Library Column in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News

December 31, 2016

 The library and your 2017 reading resolutions

by Jake McGinnis

On a Wednesday afternoon back in early December, a patron at the Moscow Public Library mentioned a New Year's resolution that's gotten me thinking about what I'm calling "reading resolutions."

He was checking out his usual stack of thriller novels, plus a couple of new DVDs. The details escape me, but they were all familiar titles - even one or two that he'd read and seen before. Outside, the sunset was brilliant red, the streets covered in fresh snow. The forecast was for a week of cold weather.

"I need to try something new," he said, laughing. "Maybe something psychological."

 

We all need to start something new, I agreed. We talked for a while about novels that he'd started years ago. I suggested Henry James. Perhaps, he said, he could finally get back to Vladimir Nabokov. Maybe it really is the right time to finish "Lolita."

What is your reading list shaping up like? For me, a reading resolution is that simple - in 2017, it's finally time to pick up that book that you've been meaning to get to. Set a goal, come to your local library, and let us know how we can help.

Last year, a good friend set a goal of reading a hundred books in a year, and I think she'll meet it. Just a few weeks ago, I helped a patron at the library make a list of exciting new picture books for her grandchildren. Your reading resolution, in other words, should be right for you.

Still thinking about it? You could make a point of picking up a few more classics. Check out the library's copy of "Lolita" while it's still on the shelf, or try "Moby-Dick" - you can even skip the cetology chapters, if you'd like. You have our permission.

On that note, you could try to finish an especially long book. Have you seen "Game of Thrones"? Try "A Song of Ice and Fire," George R.R. Martin's novels that led to the show. Better yet, watch and read them at the same time. You could do the same thing with other series, too - maybe you could start with "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the DVD and the novel.

Do you have an old reading list around? Give it a shot. Otherwise, find a list of new books online. Try a new genre or read the literature a of a specific area or period. Nineteenth-century U.S. novels written by women are awesome. Caribbean novels are top-notch, too. Watch a bunch of documentaries about Japan, or start a George Clooney marathon sometime.

You could also try to make a point of picking up more new releases, or books published by regional or indie presses. Dive into the original "Doctor Who" or try the "Outlander" series. Start reading J.R.R. Tolkien with a friend, or let a teenager suggest a series that you both read in tandem. Listen to an old favorite on an audiobook - it might completely change the way that you think about some special scene.

My reading resolutions for 2017 are simple. I'm making a point not necessarily to read more books but to be more, well, deliberate in my reading. Just as Henry David Thoreau went to the woods to live deliberately, I am hoping to attack my reading list with a sense of purpose. For me, that means keeping a list of what I read, and also narrowing my scope. Most importantly, though, I'm hoping to talk about my reading - and I'm hoping that talking about books can be a part of everyone's 2017 reading resolution.

Holden Caulfield, wandering about New York in that classic coming of age story "The Catcher in the Rye," famously said resolutions are for "phonies." Frankly, though, it's only phony if it's halfhearted.

So, what's your reading resolution? How can the library help?

Jake McGinnis works at the Moscow Library and is also a lecturer in the University of Idaho English Department.