Reading challenges make me nervous. They can create a competitive dynamic where it’s unnecessary and unproductive. They can set expectations that, if not met, cultivate feelings of failure that drain the pleasure from reading.
Who needs that kind of negativity, especially from an activity that one engages in by choice, presumably for pleasure and enrichment?
I don’t know. Maybe some people like negativity (that would explain a lot, actually). But I don’t. So I’m very wary of engaging in reading challenge, generally speaking. And yet!
This was the challenge that convinced me to do a challenge this year. I needed it desperately. My book hoarding had achieved intervention levels. I’ve bought two and even three copies of the same book because I no longer have any idea what books I own, and trying to find them on my overstuffed shelves takes hours and days. It’s ridiculous.
One major difference resulting directly from Read My Own Damn Books: My impulse buys are way, way down. I’m still buying new books, but I’m actually reading them too. As opposed to sticking them on a shelf where I’ll promptly forget them. Imagine that! E-book sales were a huge temptation for me. My new policy: I only buy the on-sale e-books if the titles were already on my to-read list.
This year, I’ve bought 45 books and read 24 of them. So I’m over 50 percent in my buy-to-read ratio. The numbers become even more favorable in the last three months. I’m most pleased by that!
Overall, I’ve read 77 books this year, 24 of which I bought (as stated above), 11 of which I borrowed from the library or friends, and 42 of which were my own books. This breakdown surprised me! I hadn’t realized I’d read as many of my own books as I have.
One big lesson I’ve learned (so far): I’m always going to want to buy books. This is because new books continue to be written and released. Inevitably, I will want to read at least some of them. When I want to buy a book because it’s cheap or the cover is pretty or I-think-I-might-read-it-someday-maybe, I think about all the books I will want to read and then reread because I loved them so much. That helps me step away from the “purchase” button and save my pennies for the books I will really-really want to buy.
I joined this challenge in June after realizing a) I’d already read books in nine of the 12 categories, and b) books in the categories I’d not yet read were already on my to-read list. These are important! It means participating in the challenge isn’t me trying to be or do something I think I *should* be or do. Instead, the challenge provides an extra dose of motivation and a social component that can enrich and deepen an experience to which I’m committed.
The three time periods I’d not yet read when I began this challenge: Pre-1500, 1500-1599, and 1600-1699. I covered the first with The Odyssey and Beowulf. For the second, I’m thinking of rereading Thomas Moore’s Utopia. For 1600-1699, King Lear and Macbeth are my top two contenders.
What reading challenges (if any) are you doing this year? How are they going