If you’ve been following the blog for a little while, you may know that this year I committed to a reading challenge this year: to read 12 books from by To Be Read (TBR) pile over the course of 2011. As the year is drawing to a close, I’ve been reviewing my progress in the challenge, ruminating on the nature of success and failure, and putting off writing my last post in hopes of finishing the last few books.
I think I’ve done pretty well in my challenge: I haven’t made it through all 12, but I have made a pretty serious dent in my reading pile. As a means of a recap, here’s what I committed to read, with the read titles crossed through (with links to the posts about them if it interests you).
1. Zadie Smith: Changing My Mind post
2. F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Beautiful and Damned post
3. Louise Penny: Still Life post
4. Z.Z. Packer: Drinking Coffee Elsewhere
5. Lorrie Moore: A Gate at the Stairs post
6. Sandy Balfour: Pretty Girl in Crimson Rose post
7. Nicole Krauss: A History of Love
8. Chris Adrian: The Children’s Hospital
9. Haruki Murakami: Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World post
10. Mark Zusak: The Book Thief post
11. Paul Poissel: The Facts of Winter post
12. Wells Tower: Everything Ravaged Everything Burned post
Although I didn’t read all of my 12 challenge books, I see this as a victory rather than a failure: there are 9 books there that I’d wanted to read for quite some time that I’ve now read and—for the most part—enjoyed. Actually, there are 9.5, because although I can’t move it to the finished column, I did read 4 of the 8 stories in Z.Z. Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere (including the thoughtful and funny title story, and another called “Our Lady of Peace” which were wonderful glimpses at young women trying to find their way in the world).
Will I do a similar challenge this year? Maybe informally or maybe I’ll commit to a smaller number of books. Although it’s great to have read these books, a structure like this one takes a bit of the serendipity out of reading. I want to read because I want to read, not to check something off a list. Like when I visit another city, I’d rather sit at a coffee shop and watch the locals wander by for an hour or so than run around and see some arbitrary list of attractions that a guidebook has deemed important. Or, more accurately: I’d like to do a bit of both.
For 2012, I suspect my reading will reflect that bit of both: I’ll have book club books that I’m scheduled to read, and a few TBR titles that I’ll commit to (like the Nicole Krauss book from this year’s list, really, I want to get to that one!), but I’ll also have books that I hear about on the radio, or through this blog or in the newspaper that I’ll pick up and read and finish (or not) and enjoy (or not).
And then I’ll start a different book…