Monday, April 4, 2016

Reading Challenge

After reading some blog posts that discussed reading challenges, I got to thinking about them and found the idea intriguing.

I never needed to be challenged to read. Not as a child, not now(even when finding the time to read is more difficult).

So at first I blew off the idea as not for me. Besides not needing to be challenged, I found the idea of reading something you know in advance you won't like all because it's part of the challenge silly. To some degree I still feel that way. I have so many books on my to-read list and there are so many more books in the world that I don't see the point in reading something I don't like.

But I started to think that reading challenges aren't that simple. People take different ones for different reasons. A sense of accomplishment, expanding their horizons, just for fun, and probably sometimes because they do need to be challenged.

I can't say I've never participated in a reading challenge, but I also wouldn't say I have. To clarify I did participate in book-it when I was younger. For those who don't know what that is you can click here for details. I have no idea what the program does now, but if you have young readers I'd recommend checking it out.

When I was a kid it pretty much meant I got free pizza for doing something I already did.

I also participated in the annual reading contest my local library held for years(until I was too old). That was another case of getting rewarded for something I already did. I won something every year and the prizes they offered were amazing.

My favorite was a gift card to a mall and perhaps it'll explain how much that meant to me when I say my mall bought items until I was 20(maybe even older, I know I've done a little more mall shopping after that age) consisted of a hairagami (Haha, they still make those apparently!) and a Little Mermaid nightdress from the Disney store(no picture of that).

So that gift card was AMAZING! I bought myself a pair of jeans(my height always made jean shopping interesting) that I wore until I realized they were getting to the end of their life and I loved them so much I wanted to keep them forever.

I was going to pull them out for a picture but they're lingering somewhere in the basement in a box where I stash all my "memory clothing". Yes, I have a box with clothing that is there just because it's special. Actually, bit of a side track, but I have a LOT of boxes in my basement that are full of memory stuff. I have issues with boxes . . . and notebooks . . . and keeping notebooks in boxes.

I really just have a sentimental streak about stuff and I keep a lot of things. I wish I'd kept more things, I wish my mom had kept her childhood things, and her parents, and their parents. Occasionally my siblings will call me and be like, "By any chance do you have my old blah blah blah?" Apparently I'm the(here I am so proud of myself for not starting half my sentences with so and I'm abusing adverbs instead) family hoarder and they think I have their special goodies they didn't think to keep!

Back to the subject, or rather my previous rabbit trail that's closer to the subject. I do have a picture of the famous jeans, but it's not a current once since I'm too lazy to go digging around for them and I wouldn't fit into them(oh I wish) anyway. I might go scrounge for them before this goes up, so who knows, but as of right now I have one of my favorite pictures of me ever.

Aww, look at little me. Those are the jeans and this the only picture I know off the top of my head that I have of them(plus it's already on my computer). But yes, I actually like that picture because it's one of the only pictures I have that I don't look at and think about how awful I look. That's my pretty picture(so sad I've yet to top that.)

It doesn't help when I see things most people probably miss. Like with my blog picture. Every time I see it I think, "Oh my gosh! Why am I hunched like that?! Pull your shoulders back!"

See, now you'll probably notice and you'll never see it the same way and I've now made that picture look bad for everyone.

Focus, Kristen, focus.

So there's my jeans that I won. Moving on.

Last year I joined the Goodreads reading challenge, beat my goal, reset it, and beat it again.

Yay me!

Again, I got credit for something I was already doing. But I did learn some fun things about my reading habits. For example: I don't start reading until late spring. Which is why my goal was so low to start. I set it at the beginning of the year when I wasn't getting any reading done.

Realizing that I have a busy start to the year, but that it doesn't kill my overall book consumption for the year encouraged me to set a higher goal this year. I'll admit, I'm still a bit like "ahhhh, I'm not going to make it!" because the little counter thing tells me I'm behind by a lot. I have to keep telling myself that my goal this year is lower than my amount read last year and though I haven't finished a book yet this year, last year I didn't finish one until May(I think).

Though I'm enjoying keeping track of what I read, reviewing also, I still feel like I'm getting a pat on the back for accomplishing something I would do anyway.

So what is the point of this post!

Well, I decided since I have no real interest in the challenges my friends are participating in(or have participated in) because I really don't want to set myself up to read things I don't want to, I decided to do a personal reading challenge for educational purposes.

