New year: new reading challenges. The Goodreads Challenge is about as straightforward as it gets: read X books in a year. I’m going to be reading anyway, so I may as well get reading challenge credit for any book that passes before my eyes (or though my ears, if I ever tackle another audiobook). But then there’s the fine art of choosing a personalized challenge. A challenge that interests me, that is more complicated than the Goodreads Challenge, and yet doesn’t repel me, make me feel guilty when I read a book that won’t fit, or has me reading so many books that are challenging that I read fewer books that I wholeheartedly enjoy. I have pored over The Master List of 2019 Reading Challenges, and am going with the 2019 Good Rule Reading Challenge. Or as I think of it, the 2019 But I Thought You Wanted to Read/Reread That Book Challenge.
Last year, while doing my A-to-Z challenge, I needed to reread books to get all my letters. I’d also reread some books in 2017 as I weeded my collection. It’s sinking in that I’ve kept a lot of books because I’m sure I’ll read them again someday, but then I don’t. Time spent rereading a book is time not spent reading a new one, and I feel like I’m shirking a duty. Meanwhile, a large portion of my home is filled with these books I think I’m going to reread. Well, this year, I’m committing to doing some of that. The bulk of this challenge is on reading new books—I still want to shrink that TBR pile! However, I’m adding a number of must-rereads, for a total of 40 new books and 10 old ones. I said I’d read 60 books for the Goodreads Challenge, so that still leaves 10 books to learn of in 2019 or get from the library or whatever.
Of course, some books won’t work out, from either category. That’s fine. But I plan to keep my initial balance of new to old books. So if I give up on a reread partway through, I will replace it with another old book. And just selecting books for the challenge is proving to be informative. I look at the books and ask myself, Do I want to read this one? With some of them, I’m instantly saying No. Really? Like I said, didn’t I want to read these books? If that’s no longer the case, I can let them go now and free up the shelf space.
About a year ago, I committed to doing an A-Z reading challenge: 26 books, one for each letter of the alphabet. And lo, I have finished it.
A:The Astrological Moon by Darby Costello
B:The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
C:Circe by Madeline Miller
D:A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab
E:Elemental Divination: A Dice Oracle by Stephen Ball
F:First and Last: A Devotional for Hestia by the editors of Bibliotheca Alexandrina
G:The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
H: Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years by James Kacian, Phillip Rowland, Allan Burns (eds.)
I:Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day by Carl F. Neal
J:The Just City by Jo Walton
K:Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
L:Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever’s Search for the Truth About Everything by Barbara Ehrenreich
M:Metamorphoses by Ovid
N:No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters by Ursula K. Le Guin
O:The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
P:Pandora’s Boy by Lindsey Davis
Q: Quadrivium: The Four Classical Liberal Arts of Number, Geometry, Music, & Cosmology by John Martineau (ed.)
R:The Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone
S:The Storm Before the Storm: The Beginning of the End of the Roman Republic by Mike Duncan
T:Tarot Compendium by Sasha Graham (ed.)
U:Untold Tarot: The Lost Art of Reading Ancient Tarots by Caitlín Matthews
V: Villanelles by Annie Finch (ed.)
W:The Wisdom of the Middle Ages by Michael K. Kellogg
X:The Phobia of Renegade X by Chelsea M. Campbell
Y:Your Tarot Your Way: Learn to Read with Any Deck by Barbara Moore
Z:Zeus: A Journey Through Greece in the Footsteps of a God by Tom Stone
It was the normal run of books for a year: loved some, liked more, made it through a few of them on willpower alone. While I didn’t find a book with a title that started with X, I didn’t have to resort to “Ex-“. Most of those books were first reads. I reread three books (J, V, and Z) because I didn’t want to buy books just to get my missing letters when part of the point of this challenge was to work on my TBR pile! And the rereading had value too, because why else hold onto these books after their first reading unless I was going to reread them at some point?
After deciding to read 26 books for the alphabet, I realized that some books on my TBR list have titles that start with numerals. So I extended the challenge by one book to cover that possibility. I then managed to misplace the book I was reading for #. I’m sure it will turn up again eventually, but I’d rather read it calmly and finish it next year rather than try to cram it in this late.
It’s tempting to do this challenge again in 2019, and I haven’t yet ruled out the possibility. I picked up the latest edition of Vogue Knitting a few weeks ago, so I already have one of my hard-to-find letters in hand. But there’s some appeal in finding a new challenge. Whatever challenge I choose, I want to read books that I’ll enjoy. I get that a challenge is supposed to be challenging (!), but there’s a fine line between moving out of your comfort zone for new experiences and forcing yourself to read something you genuinely dislike. But there are all sorts of reading challenges out there, so it might be nice to go in a completely different direction in 2019. We’ll see.
I have a fondness for reading challenges. I must not be alone in this; as of this writing, The Master List of 2018 Reading Challenges had 128 challenges and the compiler is promising to update it through the end of 2017. I freely admit that I didn’t do terribly well at the two reading challenges I took on this year. I’ve done the Goodreads challenge since 2011, and I’ve usually managed 90-100 books a year. For whatever reason, I had to scale back to 75 books this year. I don’t know where the reading time went. I do most of my reading on the bus or while eating and I still do plenty of both. Maybe I just read thicker books this year?* And however disappointed I may be in how the Goodreads challenge is going, the 2017 Read Harder Challenge simply isn’t happening. I’ve made it to 13 books out of 24. Some books will count for multiple categories, so it’s probably closer to 15, but that’s as good as it’s going to get.
