A reading challenge, like the one I’m doing now, is really two challenges in one. The first challenge is to find a book to fit a specific category. The internet makes this easier, and I love doing internet research, but even with the internet, the challenge sometimes comes in knowing what question to ask. Sometimes I just know of a book that would fit a category (like knowing that Ellery Queen was multiple authors), or sometimes a friend will recommend a book, but it’s usually the internet that helps me out here.
The second challenge is reading books in categories that are out of my comfort zone. (Among these are political memoirs, poetry collections, and audiobooks.) I’ve been asked what the point of a reading challenge is – is there a prize, or something? There’s no prize, I explain – just bragging rights and a broadened reading experience.
I have given myself two soft rules for this reading challenge, just like I did last year. The first rule is that I don’t read books I’ve read before, unless the category specifically calls for a re-read. (I broke this rule last year, with We – a book I remembered reading but didn’t remember much about. Like I said, these are soft rules, and, besides, they’re my rules to break if I want to.) I figure reading books I know I’ll enjoy, since I’ve read them before, wouldn’t make a reading challenge very challenging.
My second rule is that I don’t quit a book before I reach the end. I push myself to finish it. Ordinarily, my rule is that I read for enjoyment – if I’m not enjoying a book, why read it? But the point of a reading challenge, as I see it, is to challenge myself. I know I’m going to be exposing myself to genres that are out of my comfort zone, and it’s not always going to be easy reading.
Actually, I’m not entirely convinced of that second rule. I’m into a book right now that I’m not enjoying. It’s not bad. Parts of it are actually enjoyable – it’s just not holding my interest. It’s a long book, and that’s daunting. It’s also a book I own, so there’s not the pressure of a return date urging me to read everyday. There are at least two library books on my virtual “For Later” shelf, sitting on a physical library shelf just a few blocks away. It’s tempting to set this book aside and go check out something else. Maybe I’ll get back to this book, or maybe I won’t – so I won’t set it aside (unless a long-term hold comes in sooner than expected). Don’t worry about me, though. I’ll get through this book, and it’ll be all right.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the seventh book I read for the 2017 Reading Challenge: Bestest. Ramadan. Ever., by Medeia Sharif. It was a good book – truth be told, it was better than I expected it to be. It was not a big, adventure-filled story – just a story about a girl in high school – and there’s nothing wrong with that. I feel I didn’t write enough about the book or its story, in order to avoid spoilers. It was a book for high school aged readers, about high school students. I found it believable, and realistic, that a teenage boy would like a girl as just a friend, and want to go places with her, and be oblivious to the signals the girl is sending him, and also be unaware of how him hanging around often with one girl might appear to others. There was nothing earth-shattering in this book, just a good, positive story, well told. It’s obviously stuck with me. I probably would have never found Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. if it wasn’t for the 2017 Reading Challenge, and that’s why I’m enjoying the challenge so much.