Do Reading Resolutions Make Us Hate Books?

CRI’m the kind of person who makes ridiculous resolutions. (Like vowing to shop only at locally owned Alabama stores for a year and blogging about it. Or spending as little money as possible for three months and blogging about it. Or writing a novel in a month and blogging … hey, there might be a theme here.) I usually stick to my resolutions even when they’re impractical because I’m stubborn, Midwestern, Protestant and German, and all these things put together mean I have virtually no sense of life balance and I thrive on discipline and arbitrary rules.


But I’m also the first to admit that strict, extreme resolutions are not always the best ones. That’s why I’m constantly rolling my eyes during this season of reading resolutions and end-of-year book lists. It’s not that I don’t understand the impulse. A lot of us want to read more, and we want to read different things — the books we think we should read, even if we don’t want to. We think reading resolutions might help us get there, so we set ourselves up with overwhelming goals that we’ll probably never meet. (This is the same attitude that results in lots of book clubs adding massive, boring books to their reading lists, and consequently the reason most book clubs fail.)


photo(1095)Don’t let an overwhelming resolution turn you into a book pessimist!


I think reading has enough fighting against it — BuzzFeed, Candy Crush, catching up on The Walking Dead — without lashing guilt and boredom onto its back. If you really want to read more this year, maybe it’s best to resolve to do something fun. Something easy. Something that might just bring you joy, which is one of the best byproducts of reading anyway. Since I’m a resolution junkie, I’ve put together a list of ideas. Behold!


Carrie’s Top Three Reading Resolutions that Don’t Suck and Won’t Make You Feel Like a Failure


Read more children’s books.

Kids’ books are like a steroid shot to the imagination. So many have really gorgeous writing and beautiful illustrations, and even the ones you didn’t read as a kid have a way of imparting a sense of innocence and nostalgia that we don’t get often enough in our adult lives. These books can also be incredibly deep, using just a few words to get a really great point across — they can also be just plain silly and fun. Don’t know what to look for? Any good bookseller or librarian will give you a stack to get started — or, you know, just ask a kid.


Once a week, read a short story.

There are boring short stories and there are miraculously wonderful short stories, and through some mystery of the universe (I’m assuming it’s a curse worked by an evil and dull wizard, but then again I read a lot of fantasy literature), most of us have only read the boring ones. This year, I say it’s time to break that spell, because good short stories can have all the benefits of a novel and only take 15 minutes to an hour to complete, which is less time than it takes to navigate my Facebook page on the day of an Alabama game.


Make this resolution easy by signing up for the free Short Story Thursday email. Jacob Tomsky picks a different non-boring story every week and sends it right to your inbox. Also I have a massive crush on this guy because 1) sending out free short stories is pretty great, 2) each week’s accompanying email is amazing, although sure to offend my Protestant relatives, and 3) I really enjoyed his memoir, Heads in Beds. Want your weekly short story? Email Jacob and ask him to put you on the list:


Another way to get on the short story train (that’s a metaphor, but how great would an actual Short Story Train be?!) is to stop by Church Street on one of our short story reading nights — follow us on Facebook to learn about our next event.


Join a book club — a good one.

Some book clubs are lame, some expect you to read War and Peace, and some are just excuses to drink wine and gossip. I’m not knocking any of those (well, except for the lame ones), but I personally like a book club that’s pretty low-pressure (no 400-pagers) and actually has good discussions. I happen to be a member of two such book clubs, and we’re both open to new members. Meeting times are posted on this site under Book Clubs so you can join any time. Is this a shameless plug to get you to join my book groups? Not really, because we have plenty of members and I don’t care if you join or not! But I think you’d like them.


Tiger Lily’s Warrior Princess Book Group

We are adults who read kids’ books. This year’s books have included: Peter Pan, A Wrinkle in Time, The Last Unicorn, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Usually we choose books at least half of us read in third grade, and none of our books take more than a few hours to read, i.e., procrastinators welcome.


Church & Oak

This is our book club collaboration with Emmet O’Neal Library. I say collaboration, but they really do all of the work — we just make the cookies. Oh, there are free Break-up Cookies! And hot chocolate. We read both fiction and non-fiction, always in paperback and never crazy-long. Amanda (an awesome and beautiful librarian) and I choose books that have lots of our patrons and customers talking, so the discussions are always pretty lively. Last year’s choices include Orange Is the New Black and Beautiful Ruins. Our next meeting is January 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Church Street and we’re reading The People of Forever Are Not Afraid. Did I mention there are cookies?


Whether or not you take my stellar resolution suggestions, invent your own Reading Resolution, or skip the resolving altogether, reading more in the new year is definitely a good idea. Filling our lives with literature means expanding our capability for compassion, feeding our imaginations in order to make creativity and innovation possible, sharpening our critical thinking skills and adding just a little more joy into our lives. Here’s to the new year of good stories, new ideas, and that certain magic that can only be found between the pages (or the e-inked lines) of a book.


Carrie Rollwagen is book buyer and co-owner of Church Street Coffee & Books, an independent bookstore and coffee shop in Birmingham, Alabama.

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