What did you just finish reading? What are you currently reading? What do you think you’ll read next?
First of all, based on how my clothes are fitting, I SHOULD be reading one of the zillions of diet books that magically appear on bookstore shelves this time of year. The Bulletproof Diet: Lose Up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life . . . The Burn: Why Your Scale is Stuck and What to Do About It . . . 20 Pounds Younger: The Life-Transforming Plan for a Fitter, Sexier You! I’m particularly intrigued by Zero Belly Diet: Lose Up to 16 Lbs. in 14 Days! Unfortunately, the only surefire method I know for losing weight quickly is a case of the flu, and I’m trying to avoid that.
I did just read a book related to self-improvement: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. Recently published in the United States after hitting the bestseller lists in Japan and Europe, this is no ordinary guide to household management. Kondo is more of a Zen philosopher than an organizational expert. For example, most professional organizers advise clients to get rid of clothes they haven’t worn in a year. Kondo tells her readers to remove every item from their closets, determining which items “spark joy”. New York Times writer Penelope Green tested Kondo’s advice and found it surprisingly effective:
“Does it spark joy?” would seem to set the bar awfully high for a T-shirt or a pair of jeans, but it turns out to be a more efficacious sorting mechanism than the old saws: Is it out of style? Have you worn it in the last year? Does it still fit? . . . “Sparking joy,” I realized, can be a flexible concept: That which is itchy, or too hot, is certainly joyless. So is anything baggy, droopy or with a flared leg.
Kondo advocates a certain reverence for objects, including clothing, which I found a bit peculiar:
When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy, which has a positive effect on our clothes . . . Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.
She recommends thanking items when we discard them: “Thank you for giving me joy when I bought you” or “Thank you for teaching me what doesn’t suit me”. As nutty as this sounds, the principle she’s espousing makes sense, which is to recognize that it’s OK — and even necessary ” to discard items that have outlived their purpose. Where Kondo and I really part ways is on the subject of books: “. . . Take each book in your hand and decide whether it moves you or not. Keep only those books that will make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones you really love.” She suggests that about 30 books might be the appropriate number for a home library. (Are you laughing?)
I don’t know who would be brave enough to take Kondo’s advice about papers. She contends that nearly all papers can be filed or found electronically and that there is no need to store any papers at all: “My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away . . . After all, they will never spark joy, no matter how carefully you keep them.” She admits that certain papers (titles, insurance policies, etc.) must be saved and recommends “putting them all in a single clear plastic folder without worrying about further organization”. I suspect Kondo wouldn’t think much of my drawer stuffed with old birthday cards.
I’m going to put some of Kondo’s advice to good use someday — maybe a dreary day in January, when I wake up with the urge to declutter. Right now, I’m in the middle of an absolutely wonderful book and I’d rather spend my free time reading, instead of thanking my clothes for their good service. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, Christopher Scotton’s debut novel, is a coming-of-age story set in Appalachia 30 years ago. Following a family tragedy, 14-year-old Kevin is sent to spend the summer with his veterinarian grandfather in Medgar, Kentucky. Medgar is a “peeled-paint coal town” facing a massive mountaintop removal operation that is blowing up the hills, backfilling the hollows — and deeply dividing the townspeople. The violent events of that summer will begin Kevin’s transformation from a wounded boy into an adult. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth is the Indies First #1 Pick for January 2015 — and it’s also the selection of the Lake Forest Book Store staff book discussion group! (The publication date is January 6.)
I’m also reading The Innovators: How a Group of Geniuses, Hackers, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution, by Walter Isaacson, which I’m really enjoying. I’m usually reading one real book and one e-book; the e-book usually takes me much longer to read, because I read it late at night after “lights out” and I get very sleepy . . . so The Innovators could take me a while.
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister, billed as a cross between Water for Elephants and The Night Circus
West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan, about Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald in Hollywood.
The Girl from Human Street: Ghosts of Memory in a Jewish Family by Roger Cohen, a memoir about Cohen’s family and their adopted homelands all over the globe.
What ‘s your first 2015 book going to be?