Books to help you keep your New Year's Resolutions
Do you have a New Year’s resolution that is starting to feel a bit strained already? Is your well-meant new regime starting to feel less like feeding the goldfish of your wellbeing and more like wrestling the shark of your vices? Starting to lose the will to get up at 6am to exercise? Despising the taste of lentils? Perhaps regretting having announced loudly that you are doing Dry January when all your friends nip off to the pub? Fear not: books are your new friends.
A good book can be a godsend when you have down-time and are trying to avoid your bad habits. But they can also help to inspire you to stay with it – and I don’t mean the kind of self-help books that try to tell you what to do, or how to change who you are. Well written, thoughtful fiction or non-fiction can do the trick, and the best bit is you will enjoy yourself in the meantime. Here are some more general recommendations for common resolutions, followed by my bespoke reading prescriptions for two twitter friends who shared their 2014 resolutions.
Taking up running/go running more often
Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - a small but beautiful collection of short essays about running. Quite frankly this man is so cool that you will keep running just in the hopes that you will become more like him and maybe one day, be his friend. Inspiration to develop endurance and keep on keeping on, even if you don't want to go running.
Go on more adventures
Wild by Cheryl Strayed is a story of a brilliant young writer hiking the 1,100 mile Pacific Crest Trail in an attempt to free herself of the pain of her mother's death. Cheryl is a fantastic writer and this memoir is fascinating, painful, inspiring and just the thing to inspire adventuring out of your comfort zone and off the beaten track. I am in love with this woman's writing.
Read 25 novels, swim more and bake (and therefore eat) healthier cookies!
From @DrDebTweets (via Twitter)
Reading 25 novels – what a joy! We tend to think that when we’re on a mission to read, carving out time in our busy lives, that we should be reading something ‘significant’ or ‘worthy’ that should take a while to get through– but some of the best novels I’ve read ended up being finished in a couple of days- and had no less to say about the world than the ones that took months. To get you underway on your mission, I recommend a few of the fastest books I have ever wildly enjoyed.
The Yacoubian Building by Alaa Al Aswany – a recent article in the New Yorker described it quite accurately as having “all the pyrotechnic melodrama of a soap opera,”. This novel about the residents of an apartment building in the fading-grandeur of downtown Cairo will sweep you along, whilst brilliant illustrating the human experience of Egypt’s social and political landscape.
NW by Zadie Smith is a novel of now, following peers from the same London housing estate through their 30s and explores themes of city life in a really fresh and wonderful way. Smith is an amazing writer and once she has caught your attention, you won’t be able to put it down.
Swim More – Funny you should say that, as author of 2012’s most controversial hit novel The Slap, Christos Tsiolkas has a new novel out this year, Barracuda, which revolves around a hyper-competitive teenage swimmer who gains a sports scholarship at a prestigious school and determines to beat his ghastly classmates. Reviews are intriguing and promise a bit more of those honest and sometimes unlikeable inner lives that Tsiolkas writes so well.
Bake and therefore eat healthier cookies – I can’t offer much advice on the relative merits of cookie recipes, but you will need something good to read whilst eating those cookies and The Sibling Writery bloggers recommend Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse as a good reading accompaniment to good old English biscuits (and multiple tea breaks).
1- get a grown up job. 2- be happy alone. 3- stop being alone. 4- learn the mandolin
From @greoch (via Twitter)
Let’s start with get a grown up job. This is an admirable aim; whatever that means to you, you’ll achieve it if you persevere. I’d recommend reading the fast-paced, joyous and spirited novel The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, which tells the story of a landmark year in the life of Katy Kontent, a no-nonsense 25 year old woman from Brooklyn making her way in the world. It’s a great read and Katy is a relatable protagonist who you can’t help rooting for.
Be happy alone and stop being alone. Presumably you won’t be doing both of these things at the same time, but yes the admirable aims of seeking out company and being happy with your own company are brilliant resolutions. Good choice.
It sounds to me like you should check out the books of comedian Danny Wallace- in particular Friends Like These and Random Acts of Kindness; 365 Ways to Make the World a Better Place. These books both involve Danny pushing himself out of his comfort zone to make connections with people – they are enjoyable reads that might lead you to take chances on people and friendships, as they ultimately show the value of connection and kindness. Maybe they will inspire you to connect with old friends and make some new connections? It’s hard to feel alone when you are spreading good feelings amongst the populace with good deeds.
And in case of occasional lonely moments, keep a copy of The Wind in the Willows to hand, best enjoyed with a cup of something warm and some hot buttered toast.
And as for your Mandolin learning...that is too too easy! Good luck with it!