On New Year’s Resolutions, Reading Diversely, and Epic Starts

I have very few New Year’s resolutions this year. This is deliberate; I have learned that choosing to do a lot only leaves me flat on my face. I just want to start writing fiction again this year. That’s my one general New Year’s resolution, I have a few reading resolutions as well. As usual, I aim to read fifty books in 2015 although I have decided that whatever will be, will be. If I end up reading only half that, I resolve to be OK with that. This year, there’s no need to be overly harsh with myself.

“Reading Diversely” was a big topic for the bookworld in 2014. There were articles, blog posts, and videos encouraging people to read more diversely. Yes, there are also contra-arguments that point out how post-colonial lit that do get published generally pander to the topics familiar to a Western audience: arranged marriage, poverty, immigration to the West, etc. Thus, reading from a variety of countries does not necessarily mean reading diversely. I think this is an interesting point; one that begs an exclusive post, not a blurb inside a blog post. I think I want to write more about this, but I need to sit down and think and outline what it is exactly I want to say. I probably need to read more about the topic too, so I’ll be more educated about it and not write out of my arse.

Disregarding the pro and contra-arguments for reading diversely, when I look at my bookshelves all I see is British, British, British books. My bookshelves couldn’t be more British even if they sprung to life and asked for milky tea. So I do want to read more diversely this year. While there is a massive bias towards British authors on my shelves, a lot of unread books I already own tick the boxes. I still have a lot of unread Indonesian books. I have been buying Japanese novels like there’s no tomorrow. I still have two unread Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Some hardcore investigation yielded two Australian novels.

Still, my shelves aren’t as diverse as I want it to be. There is a dearth of African writing there. In fact, I think I’ve only ever read one African novel and some short stories for a post-colonial lit class. I never kept those texts so there really is no book about Africa on my shelves.

I want to remedy that but I have also resolved to buy less books in 2015. The past year I have been on an endless, mad, book-buying spree! My reasoning was that I’ll get to them eventually anyway so I might as well buy the books I want! Now, I am horrified by the sheer amount of to-be-read books on my shelves. I don’t even want to count them, lest I give myself a headache.

And yet, this is the resolution I’m most likely to break. There are already two books at the local Kinokuniya I am aching for and I have found myself fiddling with amazon during these last few days of the holiday season. Sigh! We’ll see how this goes…

Finally, I decided that Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak would be my first book of the year. It ticks the diverse box since I’ve read very little Russian lit. And Doctor Zhivago came with a glowing recommendation from a friend whose taste I completely trust so I’m expected to tell her what I think of it when I’m done. I’ve heard that the prose is poetic and while I adore poetic prose, I was also in the mood for something more fast-paced so I decided to read Doctor Zhivago along with George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords. It has been more than a year since I read A Clash of Kings and it’s really high time that I continue with the A Song of Ice and Fire series.

Somehow I went from reading two books to the sorry situation where I am in the middle of six books. An “epic start” indeed! I brought Jane Austen’s Emma to London for Christmas but never got past the introduction so reading it will have to start in 2015. Then my mother’s friend lent me Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang, knowing that I love history. Since it was a borrowed book, I figured I should bump that up on my to-read list. I was also recommended and lent the Indonesian translation of The Divine Code of Life: Awaken Your Genes & Discover Hidden Talents by Kazuo Murakami, Ph. D. since I have struggled with anxiety and depression. Again, borrowed book, so should be on top of the to-read list.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, I have also joined a literature club. We will be reading Laksmi Pamuntjak’s first novel Amba and I have until January 13th to finish it. Amba is a chunker; it is more than 570 pages.

I know this is a trivial, frivolous problem but piling up all the books gave me some anxiety. This is an altogether too epic of a start for 2015. I probably have to prioritize Amba and let the other books fall to the back burner until I finish. That’s a much calmer option than trying to storm through six books all at once. We’ll have to see how this one goes as well.

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