Saturday, January 1, 2011

Bookish Business

It has been such fun reading your blog entries this past week - learning your favorite reads of 2010 (and adding a few titles to my TBR list) and hearing the enthusiasm about reading challenges for 2011.  You know, two years ago when I first discovered the Book blogosphere, I had no idea that reading was such a competitive sport, and I readily jumped on the bandwagon.  The concept of reading challenges appeals to me on so many different levels:  academically they introduce me to new reading genres and authors that help me to get out of my comfort zone and broaden my horizons...and...socially they help form a reading community where like-minded people can get together - if only in a virtual format - and share ideas and thoughts about literature.  I have not been a part of a face-to-face book club and this helps to fill that void.

Unfortunately these past two years have shown me that my enthusiasm for these challenges does not translate into a determination to follow through.  I failed miserably at completing any of my 2010 challenges (except for the Support Your Local Library Challenge) despite my sincere intentions.  I still believe in challenges and am still motivated by them, but I have come to realize that this is just not the right time in my life to actually try to participate in them.

However, last night as I was reading about the many new challenges listed on the website A Novel Challenge, I was reminded of Wendy's decision last year to "pretend" to become a part of the challenge community.  She developed the idea of the One Night Stand, where she would make lists of books that she would read for challenges, if indeed she had signed up.  I love this idea!  It allows me to give into my enthusiasm of the new year without worry about the failure to complete them.  I know that some day soon I will have the time to devote to reading as a competitive sport, but for now I will just be a cheerleader on the sidelines for all of you.

So without further ado - here is a list of the challenges in which I would love to participate if I could.  Some of these are challenges that I were offered in 2010 in which I did not complete (but really really wanted to) and some are new challenges offered in 2011.

The Harry Potter Reading Challenge sponsored by Michelle of GalleySmith.  I actually started off well with this one - listening to the first two book on audiotape (and absolutely loving the narration of Jim Dale), but then somehow I didn't maintain the momentum.  My original plan was to not only read all the books in the series (which would be my first time and not a re-read) but also to pair this challenge with C.B.'s challenge, Read the Book See the Movie challenge.  I still secretly harbor this desire and to do it before the release of the final HP movie this summer.

Another challenge that I missed last year was sponsored by Margot of Joyfully Retired.  She hosted the All Things Alcott challenge over the summer and I had so wanted to re-read Little Women (I read it once in elementary school and didn't care for it much; I am certain that my tastes have changed considerably) and again pair it with the movie.  I also wanted to read the new release, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott as I do enjoy gaining insight about authors through reading biographies, memoirs, or historical fiction.  A good friend of mine shared that she would like to read Little Women some day - perhaps I will succeed with this challenge, if only a year late.

For two years now Stephanie has hosted the Everything Austen challenge and both years I have dreamed of escaping into Regency England for a month or two, and both years I have not read a single book during the challenge time period.  I have collected numerous books and movies pertaining to Jane Austen, including all six of her novels, plus a book of her letters, plus a book of her juvenalia, plus several popular Jane Austen sequels.  It is not for a lack of material or desire that I do not actively participate.  I am hopeful that Stephanie will offer the Everything Austen challenge III this summer and perhaps I could focus my reading enough to include a few of these items from my shelves.  I would love to read Emma and Persuasion, the two novels that I have not yet read, and then perhaps to read the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman trilogy by Pamela Aidan.

The one challenge that I truly look forward to and actually completed in 2009 but not in 2010 - is Carl's RIP challenge, which allows me to read all those lovely Gothic novels that I so enjoy.  Last year I actually purchased books throughout the year with the expressed purpose of saving them for the challenge, and then once the fall came, I was too distracted with other priorities, such as preparing for the NaNoWriMo event.  This year I also hope to devote the month of November to this insane writing task, but I want to set aside time for reading as well.  At the very least I should be able to participate in the short story component of Carl's challenge.

Last year I did sign up for the Rory Gilmore's Book Project - which is actually a perpetual challenge with no deadline.  I did not read many books on the official list, but I did read a couple and was actually inspired to purchase the DVD set (which I have all but the final season).  This will be one challenge that I will periodically view and attempt to complete one book at a time.  I also want to try to find the time to start watching the series again.  I so enjoy the banter between Rory and Loralie and I think it would be good for me to learn to sit back, relax, and escape into the television realm every once in a while.
Focusing on the challenges offered in 2011, I am most tempted to join C.B.'s TBR Dare.  I really really NEED to join this as I have numerous books waiting to be read and I have absolutely no business bringing another book into this house.  However, I know myself well enough to know that I will continue to find library books that I wish to investigate, if for no other reason than to add to the list for a future time, and my trips to the HalfPrice Bookstore are about the cheapest therapy around.  Secretly, however, I am making a conscious commitment to reduce the unread books on my own shelves.

I have wanted to try to read JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy for years.  I have so many students that adore this series and while I teach the Hobbit, I am rather fearful of attempting to read this masterpiece.  Fantasy literature has not been a favorite genre of mine, although I am learning to appreciate it thanks to your wonderful reviews.  I noticed that The Story Girl is offering a Read-along for this series during 2011, but quite honestly I think that is a bit too ambitious for me.  I think my personal challenge will be to watch the first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring and then attempt to read the book.  If I can accomplish one book per year then I should complete the trilogy by December 31, 2013.  Now that sounds manageable, doesn't it?

