Books · Reading Challenge

A New Challenge

My past reading challenges have mainly served to instil good habits: to read more new books rather than re-reading old ones, and to make the effort to seek out varied voices. So far, so successful. However, as I reached the end of 2017, I realised that because my challenge had been unstructured – deliberately, so that I wasn’t bound to a list of ‘diverse reads’ curated by someone else, and had to do some work myself – it had become a source of stress. In hindsight I should have set the goal of reading a few books a month toward my challenge, and trusted that, as I discovered new authors, the actual number read would exceed my target.

When I began thinking about 2018, I knew that I wanted to read far more Victorian novels (my enduring love) than I’d managed to fit into 2017. I toyed with the the idea of a year of reading Victorian women: the novels I’d yet to tackle by the more famous authors, and a chance to unearth some of the lesser known (though popular in their time) authors. I was also quite taken with the idea of picking a theme, and reading around it: a novel or two and some secondary reading, but at the leisurely pace an English degree never quite allows.

I was still mulling over how to meld my two ideas when the New Year arrived, and I began Gaskell’s North and South anyway, confident that it would fit whatever challenge I ended up with. Then: serendipity. I noticed Penguin’s Read The Year challenge on Instagram, and January’s prompt fit North and South perfectly. I realised that many of the other prompts would work with Victorian authors, or allow me to read other Classics on my TBR lists. I had found a structure, and from the one book that fit the prompt I could devise secondary reading where interested. Or not, if I decided that the book was a dud.

I’ve begun plotting what I’ll read for the remaining prompts, drawing where I can on books I already own or know I can source from the library. I then plan to write a short review of each book, and some information on my other reading around it, for the blog each month – mostly in the interests of accountability.

I’ve also set myself a goal on Goodreads again this year. I was pleased to beat my target of 104 (2 books a week) last year, but, as I’ve mentioned before, I think I’ve found my level at just over 100 books a year, and circumstances won’t be different enough to warrant stretching myself in 2018.

So there you have my plan. Do let me know if you’re doing Penguin’s Read The Year Challenge (or any others) as it would be interesting to compare notes on what we hope to read.

Expect the first update at the end of the month.

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Polymath Enthusiasms · Reading Challenge

Odds & (Week)ends #13

As you’ve probably guessed, I succumbed to illness, and deadlines, and Christmas craziness, and let the blogging lapse. I decided I’d finish off the year with a little look back at some of the things I’ve enjoyed.

Knitting

I’m proud of having pushed myself to learn new techniques in 2017, and very aware that I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from some clear and expert patterns.

Clockwise from top left: Studies in Ice (Beatrice Perron Dahlen), accessories from The Simple Collection (Tin Can Knits), Selfoss slippers (Anne Curry), Bousta Beanie (Gudrun Johnston for Shetland Wool Week), Hitchhiker (Martina Behm), Cirro (Woolly Wormhead).

Books, Books, Books

I’ve read 127 books in 2017, though I’m speed-reading Sapiens (because it’s due back in a couple of days) so I might just sneak another in.

I think Goodreads were a little premature with their roundup.

According to Audible, I also accumulated a respectable number of minutes on audiobooks in 2017:

I have no idea what the deal is with Thursdays.

Total minutes are likely to go up in 2018, as the KnitBritish podcast is going monthly, and I’m all caught up on past episodes, so will have more time for audiobooks.

So far as the Reading Challenge goes, I read a total of 56 diverse books – which works out at slightly more than 1 book by a BAME/female/LGBT/non-Western author (or some combination of those categories) a week. This was just short of 50% of the total number of books I read, and covered both fiction and non-fiction. Particular highlights were Roshani Chokshi’s folklore-inspired Fantasy novels, N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series (which I need to finish in 2018), David Olusoga’s Black and British, and the fabulous Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.

A little taste of the books I’ve read, loved, borrowed, hated, purchased, and loaned out this year.

Out and About

It would be easy to focus on how much time I spent being ill this year, but I also got to do some fun things, read some great books, play fun games, and drink a lot of coffee.

Six of the nine experiences pictured involved leaving the house 👍

Odds and Sods

  • I made it to the cinema for the first time in 3 years to see Thor: Ragnarok. I’m now counting down the days til I can download it, and then watch it over and over til I explode from laughing.
  • I finally got the sewing machine out and made some new floor cushion covers. It took 2 hours to sew 8 seams, and I had to fight the machine the whole way. Fun times.
  • Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency was my favourite show this year, and I’m torn between excitement for the new series in Jan, and disappointment that it’s supposedly the last one.

Upcoming

I have big knitting plans for 2018: a year of socks, garment knitting, the Good Intentions Club, and the Darning Masterclass at EYF. I’m also signed up to a couple of different yarn and pattern clubs. My 2017 Reading Challenge was good, but a little vague, so I’m simplifying things for 2018 (details to follow), in the hope of also demolishing my ever-increasing TBR pile. All of which I expect to share with you on here.

Take care, and I’ll see you on the other side.

Reading Challenge

2017 Reading Challenges

I’m participating in 2 reading challenges this year: the Goodreads Challenge, for which I pledged to read 104 books (double last year’s target), and a self-imposed challenge to read more diversely.

In the past few years I’ve managed to read double my target for the Goodreads challenge, increasing the target, year on year, accordingly. My total for the year so far is 84, so I’ll meet my target of 104, and may even exceed it, but I won’t be doubling it this year. At this point in my life, 104 seems to be the upper limit of the number of books I can read in a year. I should note that the actual amount I’ll have read is higher as I don’t count magazines, newspapers, or single issues of comic books. Or books read to the Tiny Tyrant for that matter.

I noticed when doing the Classics challenge last year that it was very easy to default to works by white, male authors, so I decided to work at increasing the diversity of my reading this year. I’ve been taking stock of my progress each quarter. January to March included 7 books by BAME and/or women authors out of a total 18 books. Between April and the end of June I read 14 out of a total 36 books. The second quarter flagged up that diversity is not always clear cut. Some of the books I read were diverse in terms of characters, but written by white, male authors. While I want to support BAME authors, I also want to see more diversity in the content of all books – and no, I don’t mean adding a single black or lgbtqa character who is expected to represent their entire community and likely therefore to descend into stereotype – I mean representing the world that most of us see everyday, which is far more varied than many books would have you believe. While I didn’t count Patrick Weekes’ Rogues of the Republic series (wonderfully inclusive and inventive fantasy) in my total, they’re certainly the type of book I want to read more of.

Since July 11 of a total 30 books read count toward my challenge. Outstanding among them are Roshani Chokshi’s Star-Touched Queen fantasy novels: a wonderful blend of Indian history, myth, and fairy tale whose heroines combine guts and vulnerability. I also greatly enjoyed David Olusoga’s Black and British: A Forgotten History, which is a wonderful riposte to those who’d have you believe that there were no black people in Britain prior to the 1950s. What I’ve realised in this third quarter is how hard it can be to read diversely. When I took part in the Classics challenge last year it was very easy to pick a book at the start of the month; deliberately choosing diverse books requires more research and planning, and I’m conscious that I’ve slacked off at busy times. I think if I were to repeat this challenge, I would set an actual target rather than leave it to chance.

I have managed to keep the proportion of diverse books to about a third of my reading total, and I hope to maintain that in the final quarter, and beyond. I’ll let you know how it’s gone in December.