New Year's resolutions for readers: For me, it's Jane Austen (hold the zombies)

A new year is fast approaching, and it’s a good time for me to take a good, hard look at my leisure reading and resolve to do better. Or at least to be a little more ambitious in my reading choices (even if it’s only to finally tackle that daunting pile of books accumulating on my nightstand that I really, truly do intend to get to someday). It’s rather embarrassing for a guy who regularly reviews books to admit to some of the glaring gaps in his reading, I admit, but I’m hoping that a public confession will spur me to action. So I hereby resolve that in 2010 I will read:

1. More poetry. I love poetry and find that I don’t make nearly enough time for it. First up: Amy Gerstler’s Dearest Creatures, which sounds brilliant in this review in the New York Times Book Review.

2. The zombie-free oeuvre of Jane Austen. (Yes, I was an English major in college. No, I never did read an Austen novel.)

3. Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I’ve never been a comic-book guy, and I think that that aspect of this Pulitzer-winning novel always put me off. But I loved Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which boasts a comics-fixated hero, so I’m willing to take a chance.

There are other items on my to-read list (I want to chase down the acclaimed locked-room mysteries of John Dixon Carr, for instance, and go back to Lee Child’s early Jack Reacher thrillers), but that should be enough to get me started. The biggest challenge — for me, anyway — will be carving out time for already-published books when I’m so busy reviewing new titles. But what about you, Shelf Lifers? What books do you resolve to read in the new year?

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  • Erin Nolan

    Less vampires and more British and Russian classics. (I’ll see your “never read Austen” and raise you a “never read Tolstory”). The nook I was supposed to get for Christmas is finally en route to my house today, and I intend to take advantage of the free classics you can download on it. (Also, I can count on one hand how many comic books I’ve read in my life and I still loved Kavalier and Clay, so rest easy on that one!)

    • ENC

      I also got a Nook and have been enjoying Pride and Prejudice for the first time. Yay free books!

      • Velmani

        Intereting post. I don’t re-read books that often, mainly ascbuee I always seem to have a stack of new books that I feel like I should read first before I indulge in re-reading. However, I do get the odd craving to go back and re-read a book. It’s usually either a fast, fun read (like a Terry Prachett book which stand up up to re-reading well and it can be interesting to go back to earlier ones and see how much the characters have changed and veloped over the years) or a book I really love and know that I will enjoy again. I find my opinions of the books and the quality of the writing doesn’t usually change with re-reading (but then I haven’t gone back to re-read a lot of the stuff I liked as a teeenager it may all be trash). I do tend to notice subtle touches of foreshadowing or ways the author have cleverly left clues or set things up for later developments. Usually though, the books I enjoy reading are the ones where the writing feels unintrusive and I forget that I’m actually reading while I’m reading and just get lost in the story. Even as someone who is trying to focus on developing my own writing skills, I tend to get sucked into the story and I suspect I don’t consciously notice a lot of the skilled crafting that has gone into good writing at the time of reading. I do reflect back about how the book is written over the days that I’m reading it but usually not during the time when I’m physically holding the book and reading. Sometimes certain passages or sentences will strike me at the time when I first read them and then stay in my thoughts for a long time ascbuee I found them particularly effective.

  • Erin Nolan

    Tolstory = Tolstoy. Oops!

  • Allie

    to attempt to read some dickens!! especially a tale of two cities, also to read some shakespeare too.

    • TracyB

      Allie- A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books ever!! I read it back in high school & loved it!! I try to read it once a year. My fave Shakespeare is Hamlet!!

    • Kristen

      I read Tale over the course of one night because I wanted to quote it in a presentation. I was afraid to quote out of context. For Dickens, it really does go well enough to read in one marathon exhilirating session. Grab some coffee and a box of tissue and read on!

  • Edgy Mama

    Thom,
    “Kavalier & Clay” is a great hole to fill. At the risk of being lynched by my gender, I wouldn’t worry too much about the Austen oeuvre–I find her rather dull.

    And yes to early Jack Reacher novels. Also early Cormac McCarthy if you haven’t already been there.

    I want to read more really well-written non-fiction this year. Suggestions?

    • angie pangie

      The Devil in the White City by Larson, In the Heart of the Sea by Philbrick and Manhunt by Swanson are three books that will NEVER get old as my non-fiction suggestions.

      • Marichka

        Devil in rhe White City and Heart of the Sea are two of my top five as well. Thanks for reminding me of them..I might just reread them!

    • Miranda

      I’ll second The Devil in the White City. Also, The Lost City of Z by David Grann and Columbine by Dave Cullen. All excellent

  • Kelly

    I love Austen but I didn’t enjoy Kavalier & Clay; I read it because of its good reviews but it just didn’t capture my interest.

  • Lazy Kate

    Edgy Mama- It’s not new this year, but Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking is a beautifully written piece of non-fiction.

  • Syd

    I am actually reading Austen’s Pride and Prejudice right now so I can read the zombie one later.

  • Monique

    Read more books from Asian-American authors.

    I hate poetry, I wonder if that makes me a bad reader? I just think that poetry is too full of whine.

    • Allie

      monique i’m not really a fan of poetry and it doesn’t make you a bad reader. people just have different tastes.

    • Buff

      I\’m so glad I found my sloutoin online.

  • angie pangie

    Catch-22 and Great Expectations have been haunting me for YEARS! Here’s to 2010!

    • Monique

      I’m actually not a big fan of Great Expectations. I think it drags on for a bit too long, which makes sense since many of Dickens’ novels were serialized in newspapers and such. But I do love David Copperfield! Try that if you never get to Great Expectations.

      • Allie

        i didn’t really like great expectations either. i read it in high school and thought it was kind of boring. loved animal farm and macbeth and the odyssey though! and other books we read too as well in high school. maybe now if i read great expectations again i’ll like it better. maybe i’ll check out david copperfield.

  • Kisha

    Thom,when you get to ‘Kavalier and Clay’ I think you will like it.I’m a casual comic fan and it is so much more than comic story.I read according to themes and the year I read it I was reading magic themed books.I am now reading mostly historical thrillers and fiction.I have been trying to get to reading Charles Dickens and have gotten through 3 of his books.

  • mjryan

    After you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, try Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (it has nothing to do with the American Civil war). Gaskell’s novel is P&P with a social conscious. Follow it up with the amazing BBC adaptation of the novel starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage.

    For a recently published (the last few years, that is) book, I would recommend The House at Riverton by Kate Morton.

    • mori

      Thanks for the tip. Have only seen the miniseries Cranford and loved it.

    • Allie

      mjryan, north and south the movie was great!! love richard armitage! i’ve been meaning to read the book since i saw the movie. maybe that will be my new year’s resolution too, to read “north and south”.

  • jmag

    I resolve to read less romance/ paranormal romance fluff and more substance. I’ve had The Pillars of the Earth for about 2 weeks just waiting on me to crack it open.

  • PrettyPaula

    Sense and Sensibility is a must…as is Persuasion…Pride and Prejudice is my least favorite

    • mori

      Wow! I have never come across a person who prefers S&S over P&P. Marianne Dashwood drives me crazy! My kids just gave me the Pride & Prejudice graphic novel for Christmas. :)

  • Alex

    Read the entire Canterberry tales from start to finish; haven’t read a few sections since high school. Finish reading Victoria & Albert, and The Hemmings of Monticello. bought both books last fall & still haven’t finished them

    • marge

      Are you referring to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales?

  • TracyB

    I’m going to try to read JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit & LOTR trilogy… I’ve had them all for years but never read them, so now’s as good a time as any!!

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