According to the Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge, we are in the winter season. As of yesterday, all my list of Fall reading “to dos” are out the window. Considering I failed to read the vast majority of them, why the hell would I even entertain the idea of trying again?
Short answer: I love challenges.
I’ve been thinking all morning about a series of year long challenges. Like, how about I try doing a painting a day? How about I try veganizing every recipe in The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook. Or what if I make every other month my own personal Nanowrimo? But of all my crazy challenge ideas, none of them get me as excited as reading challenges. There are so many mind boggling options to choose from. For example there are the already established list I could take on like the Sadleir-Black gothic fiction collection (granted the entire thing wouldn’t be a year long but an ongoing challenge), the Barthelme 81 Syllabus (I can already see myself failing this one…I yawn at the thought of most of it…but I feel reading them would somehow make me a “better” –smarter–more worthy of my English degree- person and truth be told, hopefully a stronger writer), the Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time (by the Crime Writer’s Association — my favorite genre), the Time’s 100 best novels from 1923 to present, the 20 essential LA novels, the 40 all time best British Novels, The Western World’s Greatest Books, not to mention any award winning list such as the National Book Awards or Pulitzer. Then there’s the options of focusing on a specific topic, place, time period, writer. There’s Civil War, history, autobiography, poetry, biography, slipstream and postmodern. What about reading only books in translation? Or only debut novels? …endless possibilities. And to make any of these possible challenges even MORE complicated, or twisty, I like to think how I can take a list like say 100 crime novels, and make them fit into all of the Goodreads Seasonal Reading Challenge tasks. It’s madness, I know.
And what does taking on any of these reading list do to my ALREADY expansive “to read” list? I have over 650 books on my Amazon wishlist. I have at least 15 books on my digital lending library shelf. Over 300 books on my Kindle. I have hundreds of books at home I’ve bought at used book sales that I seriously wanted to read. What of all of John le Carre’s books I’m anxious to get to? What about the books I’ll probably buy this month at the library book sale? In a really good year, I generally manage to read about 25 books. Not EVEN scratching the surface of any list, let alone the general “to read.” If I gave up television and movies (insert laugh here) I might be able to squeeze in more books but this creates complications in my list of “to do” movies/television, which is also a passion that I pursue constantly.
So what’s a girl to do? Why keep adding to an already impossible reading agenda by taking on a challenge? I’m not sure if I can explain why except to say I just love books. I want to take on all the list, sample everything. And I think there’s something to pursuing passions, even if it’s infinite and unobtainable. It gives life purpose. It doesn’t allow for boredom. Can you imagine a world where you had nothing to read or watch? Nothing worth untangling? Ugh. No thank you.
Truth be told, I’ve now printed out the Barthelme list. I’m looking over it. I’m seriously considering it. It’s tempting because it’s so perversely challenging. But then, the crime fiction list is also very tempting. I’ve read at least ten of the 100. And the remaining ones are ones I’m sure to enjoy. I’ll have to think this over. Any ideas? Warnings? Suggestions?