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Bibliobitch: Do You Have a Literary New Year's Resolution?

I love working online, but I've noticed that with each passing year I motor down the information highway, I leave more books behind. I used to be the kind of person who could hold a meaningful (impressive even!) conversation about contemporary literature, but now? Not so much. Whenever someone brings up new books I find myself rolling the conversation back a decade (The Marriage Plot? Yeah, sounds OK. But have you read Middlesex? It was so good).

That's why one of my 2012 resolutions is to get back in the books game. I'm resolving to read two new(ish) books a month, even if it means cutting down on the number of TV episode recaps I read online. What about you? Do you have any literary resolutions (or suggestions for contemporary books to add to my growing list)?

gray cat reading a book
This is me in 2012. *wink*

The LA Times blog Jacket Copy asked a group of writers, publishers, and editors about their literary resolutions for 2012. Here are a few of their suggestions to inspire you:

Elizabeth Crane, author of the 2012 novel "We Only Know So Much" (HarperPerennial): I don't know if this is exactly literary, but the only real resolution I'm considering, which I haven't etched in stone yet, is to give up watching entertainment shows (ET, etc). This might or might not help my writing, if only insofar as it will free up an hour of my life every day, but the hope is that it will help my celebrities-and-celebrity-news-makes-me-want-to-pull-my-hair-out problem.

Marisa Silver, author of the short story collection "Alone With You": Read more poetry. Use fewer commas.

Laila Lalami, author of the novel "Secret Son": For the last couple of years, I've been working on my new novel and have been reading almost exclusively fiction and nonfiction that's relevant to it in in some way. In 2012, I'd like to read some new fiction!

Share your literary resolutions with us in the comments!

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I have read more fiction in

I have read more fiction in the last year that I think I have in the previous 10 and a lot of that has to do with starting a book blog. It is to the point where I am wanting to pursue women's literature academically and am starting to seriously consider undertaking my own writing projects.

For 2012 I would like to see my reading double from the last year. One of the ways I plan to accomplish this is with less "screen" time. One day a week will be no screen day (unless it's an ebook reader). I am hoping this will mean more reading and look forward to what my day will be like without the computer, television, or smartphone on.

I got a book journal for

I got a book journal for Christmas, and I plan to record all the books I read in 2012. I read quite a lot in 2011 and used the BookTracker app on Facebook to have a sort of record as to what I had read and the dates, but I prefer this private log that also has space for comments and more information on the book. I made my first entry in it today!

reading

I have three New Year's resolutions: read more books, start practicing yoga again, and make more art. As much as I love the internet, I think that reading is more important. Some of my friends are professors and teachers. They never complain about their students lack of internet skills. They do, however, gripe about the lack of enthusiasm and competency regarding reading and reading skills. I think that many people in our society could benefit from reading more.

read-a-lutions

Last summer I read over 200 novels, plays and poetry volumes for my exams (I'm a grad student in English). I don't think I can top that this year, especially now that I'm done with coursework and on to the dissertation. I'm not concentrating on volume this year; instead, I just want to put a serious dent in my "to be read" bookcase (not shelf, 7-foot bookcase) that is overflowing. I suppose part of that is refraining from buying more books so that it actually looks like I'm making progress.

Good luck!

Hubby and I own over 2,000 books, and I'd have to say that I haven't read about half of them. We acquired a LOT from book sales and other events where I'd snag a REALLY CHEAP book that was on some "must read" list or another that had compelled me at the time. And there's NO WAY I can resist the compulsion to pick up a good buy that I've been itching to read. The disease has only gotten worse since I acquired a Kindle last year. So you and I are totally soul sisters in this, dear. I wonder if there are twelve step programs out there for book addicts?

Literary Aspirations for the LAST YEAR EVER (dum da duuuuum...)

Don't feel too badly; I've always been a decade (or more) behind, mostly because I grab a lot of books from the little indie used stores or the bargain section of B&N. Now that I actually have a little disposable income, it will be nice to actually have RELEVANT and TIMELY literary discussions.

My goal on a reading level is to finish 50 books this year, of varying currency (I should probably pick up The Marriage Plot, too. I love Eugenides and simply MUST absorb anything he writes). Ditto the new Joyce Carol Oates, because if I don't keep up with her new publications I'll never catch up. My goal is to get through around 50 books this year.

Some other specific books I'm looking to read in 2012:

Embassytown by China Mieville
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (about a third of the way through)
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
Imajica by Clive Barker (again!)
Flow Down Like Silver: Hypatia of Alexandria by Ki Longfellow
I need to catch up on my Michael Cunningham. I haven't read either of his two newest books.
The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus (FINALLY)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel (again, really belated--but it's going to be a MOVIE this year!)
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (ANOTHER movie release sometime this year, directed by none other than Deepa Mehta. OHMYGOD.)
Nox by Anne Carson
The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Any Rachel Swirsky I can get my hands on...

