Anna Weir is a publicist who reads with a pen and a cup of tea close at hand.
It’s this time of year, smack dab in the middle of January, that people bail out of their New Year’s resolutions. I don’t mean to be poking fun at those who, although they started the year with the best of intent, find themselves slipping into old habits. Change is difficult. It takes more than two weeks for a change to settle, no matter how resolved you are to make it.
Though I toyed with the usual resolutions at the beginning of 2017—work out more, be more organized, manage my time better—I ultimately decided to try something both radical and incredibly beneficial: only read the books I already own. No perusing the shelves of the corner bookstore for ten minutes between meetings hoping to find an impulse-buy that will only sit on my shelf for another year. No borrowing books from a friend only to return it unread six months later. The only books allowed in my apartment this year, I told myself, are the ones that are already here.
I made a valiant effort. For two weeks.
Because with the new year came the announcement of the Nebraska Center for the Book‘s new One Book One Nebraska pick. And not only is it a book that UNP published, not only is it chosen from the 150 books that best represent the state for its 150th anniversary, it’s a narrative as haunting as it is beautiful.
Black Elk Speaks is a Nebraska classic I wish I’d read in college or even high school. The story of Ogalala Lakota healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and his people is more than an account of Native life and strivings. It’s a history of Nebraska, a religious text, a memoir, and a conversation with a friend.
And while I don’t own it at the moment, and I said I wouldn’t bring any new books into my apartment, I think this one calls for an exception. Not because it is the selected book for statewide readership, not because I work for the publisher, and not because it was narrated to John G. Neihardt (I lived in Neihardt Hall at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for several years). It’s because I want this book in my library because it’s something I am woefully uninformed about. I want to be able to talk about it with anyone else who has decides to participate in this year’s One Book One Nebraska festivities. I want to lean in and listen for a while to this man as he begins his story:
My friend, I am going to tell you the story of my life, as you wish; and if it were only the story of my life I think I would not tell it; for what is one man that he should make much of his winters, even when they bend him like a heavy snow? So many other men have lived and shall live that story, to be grass upon the hills.
All I can say for my resolution to only read the books I own is: I tried. It’s only two weeks into the New Year and I’ve already biffed it. But honestly, I think this book is a good one to fall for.