- Read the big books I've been avoiding due to their sheer length and density (but really want to read anyway) like War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy and Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- Balance reading choices between light and heavy: the list contains heavy, dark, tragic, long and intense reads but also light, easy, short, funny ones!
- Read diverse genres: I tend to get stuck in genres. If I'm reading a Scandinavian thriller, I will then search out every good Scandinavian thriller and devour them all. There is nothing wrong with this, but then I have little time left over for other genres and books on my reading lists.
- Accomplish goals: I am extremely competitive and highly motivated by extrinsic motivators. Thus, having a list like this to check stuff off of and then finishing by the end of the year is really encouraging.
It took me almost a week to find, research, and select all the books on this list and categorize them accordingly. I had already wanted to read most of these books but some of them (Beauty by Robin McKinley, for example) are departures from what I'd normally read. This is good for me as, again, I want to diversify what I read. I enjoyed putting this list together and it really tested my literary memory. By the end of the list, after the Russian literary giants and the Great American Novels, I was exhausted just by the thought of all that reading, so the books started to become "lighter". Some people who are doing this challenge satisfy multiple categories by assigning the same book to more than one category. For example, Summer of My Amazing Luck by Miriam Toews is set in the summer, in Manitoba (my home province), is about a road trip etc. I contemplated doing this to save time, but what's the challenge in that!? I wanted to do 41 unique books! My own rules for this list were: no repeated books; no authors repeated twice; the more unfamiliar the better; and, take risks and have fun. In the end, the list is diverse and I am really happy with it!
Here are some facts before I begin the Challenge:
- Book I'm least looking forward to reading: Tie between Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The former, at over 1000 pages, is one I've attempted before and quickly abandoned. I just know it will take a lot of time and energy. The latter is one of my sister's favourite series so I know a lot about it already and I just can't seem to muster up much interest. I'm hoping that will change.
- Book I'm most looking forward to reading: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. I have been wanting to read this for a long time. It is sometimes marketed as an ethnography which interested me for obvious reasons and it is about India. I love reading fiction and non-fiction about India, a love borne in part due to reading a favourite such book, A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, at a very young age.
- The hardest categories to populate: I had the most difficulty in choosing an Oprah's Book Club Book. None of the ones I hadn't already read seemed interesting and Night by Elie Weisel was in the "blue cover" category. Eventually, I compromised and moved things around. The YA and Fairy Tale categories were similarly frustrating because, while I love YA, the sameness of a lot of the books annoyed me. Everything seemed to be dystopian, futuristic, adaptations "with a dark twist", and/or long series as opposed to standalone books. I settled on the least offensive, in these terms, for this category and, having read Rainbow Rowell before (Fangirl), I expect something equally decent.
- What surprised me the most: How pretentious I found some books which I had earlier wanted to read desperately! As I read synopsis after synopsis of seemingly great bestsellers, I grew weary of the implicit elitist language and tone I perceived in a lot of them. In particular, I could not get myself to care about either of Jonathan Franzen's "great" novels - both of which I have.
- My biggest personal challenge in completing the challenge: That I will become bored very quickly while reading a book and abandon it for an alternate. During recent reading experiences, if a book didn't hold my attention in the first ten pages I would quickly try another without giving the first a proper chance. I'm hoping that the drive to stick to the list and do it right will help me overcome such obstacles (but if I hate a book and really cannot stand it after reading a considerable amount, it's being replaced!).
How will I do it?
Are you participating in a reading challenge this year? If not, why not try this one!