Year-long pursuits: Not for the faint-hearted

Search catalogueChanging your life for one year may sound like the ultimate boredom-buster, but the proliferation of books in this area has made me wonder if we all have rather low attention spans? What happens after the year, are changes maintained – or once the book deal is signed do these authors go back to all of their bad habits?

The self-help area is ripe for authors wishing to improve  themselves. Robyn Okrant had a year of Living Oprah : my one-year experiment to walk the walk of the queen of talk, where she devoted a year of her life to following all of Oprah’s suggestions from her talk show, webpage and magazine.  I gather the results were varied!

Kjerstin Gruys, who is apparently “a scholar, fashionista, and bride-to-be spends a year without mirrors and other reflective surfaces to get a better view of herself, her life, and what’s really important” in Mirror, mirror off the wall : how I learned to love my body by not looking at it for a year, and Lauren Kessley has been trying every concoction to stop the clock in Counterclockwise : My Year of Hypnosis, Hormones, Dark Chocolate, and Other Adventures in the World of Anti-Aging.

A.J Jacobs in his latest book Drop dead healthy : one man’s humble quest for bodily perfection is perhaps the most extreme.  He had to consult a team of medical advisers, and subject himself to a gruelling regimen of exercises, a range of diets, and an array of practices to improve everything from his hearing, to his sleep, to his sex life; all the while testing the patience of his long-suffering wife.

Search catalogueJohn Kralik documented 365 thank yous. Over one year he wrote thank you notes for the small acts of kindness that came his way and Judith O’Reilly, in A year of doing good : one woman, one New Year’s resolution, 365 good deeds attempted to do one good deed each day. According to the publishers both authors experienced profound changes in their lives – but being of a rather cynical disposition I am curious to know if these changes remained permanent?

The area of sustainability is rife with year-long experiences, with the best known being Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, vegetable, miracle : our year of seasonal eating. John Lewis-Stempel detailed in his book The wild life : a year of living on wild food how nothing came from a shop or agriculture, and had to be either foraged or shot. When do these people have time to go to the movies of have a holiday I wonder?

Search catalogueOn the rather extreme area of the spectrum is The perfect punter : a year of losing everything and trying to win it all back by Dave Farrar who does his best to become the worlds best gambler, a dubious honour I suspect.

And then there is The trout diaries : a year of fly-fishing in New Zealand by Derek Grzelewski,  which I will not be showing to my husband in case he gets any ideas!

My personal favourite is a novel by Sue Townsend  The woman who went to bed for a year. I might give that idea a go.