Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Bookish Resolutions ...

Elder Joe J. Christensen gave a talk several years ago on "Resolutions." That talk included a number of fantastic insights ... but one of my favorites had to do with, well, books (this is a book club blog after all).

E. Christensen said:
This year, commit yourself to read good books . . . A few years ago, a disturbing poll indicated that 56 percent of college graduates ... never completely read a book all the way through following their schooling. At some point in our lives, we learned to read. But the question tonight is: Are we reading? Are we growing in wisdom?
Excellent questions, I must say. Now, I'm definitely in better shape that that 56 percent and probably read a fair bit more than the average individual (as a law clerk, I spend my entire day reading and writing ... seriously, that's pretty much ALL I do ... but I love it ;). But E. Christensen wasn't done there. Later in that talk, he said:
Suppose you were to read an entire book each week for the next seventy years. You would read 3,640 books. That sounds like a lot; however, reportedly, there are today in the Library of Congress more than twenty-seven million books.* One futurist - Toffler - said that books are spewing from the presses of the world at the rate of a thousand titles per day. That means that in seventy years there will be at least an additional twenty-five million volumes.

Can I say that again, with emphasis? With three-exclamation pointed, ALL-CAPS emphasis?


Two thoughts come immediately to mind after reading E. Christensen's quote there: (1) I need to read a whole heck of a lot more and (2) I can't possible waste much time reading drivel and junk (see D&C 88:118; 90:15).

So I decided that's what I'm doing this year - book a week for the entire year. And not just any books; this year, I'm focusing on the good ones (up on deck right now are 1776, Jane Eyre, House of Spirits - of course - The Inevitable Apostasy, and Blood Meridian).

But, of course, I need these books to be good - the best books. E. Christensen suggested later in his talk that people looking to improve in this area could
[a]sk a few respected people who you know are readers to share with you the titles of the five books, besides the scriptures, they feel have had the most positive influence in their lives.
And so it is that I ask all of you this question (because you are readers I respect):

What are five books that have had a positive influence on your lives?

Here are some of the books that would be on my list (all unabridged editions, of course ... and all on here because "positive influence" can mean so many different things): (1) Les Miserables, (2) The Infinite Atonement (by Tad R. Callister), (3) Things Fall Apart (by Achebe), (4) The Adventures of Robin Hood (by Howard Pyle), and (5) Siddhartha (by Herman Hesse).

Considering my love of all things social, my goal may turn out to be more difficult than I now realize (and I'm already considering it pretty darn tough).

Still, what's life if you can't at least aim for those stars?

Though I know that each of us have hectic lives of crazy, hazy insanity, I would love to hear the titles of some of best books in your lives (especially the lesser known ones) ... and invite all ya'll to join me in this 2010 quest for knowledge unbound (though of course, as a book club, we'll still only be reading about a book a month ;).

* NOTE 1: E. Christensen gave this talk in 1994. Currently, the Library of Congress has more than 32 million books on tap ... and growing.

Liz Merket:
I love the ideas Matt shared in this post. Reading is one of the most rewarding and wonderful things in life and I applaud his goal. I tried to do something similar (only 50 books for the whole year) in 2008. It was much harder then I thought it would be.

I figured that I would have a few slow reading months when life was busy but that I could make up for that in my vacation time. As I should have expected, the slow months were okay, but trying to make up for them was almost impossible. I made it to 48 books, but I had to include the ones I read to my students; some of which were good like Matilda, and some of which were awful, like Santa Paws. I also included less then great books, like Twilight and the Bones books because I like them, and I knew that after a year of reading 50 "great" books I might just hate reading (because a great book should tax your thoughts and time).

One thing that I really enjoyed about my year of reading was the list I had at the end. I am a very typical reader and I often forget the details and even sometimes the titles of books I have read, so having a one page list of what I read that year was great. I would recommend keeping a yearly list of all that you read, even if your goal isn't to read a certain number. I promise that the list will make you think more about the titles you choose and it will make you feel good about your reading at the end of the year.

I have been thinking about what my list of 5 books that influenced my life would be. This task was much harder then I thought it would be. At first I could only think of two, and then after a day or two, I had a list of more then 20. So, after much internal debate here is my list. (You should know it took a Herculean effort not to put an explanation or justification with each of these).

1) To Kill A Mockingbird
2)Anne of Green Gables
3)Bleak House
4)Their Eyes Were Watching God
5)The Secret Life of Bees

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