New Year, New Reader
- Mariko Hewer
- February 6, 2023
In 2023, my favorite habit will come with specific intentions.
It feels strange to be writing a column about New Year’s resolutions that won’t run until February, but hey, better late than never! Normally, I’d shy away from making any resolutions at all because I despise rigid timelines. Besides, according to a study, only 9-12 percent of people have continued to keep their resolutions by the end of the year.
So, this year, instead of resolutions, per se, I’ve decided to set some low-stress, low-key reading goals:
- Read (or revisit) some of the classics. I recently finished Barbara Kingsolver’s excellent Demon Copperhead, which I didn’t realize was a retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield until I googled it. Although I don’t believe a person must slog through books they don’t enjoy simply because they’ve stood the test of time, I would love to be more informed about the works of literature that so often form the building blocks of other, newer stories.
- Seek out more books by international authors. Among the many lessons 2022 taught us is that the world is becoming ever more interconnected. (The most noticeable example is Russia’s war on Ukraine, a conflict in Eastern Europe that’s taking a staggering toll on its combatants as well as triggering ripple effects across the globe.) I believe one of the ways we can grow to understand each other better, and work to avert such catastrophes, is to learn more about one another. Reading books by authors whose points of view we might not yet have considered is an entryway into that conversation.
- Expand the diversity of what I read. There are a lot of (wonderful!) books out there by straight white men, and I’ve read many of them. Looking back at the books I’ve read in the past year, however, I feel I’ve skewed too heavily in that direction. This is no surprise: The publishing industry overall lacks diversity. (According to Statista, “just 6.5 percent of newly-hired employees at Penguin Random House in 2020 were Black, Asian, or Hispanic respectively, only a marginal difference from previous years dating back to 2016.”) I want to be intentional about promoting diversity and can start by reading more books by underrepresented authors.
- Start reading books in German again. Reading in German is one of the ways I practice a language I don’t get to speak every day, but it also comes with a unique challenge: It’s hard for me to evaluate which books will be at my reading level! This year, I’m making a commitment to tune into German books in the Young Adult section and get back in the habit of reading them.
- Read more YA fantasy books. Although many people probably consider YA books unappealing, I’ve found them to be some of the most inventive, engaging books I’ve read. In the past year, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Diana Wynne Jones’ Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland’s Menagerie series, Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor books, and Thomas Taylor’s Eerie-on-Sea mysteries. All of them have given me a sense of nostalgia and comfort as well as astounded me with their creativity. I can’t wait to see what new YA books this year brings.
And, last but not least: Engage with more poetry. Poetry is my favorite form of writing, but paradoxically, I almost never read it because of the emotions it dredges up in me. I’m ashamed that I have never been able to write something as beautiful as these poets while simultaneously am in awe of their talents. But this excuse is keeping me from developing as a poet myself, for how else can I learn but by immersing myself in others’ work? This year, I’m looking forward to reading more poetry, as well as submitting some of my own for publication.
What are your New Year’s intentions, book-related or otherwise? I look forward to hearing about them.
Mariko Hewer is a freelance editor and writer. She is passionate about good books, good food, and good company. Find her occasional insights of varying quality on Twitter at @hapahaiku.