Some words are just loaded with meaning, aren’t they? I’m thinking of the word “challenge.” “Challenge,” only second to “resolution,” appears frequently in print and in conversations in January. We’re challenged to exercise more, eat less, drop all our bad habits like a fledgling backpacker, tossing canned goods and bottles of water behind him, ten miles down the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve issued some personal challenges to myself already. I really am exercising more. I’m trying to increase last year’s 5,000 steps a day to 10,000. I made great progress just hours ago when I got lost in the next neighborhood over and wandered for 8,539 steps until I finally gave up and used Google Maps to get myself back home.
Another challenge, too, intrigued me. The idea began when another author and friend, Curtiss Ann Matlock, announced on her blog that she intended to read fifty books in 2017. This clearly struck a note with many of us. I’d just returned from a cruise where I’d read three–close enough to 2017 to count them–and I decided I was going to do the same thing. Fifty books sounded easy enough. Why not? And it would be fun to check back in with Curtiss Ann and see how she and her followers were doing.
Then I heard about another reading challenge from a reader on the Women Reading Great Books Facebook group. She mentioned a reading challenge at Better World Books, so I popped over there to see what it was. This challenge was very different, not a number of books but a list of particular kinds of books. I learned that Better World Books sells both new and used books and is giving a 10% off coupon between now and the end of the month to help readers get started. But, of course, you don’t have to shop there to take part in their challenge.
Here’s the fun part. Someone at the store came up with a great list of particulars for the books they suggest we read. You see the list on the infographic above. And isn’t it a great list? Because we aren’t being asked to simply read our usual genres, but to stretch ourselves to read genres and subjects we might not ordinarily tackle. They’ve even give some great suggestions to get us started, as well as a Goodreads group to help us stay motivated. (But the infographic left off “food memoir” so add that if you want to be part of this.)
By the way, why does reading out of our comfort zone matter? Scientific American reports that researchers at The New School in New York City have found evidence that reading literary fiction improves our capacity to understand what others are thinking and feeling. And I don’t know about you, but I think we could use an abundance of understanding of each other about now. We really might help build that “Better World.”
So here’s my plan. I’m going to try to integrate these two challenges. I want to read 50 books in 2017, some of them just plain fun, some of them necessary to my writing career, and some of them that will fit the descriptions on the Better World list. I’d like to complete both challenges by the end of December.
Do you want to join me? If you’d like to–no pressure–comment below. Tell us which challenge you plan to attempt or both, if that applies. And then, as you move toward your goal, feel free to list the books you’ve read in subsequent comments on any of my other blogs and if you feel like it, what you thought of your choice. I’ll try to keep a list so by year’s end we can recount our successes together .
And as a reward for at least giving this a try? I’ll keep a list of everybody who comments with a book they’ve read for one challenge or the other, and in January of next year I’ll choose at random five commenters to receive an autographed copy of one of my recent novels.
So now I need to go back and count all the books I’ve finished myself this month. At the moment I’m reading Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon, set in Venice. I’ll add it to make my fifty, but I’m not going to use it as my “book set in a place I want to visit.” I’ve been to Venice, where it takes place, and while I want to go back, I think I’ll look for a book set somewhere I haven’t yet been. The world is open to me between the covers of a book. I hope it will be the same for you.