Friday, November 28, 2008

Three Reading Challenges

Okay, since I don't seem to be able to complete others' challenges, I've decided 2009 is going to be the year that I create some challenges of my own (while finishing my 2008 challenges, of course). I've got to do something to motivate myself to read more books we already own, instead of constantly heading to the library and bookstores. That's because I plan to try again this year to read three books from our overcrowded shelves before I allow myself to buy a new book. I've failed miserably in my attempt at this in 2008. At some point in time (probably one morning when I'd had about three hours of sleep), I decided that combining this 3:1 ratio with some reading challenges will be the key to success, so I've been browsing our shelves for books that can be turned into challenges. I've come up with three (notice, there are lots of 3s here).

I'd love it if you joined me. You can pick and choose. I promise not to judge you in the least if you don't manage to finish what you set out to do (in fact, I'll probably be sending you virtual martinis and saying, "Let's drink to yet another year of good intentions and unmet challenges").

All 3 challenges begin as soon or as late as you'd like and end Dec. 31, 2009 (because I really want more than a year to complete any given challenge). None of these challenges will have an individual website -- that's just way too much work for me at this point, and you, too, if you're one of those sorts who feels obligated to cross post. I would just ask you please to link to this post, if you decide to take on any of these challenges and also when you write posts on your challenge books.

Here are the general rules for all 3 challenges:

1. Choose 2-5 titles to be read in this category by Dec. 31, 2009
2. Let us know what you're reading. You can tell us why, but you don't have to.
3. Read at least 30 pages of any given book you choose. After that, you are allowed to abandon it if you don't like it, and I hope you'll let us know you didn't like it and why.
4. Write posts as you finish the books (or not, as the mood fits).
5. Link back to this post here when you do post on books.

That's five, which is plenty of rules. I'd add a 6th, unofficial one, though: have fun. If you're not having fun, drop the challenge.

And here are the challenges:

The Getting to Know You Challenge
So who is that author you keep planning to read and never seem to get around to doing so? Now's the time to get around to it. You're to read at least one book by the author and at least one book about that author (biography or autobiography). Then you're free to read more books by or more books about, or nothing at all (especially, of course, if you hate the author). This is going to be a real challenge for me, because I'm a hoarder. With the exception of a few mystery writers, when I find an author I love, I don't tend to read anything and everything I can. I always keep some books in reserve. That means, I needed to pick someone who's written more than three books that we own. I've decided to go with Carson McCullers. In 2007, I bought,

The Lonely Hunter: A Biography of Carson McCullers by Virginia Spencer Carr.

The other two I plan to read are:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
The Member of the Wedding

We have the Library of America collected novels, so I'll still have others in reserve to read if I end up loving her.

The Keeping An Eye on the Enemy Challenge
Okay, I don't really mean "the enemy" here. What I mean is someone with whom you are sure you're going to disagree. When I worked in a public library, it became very important to me that my colleagues and I not practice a form of censorship ourselves, which was deciding not to buy books for the collection that might be, say, politically repugnant to us. After all, how can one, in good conscience, argue against someone/something when one has never bothered to read the actual argument (sound bites from television news don't count, in my book)? This one allows you to read all over the map, but you must choose those with whom right now, having never read them, you are sure don't have much in common with you.

This is a good one for me to read religion. I'm very picky about what I read when it comes to religion (having vicariously attended seminary). So much of what is out there is extremely facile, and I get upset with both extremes: right and left. That means I'm choosing one from the right, which is:

Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado

and one from the left, which is:
Adam, Eve, and the Serpent by Elaine Pagels

I'm wondering if I'll be able to make it past 30 pages in either one. We'll see.

I'm also going to read
Plato Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems by Lou Marinoff
Yes, I love philosophy. Yes, turning to its wisdom can change a person and can even be a good coping mechanism. However, I happen to be a firm believer in the benefits of counseling, the need to talk things through, and, yes, even drugs, when they are absolutely necessary (which is not to say that I don't think drugs are prescribed too often, and, in many cases, when they aren't really needed). I'll be interested to see how much this one can shake up my beliefs.

