How’re you doing on those resolutions?

I'm back to reading The Guns of August...

I’m back to reading The Guns of August…

Come on, be honest. Here, I’ll tell a story on myself to give you courage…

I got some Cromer’s peanut brittle in my Christmas stocking (yes, my wife and I do stockings for each other), and it was awesome. I have a diet-related resolution, but allowed an exemption for finishing the stuff in my stocking, which I’m making progress on. But the exemption didn’t cover this: Today I left the office and went and bought another bag of it at Cromer’s. Then, I opened the bag for dessert after eating lunch at my desk. The cellophane accidentally ripped in a way that made it hard to close the bag, so I ate it all.

Fortunately, none of my resolutions dealt specifically with peanut brittle. No, wait. I just remembered that peanuts are banned on a paleo diet, and going paleo was my diet-related resolution.

Oh, well. I won’t do that again. And I’m still going to try to go paleo, going forward. And mostly I’ve been doing well. I haven’t had grits once, and it’s been a whole week, so get outta my face.

Anyway, I’ve got another, more interesting resolution that I hope will lead to some fun posts this year: I’ve decided only to read books I haven’t read before.

That means no more going back and reading Master and Commander over and over. Or Red Storm Rising (actually, I just skim through it to read about the Air Force guy and the three Marines in Iceland), or The Dirty Dozen, or Stranger in a Strange Land, or The Ipcress File, or Dune, or any of the other dogeared things I will pick up and entertain myself with for a few moments, without expanding my mind one whit.

I’ve got a house full of books that I thought I wanted to read and asked loved ones to give me as gifts, and I’m going to start reading them. I’ve started by returning to Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. I had bogged down at the start of the part when the Russians mobilized, which was just one cock-up after another (no wonder they had a revolution).

Then, I’ll return to Alexander Hamilton, which I put down right after the Revolutionary War. And while I’m on a Chernow kick, I’m going to dive into Grant. Or maybe I’ll allow myself some fiction between the two.

I’ll be sharing with you what I read.

Meanwhile, do any of y’all have any good resolutions? How are you coming with them?

Some of my many unread books.

Some of my many unread books.

10 thoughts on “How’re you doing on those resolutions?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Just before Christmas I finished Jon Meacham’s biography on Jefferson: The Art of Power. I really enjoyed it, and I would highly recommend it to anyone, especially those who aren’t predisposed to like Jefferson. As usual, Meacham doesn’t disappoint.

    My wife (who is an excellent gift giver) balanced me out with a gift of Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, which is absolutely wonderful. I’m slightly less than halfway through (Hamilton is now Secretary of Treasury, and starting to really get the machine rolling) and I hate putting it down, which has led to quite a few late nights.

    I recently read The Last Stand of Fox Company, which really opened up my eyes about the Korean War and an underappreciated chapter of the Marine Corps that has parallels to the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae.

    Sitting dormant right now are Churchill’s memoirs of WWII. I left off in mid 1940 with the British Army standing alone and slogging through North Africa. I’ll get back round to them eventually.

    Meanwhile, kids are getting older and the law practice is just rolling along. Lots of work, but anything worthwhile is. Life is good.

    Oh yeah: My New Year’s resolution is to do more pro bono work and get more involved in community service.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      It took me a moment to realize those were book titles.

      This is because of a lifelong personal disconnect — I don’t really keep up with current books. I’m always focused on getting to the books that I’ve been meaning to read from years, decades or even centuries in the past. I will occasionally hear about a new one and put it on my wish list, but I just don’t follow what’s current all that closely.

      When I see wrapups of the “Best of 2018” at the end of a year, the books are mostly unfamiliar to me.

      This is not like with pop music. It’s not because I’m in my 60s and find today’s music insipid compared to the 60s. I’ve kind of always been this way about books. They’re so timeless. Or at least, the ones from Twain to the present day seem so. How can an ordinary book released last month compete with my desire to finish The Guns of August, or finally get back to Moby Dick? Priorities.

      I’m less this way with movies. I’m usually at least somewhat familiar with the titles people will name as best films of the year. TV, too.

      But again, I didn’t get into “The West Wing” until more than a decade after everyone else did. And I’m just now breaking down and checking out “The Newsroom.”

      To some extent, this has something to do with the way I view the world, especially the world of ideas. If it’s truly good and worthwhile at a certain time, it’s good and worthwhile at another.

      It’s connected to my own impulse toward conservatism. If it has to do with something fundamental about the human condition and it was true 50 years ago, it’s true now and will be true in the future. Basic truths don’t change.

      And good art — especially books — retain their value over time…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Now I’ll contradict myself…

        For most of human history, basic truths about people have been constant. But right now, we’re experiencing something that’s changing who we are, because it’s changing human cognition — I refer to the digital revolution.

        Having unimaginably (only a generation ago) powerful computers in our hands that are connected to something as revolutionary as the internet — with vast treasures of truth mixed randomly with uncurated crap — is changing the way our brains work very rapidly.

        We’ve seen this sort of thing on a smaller scale within my lifetime. You’ve probably noticed this. If you go back and watch an excellent film from 40 years ago — within my adult life — you may notice that the pace is a bit… slow. Our attention spans have shrunk, and we expect things to move more quickly.

        My favorite example of this is “All the President’s Men.” When I first watched it again several years ago, decades after I reviewed it when it was new, I was startled by how good it was, better than I’d remember. But when Woodward goes to meet Deep Throat, making his way across Washington, changing cabs, climbing stairs into the parking garage and walking through it, I can’t help thinking, “Let’s move this along! He’s being careful and you’re building suspense — I’ve got it!…”

        This is a small thing. What smartphones and social media (changing the very nature of human interaction) are doing to the way our brains work now is much more sweeping…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author


        I say I keep up with movies, although most of this list in The New Yorker is completely unfamiliar to me.

        Of course, if you’re a film critic with The New Yorker, your list is bound to be filled with esoterica — not just because you have to top it the intellectual nob, but because you traditionally have a much wider selection of films to see than those of us in flyover country (although streaming and such are helping the rest of us catch up a bit).

        He doesn’t want to seem out of touch, though, so he tosses in the occasional “Black Panther” to show he’s paying attention to what us groundlings are seeing as well..

  2. Karen Pearson

    My only resolution is to not make any other New Year’s resolution. As for books, I am re-reading CJ Sansom’s books about the reign of Henry VIII. I thought that the series would end with Henry’s death, but he has a next one coming out soon that takes place in Edward’s reign.

  3. Norm Ivey

    Like Karen, I’ve made no resolutions. I don’t even have a book queued up to read. Just a stack of magazines.

    I looked at the New Yorker list of movies. I’ve seen exactly two: The Spy Who Dumped Me (just OK, I thought) and Bisbee ’17.

    Bisbee played at The Nick for one night, and I’m waiting for it to come to Amazon, Netflix or PPV to see again. The film tells the story of how 2000 striking miners were rounded up, loaded onto freight cars and shipped hundreds of miles away with a warning not to return. I was curious about it because I grew up just a few miles from Bisbee, Arizona, and I had never heard the story before. It would be like growing up in the Midlands and never hearing about something like the Orangeburg Massacre. It was a downer of a film, and I’m astounded that a town can keep a secret like that for so long. Still, I enjoyed it because I had been to so many of the places they visited in the film.

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