So, I'm one of those people who celebrates the new year twice. Once in September -- because as a college professor, my life still revolves around the academic calendar -- and again in January. Somehow September always feels more like a new beginning to me, but January always gets me with that must-write list of resolutions.
This year was no different. However, this January I just didn't have it in me to make a long to-do list of activities that inevitably I'd stop doing around March 15, like exercising every day or making more than the minimum payment on my credit card bill. When I really took stock of what I wanted to do differently this year, what I wanted to do better, what I wanted to spend an entire year working on, it became crystal clear. Write. More specifically, I want to write another novel. A better novel than my first one, Substitute Me.
Don't get me wrong, I love my first novel, but I know it's not perfect. I figure I have about five more books in me before I get to "perfection" (perfection being loosely defined as 'really, really good' and possibly receiving the kind of award that comes with a gold sticker slapped on the cover.). So, I decided that before I dive into writing that next book, what I need to do is read. A lot. Novels to be specific. And I don't mean haphazard pluck a book off the bookshelf because it has a pretty cover reading. I mean reading with purpose. I mean selecting specific authors because they have mastered their craft. Because they make people weep with their eloquent prose. Because they tell rich and compelling stories that leave readers gasping for air when they turn the last page. This will be my year of reading dangerously and courageously. This will be my year to fall passionately in love with the written word all over again. As an adult. As a student. As a writer.
Now, of course this means I need to compile a pretty good list of what to read. Here's what I have so far.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Room by Emma Donoghue
What is the What by Dave Eggers
If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary (Release date May 2011)
That's five books for the first five months of the year. Needless to say, I need more titles to add to the list. If you have any suggestions I'd love to hear them. Tell me the best book you've ever read or the book that inspired you to be a writer, or even the book you ignored your kids and hid in the bathroom to finish. I have an entire year to keep reading and this year I plan to keep my resolution.
Lori L. Tharps is the author of the novel, Substitute Me. She blogs regularly at My American Meltingpot.com.