This year in addition to my regularly scheduled reading (which bears little resemblance to a schedule at all), I committed to reading 25 books I already own. The plan was to read two a month, but in typical eyes-too-big-for-my-stomach fashion (reading is like a wonderful meal, isn’t it?), that schedule fell away as I tackled recommended titles and library holds and other books that took my fancy. Reading should be fun!
In October I realized I needed to get serious if I wanted to read the books I committed to. (Also fun, just in a more disciplined manner.) So I buckled down (with a steady selection of library finds to supplement). Since then I’ve read:
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running — Haruki Murakami
Pride and Prejudice — Jane Austen*
Poison — Bridget Zinn
The Game of Silence, Porcupine Year, Chickadee — Louise Erdrich
The Cloister Walk — Kathleen Norris
Daughter of the Forest — Juliet Marillier
Their Eyes Were Watching God — Zora Neale Hurston
Blue Highways — William Least Heat-Moon
The Moonstone — Wilkie Collins**
Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth — Sheila O’Connor
Still to go are
Born Naked — Farley Mowat
The Shepherd of the Hills — Harold Bell Wright
Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters — John Steinbeck
Here are my takeaways:
- Part of my job is staying current with my reading. This is something I enjoy, but it can also be never ending. Giving myself permission to step back from reading predominately newer titles has been freeing. There are plenty of older books worth my time and interest.
- With the number of unread books I own (both on my shelves and Kindle), I could do this challenge (and will do this challenge) for years to come.
- It is good to add structure to my reading. I appreciate the discipline a commitment like this brings. Assigning myself books (as a book club might) meant I read books I might not ever have gotten around to. While I didn’t always feel like reading a particular book in the moment, I can say I appreciated everything I read, enjoyed a lot, and adored a few. I’m so glad I did this.
- There is deep satisfaction finally reading books I’ve meant to tackle for years!
Next year, while I’ll continue clearing my shelves (and Kindle), I’ve decided I want a bit more freedom. I’m committing to fifteen books I already own. This time around I won’t select them in advance. I’ll simply keep record as I read.
My hope it to keep this going for years to come (in whatever manner strikes). Have you ever done a challenge like this? I’d love to hear about your experience!
*Yes, I’d never read this. No, it didn’t start the year on my list. I switched out a title to suit my whims.
**I listened to this one to ensure I’d keep to my schedule. Also, Wilkie is a man. I had no idea.
Steve Cromwell says
Blue Highways is an all-time favorite! Not just the characters and history, but the excellent descriptions.
And Journal of a Novel is great, too – I’d read an entry every day, to help put me into a writer’s frame of mind, and it was great to discover all his doubts.
And thanks for telling me about Mowatt’s memoir – I’ve read Never Cry Wolf and The Boat That Wouldn’t Float, but hadn’t known about that one. Adding it to my list now.
Yes! Those descriptions were wonderful. I found myself underlining a lot of things in Blue Highways. I also made a list of words I didn’t know and mean to look up.
What a cool way to approach Steinbeck’s work. I’ve been thinking for days how strange (for me) his feelings were about writing. He was all in, but once it was finished, he was done. The book was dead to him.
I hope you enjoy the Mowat memoir. I’m looking forward to it, too.
I’ve been following a few tweets about NOT finishing books you begin. I’m very good at this. 🙂
I have so many half-read books on tabletops and shelves and Kindle(s)! How do you feel about this? There used to be a kind of fake rule about giving a book a certain number of pages before you give up. It was more than 50 but less than 100, as I recall. I bet that’s a lot shorter these days. Just musing here. Love reading your posts. xoxo
I have in recent years let myself not finish books I wasn’t enjoying. Usually I find if I keep with one I don’t like, nothing really changes: I don’t like it throughout.
That said, I’m really, really pleased I stuck with all these books, even the ones that weren’t my favorites. I feel like I learned a lot, exposed myself to books I might not have “felt” like reading but am glad I did, and finally tackled stories I’ve meant to read for ages. Very satisfying!