it works, others not, but the point is it keeps her reading. Then I read an anecdote in Mary Pipher’s book Seeking Peace: her aunt told her as a child that, if she spends life as a non-reader, she’ll enjoy seventy or eighty years’ worth of life experience, if she’s lucky; but if she chooses instead to read, she’ll have access to more than three thousand years of enlightenment, philosophy, and thought. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me.
The other influence leading to this resolution was a long overdue coffee date with my dear friend Lauren and her new man, Paul. Over gulped-down lattes and chocolate-almond croissants, we shivered in a frigid Toronto park while watching my kids burn off energy in a playground and talking about self-development and the plight of the Artist in society. Of all people, they know what that’s about. Lauren is a musician — violin and piano teacher, songwriter, singer — and Paul is a fashion photographer. Paul articulated some of the sagest advice I’ve heard in a while: “You’ve just got to start doing what you want people to hire you for.” As frustrating as it is that this world loves to take advantage of the poor artist and ask for free favours in the name of “exposure,” the reality is that exposure — or, at least, making it look like you really know what you’re doing — is what gets artists into the jobs they crave. (See my mom’s blog post about this very problem: A Freeze on Freebies.)
How does this tie into reading 52 books? It’s all part of that package of learning and knowledge that will sculpt me into becoming the professional book-writer I want so badly to be, not to mention having a well-rounded perspective and informed opinions about the world. I need to take the necessary steps to give myself the foundation on which to build a literary career and the best place to start while living in the middle of nowhere with very limited access to both mainstream and alternative “culture” is by pushing myself to read beyond what’s comfortable. There are no extensive libraries here, no university courses, no theatre, opera, or Toronto Symphony Orchestra. I can’t go to public readings, writing workshops, or even inspirational indie bookstores. Books are my only recourse for now and, lucky for me, pretty much the best education out there anyways.