The end of the year is breathing down my neck and I find myself glancing over my shoulder at the wreckage of broken resolutions, failed goals and challenges that remain unchallenged. But I remain hopeful and ready to begin afresh. Yes, Scarlett O'Hara, you are correct. There's always tomorrow - or next year (at least one hopes). In six weeks I'll start again to think about painting the hallway, scraping the ceilings, planting a vegetable garden, and getting up an hour before dawn to exercise. What I will not do is burden myself with a reading challenge on Goodreads. Or rather, I will not make a blood oath with myself to read a book or two a week. I will admit the Goodreads challenge is fulfilling in the same sort of way my 401k statement is fulfilling. As I finish a book and hang a few stars on it, it gets saved in my little "Books Read" bank account. And as the year wanes, a bibliophile takes pleasure in looking back over the year via the book covers that get lined up. Or realizing that book was read last year, not this year. Last year? I could have sworn I read it this year. Or even more stunning when it happens to me..."I read that book? I wonder what it was about?"
So, let's say you've set yourself a goal of 52 books in the year. That's a book a week. That's doable - especially if you listen to an audio book while driving or during that pre-dawn jogging you mean to accomplish. Ah...But are we talking about reading The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson or Natchez Burning by Greg Iles? One could read the Jackson book four times before finishing the Iles. Or perhaps three Penelope Fitzgerald novels and The Stranger by Albert Camus. Do I really want to pick up George Eliot's Middlemarch when, at 900 pages, Goodreads will gently remind me that I'm "6 books behind schedule," which may therefore compel me to reach for a graphic novel - just to catch up rather than because I want to read it - all because being behind schedule is anathema to me? Being behind? Not making the grade? What - shall I lose the challenge just because I choose to cart around a tome? It isn't that I don't want to read Camus. I love Camus; Camus is brief and he is brilliant. But I also love Victor Hugo and might want to re-read Les Miserables.
Challenges are fine; they can be invigorating and self-affirming. And they have their place. I'm just not sold that a book challenge based solely on numbers is the right place for me to be. I suppose you can argue that such a challenge encourages people to read more. But let's face it. A person who signs up for a reading challenge is probably already someone who reads without any prompting. Goodreads is, after all, a place for readers.
I will still sign up for the 2015 Challenge when the time comes, but I'll challenge myself to something stress free - 12 books for the year perhaps. I can still look at my "books read" bank and feel a smug satisfaction with myself as the covers start to add up.
Before the end of the year I would like to finish my little TBR pile which consists of The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, and Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester. I will most certainly finish the very delightful audio book Where'd You Go Bernadette, by Maria Semple but gave up on Among Others by Jo Walton narrated by...I can't remember. The story was just fine but I could not take that voice for 8 more hours. Just...could...not.
And, if I do not finish any of them, that will be okay too. Because there's always tomorrow. And as we all know, tomorrow is another day.