I also do not like reading for educational purposes LOL, I read for enjoyment, adventure, and a thrilling ride where I get to end it snug in my bed. Someone else gets all the pain, the crazy emotions, the tense scenes, the near death experiences, the death, the getting attacked by snakes and crazy brothers. In short, I don't get put out in any way. My mom doesn't have to die, my house doesn't have to burn down, I don't find out I've got some secret destiny to follow or that I'm living in a dystopian society.

But since I'm a writer, I want to study methods and how authors approach the various elements of storytelling. I could do this with any books, but I chose to do this with classics.

I chose classics because there's a huge variety that falls under that banner and though some people will hate certain books in that category, there's enough love for each of them that I think they're worth studying.

I was open to reading new novels or ones I'd already read. I figured I hadn't studied storytelling aspects from a writer's perspective on any books, so I'll hopefully gain some good insight on old or new stories.

To get a list together, I approached my writing group with the question "What five classics would you recommend." I took the answers I got and tried to narrow it down to a reasonable number to make sure I don't take on too much.

There's a chance I won't get through all of these this year, but here's my reading challenge for the year on top of my Goodreads challenge.

1. The Hobbit.

I've never actually read The Hobbit. My mother read it to me as a child, so I do know the story and have fond memories of her reading it to me. My reason for never reading it to myself is a fear that I won't enjoy it as much as I did then and it'll somehow lessen that memory. Choosing this book is a safe choice for me in the sense that I'm sure I'll enjoy it, but it's also a brave choice for the reason stated above. LOTR was also recommended to me, but from experience I know if I'm not in the mood for it, I won't get very far.

2. The Count of Monte Cristo

This one falls into the "have read" category. I wouldn't say I love this book, but that mostly is due to emotional engagement. I always get so frustrated when reading this story. BECAUSE IT'S JUST NOT FAIR!!!! BURN THEM ALL!! I hate being agitated for a majority of a story, but clearly it does it's job with engaging me and I'm currently reading through a book(which like so many modern books) where the main character lets people get away with crap and I could use a good book where a person takes sweet revenge!! 

3. Little Women

I waffled on this choice because I've read it so many times(a personal favorite) that I wasn't sure if I'd gain much from it besides crying over Beth AGAIN. But I do love it, so gosh darn it I'm going to read it. Also, I have four siblings and it used to be fun seeing them in the sisters. Now as adults, it's interesting to see the things we still have in common with them(though not everything). 

4. Jane Eyre

I knew as soon as I saw this on the list of suggestions that it would make the cut. I've never read this book, but I've heard so many references to it and have read books where people talk about how that story had qualities similar to Jane Eyre. Well, now I'll actually know what people mean when they do that.

5. Pride and Prejudice

I'm somewhat ashamed to say I've never read this. And that's because I absolutely LOVE the tv series. And if I love something that much, I really should've read the book by now. 

I couldn't say which I've watched more: Pride and Prejudice or Star Wars(originals). I love it so much that if I ever heard that a local theatre was putting on P&P, my husband would be taking the kids to work with him so that I could be a part of it. (I'd play the mother. I love roles that make people laugh.)

Gushing aside, I've heard that the tv series was so close to the book that it makes more sense to watch it than read it and I've never felt the need to read the book.

6. The Grapes of Wrath

This is another one I've never read, but I did grow up knowing the name. The problem lies in word association. When I hear Grapes of Wrath I either think "Oh that boring movie we watched when I was a kid."


And I'm pretty sure veggietales grapes and their story are not an accurate representation of the book. So I chose this book because it's about time I got the right image in my head.

7. The Little Prince

I'd never heard of this book until it was suggested for this challenge. It is the most translated book in the French language and is supposed to be chock full of deeper meaning than most children's books. It's the only children's book to make my list and I'm interested to see what it has to offer.

8. Wuthering Heights.

As I was getting my last 3 choices together, I was getting less certain. It was getting harder to pick and I won't be able to give as many "insightful" thoughts on these choices. So Wuthering Heights I chose because I have an aversion to reading it. I hate being told to do things, such as what I should read. Wuthering Heights is one of those books that I see getting thrown around a lot as "you should read this" and there's nothing that'll make me NOT do something as fast as telling me I SHOULD do it.

