TEN NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR BOOK
By Ruth Knox
First, since this is a new year and all, let’s clear one thing up. I may be passionate about books, and a good deal of my life might be spent in them, but I am not a worm. It has been my experience that those with a penchant for books are passionate, fierce, funny, and brave. That sounds more like a dragon to me than a worm. So henceforth, we shall be called Book Dragons, worms be damned.
So here are my top ten resolutions for this luscious new year:
- Expand Our Horizons. Let’s face it. We all have genres we love, and go-to authors who have earned our undying loyalty. We secretly mourn when a book series ends and we have to find a new love. But this year, I am committing to trying out a new class of books. My daughter is hooked on historical fiction. She buys the fattest volume she can find, and buries herself in it until she has finished the book. She is fascinated by the historical facts she learns, and by living with the characters in another place and time. This year I’m going to give it a shot. How could you expand your reading horizons this year?
Limit Our All-Nighters to weekends and vacation days. If you are anything like me, you often start work in the morning with a book hang-over. You know, you meant to go to sleep early. You got ready, put your jammies on, and slipped between the sheets. You told yourself you would read one, just one chapter. Next thing you know, it’s 3:30 a.m. and you realize you have to get up for work in two and a half hours. This is not only bad for your career, but it’s also not good for your health. I will strictly enforce this all-nighter rule in the upcoming year. Okay, I’ll mostly do it. Okay, honestly, I’ll try to do better. I really will. No promises.
- Trust Our Instincts. You know how it goes. You hear about what is supposed to be a great book, or you read the blurb inside the dust jacket, and you think this is a book you must read. With giddy excitement, you put aside time to launch into this literary feast. You get yourself comfortable, threaten everyone within earshot not to disturb your book orgy on pain of death, even make a cup of tea or coffee, and settle in. Ah heaven, how sweet is this! With a smile of anticipation playing on your lips you crack open the book, inhale the perfume of the ink, feel the texture of the book on your fingers…oh wait, maybe it’s an e-book. Well then you have to ignore that first part, but either way, here you are, ready to indulge with a capital I. You begin, open heart and mind, ready to be inundated with a tale that will steal your heart and soul…only it doesn’t happen. By page 4 you are puzzled and perturbed because you don’t yet give a damn about any of the characters. Being a Book Dragon, you forge on….page 10, 15…. What is wrong with this picture? Let’s face it, on page 4 you knew it wasn’t going to happen for you. But you always want to give the author the benefit of the doubt, thinking that if you give her 3 or 4 more pages, she’ll rope you in. You forge on, despite what you already know. She just doesn’t do it for you. It’s not going to happen. For you, this book is a dud. For someone else it may be great. The point is, when your instincts tell you that you and the author are not going to make it together, trust them. Put it down, give it away, do whatever you have to. But don’t spend the next week plowing through it, looking for that illusive moment when you’ll give a damn. Because you won’t. Pack it up. Move on. The sooner you can do this, the less time you will waste on a disappointing book that is never going to deliver the rush you crave.
- Give the Gift of Books. It doesn’t matter if your budget is big or small, the gift of books is the perfect gift every time. Christmas, Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Happy Nothing’s Day, you can’t go wrong with books. So many of us are Book Dragons, and yet when it comes to gift-giving we sometimes overlook the obvious. Even if the person you are buying for is not a Dragon like you, she’ll probably enjoy a good book. One roadblock to this idea is thinking that you just don’t know what type of book the person would enjoy. You browse your favorite local or online bookstore, and come up empty. Well, not empty. You find at least a dozen books to add to your wish list, but nothing for them. There are two ways to handle this. If you are shopping at your local bookstore, talk to the staff who can often make brilliant suggestions that you may not have considered on your own. When you find the right book, you’ll know it, by that urge to fist pump, and say silently or aloud, “Yes!” And if that doesn’t happen, a bookstore gift card is like an offering of fine gold. It is virtually impossible to go wrong. So, forget the gift of a tea cup, a sweater, toy or a game. Give the gift of words. The world will thank you.
