I keep hearing about reading “challenges”. Readers challenge themselves to read a certain number of books or pages in a year, or they try to read certain types of books that are outside their comfort zones. These challenges don’t appeal to me at all. I know a lot of avid readers find them fun and rewarding, but the message I get from the challenges is that reading is a chore and people need all the encouragement they can get. This message seems to start in grade school, when children are forced to read for a prescribed length of time and to read books that are of no interest to them.
The schools in our area think it’s important that children read a variety of genres, although I’ve noticed the genres assigned are mostly fiction, which doesn’t appeal to many boys. The unit we booksellers dread the most is the mystery unit. It’s a mystery to me why teachers think it’s important for third and fourth graders to read children’s mysteries! One of the schools had a requirement that the book be at least 150 pages long — and let me assure you that the mystery-hating children I was trying to help wanted to make sure that they didn’t have to read one extra page. There is a very limited supply of decent children’s mysteries that are 150 pages long — and the teachers were quite rigid in their definition of “mystery”, as I learned when one child returned Babe & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman. The child was apparently told that he was supposed to read a mystery, not an adventure.
Anyway, I’m an adult and I can read what I want — which will never include science fiction. I’m not going to worry about reading “diversely”. What I am going to do is clean out my overcrowded bookshelves. I have many, many books (I’m not going to reveal how many) that have been languishing in my house for over a year. I came up with a pile of 12 books, all with publication dates of 2013 or earlier, that I would love to read but keep putting aside in favor of the “latest and greatest”. I also filled a couple of bags with books that I don’t think I’ll ever read, and I will be donating those to Open Books in Chicago. I’m not going to name any names, but let me just say that graphic novels are not my thing. They give me a headache. And I’m not a huge mystery fan either; I didn’t even like Nancy Drew as a child.
Here’s my list, in alphabetical order — my challenge is to read all of them this year. Anything on the list that doesn’t get read in 2015 gets donated. It’s a harsh world.
Bend, Not Break: A Life in Two Worlds by Ping Fu
My mother passed along this book about a Chinese immigrant who became a successful entrepreneur and it looks fascinating.
Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat by Bee Wilson
I picked this up at a conference and forgot I had it until I started organizing my bookshelves last week.
Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood With Britain In Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson
A friend lent this to me and I’m embarrassed I haven’t read it.
Flat Water Tuesday by Ron Irwin
I recently read a boarding school novel that got it all wrong, so I’ve been nervous about reading another one. I actually paid money for this book, so I really must read it.
Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright
I’m fascinated by Scientology and religious cults. It was a National Book Award finalist in 2013 — and so was Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, which I don’t think I’m ever going to read, but I’m stubbornly keeping.
Housekeeping — Marilynne Robinson
I know it’s supposed to be a modern classic, but I’ve never read it. It won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 1980, and was also shortlisted for the Pulitzer that year.
One Doctor: Close Calls, Cold Cases, and the Mysteries of Medicine — Brendan Reilly, MD
My mother sent me this book also, knowing how much we both enjoy reading about medicine.
Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier — Tom Kizzia
A true story about a sociopath in the wilderness — why haven’t I read it yet? The publisher describes it as “Into the Wild meets Helter Skelter“.
A Thousand Hills to Heaven: Love, Hope, and a Restaurant in Rwanda by Josh Ruxin
Another book I got at a conference — sounds intriguing!
Through the Window: Seventeen Essays and a Short Story — Julian Barnes
I loved The Sense of an Ending so much that I bought Barnes’s essay collection — and it’s been gathering dust ever since.
The Virgins — Pamela Erens
Somebody (who?) recommended this to me because of my love of boarding school novels.
Which one should I read first? Please advise!
This post is part of a weekly blogging event, Top 10 Tuesday.