Just as 2015 was coming to a close, there were finally a few moments to stop and catch my breath and take stock of the things I was spending my time on and the things I wanted to do more of... Reading actual books (not just student essays) was high on my list.
I grew up in a house full of books. Both my parents nightstands were always overflowing with books and magazines. My dad made the big, heavy bookshelves and my mom painted them.. and my sister and I shared a room and those bookshelves for many years. They were always full. There's just something about getting lost in a good book. Some of my earliest memories revolve around books. I remember, before I was old enough to go to kindergarten, there was an old record player in the alcove under the stairs. My mom would play records as she cleaned the house. I remember laying on my belly on the soft brown carpet with the album covers and while the records played I taught myself to follow along with the words. James Taylor, Carol King, and Amy Grant taught me to read.
So, while I was taking stock of things a few weeks ago, I happened on bookriot's website where I found they are holding a yearly reading challenge. Suddenly, I was very excited. This was something I could really get behind.
This semester, I'm teaching a class that requires my students to critically read and research more than ever. While I am loving this arrangement, my students are not. I hear a lot of complaining about being a slow reader or they just flat out hate to read. The only way to get over this, I tell them, is to read more... read often... push yourself to move more quickly through the page... read different types of things until you find something that really piques your interest. My students rarely recieve my response warmly.
The thing is, making time and space in our lives to read opens us up to new ideas and perspectives we would never otherwise experience. For me, reading is right up there with getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, and getting enough exercise... it's just good self-care.
Are there a lot of crappy books published? YES! But, there are an awful lot of excellent ones as well. And, that's what I liked about this particular book challenge.
Book Riot is not prescribing a list of titles that you must complete... they are offering 24 suggestions of types of books to pick up and try... things you might not think to read on your own. As I look at my current bookshelf, there are lots of World War II era stories... some true, most not. In fact, over the break, I read all of Unbroken in about 20 hours. It's 400 pages and I could not put it down. So good. But, pushing myself to read something newer or older or about another part of the world would be a great exercise.
Whether you like fiction or non-fiction, there are things on this list for everyone and it seems pretty flexible. I checked the fine print and it's totally legitimate to find books that fit more than one category. So, maybe the other challenge is to fill out the list with as few books as possible... for those of you - strategic thinkers. And, if you're still stumped, the New York Public Library makes some great suggestions.
What's first on my list this year? Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. It fits in the "Read a dystopian or post-apocolyptic novel" line. This is the same author who wrote Remains of the Day and I hear he has a new novel out as well.
I'll be checking in with you about my progress as the year progresses. And, I'd love it if you joined me, too!
It's always hard to read for pleasure when there are student essays to grade - so many student essay's to grade! But, I like a fun challenge!
This is Not the End!
P.S. - I printed out the list and I'm keeping it in my little notebook ;)!