Monday, November 24, 2014

Go Ahead: Challenge Me

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.

13 comments:

  1. Well put. Reading is a lot of things--pleasure, education, and even in my case something to make (a very small amount of money). But checking off public lists about it seems very peculiar. Happy reading--and Happy Thanksgiving.

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    1. Happy Thanksgiving, Tinky. I'm making your harvest salad tomorrow so I can indulge just a little today without guilt. Is your new book available yet? I'm looking forward to it.

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  2. "I will admit the Goodreads challenge is fulfilling in the same sort of way my 401k statement is fulfilling."

    Oh how this made me laugh! What a perfect analogy! I think you are a wise woman Grad. It is not the how many that matters.

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    1. Stef, we just can't live by the "page count," can we? Hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving weekend. And just remember, some of us actually miss the snow!

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  3. Hear, hear! If it's not fun, it's not worth doing. I have this problem with challenges that as soon as I've committed to a book I don't feel like reading it. I learned that the hard way over the first three years of blogging! I'm better now at just following my nose without feeling guilty about it. Great post, Grad!

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    1. Litlove, exactly! It's why I left my book club. I was reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which many people loved by the way, and hated it. H.a.t.e.d. But I felt I needed to finish it and it was torture. It dawned on me, "Why am I reading this when I want to read a thumping good mystery?" Give me back my simple pleasure of reading.

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  4. Your post articulates a lot of my thoughts about reading challenges. Once they become a pressure they are no longer enjoyable. I stick with my tried and tested 50 page test - if I'm not enjoying it after 50 pages it's the author's fault not mine!!

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  5. Vintage, some books just don't speak to certain readers. I found that considering the number of pages in a book was becoming a criteria. That is a very wrong approach for me. I could get to 62 or more books a year, but they may not be the books I want to read. They might be books that made the "page cut" rather than the "interest cut." When did that become the way to read? I say, "Bah," to that! (P.S. I agree with you. If I'm not enjoying it, it doesn't get finished."

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  6. Oh, I can so relate to this (and it made me laugh)! I'm a terrible one for biting off more than I can chew when it comes to challenges. I'm not on Goodreads much anymore, so I didn't realize they have challenges, but I'd panic if I belonged to a challenge that informed me I was falling behind. I've definitely been known to set reading goals for myself (outside of any challenges) and then to fulfill them, when it seemed I was way too far away from the finish line, with graphic novels -- and even picture books (ones with plenty of text, mind you).

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    1. Emily, we book folk are always piling up the TBR stack, or adding to lists, or seeing how much we've read on the "Books You Need To Read Before You Die" lists, aren't we!! I love your blog and am sorry I just found it today! Looking forward to your future posts. Welcome to The Curious Reader.

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  7. I hear you! I actually delayed re-reading Middlemarch in December because I knew it meant I wouldn't meet my 52 books a year goal. That is so wrong! Happy New Year.

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  8. Nicola, see? That's just what I mean. I had a 52 book goal, too and am several books shy. But (I can't help it I'm such a stats fiend) I read almost as many pages as I did last year when I read at least 8 more books. Happy New Year to you as happy reading.

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