NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The Joy of Reading Challenges
As the year winds down, even the most dedicated of Reading Challenge fanatics find it hard to push forward with those promises we made ourselves when our New Year's Resolutions were fresh and those challenges were so irresistible. With this in mind, I thought I would take a look back and share with you some of the things reading challenges have done for me.
I stumbled upon the world of book blogs in January of 2008 when I was looking for material to supplement my reading of classics. Searching randomly online, I started coming across various blogs and I was thrilled to find a community filled with people as passionate as I was about books and reading. Then I started seeing the posts about reading challenges. From blog to blog I followed links showing me the wonderful opportunities to join with others in an effort to work through our to-be-read piles, tackle intimidating classics, progress through lists of award winners or recommended reading, and stretch our reading boundaries beyond our comfort zones. I discovered that every reader had his or her own reasons for joining challenges. Some challenges assist in reaching specific goals such as reading the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die or exploring Japanese or Jewish Literature. Some are just plain fun to try to complete, such as the What's In a Name Challenge or the A-Z Challenge. There are readers who diligently plan their reading to complete the challenges for which they've signed up. There are readers who mostly enjoy making the lists for the challenges and actually completing them is entirely optional. No matter the goals or the level of commitment to finishing, everyone seemed to be having such a good time! I was hooked. My own blog, Books 'N Border Collies, was created within days so I could join in the fun.
I learned a lot in that first year about myself and my reading habits. First was that I can't follow a predetermined list of reading for more than a couple of weeks at most. After signing up for a number of challenges and gleefully creating my book lists for them, I found I had my entire year mapped out. It wasn't long before I was altering those lists almost daily. I learned I operate more efficiently when I have goal, but I need flexibility to reach it.
Second, I learned that even the broadest reader has boundaries and comfort levels that can and should be challenged. I stuck to challenges that first year which I was fairly certain I would finish and within whose rules I knew I would find books that suited my tastes. Even so, I made discoveries that urged me to test myself the second year. The Art History, War Through the Generations, and Essay Challenges all ended up including books I loved that I would never have even looked at much less read if it had not been for the reading challenges. And the Dewey Decimal System Challenge opened my eyes to literary explorations that have made trips to the library an entirely new experience. Who knew I was capable of spending an entertaining hour in the Math and Technology sections? Certainly not me! And just try to pry me away from the Philosophy and Religion shelves. Go ahead. Try.
Third, I learned through the New Author Challenge that I have no problems at all picking up new-to-me writers. In fact, I have more issues trying to get through all the works of favorite authors because there are always dozens more on the horizon I can't wait to pick up. And since I am not a traveler, I've learned that writers from other countries and cultures are essential to assisting me in my understanding of the wider world.
Fourth, I learned that not reaching my reading goals is in no way a failure. Sometimes I'm not learning what I meant to learn, but I'm finding new and fascinating topics that I didn't know I was interested in. Or I'm discovering that a big project I had mapped out isn't nearly as easy to conduct as it sounded when I started. As long as I'm reading and learning, I'm bettering myself which helps me to better the world around me.
Reading challenges have made me a better reader and a more well-rounded person. They've helped me to understand the past, live in the present and think more productively about the future. They've made me more aware of the world beyond my personal experience. And if I never do another reading challenge again, I can take my new knowledge wherever my literary endeavors take me, face new authors, books and subjects boldly, and think to myself, "Cool! I could have used this for the Book Awards Challenge!"
Happy Reading, Everyone!