15 literary resolutions for 2013

After the fireworks die down and all the champagne is gone, let's hit the books.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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The new year as always brings with it the desire to make a change: eat better, save more, learn a new language, floss every day. We asked some smart bookish types if they have any particularly literary resolutions for 2013 -- they’ve got some great ideas for kicking off the new year.

Antoine Wilson, author of the novel “Panorama City”: My teachers used to encourage me to scribble in the margins while I read, and as a result I’m mortified at the sight of my own marginalia. For years now I’ve been folding down page corners as a means of noting remarkable passages, but when I go back to these, they’re baffling. So this year, I’m resolving to overcome self-consciousness and/or indolence and scribble in the margins much more while I read.

Marisa Silver, whose novel “Mary Coin,” inspired by Dorothea Lange’s famous Depression-era photograph of a migrant mother, is coming in March 2013: To get out of town. Not literally (although that would be nice, too) but literarily. I feel like my experience of contemporary literature is very English-language centric. I want to know what’s going on in the literatures of Cambodia, Ghana, Sweden.... The list is endless. The translations might be hard to find, but, as with any good travel experience, it’s always worth searching out the hidden places.

Mark Haskell Smith, author of the book “Heart of Dankness: Underground Botanists, Outlaw Farmers, and the Race for the Cannabis Cup”: In January I’m starting a new non-fiction project called “Naked at Lunch.” It’s the history of nudism, anarcho-naturism, and a look at the anti-textile lifestyle. Because of the kind of research I do, my literary resolution for 2013 is to be courageous and wear lots of sunscreen.


Daniel Mendelsohn, author of the essay collection “Waiting for the Barbarians”: I have a book due to my publisher in July, so that trumps everything in the resolution department. But otherwise I’d like finally to tackle the complete Samuel Pepys -- having spent last year on his 20th century avatar, James Lees-Milne, I’m ready for the real thing.

Rachel Kushner, whose novel “The Flamethrowers” comes out in April 2013: My resolution last year was to restrict my time on the Internet. I was finishing a novel and needed to focus on it to the exclusion of all else. Plus, I found little value in the Internet. Now, starting a new novel, I have resolved to submerge myself in all sorts of Internet memes and consumer culture and, basically, the current instantiation of our neoliberal world. I will plumb and plumb until either I’ve died from empty entertainment (is it like feeding the brain only Fritos?) or until I get to the bottom of various crucial American mysteries: Like, is the rapper Riff Raff a hilarious baller or an idiot poseur? Is it difficult to talk with an ice tray in your mouth? Is Riff Raff a perfect example of American self-invention? And speaking of Houston, is it somehow legal to shoot a woman for shoplifting at Wal-Mart? In front of two young children? Is RICH another four-letter word? Is the insurrection coming? See you online.

Richard Lange, whose crime novel “Angel Baby” is coming in May 2013: I’m going to try for less ritual (i.e., procrastination) and more words per day. Also, I vow to read more contemporary stuff, starting with the Jonathans (Franzen, Safran Foer, and Lethem).

Pamela Ribon, whose latest novel is “You Take it From Here”: I just had a baby one week ago, so I have two main resolutions for the coming year: Get my little one started on a life-long love of reading and learn how to type at the same WPM using only one hand. Or no hands. I might have to learn how to write without using my hands. Is there an app for that? Am I asleep right now? Do you need to be changed?

Gwenda Bond, author of the YA thriller “Blackwood”: I realized this year that it’s incredibly rare these days for me to serendipitously discover a book. Part of this is the nature of word of mouth -- being friends with so many high-volume readers and so plugged in to literary conversations online -- but I hardly ever just browse in hopes of finding something new. And I know there are plenty of deserving books out there that somehow stay under the buzz radar. So my literary resolution for 2013 is to buy a book each month that I’ve never heard of before encountering it in the bookstore and give it a try. (This has the added benefit of giving me an excuse to go book shopping in an actual store each month, too. Not that I need the excuse.)

Maris Kreizman, creator of the website Slaughterhouse 90210: I tend to read books the way I drink vodka martinis -- enthusiastically and too quickly. In 2013 I’m going to make a conscious effort to take the time to nurse, to savor, to take it all in. No need to tear through my to-read pile in a frenzy, when I know very well that that pile will regenerate no matter what I do. This means I’ll make the time to reread, too. I may not have the pleasure of crossing off as many titles on my to-do list as I’d like, but revisiting old favorites (I’m looking at you, “The Secret History”!) will have its own rewards.


C. Max Magee, founder of the literary website The Millions: I will be renewing my annual resolution to keep a list of my reading throughout the year and to jot down at least a few thoughts upon finishing each book. I’ve found that even just keeping a list of what you read, so that you can look back and recall when and in what order you read what books, makes the reading experience much richer, and all the more so if you have a sentence or two reminding you of your frame of mind at the time. You end up with a little literary diary that marks your year by the books you read.

Janelle Brown, author of the novel “This Is Where We Live”: This is the year I will finally stop racing towards the end to find out what happens; and instead spend more time savoring each line.

Tod Goldberg, author of the short-story collection “Other Resort Cities”: I have two literary resolutions, one personal, one professional. My personal resolution is to read a book of poetry by someone I don’t actually know or who isn’t dead (thankfully the Venn diagram of this is pretty small, so my friends need not worry that I’m cursing them). I don’t read enough poetry and therefore end up not understanding a lot which I do read, which leads to me doing destructive things, like watching “Storage Wars” marathons. So I pledge to discover poetry this year and then have conversations about it so that I can finally feel like a useful, well-rounded literary person. My professional resolution is somewhat related: I resolve to never be that person at a reading who feels like he’s allowed to go longer than the time limit or who feels like he needs to use a strange, halting lilt while reading. No one likes that strange, halting lilt and no one wants to hear you read for longer than 15 minutes, be it so resolved.

Rosecrans Baldwin, author of the memoir “Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down”: Read more in translation! And to finally read Shelby Foote’s complete “Civil War.”

Emma Straub, author of the novel “Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures”: I’ve spent most of 2012 doing the flipside of writing -- the touring and the tweeting, the proofing and the fixing. I’d like to spend most of 2013 back at the beginning, writing one word and then another until a messy (but whole) draft emerges. As for my reading life, I would like it to continue in much the same manner, reading for nothing but absolute and total pleasure.

Ben Ehrenreich, author of the novel “Ether”: My literary resolutions are always the same: Read more, write more, and when otherwise unoccupied, read and write more.


[For the Record, Dec. 31, 2:20 p.m.: A previous version of this post misstated the title of Tod Goldberg’s collection as “Other Desert Cities.” It also gave Maris Kreizman’s last name as Kriezman.]


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Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+