Her Infinite Variety

 by Axie Barclay

Now that the tinsel has come down, the wrapping paper has been put away, and the Santa figurines have been stored away until next year, have you packed up your resolutions along with the champagne glasses? Still taking carrots to work or has the leftover pizza won more times than you care to admit? I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. There’s too much pressure and too many occasions to fail. They’re often too drastic (“I’m going to lose fifteen pounds this week!”) or too vague (“I’m going to read more this year.”) Resolutions might be better viewed as a way to review the priorities for the next year. Do you want to be in this same place or what would you like to change, and what are some small, daily tweaks to your routine that you can do to elicit the change you want to see? But with all the variety out there (just look at the cereal aisle or an online dating website if you don’t believe me), how do you wade through the mess to figure out what books, romantic partners, or foods are worth your time and which aren’t worth a second click of the mouse? And how do you balance what you need versus what you want?

First of all, bookmark Portland Book Review (shameless plug, sorry) and check back frequently to see what our reviewers recommend. We’ve all gotten stuck with books not worth our time and have already done some of the leg (err… eye?) work for you by giving a thumbs up or down on the new books we review. But also use your common sense, if it isn’t a genre you enjoy or a food you like, chances are trying it again won’t improve the acquaintance. If you know you don’t like it already, move along.

Second, to quote the Greeks, “Know Thyself.” It may sound obvious, but if you keep picking up romance novels and you don’t like them, you’re not going to enjoy the book. Just because you’re “supposed” to like something doesn’t mean that you do. Dress up green beans any way you want, I still can’t stand them. Every once in a while I’ll try one, just to check, but it always ends with, “yup, still hairy and tasteless.” Don’t let your book choices be hairy and tasteless, make sure you know what you like and bite into the book with enthusiasm, let the juices run down your chin.

Third, know what you like, but also think and be smart about what you need. As a diagnosed sci-fi/fantasy geek, a diet of pure werewolves and spacemen can get a little… saturated. While some of us may want to live in a purely fictional world, is that kind of brain candy all we need? Or do we need to satisfy other needs as well? The dilemma in finding the balance between what we want and what we need applies all over the place. We want the cupcake, but we need the carrot. Too often the things we want are nutritionally empty, in terms of both food and books. While popular genres may be entertaining, they should be balanced by information, histories, biographies, gardening, anything that actually teaches as opposed to merely entertaining. And if the argument is that biographies are as boring as green beans, learn how to spice them up. Read about a topic you’re fascinated with. Grate the carrots and mix them in with the spaghetti sauce, you won’t even know they’re there.

If you’re like me, your bookshelves are groaning with unread books and a trip to the library results in papery whispers of “just one more, you can renew me if you want.” That seductive whisper becomes chilling when one realizes that they actually won’t live long enough to read every book they’d like to. After all, according to a New York Times article published in 2004, www.nytimes.com/2004/07/18/books/the-last-word-how-many-books-are-too-many.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm, a new work of fiction is published every thirty minutes in the United States. Obviously no one has time to read every one of these books, although we bibliophiles may want to. The key is to prioritize, balance, and take action. Books and green beans don’t read or cook themselves.

Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth in alternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or http://barclayfarmsandlit.blogspot.com where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.