- The Value of e-Books. Are you like me? Do you love to feel the texture of the pages and the dust jacket of a new hard-cover book? Do you long to inhale the ink from the pages, and admire it sitting prominently on your bookshelf? Yeah, I get it. But whether we embraced them immediately or were dragged kicking and screaming to the concept of e-books, they are here to stay. Now hold on for a minute. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your hard-cover stash, nor do you have to stop mid-collection of a series you love, and start reading the rest in e-book format. But there is some incredible value in e-books, and who would want to miss out on incredible value, or the chance to sample new authors who might just be talented enough to capture your loyalty? You can often sample a new author’s book for only .99 to $2.99. No $29 investment on an author who has not yet proven himself to you. For half the price of a cup of coffee you can often try out a new author’s e-book. If you don’t like the author, well then you don’t have to save a place on your shelf for him. And you still have enough coin left for a half cup of coffee.
- Share the Wealth. Do you know someone who can’t get out much anymore, but who loves to read? My mom was that person in my life. She liked books that I would never be tempted to read. She loved Harlequin romances. But she lived in a rural area on a limited budget. She didn’t have access to a used book store or even a library. One of my favorite things to do for her was to hit the second-hand book store and buy up dozens of these books. I would pack them all into a box and ship them out to her at least once a year. If she ran out before the next shipment she’d let me know and I’d go on another buying expedition. When she was done with the little paperbacks, she would share them with family and friends. It was the perfect arrangement. Maybe it’s not your mom; maybe it’s a neighbor or aunt, and maybe she doesn’t live far away, but she still can’t get out much. How much would it add an element of joy to her life to have a stash of books at hand?
- Spread the Love. Nothing matters as much to a writer’s career than reviews. This is especially true for relatively new indie authors. If you read a book that you enjoyed, go to Amazon and leave a positive review. Their ratings depend on them, and if they wrote a kick-ass good book, they deserve to be acknowledged by your review. It has been my experience if I finish a book but don’t leave a review right away, I’ll never get around to it. If you’re like me, then make it a priority to do it before you forget, or make yourself a note to do it, and then don’t lose the note. My note has to be on my electronic calendar because if it’s on a piece of paper it will get lost on my desk. Many of you know what that means. If and when I ever find it again, I won’t be able to decipher my hen scratches. Just do it now, okay? Okay fine.
- Support your Local Library. My local library is awesome! There are so many innovative new programs for children and adults. Check them out. Be a part of this valuable community resource. They never have enough funding, so library book sales are a common fund-raising effort by volunteers. These book sales are incredible fun. I’ve been part of volunteering and also part of buying. There are always some surprising finds. It’s more like a treasure hunt than a shopping expedition, and the bargains are unbelievable. Take a friend with you, and by all means, bring the family. There are books, videos, and much more. And everything is so inexpensive you won’t have to say “no” to your kids. It’s important to let them know that by attending the sale, your family is helping to support the library programs they love.
- Read One More Book. I am a prolific reader. There’s no getting around that. But the truth is, that no matter how much I read, there are so many more books out there that I will never get to. So this year, I am committing to reading one more book per month. That’s right. Another book. Let’s break it down. Average 30 days per month, book length, let’s say 60,000 words. That breaks down to about 2,000 words per day, which is only a few minutes of my time. If I cut out one half-hour show per day, let’s say, one episode of Family Feud, I would have time to make a cup of tea, put my feet up, cuddle up with my little dog, and savor those words. At the end of the month, I would have another book under my belt. Yes, this is doable! Who’s with me?
- Find a Child with which to share your love of reading. This may be the last of my ten resolutions but it is the most important. When I was pregnant with my twin daughters I read to them in the womb. I’d settle in, get as comfy as I could with a huge tummy full of future readers, and I’d rub my belly softly with one hand, while I read them some great children’s stories. To this day, as adults, they are both avid readers and I have no idea if that had anything to do with it. It was just a happy memory I couldn’t resist sharing with you. But the point is to find a child. Doesn’t have to be a relative, but it needs to be a child who could benefit from a love of reading. In case you’re wondering, that includes every child on earth. There are volunteer positions as foster grandparents where you can go into a school and help children with their reading skills, encourage, and support them. There are the kids next door, the Christmas toy drive where you can pick out books and donate them to kids you will never know. No matter how you do it, make a child’s life richer with the joy of reading. It is one of the best legacies you can leave, and one of the most rewarding feelings.
So there you have it, fellow Book Dragons, my top 10. This is going to be a book-alicious year!