A Reader's Vicarious Approach to New Year’s

The new year is upon us. This is a time we tend to reflect on the past year and think about what we want to do better or change about ourselves in the new year. It is also a time where traditions are a large part of the festivities. I have friends and family who absolutely love New Year’s traditions -- the noise makers, watching the ball drop in Times Square, the fireworks, the resolutions, “Old Lang Syne,” making predictions for the upcoming year, the Mummers Parade, college football, etc.

You may, however, not want to take part of all the hoopla. At the same time, you may not want to necessarily dismiss the whole New Year’s experience. There are some wonderfully appropriate movies to fill the New Year’s celebration niche (e.g., Ocean’s 11 (1960), The Apartment, and When Harry Met Sally). If a good read is more your speed, however, there is a diverse selection of titles with a New Year's setting from which to choose.

Below are books that have plots that either revolve around or have a significant turning point on New Year’s Eve (or Day). Get lost in someone else’s New Year’s, especially if you need a little more time before looking forward to the new year. May your 2019 be filled with great reads!

Bridget Jones’ Diary
by Helen Fielding
Bridget Jones is absolutely sure that life would be perfect if she could lose seven pounds, stop smoking and develop inner poise. Here is the compulsively readable, laugh-out-loud chronicle of her doomed quest for self-improvement that will make you like yourself for precisely those things of which you're most ashamed. And through it all, Bridget will have you helpless with laughter and shouting "Bridget Jones is me!"

The Children of Men
by P. D. James
The year is 2021, and the human race is - quite literally - coming to an end. Since 1995. no babies have been born because in that year all males unexpectedly became infertile. Great Britain is ruled by a dictator, and the population is inexorably growing older. Theodore Faron, Oxford historian and, incidentally, cousin of the all-powerful Warden of England, watches in growing despair as society gradually crumbles around him, giving way to strange faiths and cruelties: prison camps, mass organized euthanasia, roving bands of thugs. Then, suddenly, Faron is drawn into the plans of an unlikely group of revolutionaries. His passivity is shattered, and the action begins.

“The Chimes” in Stories for Christmas
by Charles Dickens
In the 1840s, Charles Dickens wrote 5 short stories with strong social and moral messages. “The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In” is the second of these stories (its predecessor is the famous “A Christmas Carol").  “The Chimes” focuses on Trotty, a poor elderly messenger who is filled with gloom over reports of crime and immorality in the newspapers. After losing faith in society, Trotty follows a call to the church bell tower where he encounters Goblins that teach him lessons in the form of visions about the mistreatment of the lower class in society. This story of social awakening inspires listeners to treat everyone with fair kindness.

A Long Way Down
by Nick Hornby
Meet Martin, JJ, Jess, and Maureen. Four people who come together on New Year's Eve: a former TV talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl, and a mother. Three are British, one is American. They encounter one another on the roof of Topper's House, a London destination famous as the last stop for those ready to end their lives. This is a tale of connections made and missed, punishing regrets, and the grace of second chances.

Middlemarch
by George Eliot
Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfillment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr. Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past.

New Year’s Eve Murder
by Leslie Meier
As excited as Elizabeth is to hit the Big Apple, Lucy's less thrilled to be heading straight into post-holiday shopping crowds in the middle of a flu epidemic. But, Elizabeth has won mother/daughter winter makeovers in Manhattan from Jolie magazine and Lucy is in. The pampering is nice (never underestimate the transformative powers of a $500 haircut) and the glitz and glamour of haute couture is bizarrely fascinating, but bitterness and aggression lurk behind Jolie's hipper-than-thou facade. Things turn downright ugly when self-absorbed fashion editor Nadine Nelson falls mysteriously ill and then dies. This Manhattan murder mystery hits too close to home when Elizabeth gets rushed to the hospital with symptoms that are disturbingly similar to Nadine's. Now, it is up to Lucy to dress down a killer before the ball drops in Times Square.

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
A chance encounter with a handsome banker in a jazz bar on New Year's Eve 1938 catapults Wall Street secretary Katey Kontent into the upper echelons of New York society, where she befriends a shy multi-millionaire, an Upper East Side ne'er-do-well, and a single-minded widow.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
by Bernard O’Donoghue
One of the great masterpieces of Middle English poetry, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight magically combines elements of fairy tale and heroic sagas with the pageantry, chivalry and courtly love of medieval romance.

White Teeth
by Zadie Smith
Set in post-war London, this novel of the racial, political, and social upheaval of the last half-century follows two families--the Joneses and the Iqbals, both outsiders from within the former British empire--as they make their way in modern England.

- Anna V., Hopewell Branch

Photo courtesy of Epic Fireworks on Flickr

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