New Year's Resolutions tend to center around physical appearances and habits. Do you think reading should play a larger role in people's resolutions?

Absolutely. Reading is good for you — research proves what many booklovers have long intuited. Study after study has shown that reading improves memory; heightens social skills of empathy and understanding; improves self-esteem and feelings of connection to others; lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol (just five minutes of reading will do the trick but the more the better); and staves off Alzheimer's while making the reader smarter and ready to connect more and more brain synapses.

But even if reading didn't do all these wonderful things for my brain, my morale, and my ability to be a good human being, I would still always make sure I make time to read. Because reading brings me joy. Joy in making new friends (characters in books); discovering new places (I might never get to); experiencing new things (safely); and trying out new ideas (bourbon as the great American drink?). Reading also helps with the resolution to exercise more — I find it much easier to ride a stationary bike or climb the endless stairs of the Stairmaster if I am reading a great book at the same time. But I have to admit that when I read a book like any of those by Louise Penny, who does such a wonderful job describing food and drinks, I always end up making my way to the kitchen to fix a snack... .

What's your 2016 New Year's Reading Resolution?

In 2016 I resolve to read more nonfiction (I tend to bury myself in long fiction) and to find new intellectually satisfying ''cozies'' to read. Cozies are murder mysteries that are big on atmosphere and characters and pay less attention to blood or thrills or chills — but so many of the cozies coming out these days are written for ninnies.
Two delightful cozy series, which I just discovered, are the Jenn McKinlay library mysteries and the Shadows Antique Print mysteries by Lea Wait. I hope to find more great cozies in 2016.

As far as nonfiction goes, Book of the Month offers wonderful selections I never would have found or selected on my own but which I've loved, including one of my favorite books from last year, Gironimo: Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore. And yes, bourbon is the great American drink, as I learned from Bourbon Empire: the Past and Future of America's Whiskey by Reid Mitenbuler, another Book of the Month selection.

Why is reading so important to you?

Reading saved me at a time when I had become lost. My sister died at the age of 46 and all of a sudden I wondered what living without her could look like for me — it seemed impossible. But reading showed me how to live on, looking backwards with my memories of her and moving forwards as I discovered new ways of being in the world without her. Reading was quite simply my therapy back to a connected, meaningful, and satisfying life. Even now, whenever I feel stressed or cranky or unhappy, I know that if I just sit down and let myself sink into a good book, I will end up calmer, happier, and ready to take on life again. I always carry a book with me, so that my lifesaver is always there. Joy, escape, comfort: all in the pages of a book.