Book challenges

I just wanted to share a few thoughts I’ve been having about reading and the reading list/challenges I’ve been using this year.

I love a good book, but I can be a slow reader and I get easily frustrated with books that are badly written or stories that stress me out.  For a long time, I thought that I wasn’t a good reader unless I finished a book, no matter how unhappy I was with it. I suspect this is, in part, because of required reading for school and being surrounded by intellectuals who were avid readers and who, as far as I knew, never left unfinished. I interpreted this as “thou shalt finish all book, no matter what*.” I also thought I had to read all the classics and intellectually stimulating books all the time. This made reading stressful for me, so it could take weeks for me to finish even a short book. I thought I wasn’t a good reader and stopped reading as much. Fast forward to a few years ago when I had an epiphany after reading an article** that was explaining why it’s OK for adults to read YA/Youth novels – it doesn’t matter what you read, just read!

This year, I’m supposed to be using two reading lists to help find books to read. But, instead of using the lists as inspiration, I’ve been finding books I want to read and crossing them off the list as an after thought. It feels a bit like cheating.

I think that book inspiration lists, like the ones I’ve been “using,” are a good tool because they help us to move out of our comfort zones and discover new authors, new ideas and new points of view. But, I think that I need to find a better way to use them next year. I’ve been using them to justify every book I pick up, instead of using them to challenge myself (and, why do I need to justify what I read?!).

I know that I could push my boundaries a bit more. I read a large variety of books, but I tend to avoid ones that are too serious or that look like they might be “difficult” (emotionally, not in terms of language).  This doesn’t mean that I don’t read difficult books at all (February was very sad, but I devoured it), it just means that I don’t challenge myself as much as I could.

All that said, I do think that it’s important to recognize when to walk away from a book.

For now, I think I’ll stick with how I’ve been using the lists, but I’ll make more of an effort to use a few of the list items for inspiration. Next year, I need to do something different. Even if I just picked one criteria each month that helped me to pick a book I might have otherwise ignored. I’m considering making a list of my own: 12 things ranging from (or maybe altering between) award winners to random criteria like the content of the book cover.

It will be a slightly less diverse year, anyway, as my Kickstarter award from Upper Rubber Boots will have ended (I funded enough to get a free copy of each publication for a while, which means that I read a lot more poetry than normal and a bunch of great short story anthologies – though, I will still be buying the anthologies!). So, it would be good to make myself read a few books I wouldn’t normally pick up.

 *To be clear, no one told me I had to finish every book I picked up, I just manifested that “truth” in my head based on my observations. I have a bad habit of of being very hard on myself and creating these stupid “perfection” rules. 

** Article unknown – I didn’t think to bookmark it.


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