Be it resolved: The books for resolutions you’ll keep

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 ‘Tis the season of the great resolution debate: To make them or not, to opt for their more benign “intentions” for the year, to pretend not to have that tiny prick of conscience for letting one year slide into another without a significant achievement to show for it.

What is a resolution, though, but the identification of a flaw? No wonder no one wants to keep them, they’re grim reminders of imperfection. Who needs that kind of thinking in cold and dreary January? Or ever?

For every flaw you resolve to fix there is a book that will encourage you think twice about that, to see the flaw as simply what gives you colour and verve. No one is more boring than the perfect. That’s merely a guess and nothing else, of course, because no one is perfect. But the valiant runners/non-drinkers/non-eaters/eaters of only gently pulled carrots and quinoa and nothing with eyes or a mother are close enough to call it.

Call this the irresolution list, and one that is guaranteed to make feel better about yourself come 2017:

1.     Embrace that lordly spare tire: Eleanor & Park is pitched as a novel for young people but it’s a delightful book that goes to show the obvious truth that fat has nothing to do with being lovable. While you’re at it, enjoy the joys of eating with gusto and curiosity with The Man Who Ate Everything, and It Must Be Something I Ate

2.     Swear off sweat: Fitness is a noble cause and a worthy pursuit but it gets in the way of reading. Any number of great books will fill in the hours saved from the gym but none celebrate the virtues of indolence quite like Martha Grimes’ charming mysteries, all named after pubs, all populated with characters whose biggest effort of the day seems to be the walk to the bar. Start at the beginning with The Man with a Load of Mischief.  

3.     Acknowledge that your house is probably tidy enough: It’s certainly in better shape than The Glass Castle and look how well the author turned out. 

4.     Drink better, not less: Kingsley Amis is famous for his embrace of the beverage for grownups, and his essays extolling the benefits of booze are neatly compiled in a very funny and practical omnibus. Everyday Drinking is a compendium that includes recipes based on spirits, “the repeated recourse to which enabled Kingsley to suffer fools if not gladly, then at least with a recognition that their defects are largely human.” There’s the bonus for you. 

5.     Acknowledge that your family gets along pretty well, all things considered. Any of the books by Pat Conroy will affirm that you have nothing to worry about, at least compared to the families of his imagination.

But there’s all kinds of ways to feel better about yourself in this regard – The Vacationers is the story of one family’s last ditch effort to keep it together though they aren’t speaking to each other enough for any of them to actually know that. And, of course, The Best Kind of People really aren’t.

So you see? Books can cure that bad habit of making resolutions that will be broken before spring. Read more, resolve less, and have a very happy new year.

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