On the flip side of the literary world, as a writer, I have two major goals. The first goal is to get a short story or article published in a journal or magazine this year--a more difficult prospect than I first anticipated (and I didn't anticipate that it would be easy). Secondly, I want to finish the second (and hopefully final) draft of my novel and get it to my readers for the final evaluation before shuffling it off to a publisher. So I suppose I should research agents this year, too.

And then, I don't know...maybe start actually researching grad schools for my completely pointless but somehow absolutely still compelling writing degree?

I toyed with maybe starting a new publishing imprint since there are so few in this corner of the planet, but that seems even more masochistic than going to grad school.

Self Publishing is a great New Years Resolution!

Writers all around the country are learning the benefits of self-publishing, and now on line printing companies are helping authors publish their work faster, easier, and more cost-effectively than ever before! Here are a few things that the major publishing houses don't want you to know: When you self-publish you retain all the rights to your book. That means you can print as many copies as you like, plus revise, edit and re-print your book any time and any way you want. You control pricing when you self-publish. You also control the marketing and sales of your book. Ultimately, you control the profitability. That's only fair, after all it is your book! You control the content of your book. You'll never have to answer to an editor (other than yourself) when you self-publish. Your ideas and your creativity is what will end up in print.

52 books around the world

Well, I joined this book group on Goodreads.com. For 2012, I'll read 52 books, a book a week, and each book must be from an author who was born in a different country. Below are just a few of the books I'm planning on reading...

Algeria: Exile and the Kingdom
Argentina: All Night Movie
Hopscotch
The Motorcycle Diaries
Australia: The Book Thief
Austria: Metamorphosis
Belgium: Memoirs of Hadrian
Bosnia: The Bridge of the Drina
Brazil: Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon
The Alchemist
Canada: The Handmaid’s Tale
Life of Pi
Chile: Last Evenings on Earth
China: Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Cuba: The Lost Steps
Czechoslovakia: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
Dominican Republic: In the Time of Butterflies
England: Neverwhere
Ethiopia: Cutting for Stone

Not surprised to find another around the worlder here!

I'm in the same group as Britt, and it was so fun to make a list. I'm upping the challenge for myself and also baking something from every country, and hunting down music... I like an immersive reading experience. I'm also trying to read all authors I've never read before, and authors who are actually from the countries they are writing about. I need more diversity in my reading (other than my 25% science fiction I already get, haha).

Please start with In the Time

Please start with In the Time of the Butterflies and then go on to Cutting for Stone--So great!!! Best of luck. This author by country idea sounds excellent.

I read THINK by Lisa Bloom

I read THINK by Lisa Bloom and while I didn't agree with everything she said, it proved motivational. I signed up for a library card the day after I finished it. I'm setting a goal of 52 books this year. Which should be doable. : )

One topic I'm especially interested in is feminism, both current books and books about the history of the movement (and books that shaped the movement). So I've marked things like the Feminine Mystique. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears. : )

Oh, I've got some feminists for you...

Are you into....?

Horror/film?
The Dread of Difference: Gender and the Horror Film by Barry Keith Grant or The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis by Barbara Creed
Anything by Sara Waters, especially Affinity (a little more gothic than horror)
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Literature? I have a ton for these:
Anything by Simone de Beauvoir, but especially The Second Sex, which has lit AND philosophy all rolled together.
How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Nightwood by Djuna Barnes
Through the Drowsy Dark by Rachel Swirsky
ANYTHING by Joyce Carol Oates or Flannery O'Connor
Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
Any Louise Erdrich
Beloved by Toni Morrison (or anything else by her)
There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby: Scary Fairy Tales Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Any Virginia Woolf
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Science Fiction?
Anything by Ursula leGuin
The Female Man by Joanna Russ
Octavia E. Butler (she kinda fits in horror, too)
The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge
Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood (just don't call it sci fi in front of her!)
Parasol Protectorate Series by Gail Carriger

Religion?
When God Was a Woman by Merlin Stone
Goddess: Myths of the Female Divine by David Leeming and Jake Page
Woman with the Alabaster Jar by Margaret Starbird
Deeper Shades of Purple (Religion, Race and Ethnicity) by Stacey Floyd-Thomas
Physica by Hildegard von Bingen (Penguin has a collected writings, too)

Poetry?
Waslawa Szymborska
Emily Dickinson
Anne Sexton
Rita Dove
Anne Carson (who also does an AMAZING translation of Sappho entitled If Not, Winter)
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), ESPECIALLY her series on "The God," and Trilogy
Anna Akhmatova
Sylvia Plath
Edna St. Vincent Milay

And of course, there are the other feminist classics:
Running With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Who Stole Feminism? by Christina Summons
The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination by Sandra Gilbert

I have more, but I suppose that's a good place to start. Maybe you should do 52 feminist books this year. ;)

a literate new year

Being enrolled in graduate school for library science and working in libraries is a sort of "water, water everywhere" situation when it comes to non-academic reading materials. On top of that, our class texts and the alluring pop non-fiction section of indie book stores feature things like the Shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains and Proust & The Squid which totally reiterate this fear that my slow transition from reading Very Important and Tedious novels to the world of short stories and graphic novels means something terrible about my attention span, intellect and ultimately, character. Where did my voracious appetite for reading go?


