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COLUMN: Setting goals for the coming year

Joe Kelly
Posted 12/5/21

A high school guidance counselor once pulled me aside. “You are the worst student I’ve ever had,” she said, and then spent a few minutes detailing shortcomings which included poor attendance, …

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COLUMN: Setting goals for the coming year

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A high school guidance counselor once pulled me aside.

“You are the worst student I’ve ever had,” she said, and then spent a few minutes detailing shortcomings which included poor attendance, failure to participate in class, homework assignments not completed and low test scores.

Now that I think back on it, she talked for more than a few minutes. 

Being the “worst” student she’d ever had was quite the distinction. She appeared to be in her late 50s and thus had been in contact with thousands of students during her career.

“But you will be successful in life despite yourself,” she said.

“Oh,” I said, my usual response when I’m surprised and don’t know what to say.

“You will succeed because you love to read,” she said, “and that will save you.”

“Oh.”

As for the predicted “success,” I’m not so sure, but she was correct about my love for reading. That has gotten me through more than a few of life’s obstacles, personally and professionally.

Lately, though, my reading has slowed down. I’m not sure why. That is about to change.

In the upcoming year - between January 1 and December 31, 2022, I am promising myself to read a book a week.

I’ve done this before, the latest being in 2014, and have been successful.

Two things will help me reach my goal again.

One, I’m a fast reader, not a speed reader, but I turn the pages quickly. This probably comes the amount of reading I’ve done over the years.

Two, I can read anywhere. I don’t need an easy chair and fireplace. And I seldom go out the door without a book, including to doctor’s offices and DMV offices. I get the chance to do an exceptional amount of reading at those places. 

A couple of ground rules for my year of reading.

If I start a book and don’t finish, no matter how many pages I’ve read, that book won’t count toward the 52. There have been times when I have to force myself to finish a book, but rare is the occasion when I give up.

The second rule is that every page of the book has to be read. No skimming permitted. 

How will I choose the 52 books?

There is no plan. I’ll read them as I come across them. There is no need - at least for the time being- to visit a bookstore because right now on the coffee table are several books waiting to be read.

Those books include “Full Count” by David Cone and Jack Curry. I’m a big sports fan, but don’t read many books about sports. This one looks promising, though. Cone was a great pitcher and Curry is a great writer.

Another book on the table is “The Accidental Life, An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers” by Terry McDonell. Several famous writers, including Carl Bernstein, Jay McInerney, Gay Talese, Tom Brokaw and Carl Hiaasen, have great blurbs on the book jacket.

There’s also a book on the table about a man who walks around the country, “Trespassing Across America” by Ken Ilgunas. I’ve always wanted to walk around the country, but at my age this book is as close as I’ll get.

Anyway, during 2022 I will provide regular readers of this column periodic updates of how I’m doing in my quest to read 52 books. I will also share a few of the things learned from those books.

Frank Zappa, the musician, had a great line. “So many books, so little time,” which is true. But I will reduce the number by 52 in 2022.  

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