2013 has come and gone, and 2014 has given us almost a month already. The new year has begun well for me, and I hope the same is true for all of you. Now, I’m not the “resolution type” really. Lose weight? Absolutely! As soon as I finish off this last carton of ice cream… Keep my car clean? Why, yes I will! But it’ll be easier to clean out tomorrow when it’s warmer… Yeah, that’s how my resolutions usually go. So I’m trying something a little different. I’ve set a few specific – rather than general – goals, and I actually sat down and thought about how I can track my progress throughout the year. For example, instead of saying, “I want to lose some weight this year,” I said, “I’m going to run a 5K race.” The training and good eating habits required to prepare for my first 5K have led to weight loss without my needing to chain myself to a scale. I’m healthier and happier. And (who’da thought?) I learned that I LOVE running… So, better tactic, right? It’s working pretty well so far. (5K scheduled for February 22, too, by the way. Yay!)
Another – even more irksome – resolution on the previous “fail” list is reading fifty books in a year. Which is weird. I’m an avid reader. Have been for as long as I can remember. Most English teachers are, right? I mean, I read everything, from novels and academic journals, to Star Trek blogs, even the ingredients on my shampoo bottle… So how could I fail at this goal? I think it’s because I didn’t really plan it out. Yes, fifty is a nice, specific goal; but my approach was all wrong. I just read at my own happy little pace, taking my sweet time, and I didn’t even manage half my goal. But 2013 was a learning year for me, so 2014 is going to be a “learn-even-more-and-improve” year. Just like I adapted my health oriented goals, I adapted my reading goal. I plan to continue to read all the publications to which I subscribe in addition to fifty books this year. But I’ve thought carefully about the time frame. That’s a book a week, with two weeks to spare in case I do get behind or something for some reason. And for these first three weeks of January, I’ve stuck to that plan. That’s two weeks longer than I usually keep resolutions…
So, here’s a little bit of my three-week victory… The first thing I picked up in 2014 was Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The thing is, I’m a Jane-ite, through and through. And for fellow Pride and Prejudice fans, yes, I obviously practice the improvement of my mind through extensive reading… I’ve read all six of Austen’s completed novels. But it had been a long time since I read Persuasion, and I wanted to refresh my memory. And what a refreshment it was… Dear Anne Elliot… A misfit in her own family, torn from her true love for naught but snobbery, resigned to pull herself through singlehood and all it entails – which was a much bigger deal for women in Victorian England than the present-day United States… If you are familiar with Austen, you’re sure to know that the story ends happily for Anne… But it does get worse before it gets better. And I’ll leave you, dear readers, to discover Anne’s story. Heartwarming, charming, and my favorite example of Austen’s subtle but sharp wit, Persuasion was the perfect start to my new year.
The next thing I picked up was a work of nonfiction. Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa by Kevin Richardson tells the author’s story of how he became a self-taught animal behaviorist at a lion park in South Africa. Now, I have loved animal shows since I was a kid. My daddy and I would watch them often. As I grew up, the fascination never went away. When National Geographic Wild started airing The Lion Ranger, I was hooked… I’d even watch reruns and still get as enthralled as the first time I saw them. I was amazed at Kevin Richardson, this man who, in his care for his animals and efforts toward conservation, could not only walk out amongst lions, but could play with them, feed them, scratch them and pet them like housecats, lie down against them and sleep, even swim with them. I haven’t the luxury of adequate space to fully describe just what Richardson does, but take it from me that his book is worth the read. It tells not only of his relationships with lions, but also stories from all aspects of his life, from childhood on. Readers learn how Richardson came to love animals and how he came to work so closely with them as a self-taught behaviorist. He explains his opinions on touchy subjects like canned lion hunting, and he describes the experience of filming the movie White Lion. And, perhaps my favorite part of the book, he discusses his very special bond with his two lion brothers, Tau and Napoleon. Although he’s probably best known for his ability to work so closely and bond with lions, Richardson does so much more. Read Part of the Pride to get the whole story.
Fantastic video of Kevin Richardson interacting with lions.
And third, I picked up And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Yes, I said already that I’m a Jane-ite. But it’s really more than that – I’m just a little bit of an Anglophile. That being said, it should come as no surprise that I was watching Dr. Who the other night (Anglophile AND a geek… Double threat!) when Agatha Christie was a featured character. It was a great episode. And I thought to myself, “Why have I never read Agatha Christie? She’s British, plus she’s the third best-seller in history…” (Beaten out only by the Bible and… drumroll, please… Shakespeare.) So I picked up And Then There Were None, and devoured it. The murder mystery of all murder mysteries, this book was a brilliant exploration of the perception of justice. The story opens with a group of ten guests who have been lured to an isolated island and unwittingly walk into a trap that will leave them all dead. The changing dynamic of the group as one by one, members are killed, is especially intriguing. Each person wonders who the killer is, and the only ones free from suspicion are those who are dead already. Is the killer an outsider, or one of their number? Why would someone plan such an intricate and, for lack of a better word, artistic killing spree? And Then There Were None is one of Christie’s most well-known novels, and for good reason.
So, three weeks down. Forty-nine weeks to go, and almost as many books. And I can’t wait! Even if you’re not as avid a reader as I am, I encourage you to find true love, rescue some lions, solve a murder mystery… or maybe even run a 5K or just keep your car clean… and more this year. It will be time well spent.