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Some bookish thoughts for the new year

Some bookish thoughts for the new year

Whatever our political beliefs or affiliations, few of us, I suspect, will look back on 2022 with pangs of nostalgia, at least in regard to events in our country at large.

Right now, poor old Father Time has undoubtedly smashed his hourglass and trudged off the stage, while Baby New Year 2023, decked out as usual in a diaper and top hat, has poked his head out from around the curtains, wondering whether he’ll be greeted by applause and fireworks or catcalls and brickbats.

Fortunately, the hopes for change in the new year have more to do with us as individuals than with broader national issues. This is the season when some of us make resolutions, and some of us even keep them. Shedding some excess pounds, kicking some bad habits, and exercising more are some of the more popular of these vows. 

Others look to this date on the calendar with cautious optimism, hopeful perhaps of finding true love in the months ahead, or of finally being able to afford that longed-imagined trip to Paris, or winning their dream job. 

And some people regard January 1st as a providential time to develop some new skill or pastime that will increase their happiness and their pleasure in living.

If you’re a member of this gang, keep in mind that for nearly every activity on the planet, there’s a book — indeed, multiple books — that can serve as your guides. 

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Let’s say you have a yen for some warm weather, an exciting city, and spicy food. You can find all three in “Turkey and the Wolf: Flavor Trippin’ in New Orleans” (Ten Speed Press, 2022, 252 pages). With the assistance of writer J.J. Goode, Mason Hereford, a New Orleans chef and owner of two award winning restaurants, put together this smorgasbord of recipes highlighted by amusing personal anecdotes and tips on cooking. William Hereford deserves special mention as the photographer for “Turkey and the Wolf.” If you could gain weight by looking at pictures, even browsing “Turkey and the Wolf” would add more calories to our waistline than a full-blown Thanksgiving extravaganza.

Or maybe you remember that long-ago art class you took and enjoyed before the demands of life swept you up and out to sea? This new year, you’re having thoughts of reviving your old love of watercolors, but need some inspiration to kickstart those dreams. No fear — just grab a copy of Sara Woster’s “Painting Can Save Your Life: How & Why We Paint” (TarcherPerigee, 2022, 304 pages), and off you go. 

In her Introduction to the book, Woster, who has taught drawing and painting to children and adults, writes that she gave this book its title “in reference to all those important ways that painting can help save a person from loneliness and apathy and the impact of all the stresses we face each day.” She begins by explaining to readers what supplies they’ll need, then moves on to technique and concept. Even those who have little interest in putting a brush to canvas can learn a good deal about art and the power of keen observation from Woster’s lessons. 

Suppose you want to make 2023 a year of poetry and song for the little ones in your life? That’s not only a noble resolution, but the Julie Andrews’ “Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies” (Little, Brown and Company, 2009, 192 pages) makes for a beautiful addition to that project. Co-edited by her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton, and beautifully illustrated with watercolors by James McMullan, this collection contains songs and poems old and new, familiar and unfamiliar to most readers, including some written by Andrews and Hamilton. The book comes with a CD featuring poems read by these two women, which only adds to its delights.

Andrews also writes a short introduction to each chapter of the book. In these words, we hear the voice that made famous such films as “The Sound of Music”— sweet, clear as water, and strikingly innocent. The first chapter begins with “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” the second with “Accentuate the Positive,” and those two upbeat songs mark the tone of the entire book. I can’t remember how I stumbled onto this book at the public library, but it’s one I have purchased and am giving to my children for Christmas, so that they may in turn share it with my grandchildren.

Here’s a final idea to ring out the old year and ring in the new. Make books and literature more a part of your life. Read a few classics or simply read some older books, best-sellers like the novels of James Michener, Herman Wouk, or Taylor Caldwell. Consider setting a goal for the number of books read and try to meet that number. Give books or book store gift cards to relatives and friends on special occasions. Consider starting a book club for yourself and your friends, or for your children and their friends. 

A final New Year’s note to all of you and a reminder to me: no matter what comes down the pike in 2023, let’s be grateful the gifts and treasures we possess. Now is also a good time to recollect that old Twelve-Step prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Happy New Year’s, everyone!

(Jeff Minick reviews books and has written four of his own: two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make the Man.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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