When I’ve mentioned reading challenges recently, a couple of people have commented that they prefer to be free to read whatever they want whenever they want. Believe me, I understand the appeal. That’s how I’ve read for most of my adult life. And there is nothing wrong with that approach.
I’ve found for myself, though, that there are some books I never get to unless I make specific plans to incorporate them into my reading. For instance, I don’t usually read non-fiction, except for biographies, unless I “make” myself, even though I have greatly benefited from them.
I’ve found over the last few years that reading challenges really help with some of those books “I’ve been meaning to get to.” But there has to be a balance: some years I had so many challenges going on that I felt stifled all year. I like to be free to pick up a new release or something on a friend’s recommendation as I feel led without feeling I can’t because of other deadlines. Last year was pretty well balanced, so I am hoping to achieve that again this year. The challenges can overlap, so that helps (one book can be read for different challenges, but not for different categories within a challenge).
There are a few month-long challenges for the year. I’ll be hosting the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge in February; Carrie is not hosting her Classic Reading Club this year but will host the Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge in January and the Narnia challenge in June or July. For the LMM challenge I am planning to read the last of the Emily books, Emily’s Quest. If I have time I may read one of LMM’s stand-alone books. There is also an Emily of New Moon TV series I’d like to try to find on Netflix or somewhere. I honestly didn’t like Emily very well in the second book and I am curious to how her story has been translated into film.
As for year-long challenges, I’ll only be participating in two:
The Mount TBR Reading Challenge has the goal to read books that you already have on hand prior to 2016 (thus no library books or loans: it’s meant to get to those books you’ve had but haven’t started yet). You can chose different levels, each named after a mountain. I am only going to commit to “Pike’s Peak,” or 12 books, but we’ll see how it goes – I may add more. I’m sure I have enough books on hand and in my Kindle app to go another level or two, but I want to leave some breathing space. Here are the books I am planning to read for this challenge:
- True Woman 201: Interior Design by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh DeMoss (Finished 4/16/16)
- The Renewing of the Mind Project by Barb Raveling (Finished 5/28/16)
- Beyond Stateliest Marble: The Passionate Femininity of Anne Bradstreet by Douglas Wilson (Finished 5/2/16)
- Ten Fingers For God: The Life and Work of Dr. Paul Brand by Dorothy Clarke Wilson (Finished 8/26/16)
- What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears With Faith by David Jeremiah (Finished 2/22/16)
- Home to Chicory Lane by Deborah Raney (Finished 9/18/16)
- The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay (Finished 2/2/16)
- Pride, Prejudice, and Cheese Grits by Mary Jane Hathaway (Finished 5/23/16)
- Searching for Eternity by Elizabeth Musser (Finished 1/16/16)
- Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Pamela Smith Hill (Finished 7/11/16)
- Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens (Finished 2/22/16)
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (Finished 3/8/16)
As I finish each one I will link the title to my review of it)
You can read more about the rules for the Mount TBR Challenge here; the deadline to sign up is Nov. 1, 2016.
The second is the Back to the Classics challenge. I’ve been doing this one for the past two years and have really enjoyed it. I’ve mentioned before that I somehow wasn’t exposed to many classics in my education, and have been making a point to read several in recent years.
Karen has made a list of the following categories and we can choose to read 6, 9, or 12 classics for 1, 2, or 3 entries in a drawing at the end of the year. For this challenge, all books have to be at least 50 years old. The categories and my choices are :
1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I love a couple of Dickens books very much and have been on a quest to read the rest of his books that I am not familiar with. (Finished 2/22/16)
2. A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1966: The Wind in the Willows. I don’t know that I ever read this, either on my own or with my children. I think we saw part of a video of the story once, and I totally disliked Toad and didn’t finish it. But learning that it was one of C. S. Lewis’s favorite stories and reading some of his remarks about it have encouraged me to give it another try. (Finished 6/3/16)
3. A classic by a woman author. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, part of the Little House series. (Finished 2/15/2016)
4. A classic in translation (originally written in a language other than your own): Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne (French) (Finished 3/15/16)
5. A classic by a non-white author. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. (Finished 2/29/16)
6. An adventure classic – can be fiction or non-fiction.Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (Finished 4/29/16)
7. A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (Finished 3/24/16)
9. A classic which includes the name of a place in the title. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. (Finished 3/8/16)
10. A classic which has been banned or censored. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (Finished 6/23/16)
11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college). The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. (Finished 3/26/16)
12. A volume of classic short stories. (One complete volume, at least 8 short stories, single or multiple authors). Great British Short Stories: A Vintage Collection of Classic Tales (Finished 7/5/18)
After spending way too much time looking at lists of classic titles in different categories, I decided to just commit to 9 rather than 12. Thankfully we don’t have to declare exactly what we are going to read, though we’re encouraged to, so I will see how it goes with what I have so far and maybe add the other categories later if I feel inspired to do so and have time. I did end up completing the challenge!
Up to three children’s classics may be included. The rest of the rules and information are here. Karen also has links to book list ideas for some of the categories.
The deadline to sign up for the Back to the Classics challenge is March 1, 2016;
If you are interested in reading challenges, Tim Challies has one with different levels here. I’m still thinking about it – there would be some overlap between what I am planning to read and the different categories on his list. Also, someone has put together a list of several here. The rereading and new release challenges appeal to me…but I think I am going to just stick to these for now.
Do you make reading plans for the year, the month, the season? Jennifer had a good post about How to Make Reading Resolutions. The main key is to plan for what interests you and works with your schedule yet provides a bit of a challenge as well.
(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)