Monday, May 23, 2016
Yet if you read many book blogs or sites like Goodreads or LibraryThing, you will find mention of all kinds of reading challenges, some of which get a little wild. For Popsugar's 2016 Ultimate Reading Challenge, one must attempt to read, among many others, a book based on a fairy tale, a romance set in the future, a book written by a comedian, a book recommended by someone you just met, the first book you see in a bookstore, a book with a blue cover and a book with a protagonist who has your occupation. One might read books in some of these categories as a matter of course, books with blue covers, for example. In recent years I have read books by Billy Crystal, Bob Newhart, Tim Conway and Carol Burnett, and this year I've read one by Monty Python-alumnus Terry Gilliam, so I guess I'm covered when it comes to comedians. But some categories, such as the first book one sees in a bookstore, could obligate you to read something you simply have no desire to read. What's the fun in that? And that book you don't really want to read could cost you $30 besides.
In One for the Books, a book conveniently with a blue cover, Joe Queenan tells of attempting several self-imposed reading challenges over the years. Among those he has attempted are:
- reading all the books on loan from close friends.
- reading books "I picked off library shelves with my eyes closed."
- reading books "I had always suspected I would hate."
- reading all the coffee-table books in his collection.
- finishing all the books he had previously abandoned.
- reading a book a day for an entire year.
He didn't get very far with most of these, and one can see why. A person can read only a limited number of books in a lifetime, so why waste time with books with little or no appeal? If you are somebody who can't decide what to read next or who can knock off a book a day, then maybe a challenge like one of these could be fun. But if, like me, you already have a backlog of books you want to read and you feel like you are running out of time to read them, most of these challenges seem more like a burden than an enjoyable game.
I do have other ways of adding a bit of play to my reading choices. I will pick a random number, say 12, then select the 12th unread book on each shelf. Then from those books I will choose which one to read next. This simply makes choosing a book easier, while at the same time adding a little mystery to the process.
When I go to Florida in the fall, I fill a small box of books with unread novels by authors whose last names begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. Last winter I read novels by Donna Leon, Lisa Lutz, Laura Lippman, Joe R. Lansdale and so forth. Next winter I may tackle books by Charles McCarry, Helen MacInnes, Larry McMurtry, Grace McClean and Nancy Mauro, among others. I have a lot of M books, so the final selection will not be easy. But it will be fun.
These aren't really reading challenges, but they may provide me with a pleasure similar to what reading challenges provide others.