Reading from experience: A New Year's resolution

The key words were ``Based on the novel by . . .'' As they crept across the screen at our neighborhood theater recently, I could hear myself making notes for the first of my New Year's resolutions: Next time I'll stay home and reread the book. It's not that ``2010'' and ``The Bostonians'' weren't entertaining movies. But Hollywood's star-splashed galaxies and dimly lit dialogues will never hold my attention or my heart like Arthur C. Clarke and Henry James in the unspliced originals.

My other reading resolutions for 1985? If the jackets on some current bestsellers are any hint of trends in the making, I at least know what I won't be plunging into:

I'm resolved not to spend $18 on autobiographies of smugly successful car salesmen. He who smiles knowingly with hands clasped nonchalantly behind a well-coiffed head is out of touch with the real world of work. Shove a cluttered in-basket on that bare desk and give him an elbow patch or two, and I might read his story.

I've similarly pledged to avoid books on fitness by svelte women in snappy little leotards who look like they could toss a mean carrot and wheat-germ salad. I'll take baggy sweatpants and a copy of Julia Child's latest recipes for chocolate naughtiness any day.

Despite the merry titles, I find I'm also becoming wary of books by today's new breed of fathers. If they emptied all the diaper pails and cooked all the inventive meals they claim to, they wouldn't have the time or the energy to turn out happy-talk books on the side. A hastily scribbled grocery list once a week maybe, but 400 pages on the merits of imported bath toys? Hardly.

Nor am I likely to pick up any book with a pink cover. What market are publishers aiming for with fluffy cloud motifs and darling rainbows? Whatever happened to sensible maroons and browns?

If I also shy away from books with titles bearing the words ``trivia,'' ``amazing,'' ``crisis,'' and ``one-minute,'' that further narrows the choices. Add to that my distrust of authors who use initials instead of their given first names, and there's not a whole lot left to pick from.

So I'll probably just continue to search out the kinds of books I've always enjoyed most -- those by and about individuals whose lives and thoughts have touched mine. Writers are constantly being admonished to write from their experience, and I'm beginning to think it's advice that can apply to readers as well. As a relatively new parent, I was most moved in the past year by books that touched on memorable childhoods: Eudora Welty recalling how her father used to scuff up her new shoes so she wouldn't slip in ``One Writer's Beginnings''; scholar Mary Catherine Batson remembering her growing-up days with mother Margaret Mead standing by with notebook in hand in ``With A Daughter's Eye''; anthropologist Mary Leakey reflecting on the earliest painting lessons her father gave her in ``Disclosing the Past.''

Like tasty morels, they're worth the search. Once you get beneath the marketing compost.

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