My First Book of The Year 2020 Finished

Photo from late December 2019.

This morning I finished my first book of the year: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as translated by Gregory Hays. It was the book I initially selected at the start of the month and the year. However, it also was the book I rethought only a few days later might not work for my first book of the year because of another book that I thought would work better to start the year. In the end, though, I think my first choice was the right one.

Interestingly enough, at least to me, it was the right choice for the very reason I spelled out after rethinking it. That being, with there being a lot of aphorisms in Meditations, I thought I’d get more out of it if I read a chapter a day over two weeks and journal on one or two passages each day. And I believe that I did.

Here are a few of the passages that struck me as I read the book:

Suppose that a god announced that you were going to die tomorrow “or the day after.” Unless you were a complete coward you wouldn’t kick up a fuss about which day it was—what difference could it make? Now recognize that the difference between years from now and tomorrow is just as small.

It’s silly to try to escape other people’s faults. They are inescapable. Just try to escape your own.

Today I escaped from anxiety. Or no, I discarded it, because it was within me, in my own perceptions—not outside.

As for the runner-up, I believe I will return to it eventually. I just can’t say when.

What’s next?

Starting today through Monday, I am doing my own Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend Readathon as I have Monday off from work. I want to begin reading Pillar of Fire: America in the King 1963-65, the second part of a trilogy that begins with Parting The Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, which I read years ago, and concludes with At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68, which I hope to read in the future.

I also want to dip into the following:

  • A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson and Kris Shephard.
  • The Radical King, edited and introduced by Cornel West, which collects speeches and writings of King.

On the non-reading front, tomorrow afternoon I am going to a neighbor’s to watch the AFC Championship game. As I texted him:

Go Ch…. Ti…oh I don’t care. 🙂

It just will be good to see him since I haven’t seen him since…well…last year!

And as I’m finishing this post just before hitting “publish” this morning, it’s beginning to snow, three to five inches expected, not a huge amount, but enough that I’m glad I’m not going anywhere and will be hunkered down for the day reading – and napping, but of course.

Staying on course to start the year

So last weekend after rethinking my first book of the year, this past week I pretty much have been doing what I planned to be doing with my reading.

I’ve been reading a chapter a day from Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations each day this week so far in the mornings before I go to work and plan to continue that through to next Saturday, with 12 chapters altogether. Then in the evenings after work, with the exception of last night, I’ve been reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, which will be my first book read this year when I am finished. I had planned to finish by last night, but I now am thinking it will be by the end of the weekend.

I still am looking ahead to my own Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend Readathon next weekend as I have next Monday off from work. However, instead of starting a reread of Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 that I read more than 20 years ago, I am going to start reading Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65. Then once I finish that, I can go on to the final part of the trilogy, At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68 in hopes of of finishing the series by the end of the year.

I also picked up at the library two books of collected speeches of King that I want to dip into over next weekend.


Lest you think it’s all too serious, on Thursday night, Kim and I watched Stranger Than Fiction, a not-so-typical Will Ferrell movie about an IRS tax agent who discovers he is a character in a book that is being written. I can’t believe that we took so long to get to it.

Last night, we also watched Wild Rose about a fictional Scottish singer wanting to go to Nashville that also was very good. But the one I recommend for you all in keeping with the literary theme of The Sunday Salon, of which this post is a part, is Stranger Than Fiction.

Rethinking My First Book of The Year 2020

Take a media sabbath this week— put your phone away, leave the television off, and rest your body and soul.

from “Moving Forward” at end of the Forward Day By Day Meditation for January 4, 2020

When I read the above quote this morning, I decided this was more than a good idea, especially in light of reconsidering my first book of the year. On Wednesday, I announced that my first book of the year would be Meditations by Marcus Aurelius as translated by Gregory Hays. But as I started reading it, I realized because of the aphorisms contained within, it is a book to be read in bite-sized portions rather than one meal.

To that end, over the next two weeks, I’m going to read a chapter a day Mondays to Saturdays in the mornings before work and journal on what speaks to me from each chapter. In all, there are 12 chapters in Hays’ translation.

As for the first book of the year that I will finish, I plan on reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I had started a murder mystery after abandoning the idea of having the Meditations be my first book finished this year. I realized while I like murder mysteries, I didn’t want that to set the tone for the upcoming year. I’d rather begin with hope.

So starting tomorrow and continuing the rest of the week in the evenings after work, I plan on reading and finishing Becoming. I think reading a little each day, I should be able to finish it by Friday. At least, that is the hope.


Beyond that, I am looking ahead to the Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend (Jan. 18-20) when I have off Monday as the library is closed. That weekend I am thinking that I will reread, or at least start rereading, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 by Taylor Branch that I read more than 20 years ago.

I hope after that, sometime later in the year, to read the rest of the series by Branch that continued with Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 and concluded with At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years 1965-68. I’ve always wanted to finish the series and this year, in my 50th year of life, seems as good as any.

After all, my “one word” for this year is “recuperate” or in one definition “to regain a former state or condition.” In my high school and college years, I enjoyed reading tomes of history (among my favorites are The Rise and Fall of The Third Reich by William L. Shirer and Truman by David McCullough). It is high time I return to my former love.

Have you already finished your first book of the year? If so, what was it? If not, what will it be? Do you try to pick a book for your first book of the year that will set the tone for the rest of the year?

My First Book Of The Year 2020

Today I’m posting what My First Book of the Year will be with Sheila of the blog Book Journey and others. 

Most years, my first book of the year is a self-improvement book. Last year was a rare exception with The Library Book by Susan Orlean that wasn’t one. This year, I’m jumping back on the self-improvement bandwagon with my choice:

A couple of weeks ago, I was leaning towards two other possibilities:

  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott
  • Your Erroneous Zones by Wayne W. Dyer.

Then I remembered Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, which I had borrowed a few months ago for free from Prime Reading. The only thing was that when I tried it I was having a difficult time getting into it with the archaic translation. Last week while looking at Amazon reviews, I happened to come across several reviews that mentioned a modern translation by Gregory Hays, who also wrote an extensive introduction on the classic. Even though it wasn’t free, I decided to go ahead and purchase it.

I may or may not get to the other two this coming month, but I’m looking forward to reading Meditations for my first book of 2020. (Since I drafted this, I have added a few other books to the TBR pile, including a couple more self-improvement books.)


My last book of the year was The Lord God Made Them All as I continued to make my way slowly (but enjoyably) through James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series.

I probably will be taking an extended break before getting to Every Living Thing, the last in the series, but most likely will get to it sometime in 2020.

Do you have a first book you plan to start out the year with? If so, what is it? If not, what are you looking forward to reading in 2020? To see what Sheila and others selected, visit Sheila’s blog post (link to be added later today).