Wednesday, January 09, 2013
Well we’re over a week into the New Year now, plenty of time to have given up already on those worthy Resolutions, most of which involve giving up something we really love or doing something we really dislike. So I have a proposal for a New Year Resolution that involves doing something you really love – reading, but with a twist. This year resolve to read a few books outside your usual reading comfort zone. It can be a surprisingly rewarding experience. One summer I was trapped in a house where the bookshelves held only one type of book – science fiction paperbacks. I had absolutely no interest in science fiction but, being a compulsive reader without access to a library at the time, I had no choice. I read through the entire collection of classics by Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Joe Haldeman, Harlan Ellison, Larry Niven and more. That reading summer has stayed with me, enriching my appreciation of imagination and good writing. I can still get shivers just thinking about Harlan Ellison’s story I have no mouth and I must scream.
Librarians, of course, must read widely across the full spectrum of genres and subjects as part of our professional responsibility to be effective readers’ advisors. But since retiring I do find I’ve slipped back into my personal comfort zones of English fiction, mysteries, spy novels, and history. Hence my New Year resolution. So these are the topics I’m choosing to read about this year in between my favorites: Sports, Math, and Economics! I find that one good way to dip into an unfamiliar subject is to identify a book with at least some aspect that appeals to you. I find anthropology interesting so for Sports I plan to read Born to Run: a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has never seen. Runner Christopher McDougall investigates the Tarahumara people of Copper Canyons in Mexico, whose running prowess is tested against America’s best extreme runners. Math was my least favorite subject in school – I got in trouble for reading a history book hidden under my desk during math class – but I became a fan of Nate Silver’s poll analysis blog during the election so I plan to dip into the scary topic of statistics with his new book The Signal and the Noise: why most predictions fail - but some don't. With so much national and global news these days requiring a grasp of economics, I would like to overcome the overwhelming feeling of boredom I get at the thought of reading about it. Humor is always a non-threatening entrée into a difficult subject, so I will tackle economics by reading Naked Economics: undressing the dismal science by Charles J. Wheelan. The reviews claim it won’t put me to sleep!
As for Science Fiction, I still read it on occasion. I am a devoted fan of Connie Willis because she mixes science fiction with history; Doomsday Book is outstanding historical fiction about the Black Death in medieval England as well as imaginative science fiction featuring time travel. The traveling historians visit Victorian times in To Say Nothing of the Dog, which is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I’ve just begun my science fiction reading for this year, The Black Opera: a novel of opera, volcanoes, and the mind of God by Mary Gentle. This tale of a clash between good and evil is set in an alternate nineteenth century Naples where sacred music has miraculous powers. The Inquisition hires a young librettist to write an opera that will counteract the destructive force of the Black Opera planned by a secret society with, of course, evil intentions. Music lovers and science fiction/fantasy fans may find common ground in this unusual novel.
What is your Reading Resolution for this year? Whatever genres or subjects you decide to tackle you can get help at your library. Browse the catalog, explore the stacks, check out the book lists at the Readers’ Café, or ask a librarian in person or by phone to recommend specific titles.
Happy New Year and Happy Reading!