In the true spirit of being "challenged" in my reading endeavors, then I am quite tempted to join Serena's Fearless Poetry Exploration (doesn't that sound better than "challenge"?).  Serena emphasizes that this is an easy challenge with the expressed purpose of just trying to give poetry a chance.  I must admit that this is one area of literature that I feel quite inept.  Poetry intimidates me for many reasons, but mostly because I know I don't slow down enough to appreciate the word images.  The challenge is simply to read one book of poetry in a year - which does indeed seem doable.  I think if I were to join this challenge, I would seek to read a poetry collection of Mary Oliver as I understand she is a terrific poet for the easily intimidated.

Last - but I am sure not least - I am very tempted to join Carrie's Wendell Barry reading challenge.  A month ago I would have skipped over this listing, as I had never heard of this particular author, but when I visited Nashville in December my sister-in-law waxed poetically about his work and I made a mental note that I would have to some day check it out.  Well, it seems rather fateful that in that same month I would discover that one of my dear blogging friends, Kim, had joined a challenge that is devoted exclusively to this author.  Carrie describes his writing as making "me ache for a simpler way of life."  I also dream of a less frenetic lifestyle, and I think that is why I would like to try at least one of his books or short stories in 2011.

The final challenge in which I truly hope to participate - is Natasha's bi-annual Bloggiesta which is scheduled for January 21-23, 2011.  While I don't have many book reviews to write (which is about the only benefit to not reading much this past semester), I do have a lot of blog clean-up that needs to be done.  The tabs at the top of my web page have somehow gone MIA - and my sidebar information is significantly outdated.  I know that Blogger has added some new template options, and I may try to tweak the site just a bit.  I don't plan to spend hours and hours on this project, but I love the fact that there is a designated weekend in which to focus on this often overlooked task.

I hope this first day of the New Year finds you restful, happy, and expectant of wonderful things to come.


  1. Oh, you want waxing poetic about my beloved Wendell Berry?:) Here's the post I mentioned in our conversation, complete with scanned letter. Yes, let's just say I'm a Fan!

    Happy New Year! Sounds like you have a beautiful year ahead of you. As always, looking forward to your sharing it with us here.

  2. Happy New Year, Molly! I always fail to complete challenges too - I think it's a much better idea to use them as inspiration. :)

  3. Happy New Year! I have been studiously avoiding A Novel Challenge until just now when I had to take a peek. Dang, now I've had to sign up for a new challenge. But it's a fairy tale challenge and I'm reading them every week anyway. So it should be easy, right?

  4. I only joined a few challenges that I knew I am likely to complete for 2011. I dislike pressure and have a problem with failure...LOL

    Happy New Year Molly

  5. I am all over James' TBR Dare. And I've kinda turned my back on the challenges this year, but I do know I will participate in RIP because you must! Right? And James is also doing a challenge to read a Western in May, which I can completely handle. Challenges do have a positive impact though...that was how I became so enamoured with graphic novels this year!

  6. I subscribe to the website A Novel Now (which I probably shouldn't) and am just amazed at how many challenges are out there these days. And so many tempting ones! I decided to take a break from challenges this year, but I'm sure I'll get into them again eventually.

    I hope you have a wonderful New Year, Molly! And thanks for the mention! I had such fun making those lists. :-)

  7. What a great approach!

    I'm focusing on longer term projects this year rather than challenge.

    And I wish you rest, happiness and wonderful things too.

  8. Oh my goodness, you are totally inspiring me to read waaaay more!!! I've got to start tackling those huge piles of books we have everywhere... Happy New Year!! Hugs, Silke

  9. Good wishes to you, Molly, on this new year and new challenges, whatever they may be.

    Though tempted, I don't do challenges, but, I love to read about them and get so many inspirations for books I would either have liked to read for a long, long time or introductions to new books I might never have known about. Isn't it great fun to think about it all and to be inspired?

    Happy New Year!

  10. Molly, Happy New Year! Hope your 2011 is full of joy and peace and good pursuits that satisfy and enrich you.

    Loved reading your virtual challenges! LOL

  11. Now that is a fun challenge...and one that I would totally excel at!!

  12. I like this idea of listing all the challenges you'd do if you did challenges. And thanks for putting in a plug for The TBR Dare.

    At this point I do sign up for challenges but I'm basically ignoring the required number of books. I'll commit to reading one book and if I do more, great. If not fine.

    I just don't see any reason to feel guilty about completing or not completing challenges. I just do them for fun.

  13. I'm the same way with reading challenges. Ive given up signing up, because I never seem able to complete them. I love this way of "participating", though!

  14. What a fun idea! I liked seeing which challenges you would join if you had time to. I hope that I have time for Bloggiesta too. I haven't participated in it yet because it always seems to fall on days that are packed with activities already.

  15. Oh Molly, I am so with you on the whole challenge thing. I swore off participating in all challenges last year and it made my life much, much easier. That being said, I love the approach of planning what I would read if I were to participate. That way I have a reading list but no pressure one way or the other. And lastly, I am so relieved that you reminded me about the Rory Gilmore challenge. This is one I've been wanting to do and now I can look at the list and not have to actually sign up for the challenge!


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