First, an observation: bottomless mimosas are very conducive to dreamlike, hazy, optimistic thoughts. In other words, exactly the kind you should be having on New Year’s Day, as you dream about what the year might have in store for you.
In recent years, reflecting on the year gone by and setting goals for the new one is something that has become somewhat of a soft tradition. With age I’ve become more goal-oriented – a result, perhaps, of the realization that life is short and that one’s future can, in some ways, be charted by will and desire.
Last year, I set a goal to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I made it through 33, which on paper may denote a failure, but in all actuality it made me realize how challenging it was to absorb what I was reading, since I was constantly focused on getting through the current book and getting on to the next one. The verdict? The number of books isn’t really as important as absorbing them, which is going to inform one of my 2015 goals: read Neil deGrasse Tyson’s list of books that every intelligent person on the planet needs to read. There are 8 total, but for my purposes I’m only counting 7 (I’ll be honest: I’ve read enough of the Bible, and sat through enough church/youth group/camps to get the gist). And while 7 is a piddly little number, it’s not the number that’s important. It’s the content.
These books are not lightweights. I see many Google searches and Wiki trolling for background on Darwin’s On the Origin of Species and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War in my future, if only for the sense that a.) I lack a classroom and professor in which to provide context and conversation around these texts, and b.) it’s helpful to get some outside perspective and distill the main thoughts into some Cliff’s Notes. Not a substitute for the real thing, but when we’re talking language over decades and centuries ago, I need all the help I can get. And as I mentioned earlier, I want to absorb these books in a more full way.
In 2014, 27 of the 33 books I read were by women. This was part intentional, part personal interest — a lot of what I’ve read references other seminal and contextual works by women, so I followed my reading fancies where they led me. As a woman, I also frequently note the dearth of female works and writers mentioned in overall “best of” lists, which informed my intent. I learned that I really, really love Chris Kraus and Lorrie Moore (I read Self-Help and Birds of America), I confirmed my love for Roxane Gay’s massive talent, thanks to Bad Feminist and her soul-scathing novel An Untamed State, and I fell into an immediate infatuation with Susan Steinberg’s short stories in Spectacle (I’m convinced that seriously, her work is beyond unique and compelling).
In 2015, my goal is to get out of my comfort zone and read works that I’d never initially pick for myself (The System of the World by Isaac Newton, for example, per deGrasse’s list), as well as works that speak to experiences beyond mine (which I’ll define as white, middle-class female privilege). The cultural climate of our country has reached a crucial moment, starting with the protests in Ferguson. If I want to better understand the world I live in, other perspectives that I wouldn’t otherwise have access to are extremely important, which is why Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and Hilton Als’ White Girls. Ashley Ford, writer extraordinaire with a day gig at BuzzFeed, put together a fantastic list of 13 Must Reads For The Black Feminist In Training that I’d do well to incorporate, as well.
With that, I wish you all a happy, idea-filled 2015. Let’s push ourselves, okay?