A number of you at least took a look at my Bob on Books 2021 Reading Challenge from back in December. I never heard if any of you took it on, but a query from a Facebook friend suggested it was time to pull it out and see if I’ve made any progress or if it was just a fanciful New Year’s Resolution. Turns out, I had read in a number of areas, and was reminded of things I need to look at. So here is what I wrote, with notes in vivid red on what I read:
Old. Read one book that was written before your lifetime. One of the hazards of reviewing is that many of the books I read are published in the same year I’m writing. Old books can give a sense of perspective at times. My book: Death Of a Peer by Ngaio Marsh, published in 1940. Not exactly an ancient classic, but at least before my lifetime.
New. At the same time, I tend to read authors I like and am familiar with in different genres. Most have published a number of books, so I can keep doing that for a long time. Find a new author in your favorite genre–read reviews, talk to your bookseller, or local librarian. My book: I had never read either Cormac McCarthy or Margaret Atwood. Read The Road and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Different genre. We tend to have our favorite genres. Get some recommendations and a book in a different genre. My son introduced me to graphic books, which I’m coming to like. A friend has been bugging me about reading a few thrillers. That might be the different genre for this year. My book: Thanks, James for reminding me about this one and giving me some suggestions. Dean Koontz will fill the new category for me as well!
Science or technology. I’ve observed that most people have never talked to a working scientist. The ones I’ve talked to have opened my eyes to the wonders of the world. There is so much we see but don’t really understand. I want to read something that will help me understand some part of the physical world a bit better. My book: Carl Zimmer’s Life’s Edge fills this category exploring what we mean when we say something is alive.
Issues. Go deeper on one issue in the news. If you’ve already formed an opinion, try reading something that takes a different perspective. There are people as intelligent as I am who disagree with me. I’m curious why. Are you? My book: Early this year, I read a book about reparations rather than just racial reconciliation. I wasn’t convinced before and still am not sure, but I better understand the case. The book? Dear White Christians by Jennifer Harvey.
Foreign country. Read a book about a country or a person from a country other than the one in which you reside. It could be history, biography, or even a travel book. My book: Closest I’ve gotten in this category is Frozen in Time by Mitchell Zuckoff on a rescue effort on the icecap in Greenland.
Local history. From writing about the town where I grew up, I’ve discovered that both I and many of my readers knew little about the place where we grew up. So, now I have a book about Columbus on my reading stack–I’ve lived here 30 years and don’t know that much about my current home town. My book: I read that book, The Columbus Anthology, kind of a literary review edited by Amanda Page that exposed me to a number of writers who call Columbus home. Still feel like it would be good to read a good history of this place.
Foreign fiction. Fiction written by someone not from my country of origin allows us to see the world through a person who sees it from a different perspective. My book: In addition to a couple of Louise Penny Inspector Gamache books, I’ve read Georges Simenon’s Maigret and the Old People, as well as the Atwood and Marsh books.
Re-reads. It can be a fascinating thing to re-read something we read at a different time of our lives. The book hasn’t changed but it is a mirror reflecting how we have. My book: No re-reads, I’m afraid. I’ve wanted to re-read the Chronicles of Narnia probably last read at least 25 years ago.
Religious Text. Here I have several suggestions. You could go deeper in exploring something in your own faith or you could read about a different religious tradition within your faith. You could read about another faith to understand it better. Spiritual but not religious? You might try a work of philosophy. Whatever is the case, we all could do with living up to the tenets of what we believe and understanding others better. My book: I read Thunder In the Soul by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the outstanding Jewish religious leaders and thinkers of the 20th century.
A possible new hobby or interest. Yes, I know, reading is your hobby. It is one of mine as well. But you might try reading about a hobby you might take up or an interest you could pursue. My book: None here, but there is a book on singing technique that I’d like to get into, and perhaps I ought to read a book on painting technique before joining my wife in plein air painting outings this summer.
Health. This is a year that has reminded us we can’t take our health for granted–physical, mental, or spiritual. Read a book for you. It might be to better understand your body and care for it, or perhaps books to help us understand ourselves. Books on the Enneagram have helped been helpful in my own self-understanding. Perhaps you’ve discovered how important resilience is and want to learn how to cultivate that. My book: Nothing here. My last visit to my doc suggests I might want to read something about low carb diets. Any suggestions?
Actually, that’s not bad for two and a half months and without trying too hard. Taking a look reminds me of the reading areas to take a look at and suggest some things I want to look for or just pull off the shelf and onto the TBR pile At some point, I want to read some older theology, something I’ve not done so much since I’ve not been part of the Dead Theologians group. How about you? The idea of the Reading Challenge was to suggest some goals to get out of one’s reading “ruts.” Yours will likely be different than mine, but part of the value of reading is new ideas, new perspectives to help us avoid “hardening of the attitudes.” There are still nine and a half months in 2021 to work on that!