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New Year Reading Challenge

By Lon Maxwell, Reference Department

presentation1Every year countless people create lists of things they never actually intend to do. Well…that’s a bit unfair. They enter into these lists of resolutions for the New Year with all the hope and enthusiasm that a new beginning can impart. Realistically though, many of us can barely remember what we resolved to do by the time we get to May and have failed to follow through on those resolutions to any significant degree. So while we are thinking about what we want to lose, give up, start doing or ramp up let us all take a moment to try to add something fun to our list with a book challenge. (And yes, a book challenge is fun; this is a library’s blog for pity’s sake!)

Reading is a great deal more than a past time. Slipping into the world of a new book brings you so many benefits that this resolution may be on par with exercising more or quitting smoking. Reading exercises your mind, keeps it limber and increases the memory. A National Academy of Sciences study has shown that people who read regularly are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease[i]. It has also been shown that reading literary fiction helps increase your ability to empathize with others[ii]. Who doesn’t need to improve their empathy skills? Some books can even lower blood pressure and reduce stress[iii] and help stave off symptoms of mild mental disorders[iv]. Also, you gain new knowledge. Think of all the things you can learn and combine this with the improved vocabulary and increased attention span readers develop. These are real benefits to other parts of your life. Go for it!

Take this list of suggestions and challenge yourself to read more, or step outside of your comfort genre. Here is a list of twenty-six challenges, one book for every two weeks.

  1. Try a book outside of your usual
  2. Read a book your mother would love.
  3. Read a book your mother would hate.
  4. Pick a color at random and read a book with that color cover.
  5. Find a book with a song title or lyric for a title.
  6. Choose a book to read with a friend.
  7. Read one that they choose.
  8. Re-read your favorite book from childhood.
  9. Read something with your family, with everyone taking a chapter in turn.
  10. Read something from an author that you’ve never heard of before.
  11. Read a book about your guilty pleasure, something you’d never admit to reading.
  12. Find an aisle in the library you’ve never gotten something from and choose a book from there.
  13. Get a book from the young adult section. You’ll be surprised how enjoyable they can be.
  14. Try a book that discusses your religious beliefs or lack thereof.
  15. Try one that discusses someone else’s.
  16. Find a book about or set in your favorite part of history.
  17. Read a collection of short stories or novellas from a single author.
  18. Read a book that is related to a movie or television show you enjoy.
  19. Read a literary journal i.e. The New York Times Book Review, Publishers Weekly, etc.
  20. Pick a book from that journal and read that.
  21. Read a magazine from the month and year you were born, cover to cover.
  22. Read a book you read or were supposed to read in high school or university.
  23. Read a graphic novel. They’re not just comic books anymore.
  24. Read an eBook.
  25. Read a book based on the recommendation of a stranger.
  26. Pick your favorite book that you’ve read from this list and read more about it. If it’s Fiction find a non-fiction book related to it. If it’s non-fiction find a fiction book that contains elements of it.

If you’re ambitious try them all, less so, pick and choose. Set your limit where you are comfortable and maybe this year, this will be a resolution you keep.



Guest Post: The Resolution Dilemma

By Sara Skillen, SkillSet Organizing (Owner)

Professional Organizer, Evernote Business Certified Consultant6149830_s

As a professional organizer, I get asked a quite a bit about making the New Year’s resolution to “get organized” or “de-clutter”, and I get a lot of calls for appointments during this season.  Everyone is excited to start fresh and determined to get their spaces and lives under control.  January is even National “Get Organized” Month, sponsored by the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO).  But really, although I’m always on board with helping people achieve goals, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions.  There is a quote I love:

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.” – Hal Borland

In other words, using the knowledge we gain from all times should help us to improve and continue on our journeys.  Although it’s a nice starting point, there really is nothing magic about January 1 for setting goals.  Additionally, statistics bear out the fact that most resolutions are not achieved or maintained – one source I reviewed for this post indicated that although 45% of Americans generally make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving them.  And think about it…in January you can never find a free treadmill at the gym, but by Feb. 15 it’s usually a ghost town.  Sustained effort on new habits can be tough for all of us.

So what gives?  Why bother?  Are resolutions pointless?  I have three ideas to consider:

First off, I think any time is a great time to think about getting organized.  If it’s late March, maybe the weather is perfect for working on the garage (not too hot, not too cold, juuuust right).  If it’s November, getting all of the family paperwork in order might be appropriate.  And maybe you’ll finally get Aunt Marge’s spoon collection (that you inherited but never exactly appreciated) cleaned up and listed on eBay this June.  Thinking of clearing out and organizing as a year-round habit ensures better results than emptying out all the closets the first week of January, only to get discouraged and not ever finish the job.

Secondly (and along those same lines), if getting organized is a goal, be sure that the projects you choose are targeted and approachable.  “Get organized” is too vague (not to mention too HUGE for most people), but “Sort, purge and rearrange my spice rack,” is specific and easier to think through.  For my most overwhelmed clients, I sometimes suggest organizing one small thing each day – sort out the mail, put everything on the calendar for the month, go through one junk drawer, etc.  It helps to reinforce that idea that organizing is not a one-time event, but really a way of living.

Finally, have you ever stopped to think that most any resolution you make requires some level of planning and organization in order to succeed?  What if, instead of thinking of organizing as one of your resolutions, you thought of it as the framework upon which all of your other resolutions and goals needed to be built?  So if your goal is to lose weight, maybe you should organize the pantry and fridge so that they are ready for the healthier food choices you need to make.  If you want to get your personal finances in order, setting up a streamlined, labeled filing system would be a great first step.  Weaving the organization through another worthy resolution can ensure higher achievement for both.

So whether you make those resolutions or not, working for better organization, for more simplified spaces, for less stressful schedules and systems, can always be worthy goals.  If you need a the support, knowledge, and inspiration to get that process started, I’m here to help (, or you can find qualified professional organizers in this area on the NAPO Nashville chapter website.

Here’s to a happy, healthy, and organized 2016!

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