Friday, June 13, 2014

Fifty is Nifty #1

When I turned 50 in February, I decided I was going to write 50 letters to 50 living authors whose works I love. I was also going to write 50 short stories. Recently, I decided I would add to those two goals with a third: trying 50 new things. Bob has listened to all this and made comments like,

"That all sounds like way too much. I'm exhausted just thinking about it."

Well, maybe it would be if I'd given myself some sort of deadline, but I haven't. I'm just plodding along writing my letters and stories at a pace that works for me (sometimes that means I write 3 letters in one week and then go 3 weeks without writing any, or one short story in a day and then another one that takes two weeks to finish). By far, the hardest of these three plans of mine has been the trying 50 new things.

Let me explain this concept to you. This isn't some sort of "bucket list" of great adventures like bungee jumping over the Grand Canyon, or things I've been longing to do forever and am going to make sure I finally do. No, it's more of a paying attention when I've decided to do something new and different that I've never done. For instance, going to a yoga class at that studio I often pass in Lancaster City would count (haven't done that yet but still might).

The reason it's been so hard is that I'm someone who is constantly doing new and different things. I didn't realize this until I started paying attention. 50 seems like way too few. I'm beginning to think I should've decided on 150 or maybe even 1500. I was too vague when I came up with this idea. "New thing" is very hard to define. For instance, Bob and I recently went into Philadelphia to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital to visit a member of our congregation who'd had major heart surgery. I'd never been, and maybe that should count. Then again, it's not exactly a "new thing" for me to visit a member of our congregation in the hospital; it's just that I'd never been to that particular hospital. Afterwards, we went to The Philadelphia Museum of Art (that's an experience that's almost yawn-worthy. We go there all the time), but we decided to eat dinner at the restaurant at the museum, where we'd never eaten, and which is only open for dinner on Friday nights. That counts as doing something new, I thought, but then I realized, no, it doesn't. Bob and I are always trying new restaurants. In fact, we rarely go out to eat without trying some place new, especially if we're in Philadelphia.

I'm still working on defining "new thing" but have decided this blog is a good place to record some of the new things I'm trying, so now we get to the heart of this post. I'm doing something brand new for the next six months that involves books. It's an idea I've gotten from book blogging challenges that I've often thought about doing but have never done, which is to read only from my own overcrowded book shelves. This means, with the exception of books I have to get for book discussion groups, I'm not going to buy any new books to read or check out any books from the library. On May 31st, I bought my last two books (The Adrian Mole Diaries, because I was so sad to hear that Sue Townsend had died, and a pre-order of Tana French's newest, because, well it's Tana French, and it's a signed first edition). The last book I put on reserve at the library before June 1 actually came in the other day, so I did check something out post June 1, but that's it now until November 30.

Well, technically, it's not it. I'm a librarian. There's no way I'm going to let our circulation numbers suffer just because I'm determined to try something new. Thus, I'm planning on checking out copies of the books I'm reading from my own shelves, if we happen to have them in the library system.

So far, with nearly two whole weeks under my belt, this "new thing" is going swimmingly. The hyperventilating has stopped, and I'm happy to report that I never suffered from the DTs, which just goes to show one can find the willpower, somewhere, to stop spending all her money on books. I've gone cold turkey, with no support group, and I've been fine making do, quite well, choosing what to read from the thousands of unread books little library we have in our home. I'm even discovering some things I didn't even know we had.

My biggest obstacle, so far, has been reading books. You know how books are the sorts of friends that enable your book addiction. You read one and come away from it with twenty others to read. I don't recommend reading, say, Updike, when you've decided to go six months reading only from your shelves, especially when your shelves have very little Updike on them. Damn Bob. Wasn't it his duty as a man who came of age in the twentieth century to fill our shelves with Updike? I don't recommend reading letters that any famous author wrote (you know, like Rose Macaulay, say) in which they're likely to mention anything they were reading. Nor is the summer fiction edition of The New Yorker a good idea.

Still, I'm not doing too badly. I'm able to read book blog posts, even, with a sort of detached "that sounds good" mind set, adding to the TBR tome without racing out and buying anything. Granted, I've not yet set foot in Barnes and Noble. Nor have I delved too deep into Shiny New Books, despite how thrilled I am to discover that Litlove, et al. have created something I've thought, for years, someone ought to create. Meanwhile, all this shelf browsing in my own house has helped me build my shelves at Emily's Page Turners, a wonderful online community, which I discovered through Ms. Musings, whose streets house nothing but independent book shops. Better yet, all the shops, for now anyway, are located in Great Britain. It's a terrific alternative to Goodreads (far more visually pleasing), and, better yet, it's not owned by The Evil Empire Amazon. Instead, it's owned by one of my favorite publishers, Penguin, in conjunction with Hive.

Setting up a page at My Independent Bookshop could count as one of my fifty new things, I've just realized. Well, see, I'm still defining this goal and will have to come up with some way of figuring out what counts and what doesn't. Meanwhile, you can look forward to 49 more posts in the near (and distant) future you accounts of my adventures in "new things" (whatever that means).


Bob said...

Dear Em,

Nice to see you back blogging, and fascinating idea – reading stuff on your shelves. I too suffer from collecting more than I can read. Maybe I should follow your lead. But, set your calendar, in six months buy or borrow:

John Updike: The Collected Stories (Library of America)

Rabbit Angstrom: A Tetralogy (Everyman's Library, No. 214)

Happy reading!

Emily Barton said...

Bob, yes, Updike will purchased as soon as I'm allowing myself to purchase again.

Stefanie said...

Heh don't read a history book called The Founding Gardeners either because then you find you suddenly have four more books arriving for you at the library even though the original book did indeed come from my shelf. Have fun reading and trying new things whatever new ends up coming to mean!