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Kentucky by Heart: Looking forward to covering new ground in ‘literary year’ full of great books and writing

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

I always look forward to my upcoming “literary year,” which I define, simply, as what I read and write. There’s something about the freshness and desire to plow new grounds — yet, to continue to cultivate what seems to be productive and hope that the harvest grows. It’s also a good time to shake loose the bad or unproductive habits with words; I’ll share a few of the bad 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’ve written hundreds of book reviews despite being a SLOW READER. The “slowness” problem means less book reviews come from my desk; either that or book reviewing steals time from column or book writing. That said, distractions sometimes rule over me, and that may be the real issue. This year, I plan to move my reading places away from distractions like the Internet or sitting next to a house window with a beautiful view outside. Might I find more “boring” places to read, where the main satisfaction to sitting there is the book and nothing else? Hard, but doable.

Another change-needed habit is my compulsion to finish reading books I don’t like. I’m now concluding that there simply isn’t a necessity to labor through a long and boring book that others may find appealing but makes little connection to me. I committed that sin a couple times in 2021 and wish I could get a refund on time lost; my heavens, there are so many other good reads available!

With reading efficiency in mind, here is a list of books on my personal growth (not related to book reviews or research for articles) agenda for this year. You’ll notice that most aren’t Kentucky-related. I’ve been told these are important books to be treasured, but I reserve the right to put any of them down if, after a reasonable try, I find myself unnecessarily plodding. Most of them are relatively short works and hopefully NOT of high “plod-ability.” I hope so and am wondering if you have read these…

• The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton
• Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson
• Night, by Elie Wiesel
• A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
• The Alchemist, by Paul Coelho
• The Richest Man in Babylon, by George Clason
• The Kentucky River, by William Ellis
• Clear Springs, by Bobbie Ann Mason (timely, set in the western part of Kentucky)
Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv
• Profiles in Courage, by John F. Kennedy
• Flannery O’Connor short stories

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

I’m interested in your literary habits that need to be pruned, along with your ideas on how to do better. Also, I hope you’ll share a few of YOUR personal growth reads you are planning. Email me at sflairty2001@yahoo.com.

In a related subject, I made my reading more intentional in 2021 by deciding to do a “hundred-hour study” of a particular subject. I chose to study the U.S. Constitution after I noticed so many people speaking authoritatively about the iconic foundational document when it seemed doubtful to me that they had any studied knowledge of it at all. Though I taught the subject during my teaching career, I wanted to see if I was missing something others had noticed. I completed the study by the end of November and learned a lot but realize how much there still is to learn. And by the way, I chose resources that seemed in some cases conservative, and in others, more liberal, trying not to only seek affirmation for my own political views.

This year, I hope to complete two more hundred-hour studies. One is to gain at least a working ability to converse in Spanish and comprehend the language enough to read a short Spanish novel and gain meaning from it. I believe learning Spanish is a practical daily life skill and one I might possibly, at some point, use to help a person in need.

The second focus of study I believe worthy is Kentucky history. Writing largely about modern-day Kentuckians, it should prove beneficial for me to better understand the forces of the past and how they help shape today’s actions. This is an easy and enriching hundred hours, as it is interesting and already forms much of my literary passion. It’s a gold-mine of article ideas, too.

So how do I carry out a hundred-hour study? Fairly simple, really. I read books, articles off the Internet (though check carefully for validity), and watch programs or listen to expert interviews. I log every minute, and I seldom miss a day of study, even it consists of only fifteen minutes or so. A hundred hours seems like a lot, but not when broken down into small components. As mentioned, I finished the Constitution study early last year.

Hope this is some brain food for thought for you in 2022. Wishing you all the blessings possible, and thanks for reading Kentucky by Heart.

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