I didn't find out the answer until I was recently stuck on a cruise ship for seven days with my family, an experience that was equal parts David Foster Wallace and David Sedaris. Over the course of that week, I managed to read more books for pleasure than I had in month. I had brought these two with me:


How Sassy Changed My Life and Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the women who created her


but quickly found myself finished, with no more Radiolab podcasts to get me through the day and a quickly dying iPod. Did I mention there is no internet or cell phone reception on cruise ships?! I suppose technically there is but it is so slow and so expensive that it might as well be an overpriced adventure theme park called Pre-Dial Up Land. I located a tiny little on-board library that at first glance looked like someone employed by the ship had randomly taken an armful of everything from the 20% off table at Barnes and Noble. On further inspection, I found... friends.


There was Bossypants, a memoir by Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling's book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, Julie Klausner's I Don't Care About Your Band, Kristin Schaal's Sexy Book of Sexy Sex a total bummer fest by Joan Didion and even the new Chuck Palahniuk, lurking around the shelves with the vague attractiveness of a guy I can't believe I dated in high school. I grabbed Murakami's 1Q84 for the plane ride back but I wasn't yet in the mood. I realized, what I needed most was to be around smart, funny women.


I grew up in Florida and promptly moved in a direct diagonal line to the pacific northwest when I got the chance. When I think about the South now- I like to romanticize the fireflies, thunder storms, sweet tea and whiskey in mason jars on porches and jumping into the ocean naked to swim with bioluminesct phytoplanket when its still snowing in other parts of the country. I love my family more too, now that they are far away. Distance really has made the heart grow fonder. My mom is a brilliant English teacher, my dad is a professor and studies neurokinethesiology and both have developed amazing programs that have changed the lives of their students. My little brother is a Pre-Law, frat boy and though very much unlike me, I have faith that he'll save the world in his own way through his dream of working for Amnesty International.


However, being back in their presence (read: trapped on a boat and sometimes a very tiny ship cabin) was a reminder of the anxiety ridden, neurotic nature of our family dynamic and the fact that even if they are really quite intelligent and kind, they're still pretty racist, misogynistic and hold opposing views on subjects that I am very passionate about. You can imagine what sort of frustrating conversations emerged as we watched the last troops leave Iraq, the passing of Kim Jong Il and the closing of a frat house over a "rape survey" circulating. I won't get into too many details of that dialogue but suffice it so say that it really bums me out that my brother will probably never be an ally for women, that my dad will probably never support gay rights. That some things never really change.


So what does all that have to do with reading? Everything, as it turns out. Reading is a socially acceptable way to opt out of conversation ("Why can't women just have a sense of humor about rape? Jeez. Stupid feminist hipsters")  or activities (getting your hair braided by locals, learning to fold towel animals) that you'd rather not participate in. It's the basic element of escapism that reading provides and in that moment I really needed to escape- outside that sphere to be reminded of alternative narrative that does exist.


If I don't read as much anymore in my quotidian adventures, it might just be because I'm happy where I am, physically and in life. I'm not trying to get away from anything. I don't need Francesca Lia Block or Lorrie Moore to be hanging out in my backpack like I did as a teen because there are so many wonderful, creative and inspiring ladies around me already. I do recognize that my writing is better when I'm reading, that parts of brain and myself seem to light up again when I cloak myself in a cape of awesome words and ideas. I get the same rush and those mental benefits out of Reading The Internet though. I don't think we should be so hard on ourselves when it comes to which medium we choose to consume. It can be totally overwhelming to try keep up with all of your RSS feeds and twitter links and endlessly scrolling tumblr dashboards. At some point quality has to take a precendent over quantity and for me- quality means finding readings that are challenging. It is easy for me, to pull from the same sources and hear all the same voices all of the time. More so than reading any particular book, or number of them, my new years resolution is to take myself on more Artist's Dates- a thing I love doing and didn't know had a name. Keri Smith is also an infinite resource for ideas that help us get offline and explore the world in exciting and creative ways. I want to read more because I want to think more and I'm excited to read all of the books you ladies suggest.


Some other people to look to, for guidance in this matter?


Nick Hornby and the Polysyllabic Spree


Nancy Peal and Book Lust


Allain de Botton and the School of Life


 

I am planning on reading the

I am planning on reading the Millennium Trilogy. I saw "The Girl With the Dragon Tatto" twice already so I got the book and I'm only a few chapters in. So my new year's resolution is to finish it before Valentine's Day (I'm actually a fast reader, just a procrastinator). Then the next one before St. Patrick's Day, then the next before May 1. Besides that I really need to read more feminist literature. The suggestions on here are AWESOME! I already bookmarked this page!

In the same boat!

I'm totally in the same boat--because of all of the reading I have to do for my blogging, and for my writing, my pile of "just for me" literature has become non-existent. I only read two literary books last year, which is so unlike me. Time to kick things up a notch! Thanks ladies for all of the great title suggestions. :)