Over 10,000 pages
In Julie & Julia, Julie Powell's blog starts out with a simple off-hand comment "If I wanted to learn to cook, I'd just cook my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking." The genesis of this blog was not much different. I'd read a couple of "year of" books and mentioned at the dinner table how much I enjoyed them, and that they had given me a lot to think about. My then-10-year-old daughter said she didn't understand what I meant by a "year of" book and I tried to explain by using the example of someone deciding to read "year of books" for a year, and then I thought, hey, that could be me, and so here I am winding up the year.
Reflection is an essential element of memoir. The types of books I intended for this project, those in which the author chose a year in which to try something different, do an experiment, and write about it include an epilogue type section in which they look at the ways the changed, however expected or unexpected. I don't have any life altering things to share here, but that is not to say I haven't changed over the course of the year. I am pleased to say I started a project and saw it through to its completion. I intended to read two books per month on a particular theme, and write about them, and so I did. I have tried in the past to keep diaries and journals, and have set them aside in short order. In creating this blog, and making it public, I felt an obligation to keep it up. Bridgewater State College has a Writing Across the Curriculum network, of which I am a member. The more one writes, the better a writer one becomes and so I have felt that I should try to write more myself. Public writing makes one vulnerable and I was quite aware that some posts were not as good or interesting as others, but it was the writing itself that was important. Writing about reading also helped. I knew when I was reading a book that was not as good as it could have been, and I knew when I was reading a really good book. And I took a few moments to think about why I liked or disliked a particular book so much, and this helped me to become a better writer as well. As regular readers know, about halfway through the year I started reading some of the books out loud to my husband, James. He mentioned that one common element the books had is a section in which the writer has to get through some difficult thing in order to acheive the goal they set out (Julie Powell and aspic; Simon Majumdar and his awful train trip through Mongolia). Was there such a thing for me this year? I read a few books I didn't enjoy very much, and probably would have put down were it not for my "project," but I am glad I read even these for the reason mentioned above. Another common element in these books is a section on "cheating" - a place where the writer broke the rules (this is especially true for the "not shopping" books). Did I cheat? I suppose I did. One of the "dog days" book was really classified as fiction, although based on real events. And two of the "back to school" books covered considerably less than a year's time. I bought one of the books (Mass Casualties) new without trying to get it elsewhere. I did cover this confession in my November 13 post, and still have no regrets about it.
James and I rediscovered the joy in reading together. It forced us to stop and take some time for each other. The books we picked were funny, and so we had plenty of opportunities to laugh together. If I have one sage piece of advice to offer readers for the year this is it: Read with someone. It will help you connect with them in ways you didn't know.
I will also say that many of the books did make me thougtful. Rebekah Nathan's book helped me to become a better teacher, and after reading Plenty I bought an "egg share" through my CSA so that I could add another local food to my diet. I am somewhat less cynical about religion after reading Jacobs, and Cohen's books.
I thank all who read my blog and especially those who posted. Reading comments from authors, and others with connections to the books were especially thrilling to this librarian. This is my last post for this blog. In 2010 I will start a new "year of" project "Celebrating the States" in which I will honor each of the 50 states through movies, food, and books. I hope all will join me. I have another recently started blog The Bridgewaters Project. This blog celebrates all things called Bridgewater.