I do try to temper that stubbornness with some realization that I am being obstinate and in this case I decided to add this to my list because I want to prove that I'm not that stubborn. (I am. Don't let this fool you.)

9. We.

First off, what kind of a name is that for a book? That's a terrible title. Who would pick that up? This is a novel I'd never heard of. I was presented with quite a few dystopian novels and I more or less selected one at random. This was the winner. :D

10. Dracula

This was by far the hardest choice. Not just because it was my last pick, but because I don't think I'll like it. Firstly, I hate vampires. As in I HATE vampires. All vampires, any kind of vampires, every stinking vampire ever imagined. Second, I don't like horror. (repeats above emphasis on how much I hate horror).

So why? Why would I put a book on my list that I know right from the start I'm going to hate? Because I had too many of my friends(thanks, friends! jerks) recommend it and if I was going to pick one more book it made sense to pick the most recommended one.

There's my personal reading challenge of 10 classics. As I read them(and any other books that'll go towards my goodreads challenge), I will write reviews here for those who are interested. (I might not be original, but I'll be entertaining.)

Are you participating in any challenges this year? Have you in the past?


  1. I used to get pizza for reading when I was a kid, too! Our old bank also had a reading challenge for kids (my sister and completed that every year as well for as long as we were eligible.) Free stuff for reading? Sign me up, anytime!

    Haven't done any reading challenges in a while, though... Perhaps I shall later this year or even do a year-long one next year.

    You've got some great classics on this list! I'm so sorry, I didn't know you didn't like vampires (I think I was one of those promoting Dracula...), hope you don't find it too unbearable to read.

    I'm sad you were never informed about The Little Prince before now, though, it's a great book!

    1. Lol, no need to apologize! I figure if I come across one that I'm really just not able to get into, I'll skip it. I'm going to try to read them all, but I won't push it if it becomes obvious that I'm not going to gain anything.

      I think I had 3-4 votes for Dracula though, so you can share the blame. :P

  2. I read The Little Prince as part of a personal reading challenge to read 10 classics originally written in non-English. It was well worth it. Good luck on your challenge.

    1. That's an interesting challenge. I'm not sure how many books(in general) I've read that weren't originally in English. I did read the Ruby Red series last year and I believe that was originally in german.

  3. Sounds like a fab list! I look forward to seeing what you think of them all. I haven't read any classics since I started writing seriously. Perhaps I should pick one up again sometime.

    1. I haven't either, which is part of the reason for me doing this. I'm curious to see what new things I might glean from them or if I just see them differently. I hope it's an enlightening experience.

  4. I've seen a few reading challenges I've been intrigued by, but other than the childhood challenges I haven't done any except challenges to push me to read more in my foreign languages.

    Looks like a good list you've got. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my all time favorite books and I liked The Hobbit much more than LOTR, which I never managed to get more than a couple of chapters into. I read The Grapes of Wrath (actually a whole collection of Steinbeck) when I was 12 and regret it because thematically it was more than I could understand at the time. Still love Of Mice and Men, though. I read The Little Prince in October and also hadn't heard of it until I was all grown. I enjoyed it, but probably missed a bit of meaning since I read it in French. I found Dracula quite dull, honestly.

    Good luck!

    1. I'm not well-versed in any foreign languages, so I'm always impressed when I hear people are reading a book in a foreign language! I can't imagine being able to do that.

      I tried at random times to read LOTR but found I couldn't get into it until about 3-4 years ago I sat down and tried again. Got through all three in three days. I don't know what was different. I guess I was just in the mood for it. It did leave me with the belief that one has to be in the mood for certain books to enjoy them and there's no point in force reading something.

      I recently discussed with my mom how I felt that some books are hard to grasp at a young age. I remember reading The Giver in 7th grade and hating it. At the time it struck me as messed up and unfair and crazy with a lousy ending.

      Now I better understand the Dystopian genre and I might see the book differently if I read it again.

  5. I like that you've selected your reading challenge books yourself. It sounds like a great list. Good luck! "Shoulds" and being told what to do can be annoying indeed and have the opposite effect. -Sylvia

    1. Thanks! Yes, I figure I'm more likely to finish if I chose, but wanted to make it a little interesting by getting suggestions.

      I'm hoping to get to my third challenge book soon(my husband's reading it right now!)