Wednesday, May 18 2022

By Steve Flairty
Columnist of NKyTribune

I always look forward to my next “literary year,” which I define, simply, as what I read and write. There is something about the freshness and the urge to plow new land – yet, to keep cultivating what seems to be productive and hoping the crop grows. It is also a good time to get rid of bad habits or unproductive habits with words; I’ll share some of the bad points first and discuss how I plan to do better.

Steve and his “to read” books for 2022. (Photo by Suzanne Isaacs)

Over the years, I have written hundreds of book reviews despite being a SLOW READER. The “sluggish” problem means that fewer book reviews are coming from my office; either that or book review steals time from writing columns or books. Having said that, distractions dominate me sometimes, and maybe this is the real problem. This year, I plan to move my reading places away from distractions like the Internet or sitting next to a house window with a nice view outside. Could I find more “boring” places to read, where the main satisfaction of sitting there is the book and nothing else? Difficult, but doable.

Another habit necessary for change is my compulsion to finish reading books that I don’t like. I now conclude that there is simply no need to work on a long, boring book that others may find appealing but has little to do with me. I have committed this sin several times in 2021 and wish I could get a refund for the time lost; my god there is so much more great reading available!

With the effectiveness of reading in mind, here is a list of books on my personal growth program (not related to book reviews or article research) for this year. You will notice that most of them are unrelated to Kentucky. I’ve been told these are important books to treasure, but I reserve the right to remove them if, after a reasonable try, I find myself struggling unnecessarily. Most of them are relatively short works and hopefully NOT of great “carrying capacity”. I hope so and I wonder if you have read these …

• The foreigners, by SE Hinton
• Silent spring, by Rachel Carson
• Night, by Elie Wiesel
• A confederation of dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
• The alchemist, by Paul Coelho
• Richest man in Babylon, by Georges Clason
• Kentucky River, by William Ellis
• clear springs, by Bobbie Ann Mason (Timely, located in the western part of Kentucky)
• The last child of the woods, by Richard Louv
• Profiles in courage, by John F. Kennedy
• Short Stories by Flannery O’Connor

Steve Flairty is a teacher, speaker, and author of seven books: one biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a children’s version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes # 5” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly columnist for NKyTribune, and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at [email protected] or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute”. (Photo of Steve by Connie McDonald)

I’m interested in your literary habits that need to be pruned, as well as your ideas on how to do better. Additionally, I hope you will share some of YOUR personal growth readings that you are planning. Email me at [email protected]

In a related topic, I made my reading more intentional in 2021 by deciding to do a “hundred hour study” of a particular topic. I chose to study the Constitution of the United States after noticing that so many people spoke authoritatively about the iconic founding document when it seemed doubtful to me that they had a thorough knowledge of it. Although I have taught the subject during my teaching career, I wanted to see if I was missing anything that others had noticed. I finished the study at the end of November and learned a lot, but I realize that there is still a lot to learn. And by the way, I chose resources that seemed in some cases conservative, and in others, more liberal, trying not to just seek affirmation of my own political views.

This year, I hope to complete two more 100-hour studies. The first is to acquire at least a working ability to converse in Spanish and understand the language well enough to read a short Spanish novel and make sense of it. I believe that learning Spanish is a practical everyday life skill and that I could eventually, at some point, use to help someone in need.

The second line of study that I believe worthy is the history of Kentucky. As I write largely about Kentuckians today, it should prove to be beneficial for me to better understand the strengths of the past and how they help shape actions today. It’s a hundred hours easy and rewarding, because it is interesting and already constitutes a big part of my literary passion. It’s also a gold mine of article ideas.

So how do you do a hundred hour study? Pretty simple, really. I read books, articles on the Internet (although I carefully check the validity), and watch programs or listen to expert interviews. I log in every minute and rarely miss a study day, even if it only lasts about 15 minutes. A hundred hours sounds like a lot, but not when broken down into small parts. As mentioned, I completed the study of the Constitution early last year.

Hope this is food for thought for you in 2022. I wish you all the best blessings and thank you for reading Kentucky by heart.


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