The Drama Challenge
Not sure I really need to explain this one, but it's plays. You know, Shakespeare. Or maybe Ingmar Bergman screenplays. Aristophanes. Noel Coward. Whatever your little heart desires, as long as its purpose in being written was
to be performed by a cast of characters.
My choices?

Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot (never read it).
Lysistrata by Aristophanes (love Aristophanes, and have been wanting to re-read him for years).
The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds by Paul Zindel (because I have absolutely no idea why we have a copy of this, and I find it very hard to believe the back cover endorsement from Variety that claims, "It is the most compelling work of its kind since Tennessee Williams's The Glass Menagerie." Paul Zindel? Come on! However, Bob says not to laugh at that, that he's seen the play on Broadway, so maybe I'll be proven wrong in my skepticism?).
King Lear by William Shakespeare (hurried through it in college and don't feel I really appreciated it. I want to read it slowly now and savor it).

That's it. Let me know if you're interested, please. Oh, and if you think I've lost my mind, feel free to comment on that, as well, because I'll probably whole-heartedly agree with you. Meanwhile, just think. If I finish all the books in these three challenges, I'll earn three new books. And because I am so generous, I'll do the same for you. If you complete all 3 challenges, I'll send you 3 books from our overcrowded shelves.


Anne Camille said...

I think I could do each of these challenges without buying a single book, only reading those on my shelves. Yikes! But you know how bad I am at doing these challenge things -- as soon as I say I will participate, my attention wanders off to the next challenge and I don't complete any of them! So, it's doubtful that you'll be senidng me any books from your shelves as a reward!

Emily Barton said...

That's okay, Cam. I'll probably be doing the same...Would love it if you'd read a few books from any of the categories and post on them, though.

Anonymous said...

LOL, as I read this I am planning my "Haunted By Hemingway" blog so people can read along with my Hemingway probably won't work at all but I am determined to give it a go! I love your challenges and will choose some books as soon as they are unpacked in a couple of weeks!

Eva said...

I shall be doing at least one of these, and probably two! They sound like fun. :)

Emily Barton said...

Court, well, there you go. You've already covered the first challenge with Hemingway (who, btw, was someone I considered for the challenge, but we don't have any Hemingway biographies on our shelves). Can't wait to see what else you might choose (especially in the drama category, since I know the stage is your thing).

Emily Barton said...

Eva, oh goody! (Although, I don't know, I feel a bit like a pusher at the moment, given your recent post about your addiction...).

Rebecca H. said...

I'll have to think about this. I'm generally staying away from challenges, but I do have this Virginia Woolf sort-of project going on where I read a work of hers (moving through her life chronologically) and then read the relevant chapter in Julia Briggs's book on her. That would fit your first challenge nicely, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

I tend to be wary of challenges because I never finish them (and in some cases, never get around to starting them), but I like the thought of keeping you company here. I could certainly go for the getting to know you challenge as there are several authors I'd like to read in that category - Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Richard Ford and Isabel Allende to name a few. I like the idea of the enemy one, too, but remember I am an academic, which is to say trained to stun the enemy with huge amounts of verbiage. I could do it, but would anyone want to read it, is the question! :)

Emily Barton said...

Litlove, oh I'd love to have you for company. And I'd also love to see you "stun the enemy." Hope you'll get around to it (but no pressure).

Eva said...

Ok, I finally did my official sign-up/reading list post. I went for Getting to Know You, but I picked Shakespeare, so I incorporated the spirit of the Drama one too. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm up for the drama challenge... I'm sure there are some plays on my shelf I haven't gotten to yet. I really liked Zindel's Pigman, which I read years ago. I'm now curious to read his play.

Happy reading!

Emily Barton said...

SandC, welcome aboard! Looking forward to hearing how it goes for you, and happy reading to you, too!

Mish said...


I recently finished Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. When I first came across the Drama Challenge I was reading some political plays by Larry Kirwain, reviewed here.

All the world's a stage,
~Mish aka StageandCanvas

Mish said...


Blogger is eating my comments so I'll try this again. My Drama Challenge reviews.

All the world's a stage,
~Mish aka StageandCanvas