Tayler Lord and Anna Weir are publicists at UNP who share a cubicle and cannot stop talking about books. At the beginning of 2017, they both made reading-related resolutions, and today discuss what the experience has taught them.
Anna Weir: In an attempt to start chipping away at my TBR pile, my new year’s resolution was to buy zero books for myself for one year. Overall, I’d say I was fairly successful: the only books I bought were either gifts for other people, or books purchased at author readings. (Well, except for Black Elk Speaks, but I’ve already discussed that.)
In restricting my reading to books that I already owned, I a) saved some money, which I know my husband appreciated, and b) finally realized what a trove of stories I’d kept piled in the spare room for so long. I found some gems among my own shelves, such as Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea and Ken Scholes’ Lamentation, the first of the series I am excited to continue in the new year. I also found a few titles that I thought I would devour but wound up not being my cup of tea, including The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. This year of focused reading his helped me differentiate ideas that interest me from prose that I truly enjoy reading.
What did you read this year, Tayler?
Tayler Lord: This is the first year I’ve ever stuck to a New Year’s resolution. My resolution was to not read any books written by straight, white men. Since the 2016 election, the conversations in my news feed, on the radio, and all around me seemed to be dominated by this particular demographic. So I decided one of my small acts would be to celebrate writers and books that aren’t always represented or respected, especially not by our current administration. That left room for books by women, as well as men of color and queer men. As it turns out, I mostly read books by women authors.
My resolution wasn’t a limitation, rather a refocusing of my reading habits. It was important to be more intentional about my reading. I was thoughtful about my book choices and I think that’s ultimately what I achieved—an expansion of the range of stories I experienced.
I found that I read books I would have usually avoided. Usually I tend not to read popular, zeitgeist-y books, or books that make all of the end of year lists. I’m not especially stubborn about it but sometimes when a book is constantly in the media, I end up feeling like I don’t actually need to read the book itself. Because of my resolution, I became aware of how many books I was seeking that were represented in those top-whatever-number lists. So I read quite a few popular and acclaimed books like Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Swing Time by Zadie Smith, and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. As the reviews all said, these books are wonderful. They are beautifully written stories of family, identity, and friendship, and most often a very specific kind of heartache that women experience. I’m glad I opened myself up to them and I thank my resolution for that.
What are you most excited to read (or, maybe in your case, buy!) in the new year?
AW: I’m glad you brought up Little Fires Everywhere—Celeste Ng’s previous book Everything I Never Told You had been sitting on my shelf for several months, and I finally got around to reading it this year. I enjoyed peeling back the layers of this family tragedy, learning the different reasons and excuses. I’ve had my eye on her new one and am looking forward to reading it in 2018! But other than the rest of Ken Scholes’ series, I think I’ve found quite the library to sift through in my own apartment. Next on my list is In Winter’s Kitchen by Beth Dooley and C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy, as this year has given me a taste for memoir and science fiction (An odd combination, I know!)
How about you?
TL: I bought a bunch of books this year that I didn’t get a chance to read, so I’ll continue to read books by women and people of color. One that I’m especially excited about is Diversifying Diplomacy by Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas. I’ve read a good chunk for work, but I’ll hopefully be able to finish it in the new year. I also just started Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion at my boyfriend’s recommendation and am loving it so far. The first book I’ll read that will break my resolution will most likely be one of my favorites, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Tune in next month for a new “publicist picks” from your friendly neighborhood publicists!