I don’t put much stock in the New Years resolution – I don’t think you need the calendar to dictate self-improvement – however, I will acknowledge (and have acknowledged in the past) that the dawning of a new year does seem like an opportune moment to try out something new. In fact, The Millions was the offspring of a New Years resolution in 2003.
As 2002 drew to a close, I bought myself a Moleskine notebook and resolved, as I had many times in the past, to begin keeping a journal. It started off reasonably well, but it was soon clear that this resolution was taking the trajectory of so many others: strict adherence to the plan at the outset followed by swiftly plummeting interest. One thing I did keep up with, in this little journal of mine, was making note of the books I’d been reading.
I eventually switched from writing in the journal to writing for the blog to see if that would motivate me (after fits and starts, it did). But it was the idea of keeping track of and reflecting on what I read that helped inspire The Millions and gave purpose to what I read. It also made me a much better reader.
The obvious reading-related resolution is to read “x” number of books this year or to finally tackle Proust or Pynchon, but committing yourself to just keep track of what you read and trying to jot down a few words about each book may have a longer lasting impact on who you are as a reader. It all goes back to the notion that we can only read a finite number of good books in our lifetime, so we may as well make the most of them, even if that means just keeping a list so you can jog your memory and recall the experience of reading this or that book. At its best, reflecting on what you read better enables you to take what is essentially a solitary pastime and use it to build a library of knowledge to mull over and share. Happy New Year, everyone!