I’ve been “reading” A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine for a little over three years now. I say “reading” because what I’m really doing is continuing a longtime habit of thinking deeply about my fear of dying unhappy and then picking up this book from my nightstand where it lives comfortably swaddled in a soft layer of dust. I read a few chapters for inspiration on living my life more consciously before I tuck it back into its place.
This year is different. This year, I’ve set intentions to finish this book, read much more than I currently do and engage in as many joyful experiences in my daily life as I possibly can. The catalyst for this isn’t the “new year, new me” resolutions that I normally make and break, but rather my experiences over the last 18 months working for the Library. This place is seriously joyful. When I need a quick break from work, I often walk through the halls and stacks of CLP – Main, quietly listening and observing what’s happening simply because it makes me happy.
Since I’ve seen what a mess can be made of things by narrow-minded people, I’m still traveling, trying to broaden my scope. -Malcolm X
Around every corner I see people of all ages learning, talking to friends and strangers or engrossed in their own worlds. They’re sewing, coding and transfixed on creative projects. At any moment you can watch someone finishing a puzzle while another patron asks a Librarian to help them with any number of topics. No matter what you’re looking for, the keys to discovering and learning are found in libraries.
For me, a joyful life is one that allows me the freedom to continuously learn and explore the subjects, places, people and experiences that most interest and challenge me. If you ever visit my office in the hidden hallway next to the Children’s Room, you’ll see my daily reminder from Malcolm X to try my best to educate and expose myself to the things I don’t know.
“Since I’ve seen what a mess can be made of things by narrow-minded people, I’m still traveling, trying to broaden my scope,” is scrawled on a bright yellow post-it note stuck to my computer screen. Thanks to recommendations by two different staff members who, perhaps subconsciously, feel my desire and fear to live a creative and unapologetic life, I started my literary travels this year with Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yesterday I started Philadelphia Fire by John Edgar Wideman, a local author and Homewood native who tells a fictional story based on the 1985 bombing by police of a West Philadelphia row house owned by the Afrocentric cult Move. From creative living to recent historical fiction, I have a long and exciting literary road to travel this year.
The reading list below includes some of the titles I plan to read this year (including the book pictured above). Some are new-to-me titles and others have been on my mind for years. Most importantly, they can all be found in the catalog so you can read along with me. Borrow a few items from this list and leave a comment below to let me know what titles we’re reading together (and suggest new titles for me to pick up!).
- Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Create a New One by Joe Dispenza
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz
- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
- The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
- Wild Seed by Octavia Butler
- Lost Signals, a collection of stories
- Crafting with Feminism by Bonnie Burton
- Dark Money by Jane Mayer
- Mi Pais Inventado by Isabel Allende
- The Tao of Vegetable Gardening by Carol Deppe
- A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
- Future Shock by Alvin Toffler
- Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
- The Kid: What Happened After My Boyfriend and I Decided to Go Get Pregnant by Dan Savage
- The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida
- Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
- Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe by Lisa Randall
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis
- Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan
Need More Inspiration for Your 2017 To-Be-Read List?Check out our Staff Picks!
Mahogany works at CLP – Main as the Manager of Major Gifts and Planned Giving for CLP. When she isn’t helping people invest in their community through the Library, you can find her striking up conversations with strangers, obsessively snuggling her three-legged dog, listening to political podcasts or daydreaming about life as a Golden Girl or Jessica Fletcher’s sidekick.