As soon as the calendar flips to Dec. 1, I begin to ponder my upcoming New Year’s resolutions. For most of my life, my resolutions were oriented on self-improvement. My past resolutions include “stop losing shit,” “stop being late to literally everything” and “stop eating so much Nutella.” These resolutions had an unsurprising expiration date of about a month.

But in 2015, I made a new kind of resolution. I decided that instead of trying to change myself, I would plunge into something that I actually love to do. My 2015 resolution was to read a book a week for the whole year, 52 books in total.

Of course, when the person with whom you’re negotiating resolutions with is yourself, it’s easy to become indulgent. I quickly realized during the finals of winter semester that there would be some weeks when I just couldn’t swing it. So I made up for the school year lapses in excess over the summer, furiously reading when I should have been selling ice cream in an non-air-conditioned shack in August.

And December has arrived again. When I realized this column was coming out on Dec. 1, I wanted to highlight and share all the thoughtful and insightful books that had been written and published in 2015. I flipped through the planner where I write the book of the week on the top of the page. I frowned and searched again. Out of the 48 books I had read so far this year, almost none of them came out in 2015.

Looking back on the year, this made sense. My freshman year of college exposed me to new authors and styles. There seemed to be an endless number of classics that should have been fundamental to high school reading that somehow I had skipped. I wanted to read Jeffrey Eugenides, Junot Díaz and Joan Didion. I was so busy reading the defining books of generations before mine that it didn’t even occur to me to keep up with contemporary fiction.

When I recently realized this mistake and all that I had been missing, I ran to the library and checked out some of what had been previously vetted by The Washington Post and The National Foundation as “The Best Books of 2015.”

Thankfully, since I only had a few days to read them, the books I chose are spectacular works. I started with “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart. Based on real events from 1914, the novel tells the story of the three Kopp sisters who live by themselves on a farm. Their lives, previously private and quiet, change forever when a scurrilous factory owner crashes his car into their buggy. When the protagonist and leader of the sisters, Constance Kopp, demands restitution from the factory owner, he and his foul friends attempt to dissuade her with intimidation and threats of physical harm. The swaggering pursuits of male dominance portrayed in this book unfortunately have not changed and are still evident in our society today. The difference in “Girl Waits With Gun” is the entirely badass response of the Kopp sisters, especially for their time period.

I started “The Turner House,” by Angela Flournoy, within minutes of finishing “Girl Waits With Gun.” While it was necessary for me to meet my deadline and travel home for Thanksgiving, I wouldn’t recommend the rapidity of this turnaround. “The Turner House” requires and deserves a clear head to receive its gifts of wonderfully complex characters woven into inter-generational story lines. The portrayal of the Detroit-based African-American Turner family begins in their house on Yarrow Street when Cha-Cha, the oldest of the 13 Turner children, encounters a ghost. or “haint,” in his room. We fast-forward through the years with them ­— the Turners are all grown up with their own demons haunting them in every room. Their history hinges upon the history of Detroit, with each anecdote, based on the events of the city, illustrating the importance Flournoy gives to the phrase “the personal is political.” Families like the Turners are an underrepresented, but entirely accurate and necessary portrayal of the post-nuclear family in contemporary literature.

One of the books I read that was published in 2015 was Harper Lee’s “Go Set A Watchman,” the controversial prequel to “To Kill A Mockingbird.” I have already extensively discussed the novel in this column (long story short: read it, it’s worth it), but the book allowed me to see my prejudice against contemporary fiction. While “Watchman” was published in 2015, it had been declared a classic long before publication. I now see myself for what I truly am ­— I confess to being woefully unhip to recent fiction. I’m only halfway through two books that I wanted to read for this column, Adam Johnson’s “Fortune Smiles” and Sandra Newman’s “The Country of Ice Cream Star.” Other books that a less honest literature columnist would have claimed to have read would be “Purity” by Jonathan Franzen, “H is for Hawk” by Helen McDonald and “Serving Pleasure” by Alisha Rai, a self-published erotic novel that has garnered a shocking amount of literary attention. In 2015, I focused on the classics of the past when I should have spent an equal amount of time looking ahead to the future.

But literary hipness is a transitory state. And fortunately, the beauty of resolutions is that there’s always next year. So for 2016, my resolution is, again, to read a book a week. The catch is that the book has to have been published within the last five years. My prediction is that this resolution will have everything ­— tears and joy and challenges and rewards, but mostly just a lot of reading. Check back in 12 months. 

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