Often, reading challenges seemed to be framed by how many books one reads. Now I have nothing against reading many books. But I read what I want to read. One of the things I want is to broaden my horizons when I read. I know I can’t read or know everything but that still doesn’t keep me from trying! So that’s my philosophy when it comes to reading challenges. It’s not about how many books we read but to delight in and have our lives enriched by the books we read. If it’s just amusement I want, I can turn to a screen. I read books to engage my imagination and open my eyes to the world around me. There are twelve challenges here. One for each month. They are my challenges but you are welcome to join me in one, some, or all. Maybe you will use this as a model to write your own challenge, I’d love to hear about it!
Author You Like. Have you ever read something that you really liked and found yourself hunting down everything the author wrote? This past year I caught up with all of Louise Penny’s books in the Gamache series and discovered and loved the works of Willa Cather. The author I read: _______________
Books You’ve Been Given. I know as readers, we don’t always like others to give us books, because they may not be ones we’d choose. That’s true of the books my son buys me. But I often find myself surprised and glad I read his gifts. If nothing else, at least try. Don’t feel obliged to finish. It’s just a nice way to acknowledge the gift, and you might be surprised as I have been. The gift books I read are: ________________
A Regional and/or New Author. It’s not always easy for new or local authors to break onto the national literary seen. I discovered that is how Colleen Hoover became such a phenomenon. Her readers spread the word. Your local bookstore, especially if it is an indie bookstore, is a good place to start. You might even have a chance to hear the author do a book presentation. The regional or new author I read is: _______________
A Bookstore or Librarian Recommendation. This can be either in-person, in a newsletter, or even the cool, hand-written recommendations you will find in some bookstores. A bookstore owner turned me on to James Lee Burke, for example. Don’t feel obliged to read something you don’t think you’d find interesting. Read something that piques your interest! The recommended book I read is: __________________
A Book You Disagree With. Most of us like to be agreed with. But I find books I disagree with stretch me the most. They help me understand how others can think differently. They force me to think about their arguments against what I think and examine my own understanding and reasoning. Rarely at this juncture of life will such a book make me change my mind in a wholesale way. But I may consider if there is a better way to think that incorporates the strength of what the author proposes. The book I disagreed with that I read is: _______________
A “Just For Fun” Book. After reading a book you disagree with, read a book that is just good fun to read. This can be a page-turning thriller, a mystery, a romance novel, a children’s story, or even a “how to” book–as long as it’s fun. This may be the book you take to the beach or the summer cottage or that “airport read.” My “just for fun” book is: ________________
A Biography of Someone You Admire. Is there someone currently living or who has lived in the past that you admire? Reading their biography, especially if well-researched, often sheds light on the sources of the traits we admire–how they were formed and used. We also usually learn of their flaws but even this can encourage us. There is hope for us as well as we try to emulate the qualities we admire. The biography I read: _______________
A Book Written Before 1000 CE. There is a lot of great literature that was written before 1000 CE. Here is a list from Goodreads that is only a small sampling. Allusions from these works fill much of our more recent literature. And the great thing is that there are free or inexpensive versions of many of these works, including many from online sources. The pre-1000 CE book I read is: _______________
A Book Award Winner. Usually in the fall, a number of book award winners are announced. I’m always surprised by how many I’ve never heard of. While I happen to like the books I’ve chosen to read, a number of people thought those award winners worth reading. Some awards include winners in multiple genres and some focus on specific genres. Here’s a list of some of the major awards. My suggestion and personal goal is to pick one, but you are welcome to be more ambitious! My Book Award Winner is: ________________
A Book of Poetry. I came across this quote from poet Thomas Gray today: “Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” In reviewing my 2022 reading, I discovered I’d only read one work of poetry out of over 200 books. Poetry awakens me to the power and skillful use of words. The book of poetry I read is: ________________
A Book in the Arts. I have often spoke of my love of books being about a love of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Without attention to the arts, we end up with a dreary, uninspired, banal society. Choose a book on music, dance, visual art, spoken word, drama, landscape architecture–you name it. It could be a book on technique, on the work of a particular artist, or a biography of an artist. The book in the arts I read is: _______________
A Book on Ultimate Questions. The pandemic has faced us with profound questions, questions that are perennial questions of human life: why are we here? is there a God? what happens when we die? There are many more. They are questions that disturb us because they make us examine how we live our lives. Books can help us explore how others have wrestled with these questions, whether they are sacred texts like thBible or the Qur’an, or works of philosophy, or the wealth of religious (including atheist) literature through history. Since “the unexamined life is not worth living” the book I read on ultimate questions is: _______________
Most of these lend themselves to doing one a month. Reading a number of works by an author you love might be a year long project. You will note that I’ve not recommended any particular authors or books. That’s where you get to make this your own. And if you take up one or some or all of the challenges here, I’d love to have you stop by and leave a comment of what you read and how that went for you. And sometime in 2023, I’ll give you an update on how it is going for me!