But hey, there is always another year and another challenge. Goodbye 2017, and let us turn to 2018.
I’ll be doing the Goodreads challenge again. I’m not doing the 2018 Read Harder Challenge, though. It’s a worthy challenge, and I hope many people do it and love it, but it’s not for me this year. I have learned that if I’m not enjoying something, no amount of self-motivation will get me to do it, and I can tell I wouldn’t enjoy that particular challenge. (Happy to look over the 2019 challenge when it comes out, though!) Instead, I am putting together my own challenge. Here goes:
It’s an A-to-Z challenge. 26 books is achievable. Plus, the requirements are easily memorized, so I don’t have to constantly refer back to the challenge to find out what I’m supposed to be doing.
Whenever possible, the books will come from my to-be-read collection. I only mark a book TBR if I own it, so the fact that LibraryThing says I have 300 TBR books was motivational as all get-out for doing this. Plus, I know a lot of my ebooks haven’t yet been added [wince]. There’s plenty to work with here. Also, any books I buy in 2018 are eligible, although I don’t plan to buy books just to have something to read for the challenge (see #3).
I’m missing three letters: V, X, and Z. I have a few options here. I can reread a book I own that starts with one of these letters. I can look for a book at the library that works. Or I can buy a book, but that’s definitely the “if all else fails” option. Also, in the interests of keeping this a fun challenge, although I will prioritize book titles that start with X, “Ex” is acceptable as well. I’m not reading a book I loathe just to follow an arbitrary rule.
I will not be reading the books in alphabetical order. And although I’m probably going to jot down a few ideas, I don’t plan to choose most of the books now. I’ll just see what I’m in the mood for when I need something to read. I plan to savor this year’s challenge. After all, I bought these books because I thought I would enjoy reading them. Now’s the time to find out.
*Maybe, but that’s not going to work as an excuse. Goodreads counts pages as well as books, and my page count for 2017 is down as well.
For several years now, I’ve participated in the Goodreads reading challenge. I’ve enjoyed it and it’s not complicated: declare how many books you think you’re going to read in the year to come and have at it. Read anything you want; all we’re after here is quantity, although if you can get quality as well, more power to you.
This year, I’m branching out. I’m still doing the Goodreads challenge, although I’ve dropped my goal by about 20%. I’d been reading thinner books in order to get more read (quantity) and I wanted to read thicker books this year without feeling like I was endangering my success rate. Besides the Goodreads challenge, though, I’m also participating in the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. This only requires 24 books at most during the year; the challenge lies in getting you out of your reading comfort zone. Finishing it successfully will mean I’m going to have to read a horror novel (ick). And listen to an audiobook. You’re allowed to fit one book into as many categories as possible, so maybe I should listen to a horror audiobook because I’m bad at remembering what I’ve only heard, and I’m pretty sure I won’t want to remember the details of whatever horror novel I choose.
To space it all out, I only need to do two books a month. But somehow without really trying, I’ve gotten to the end of February and I’m already six books in.
A nonfiction book about feminism or feminist themes:Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick. I had hoped this would be more of an analysis of spinsterhood; instead, it was mainly a memoir. Well, one is not required to love every book for the challenge; one must only find them and read them.
A book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. This is a fantasy novel, so we’re squarely in my comfort zone here. In the 19th century, England’s first black Sorcerer Royal tries to both hold onto his position and find out why England is losing its magic. Although there were some rough spots, I liked the book enough to look forward to the promised sequels.
Read a book out loud to someone else:Go the Fuck to Sleep by Adam Mansbach. I assure you, I read it only to consenting adults.
A biography (not a memoir or autobiography):The Greatest Empire: A Life of Seneca by Emily Williams. I don’t usually read biographies, so I was wondering how I would find a good one, when Amazon made this one of their Kindle Daily Deals and I grabbed it.
A book over 500 pages long:Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell. More fantasy! I learned about this book after reading Rowell’s Fangirl last year. Sure, Carry On alludes heavily to the Harry Potter books, with a sprinkling of Twilight thrown in. But it would be a strong book in its own right if neither of those other series had ever been written, I liked it better than Fangirl, and I’m glad I tracked down a copy.
A book under 100 pages:The Spook Who Spoke Again by Lindsey Davis. A novella set in the world of Davis’s Flavia Albia mysteries. The story is told by Albia’s brother Postumus, age 12 (or maybe 11¾), and after a while, I decided it was as if Flavia de Luce had been born a boy in 1st century CE Rome. I mostly enjoyed the story, but Postumus got annoying pretty quickly, and it’s just as well this wasn’t a full-sized novel.
March is imminent. I’m hoping to go read some non-challenge books for a while. Except that I have the challenge on the brain, and I can’t stop considering possibilities. Hey, maybe if I read a middle-grade horror novel, I won’t be traumatized for life…