I’m not one for New Year resolutions.
First, I’m happy with my weight, happy with my job, and happy with my financial situation. Since losing weight, finding a new job and financial improvement (paying off credit card debt, saving more, etc.) are probably the most typical New Year resolutions, I’m not a candidate for those standard resolutions.
Second, if I feel there’s an improvement I need to make in my life then I’ll begin doing it immediately rather than wait for a new year. Procrastinating until January 1 only increases the likelihood of failure since there is nothing motivationally special about that date as evidenced by all the folks who fail to fulfill their resolutions. Inertia is the enemy of change and waiting for January 1 only continues the inertia.
So why a historic “first time” resolution this New Year? It just happens to be a convenient timing coincidence. I’ve done something I’ve not done in years and I’m determined to carry it through to completion, preferably during 2009.
What have I done? I’ve ordered a book that’s not a travel guide! (The order included travel guide books for Puerto Vallarta, Amsterdam and Brussels / Bruges, at least one of which I‘m hoping to visit in the next 12 to 18 months.)
Most folks (and I’m one of them) wouldn’t count college textbooks as “reading” since that’s required reading. “Optional” reading is what is normally considered “reading” because you can choose what to read. Using that standard, I’ve not been a much of a “reader” since….oh, say graduating high school in 1970.
At one time, I did a fairly good amount of “recreational” reading. As a child, I read every Hardy Boys mystery book in the series I could get my hands on. I also devoured a number of Time-Life history series collections which my parents subscribed to for me and which were much superior to my high school history textbooks. With the exception of the Hardy Boys books, most of my reading was non-fiction.
I was a high school junior when I became radicalized in 1968, and I began reading social and political philosophy. Even in high school, the little fiction I did read was very political – Brave New World, 1984, Animal Farm, and The Confessions of Nat Turner.
I continued that trajectory in college. About the only courses I took in college were philosophy, history, and political science (no required reruns of math, science and English since my college’s entrance requirements weeded out the low performers). I continued to read more non-fiction for “leisure” almost exclusively.
I’ve always had a “natural” interest in World War II . Without it, I’d not been born since my father’s unit was the first one to enter my mother‘s Philippine town after the Japanese evacuated and they met at a liberation celebration. So it’s not surprising that’s what I’ve been reading for most of the 25 years since graduating college.
But at a very slow, irregular pace. I’m a “sporadic” reader now. I’ve not read a single non-travel guide book in about two years.
The last non-travel guide book I did read was “Angels At Dawn” – the account of how, as the war wound down, over 2,000 American, British and other Allied civilians at a Japanese internment camp in the Philippines were rescued from execution by a combined American airdrop with ground support from Filipino guerillas. Some of my high school classmates’ relatives were in that camp. (The operation was featured on the History Channel, but another rescue operation in the Philippines around the same time involving Rangers was made into a movie – The Great Raid.)
So my New Year resolution is simple: read two specific books in 2009. Very achievable!
One of those two books is award-winning (for “Stalingrad”) military historian Anthony Beevor’s “The Fall of Berlin.” I’ve had this book for over a year, maybe even two years, but haven’t read a single page despite plans to read it on a flight out west. Although the annual flight to Vegas is such a party flight that reading is not feasible, I slacked off when I had a chance to read it on flights to San Francisco, Arizona and New Mexico over the last two years.
(Don’t even suggest what I suspect some of you are thinking: that my resolution should have been to stop being a slacker! 😉 It’s a fact that Americans don’t relax enough. Fortunately, I don’t have that problem since I grew up in a country where no one was ever in a rush to get anything done quickly and where being too quick was considered impolite, both in the business and social spheres. So I’m making up for all those folks that aren’t relaxing enough. 😉 )
Back to the two books….. First, there’s The Fall of Berlin.”
Since the military maneuvering aspect of Berlin’s capture was not critical because the outcome was never in doubt, Beevor illuminates the suffering of the German civilians as “total war” came to the their capital. And perhaps the most notorious aspect of that total war was the mass rapes by the Red Army in revenge for the SS atrocities when the Germans occupied Russia.
As word of the rapes spread, many women committed suicide as the Red Army entered their neighborhoods. The Russians didn’t discriminate – young girls, old women, attractive or not. Rape every woman that could be found was wartime justice. Only the Japanese Rape of Nanking was more brutal, yet many Americans have never heard of it although they know what happened in Berlin.
The second book, which I just received (hence the resolution), is “My Far Away Home.” This book has “personal” appeal. The author is a 1951 (the year I was born) graduate from my Manila high school and was eight when the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Her family thought the war would end quickly after a decisive response by MacArthur and the American military.
So her family fled to the jungle rather than surrender to the Japanese and be imprisoned in an internment camp. Consequently, they spent four years surviving in the jungle. The book is her account of those years and will be an interesting perspective since it is from a child’s viewpoint.
Do you have a New Year’s resolution that isn‘t one of the standard three?
(Next Sunday: I’ll continue with the “reading” topic by discussing the books that most influenced my thinking.)