Every day I take the bus home from work, I spend a few minutes waiting at the stop outside the city’s biggest library, outside the entrance of which I see these words immortalised on a stone plaque, subtly reminding me I really should be reading more. One of my goals for 2010 was to read at least a book a month. I know this sounds ridiculous, what with certain dedicated people attempting to hit A HUNDRED in a year (!), but I had to start with something – over the last few years, my reading time has gone from being spent absorbed by books to being spent in front of a computer screen. Though blogs do equal great connections and often provide fantastic food for thought, I seem to have fallen off the literary bandwagon along the way. Which is a Big Deal, because the written word is one of the things I hold dearest to my heart! I don’t know about you, but I have several bookcases in my house, each half full of books that either have broken spines and folded pages through countless loving re-reads, or books that are as pristine as the day they arrived, never having been cracked open once. I seem to fall in love with blurbs and recommendations and hastily stock my shelves, but when it comes to making the time to sit down and actually read, these days, I’m pretty rubbish. I think it comes from the mentality of always having to be doing something “productive” – working, cleaning the house, doing laundry, writing, replying to e-mails, going to appointments… if I have three hours to myself on a Sunday night, I feel like I should be putting them to good use. Working at something. Not relishing in great literature – I almost feel guilty doing it.
But last weekend, I was given those three hours. And instead of making beds or ironing clothes, I put on some beautiful background music, poured a glass of merlot, and cracked open the Deathly Hallows. I’m late enough to the Potter Party as it is – and I love the stories dearly – so by jove, I was going to take some time to read something I truly enjoy, without feeling guilty about it! Life’s too short, sometimes, for doing the dishes.
There are lots of books I want to read this year. One that’s come up in many a conversation of late: Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz; written in the ’60s by an early cosmetic surgeon, it tells of his findings around the topic of self-image, comparing people who undergo surgery with people who simply follow a system of ideas and attitudes instead. He stumbled on several interesting phenomena: he found the plastic surgery patients often went in with expectations of self-image that weren’t met by the surgery, and continued to behave as “ugly” or “inferior” even after significant procedures had been performed. However, a system of behavioural therapy techniques and shifts in mental focus without surgery resulted in increased self-esteem. It’s no secret I’d love to get surgery if I could, but I can’t shake the advice my nearest and dearest are giving – to read this book, and try working on inner attitudes instead.
One of the first books I’m picking up post-Potter is one my eye was drawn to in a bookshop in Chicago last September – a new hardback I hadn’t had room to bring home, and one that wasn’t released in Canada until recently. It’s going to be a delve into unfamiliar territory – thriller crime fiction! Now, I’m one of the biggest scaredy-cats around – I’m the girl who went home and stayed awake for 48 hours following The Ring and to this day refuses to watch anything rated R – but I couldn’t pass up the intriguing premise of Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast. It’s been lauded as one of the best Irish novels ever, a superb thriller, and impossible to put down, and on top of being set in one of my favourite places in the world, it’s got more than a hint of the supernatural. Which pretty much equals complete amazeballs. The premise basically follows an ex-IRA killer in northern Ireland who, now that peace has come, is being haunted by the ghosts of twelve of his innocent victims, and in order to appease them – he has to kill the men who gave him orders. Fascinating! I’m slightly nervous, but thoroughly captivated, and I think it’s great to branch out of the familiar every once in a while.
As you know, I’m also a huge lover of the classics. I’d name my first-born after Chaucer if ‘Geoffrey’ wasn’t such an atrocity. 🙂 It’s definitely a goal of mine to add a few more to the archive this year, and I’m starting with Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. I’ve been in love with the song since childhood, and the story sounds utterly haunting, desperately romantic, and fantastically passionate. I can’t wait for this one – and to watch the recent BBC remake, too!
There are a few others on the list for 2011: Rob Sheffield’s Love is a Mixtape, the “unadulterated nostalgia-geekfest” that is Dalek I Loved You, the hot pick around the blogosphere from 2010, The Hunger Games, and a recent recommendation, Primates and Philosophers, a collection of essays exploring the nature and evolution of human ethics and morality. If I can stick to it, I think this year’s going to be a brilliant goody bag of fantasy, thrills, imagination and education. What’s on your list for 2011? Anything else I couldn’t possibly miss on mine?