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 year brought two highly appealing reading challenges into my life: Read My Own Damn Books initiated by Andi at Estella’s Revenge and When Are You Reading? by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.
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
2 Replies to “2016 Reading Challenges: The Quarterly Report”
I think it’s so great that you found reading challenges you’re actually enjoying participating in. And how cool that you’ve almost finished the “When are you reading” one! I have to admit, even though I have no right to feel this way, I’m sort of bummed out by your choice of re-reading “Utopia” for 1500-1599, though – like why not something likely more fun, like a play by Christopher Marlowe? – but that is none of my business; you do you. Not to mention, re-reading can be really cool, of course. I’m looking forward to reading your insights and thoughts on tackling this iconic work (that I’ve only read excerpts of, I have to admit…) a second time, at a different time in your life.
Congratulations on all that you’ve done to accomplish these challenges this year so far – but also on being fair to yourself and not letting them completely determine what you read/buy or don’t buy.
Oooh, I hadn’t thought of reading a play by Marlowe! I might just try that instead! Thank you, yet again, for another excellent idea!
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