Literary Links: The Year Is Yours

Year of No Garbage book cover
March marks the end of the first quarter of the year. How is your yearly resolution going? Did you make one? Does your new year start on January 1st? Or maybe on Lunar New Year (February 10, this year)? Or maybe on your birthday? It could start whenever you are ready to make a change — why wait? There are many examples of writers who have decided to take a year to try something different and record the results. We can live vicariously through their experiences and/or start our own adventures. Here are some books to get you started.

Possibly the queen of the “Year of…” genre is Eve Schaub. She is the author of “Year of No Sugar,” “Year of No Clutter” and, most recently, “Year of No Garbage.” In the latter, Schaub and her family attempt to live for a year without creating any garbage, and she learns a lot in the process. Her telling is, at times, funny, but it is also sobering to read about some of the ways people have spoiled the environment. Here is an excerpt from one of her blog posts:

Since I don’t buy new clothing at all anymore except for underwear (only used, consignment or vintage) I figure buying one bra from Australia is not going to kill any more polar bears than absolutely necessary. Plus, there’s the added benefit that when I am done with it years from now, it won’t contain plastic to poison the environment within some landfill for generations to come… In fact, ‘The Very Good Bra’ has a blog post with pics of their bra in a home worm farm, to demonstrate their ready compostability. You won’t find that at Victoria’s Secret.

The Year of Less book cover

Another book in the genre that could be considered a “stunt memoir” is “The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store” by Cait Flanders. “Along the way, the author challenged herself to consume less of many other things besides shopping. She decluttered her apartment and got rid of 70 percent of her belongings; learned how to fix things rather than throw them away; researched the zero-waste movement; and completed a television ban. At every stage, she learned that the less she consumed, the more fulfilled she felt.” The challenges these authors take on sound difficult. I am happy to learn from their accounts before I try any year-long changes of my own.

Year of Living Danishly book coverIn “The Year of Living Danishly, Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country,” Londoner Helen Russell moves to rural Jutland to start a new life. Denmark was statistically, at the time, the happiest country on Earth (it has since lost out to Finland). She begins a quest to find out why the Danes are so happy.

Much has been written about the Danish concept of “hygge” (HOO-geh) in recent years. This concept, incorporating the appreciation of simple things, enjoying coziness and making time for togetherness seems like a good start for becoming a happier person. Try hygge yourself with “The Little Book of Hygge, Danish Secrets to Happy Living” by Meik Wiking.

Little Book of Hygge book cover

The Year of Miracles: Recipes About Love + Grief + Growing Things” is a book about loss, romance, friendship, healing, hope and the joy of food. According to Publishers Weekly, “British journalist (Ella) Risbridger (‘Midnight Chicken’) chronicles a year marked by loss and shares the recipes that nurtured her along the way.” After losing her partner in 2018, she was able to heal herself through food and friendship. These sound like the kind of miracles anyone would welcome into their lives.

If you want to see just how much life can change in a year, look at a baby. A baby goes from a helpless newborn who can’t focus their vision, roll over or soothe themself to sleep to, just a year later, being a tiny person with a developing personality who can say words, oftentimes walk, eat solid foods and interact with the world around them. “The Month-By-Month Baby Book, In-depth, Monthly Advice on Your Baby’s Growth, Care, and Development in the First Year” by Dr. Ilona Bendefy MB, BS, MRCP can help new parents navigate all of the changes, even before they happen.

Whether you are becoming an environmentalist, moving, changing jobs, adjusting to a loss, having a baby or any other new endeavors, books can help to inspire and guide you along the way. It’s nice to know that you can turn to the public library for help making a fresh start.

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