We are just two months into 2015, and I’ve accomplished something I’ve never done before—I am half-way through my New Year’s resolution. Normally, my resolutions start out with a bang, and I make a strong showing in January. Then comes the cold of February, and my enthusiasm begins to flag. By the end of the month, as I desperately long for spring, all those lofty goals I made on New Year’s Eve have fizzled.
But not this year, and with any luck, in a few months, my New Year’s resolution will be fulfilled. Readers are no doubt wondering what my secret is, and being a generous soul, I will share it. The trick is to resolve to do something pleasant rather than something unpleasant. If I had discovered this simple trick years ago, I would have saved myself from a long string of broken resolutions and the resultant guilt.
Here is what I did for this year’s resolution. For our New Year’s Eve gathering, I asked family and friends to make lists of best books and movies read and watched in 2014. This they did, and I resolved to pick one item—either a book or a movie—from each person’s list to read or watch.
I started with a book Clif recommended—Buddy Holly is Alive and Well on Ganymede by Bradley Denton. Clif owns the book, which made it an easy one to get started with. I must admit that I never would have read this book if not for my New Year’s resolution. Clif has a weakness for Sci-Fi, the quirkier the better. Me, not so much. However, I absolutely loved this romp of a novel that is a wild blend of Philip K. Dick, Elmore Leonard, and Loony Tunes. At the same time, the central mother-and-son relationship is warm and difficult and moving. In short, it felt real. And, yes, Buddy Holly was indeed alive and well on Ganymede.
I was off to a great start, and for my second book I chose one from my friend Alice’s list–-Shores of Knowledge by Joyce Appleby. This nonfiction book couldn’t be more different from Buddy Holly. In Shores of Knowledge, Joyce Appleby explores how the discovery of the new world not only brought ill-gotten gains to European countries but how it also expanded them intellectually. New cultures and new species shook a narrow world view that had been carefully cultivated by the Catholic church. In the Shores of Knowledge, Appleby draws a line from Columbus to Darwin and in between she fills in with journalists and naturalists and what would come to be known as the scientific community.
Last weekend, I read a book from my son-in-law Mike’s list—Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. This novella follows its main character, Robert Garnier, who comes of age in the early 1900s in Idaho. In the course of 116 pages, Garnier must cope with tragedy, loss, and the wilderness all twined with a touch of the supernatural. Trains, of course, figure heavily in the story. It’s a haunting tale that somehow manages to be both aloof and moving.
Three books down, one book and two movies to go. Earlier, I made light of this resolution, calling it pleasant, and certainly it is giving me pleasure to fulfill this resolution. But it is also doing something else—broadening my horizons and encouraging me to stretch beyond the books and movies I would normally read and watch.
Maybe, just maybe, even though this resolution is pleasant, it is also worthwhile.