If you want to keep a New Year’s resolution, resolve to do something you really, really love to do, more often than you’re currently doing it. Resolutions which deny you something you love (wine, chocolate, ice cream) are doomed to fail, as are resolutions which force you to do something you hate (exercise, for many people, dieting, for most).
People worry that their New Year’s resolution needs to be good for them. And some of the things we love to do are not necessarily good for us (wine, chocolate, ice cream). But if you can’t find something that’s good for you, why not find something that’s good for other people?
I really, really love buying books. Everything about it. The browsing. The heft of the book in my hand. The feel of freshly printed pages under my fingertips. The satisfaction of reading crisp, well written copy on the back cover. The beautiful congruence of type, page and content, which is only ever achieved when publishers really love what they do too. And, of course, I love reading. The buying is, in fact, part of the reading. It’s the bit which Pooh describes here:
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best—” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.
So (as you may know by now if you read this blog regularly) I’m having no trouble keeping my New Year’s resolution: to buy at least one book a month at full price in a local independent bookshop. I also added a couple of riders to that initial resolution: let it be a novel, and let it be by an author I’ve never read before. (I can’t take credit for the original idea – it was suggested by Red Sofa Literary – but I heartily endorse it, and I encourage everyone who loves books and independent bookstores to do it too).
I’ve also tried to pick titles from publishing houses I admire: Twelve and McSweeney’s, for example. But I realized this week that there’s a gaping hole in the list: none of the books I’ve selected so far are by Canadian authors, and none of them come from Canada’s small presses. So I’m remedying both of those omissions with one selection: Kristen den Hartog’s And Me Among Them, published by Calgary’s Freehand Books.
Freehand is in its infancy – it was founded in 2007 to publish Canadian literary fiction. It only publishes six books a year, so it can afford to be choosy, and to take care in the design and production of its titles, and it shows. They’ve done den Hartog proud – it’s a delightful book to own, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I’ve heard great things about her writing. Here’s the promotional copy from the Freehand website:
Ruth grew too fast.
A young girl over seven feet tall, she struggles to conceal the physical and mental symptoms of her rapid growth, to connect with other children, and to appease her parents, Elspeth, an English seamstress who lost her family to the war, and James, a mailman rethinking his devotion to his wife. Not knowing how to help Ruth, Elspeth and James turn inward, away from one another. As their marriage falters, Ruth finds herself increasingly drawn to Suzy, the dangerous girl next door.
Ruth is not precocious, nor a prodigy, but her extraordinary size affords her extraordinary vision: a bird’s-eye perspective that allows her not just to remember but to watch her past play out. Possessing an uncanny ability to intuit the emotional secrets of her family’s past and present, Ruth gently surfaces Elspeth and James’s vulnerabilities, their regrets, and their deepest longings.
Don’t you already want to crack it open?