Three Weeks In

orphan masters son

Tea & The Orphan Master’s Son

January 1st rolls around, and everyone dreams of being their best-possible-selves, setting resolutions with abandon–and then of course abandoning them. There’s a lot of disdain for New Year’s Resolutions, mostly because by now, three weeks in, almost everyone has forgotten about who they promised themselves they’d become. But I’ve always loved the idea that you take time each year to assess: Am I living the way I want to be living? Am I who I want to be? What changes do I want to make, to get more out of life?

The check-in process for me this year started in late November, and the single biggest thing I knew was missing from my day-to-day life was reading. Books have always been a huge part of my life; some of my favorite memories as a kid are losing myself in a bookstore and racing to get far enough into a book that my mother would buy it for me because I was so desperate to find out what happened to the characters. But after graduate school, reading fell by the wayside; I’m still trying to figure out why that happened, but it was a noted absence. In years past I’ve had as many as eight or nine resolutions, but this year I only made one:

Read fifty pages a day.

So I printed out a blank calendar for January, and each day I chart my progress, like my own personal summer-reading competition from when we were kids. There’s an argument to be made that keeping track like this can create a fixation on numbers and achievements rather than an embrace of reading for the sake of real pleasure, but this very attainable goal has been really important for me. Forcing myself to spend some time every day doing something this important has reminded me of why I loved reading so much to begin with. Isn’t it funny how we forget to do the things we really love? 

I’ve already finished a handful of books this month, some that were great and some that were interesting but ultimately disappointing. By far the most engaging book I’m reading is in the photo above, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson, which takes place in North Korea. I don’t ever want to put it down, and when I am forced to (mainly for work and sleeping), I can’t get it out of my head. You know how sometimes, you are reading something so good that it fills you with this raw sense of joy and possibility? And it’s this  incredible high but also deeply uncomfortable feeling? Maybe that doesn’t happen with everyone when they read; maybe for some people music or painting or good movies create that feeling. Or maybe you think I’m spouting nonsense.

 Either way, I feel a little like I’m waking up after a long nap. It’s a good feeling.

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8 thoughts on “Three Weeks In

  1. Betsy says:

    I’m doing something similar — trying to read 50 books this year. I’m already behind though, because Netflix exists, but maybe this’ll push me back on track!

  2. Megan Garvey says:

    I love that this is the resolution you’re working towards, and I love how it has also made me think about my reading habits! My new housemate (Matt) has expressed frustration with how much TV I watch (which is fair, I watch A TON of TV), and his complaint has really made me think about how I spend my “free time.” 2014 is (hopefully) going to be “the year I read more and watch less.”

    PS, OMG ISN’T THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON THE BEST THING. I can’t even. A book like that makes you remember how good books can be, because while we all have books we love, there are only a small handful in the history of books that have the power like that.

    • Tea & Strumpets says:

      In order to try and read this much I have had to watch a lot less tv. I thought that would be hard because I was also in the habit of watching a lot. I quickly realized how often I was actually watching tv out of habit rather than because I really wanted to. And when I do watch tv now, it feels a lot more fun!

  3. Jen says:

    I’m curious what you found disappointing about In Defense of Food. It’s been several years since I read it, but it was transformative for me. Also, I have put The Orphan Master’s Son on my reading list – I love that feeling of not wanting to put a book down, and I’m really interested in checking this one out.

    • Tea & Strumpets says:

      I read Botany of Desire about 10 years ago and it also felt life changing, so maybe the problem was one of expectations. I have found myself consciously eating a lot more fruits and veggies and less processed stuff since reading it, so the book clearly left an impression. I most enjoy his writing when he’s combining science and history to tell a narrative,so I liked the first half a lot, but the end dragged for me a bit. I think I might try The Omnivore’s Dilemma, because I think that might be more of what I was looking for in this book.

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