When I started this blog, I was in a job that I liked and had been doing for a while, so I could afford the mental space to relax a bit, read books and spend the time blogging and reviewing. Things started to change at work, and I enjoyed it less, so I retreated even more into books as a restorative balm. And when I say retreated- I pretty much hibernated into reading.
I had set a goal for myself to read 50 books in the year 2016 on GoodReads. I felt that was reasonable and something I could look forward to completing. I had no idea that I would ever do something like this… 171 books- that’s 342% more than my goal.
And about two months ago I started a fantastic new job at a new company. I am being stretched in new and exciting ways in my new role, and it’s thrilling. I expected that my reading would subsequently decrease as I engage more with getting acclimated to the new job. But I am working much closer to home and am finally able to use the mass transit system, which means I can read on the train and if I can’t read, I can at least listen to an audiobook. If anything, this new commute time has added to my reading time, not hindered it. And my new company cares about that oft thrown about phrase “Work/Life Balance” so I am not answering emails all night and weekend. It’s marvelous.
And not only is the year not over with yet, but we are coming up on the next “Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon” that I loved so much six months ago. I am hoping to use this as an opportunity to get closer to 200 books read this year. At this clip, I think it is possible.
But with all that reading, I have been awful at the writing and blogging side and now is the time to pick it back up.
So I wanted to pop back in, say hello and get back into the spirit of blogging about books. I have some exciting books on the horizon and some gems that I want to share from my reading this year.
I hope you will check back from time to time! So please tell me, how is your reading year going? What have been your favorite books? I would love to hear from you.
That’s it for now. I am off to start planning my proposed pile for the readathon next weekend.
I have been on a book searching tear, readers! As of late, I have gone out to some of my favorite used bookstores just to poke around and see what they may have in stock. Meanwhile, my pile of books at home just grows and grows. Usually, I don’t mind that because I take a perverse pleasure in the torment of having so many books that it will take me a short lifetime to get through them all. And I am inherently cheap, so I almost never pay full price for them, therefore I don’t feel guilty for spending and not reading immediately.
I don’t understand someone who will just grab whatever’s within arm’s reach to read. I treat the moment I chose my next read like a ceremonial experience- I pace the apartment, perusing all physical books I have in the various places and bookshelves. Maybe I will look through my digital collections on my Kindle, Kobo, and Nook. I may go to the three online library branches I have access to via Overdrive and see what’s available immediately for download. I have been known to walk over to the local library to see what they have on hand. I also see what’s available in audio format from the libraries and in my Audible account that I haven’t yet heard. As you can see- it’s a damn production.
But now my ever expanding TBR is even starting to worry me. So you can only image how bad it must be! I need to bust up this trend and start to knock out some books so I can purge and start all over again. (Especially with Independent Bookstore Day occurring on my birthday this year. Coincidence? I think not!)
While I was scanning through Twitter, I saw the announcement of the next Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon this Saturday, April 23rd and I thought- YES! Sign me up! It’s the answer to my prayers. I remember watching all the hullabaloo that accompanied the last session they held, and it looked like a lot of fun for readers. So I just signed up, and it sparked this post. Win-win!
Now comes the joy of preparing for the readathon. I have a lot of recent acquisitions that I am excited to dive into but am not sure if it’s the right material for this type of exercise. I think that you want some short, fast and engaging reads to kick out and feel like you are making progress. I recently was awarded a bonus from work which comes in the form of Amazon gift cards. With that award, I purchased the Penguin Little Black Classics Set. These are slim enough to feel like you are making traction in your limited time. So those will be peppered through the event.
In thinking through what else to pick, I have arrived at a decision matrix:
preferably under 300 pages
fast paced read
nothing that will require me to stop and contemplate it’s meaning
something I have been looking forward to
also, something that I will drop in a heartbeat if it isn’t working for me or I can’t glide through it with ease
And without further adieu, here is my list of potential reads for the Dewey 24 Hour Readathon!
I am not going to list them all here, because I certainly won’t get to them all. But I will post an update when I have completed the event, and we will see how far I got!
Let’s meet back here on Sunday, April 24th, shall we?
I have just recently gotten excited about reading challenges. To be perfectly honest with you, I had no idea such a thing even existed until a few years ago. But now that I know about them, it’s hard for me to stop doing them.
You may ask- why would you do that to yourself?
I have always been someone who likes a challenge and wants to test my abilities. About 2 + years ago I was doing fine with my reading. I was keeping my Goodreads list going by documenting when I was done with a book and rating it. I was reading an ok amount, but all of it was fairly rote and automatic. There wasn’t a lot of forethought or planning involved in what I was doing. And I think because of that, I didn’t enjoy my reading to the extent that I do now.
My favorite moment of the reading process is the one after I finished something I enjoyed reading, basking in its afterglow (hopefully) when I realize that there is another book out there that could hold an equal or better treasure. In cruder terms, you could say that I chase the reading high, like an addict. Being a mood reader, I want to be really present in that moment and pick something that will appeal to the feeling I am having. Most often times it is a reaction to what I just finished. If it was something really heavy, I may want a “palate cleanser” of a read that will help me transition out of that world and into something else. If it was a fluffy or light-hearted book, I may look for something with a bit more substance. But all this bouncing around was random. I wanted a bit more form to what I was doing.
