2011 Book Challenge

I love book challenges. I always rocked the summer book challenges at the public library. I had the distinct advantage of living only one block away. I was able to exchange my books often, so I was bound to complete the challenges ahead of schedule. If you want to rule the summer reading lists at the public library when you are 7, it also doesn’t hurt to be the child of two English teachers.

Now that I am somewhat older than 7, I see people my age setting up book challenges for themselves all over the Internet. Peppermint Patti is doing it, and I can’t resist. I must get in on this.

I considered making lists. I considered giving myself assignments of X number of classics, X number of prize winners, and so on, but I’ve decided to keep it simple and give myself a chance to change my mind along the way. I’m going to just go for 52 books in 52 weeks.

In truth, I read more books than that in the normal course of any given year, but I’m talking about books I’d admit to reading, and books I’m interested in blogging about.

I’m counting hard copies, ebooks, and audiobooks. I have only a few rules for myself. No technical manuals. No books I’m currently teaching and/or have taught in the past. I can include books I’ve read before as long as it’s been at least five years since I’ve read them, and as long as I actually do read them again, of course.

That said, I do want to read X number of classics and X number of prize winners. I also have a particular interest this year in reading books about the Holocaust, books about the Civil Rights Movement, and books about the environment. I want to read photography books too, but I’m not sure how many of those will fit into my challenge. If they are mostly photographic, I won’t count them, and if they are mostly technical “how-to,” I won’t count them. Probably, a fairly decent number will be more narrative in nature, though, in which case they are fair game.

I’ll be adding my books to Goodreads as I complete them. I’ll also keep a list on my Book Challenge page here on the blog. I’ve made a page because it will be easier to find it again to track my progress.

To start my challenge, I’m reading Sarah’s Key (one I’ve already started and will probably finish today) and Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities (books I haven’t read since high school as well as recent Oprah picks).

Books I want to read soon: The Book Thief, Watership Down, The Blue Sweater, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Catch-22, Suite Francaise, Even Silence Has an End, Madame Bovary, David Copperfield (a mixture of books I haven’t read since high school and books I’ve been meaning to read this past year).

The book I’m most likely to break my own rule for is Gulliver’s Travels. I have actually taught this in the past, but that was more than ten years ago, and I would like to read the whole thing again before seeing the new movie based on Gulliver.

And, since everyone in the world keeps asking me how many of the BBC top 100 books I’ve read, I may try to casually make my way through as many of the books on that list as possible this year. I have not read Artemis Fowl, for example, and I’ve been meaning to read Pillars of the Earth for some time now.

As for prize winners, next up on my list is Wolf Hall, winner of the Man Booker Prize. I’ve read the first couple of chapters. It looks like it is going to be stunning.

I’ve really loaded myself down with personal challenges. I’m doing a photo a day. I’m also trying to do the “one thing a day” decluttering challenge. Maybe a book challenge too is over-the-top for a person claiming to be simplifying life and cutting back on responsibilities. But here’s the secret to that. I’m going to read the books anyway. This one is not a matter of discipline or time commitment. It’s just tracking something I’ve been doing for years.

I also have another secret. I’m not going to worry about it if I get behind. I might have plenty of weeks when I don’t complete one of my challenge books. That’s okay. Those will be my busy weeks, and into everyone’s life some busy weeks must fall. I won’t worry because I know I’ll make up for it all in the summer. I take a little longer to finish books during the school year, but I can easily knock out four or more in one week in the summer.

I am committing to a book a week for a year, but if I happen to read three-quarters of those books in June and July, that’s not cheating at all. That’s the way I’ve been completing book challenges my whole life.

I’m off now to finish book 1 of 52. Happy reading, ya’ll.