Enter the reading challenge
The first one I heard about grabbed me instantaneously. It was the Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge for 2015. The way it works is that they have chosen 24 categories or tasks. That equates to about 2 books a month. I knew I could do that, without a problem. They keep the categories (as they call tasks) broad enough for readers to research and interpret the task as they want. There isn’t really any rules other than that.
Here was their list of tasks for the Read Harder Challenge 2015:
I loved almost every second of this process, even when the books I chose may have missed the mark with my personal tastes. I loved doing the research to discover what I could like that would fit into these categories. I enjoyed being pushed to think more diversely and in interesting ways about how I read without any guardrails. I discovered new areas that I ended up loving. And some things that I thought would be very easy for me, turned out to be surprisingly hard.
Through this process, I found that I really like science fiction. !!! (I know– it was a surprise for me, too!) My previous experience with sci-fi was Dune by Frank Herbert and not much else. I often felt unmoored by some of the sci-fi stories I had read and was not comfortable just “going with the flow” in an unfamiliar world. I was kind of uptight about it, I admit. I spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect fit for me. I scoured some of the suggestions people on Goodreads were throwing out there. I asked friends, and I kept an ear out for new releases that might fit the bill. I landed on Moxyland by Lauren Beukes. It featured a female heroine, set in the future in Cape Town, with a technology/pharmaceutical backdrop. It was edgy and fast paced and very exciting. I really liked it.
For the book published before 1850, I was stumped for something that I wanted to read. I landed upon Middlemarch by George Elliot. I was really happy with this pick because a list had just been published about the top English novels ever written and of all the books out there, Middlemarch was considered the number 1 book. Again- who knew? I was a little intimidated by it, and afraid that I was going to end up getting bogged down in it, but I found it so readable and I really felt something for these characters. It was such a nice surprise for me that I went ahead and bought one of the lovely hardcover editions for my personal collection.
I also discovered how vast and exciting the Young Adult (YA) side of publishing was. It has really expanded into a massive genre of potential gems. I am probably aging myself but the only things I had that could be considered YA when I was growing up was Sweet Valley High and a few other things like that. Nothing with the breadth and depth of topics and content that exists now. I enjoyed what I read, but it was in the research that I discovered many books that I ended up reading this year.
I was disappointed with the book I picked for the task of a book written by someone under the age of 25 years old. I chose Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin and it just didn’t work for me. The voice, tone, and content were not good fits for what I was looking for or what I tend to enjoy. It could be just a generational thing. I finished it because of the challenge, otherwise, I would have put it down and moved on.
As I entered into December of 2015, I had 2 tasks not yet done and it was stressing me out. The Poetry and the Short Story tasks were so frustrating me to no end. I went through SO MANY books, looking for a fit. To be perfectly candid, I don’t really like poetry. Now I can appreciate a poem, but an entire book of poetry was really a stretch for me. I will admit to taking a bit of a short cut on this task and pulling out one collection I have that I know I like- The Portable Dorothy Parker. She has been a voice that I have turned to through many a broken heart, so I could heal through sarcasm, snark, and witty barbs.
I was absolutely shocked at how hard it was for me to find a short story collection for my tastes. I mean, I found a ton of short story collections, but I learned a lot about the genre through this process. One of the things I learned is that a lot of the stories that win awards and people seem to love are strange, awkward or have a dramatic twist. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a perfect example. As with poetry, I might like a single short story that has those elements, but I don’t particularly care for an entire collection of that type of work. I tried the Miranda July work, No One Belongs Here More Than You. I couldn’t finish it. It was making me feel so bleak and hollow like I was falling into a depression. I was told that most people will use the collection as I do with palate cleanser novels- to transition from one book to another. But since I didn’t have enough time to do that, I shelved it and started the search again. And I am so glad that I did because I found a beautiful gem of a book- The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. From the first few paragraphs, I knew this was the right book for me. The writing was lush and evocative. I was pulled in immediately. I loved it so much. I am on the hunt for a first edition hardcover copy of it, so I can keep it near me always.
The year that I spent really thinking about what to read and searching for which books would be in that Venn Diagram of what I love and what the task required was wonderful. I read so many books that I would never have even thought to look at the covers, let along crack them open and read them. And it is only because of the challenge.
What’s on deck for 2016?
Well, since the Read Harder Challenge was such much fun for me last year, I jumped on it for this year as well. Here are the tasks for this year, in a handy PDF that you can print and fill out as you go through the year:
I have also participated in a Readathon where a person designates a fixed amount of time- 24 hours, 48 hours, a week, etc. to try to read as many books as possible. It sounds a little insane, but it is very fun to completely devote yourself to only reading. Many times there are communities on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram or Youtube that promote a readathon and readers will plan together, share progress, cheer each other on, and generally offer breaks to each other during that time period. Some tips that I have heard and would like to share for how to survive a readathon would be to pick your books wisely, even if there is a theme to the readathon. For example, your goal is to read a lot, so you may want to find shorter books that aren’t dense from a subject matter perspective, so you can feel the success of plowing through them and upping your numbers. Readers are always talking about all the finger food they have available to nosh on so they don’t get distracted by having to stop and make dinner. (It also seems like a really fun time to break any diets or rules you have and just indulge as you turn the pages as often as you can.) I enjoyed myself immensely during that time so I will look for more opportunities to do that in the future, and will make a note of them here. Maybe we can do one together!
There are other types of challenges. I will investigate and bring some others to the blog. But I am curious- do any of you participate in reader challenges? Why or why not? Please leave us the answers in the comments.