Last year I joined in a reading challenge with some friends and colleagues. Looking back I think it was actually my idea for us to follow this random list of categories as a way of directing our reading choices for the year. The word “challenge” is like a red flag to a bull for me – I was up for it! And I was. For a while. I enjoyed reading books that I might not otherwise have chosen and searching for the right book to fit the requirements of a particular category (“Book set in your home town was especially difficult!). 52 books for the year, one a week – easy peasy! I started the year off strongly and kept up the pace until right until the end. Then it just stopped being enjoyable. Reading, the biggest non-human love of my life, was becoming a chore. A job to get through before the fun stuff could begin. I pulled up short with just 3 books to go to complete the challenge. A part of me thought “just get on and read those 3 books”, but another, stronger part of me, knew it was time to stop.
When reading isn’t fun anymore something has to change!
And so I quit the challenge. Admitted defeat. Reassessed. Moved on.
The challenge is on again this year and I am enjoying hearing from others about how they are “reading the challenge”. But I’m not going to join in this time. I’ve made this my year of reading joyfully – the year I read what I want, when I want, how I want – no rules, regulations or requirements. And it feels liberating!
When I had my Sweet Pea three and a half years ago the loss of the time and sane head space to read was one of the biggest losses for me. I missed the time I had to delve into a book with no interruptions. I missed having the brain power to concentrate on something more intense than the directions on a tin of formula (and even that was a fucking struggle at times!). Now that I am starting to scrape some of that “free” reading time back I want to spend it wisely. I want to spend it reading books that I am truly enjoying, that spark something in me. Books that make me cry and laugh. Books that stretch me and carry me. Books that bring me joy.
What about you? What is your reading life like at the moment? Any great recommendations for me?
Winter really is the reading season isn’t it? I’m all for great summer reads, reading by the pool and the beach but nothing beats a cup of tea, a cosy location in front of some heating device and a great book in my opinion! Having said that, unfortunately winter is also a big working season for me this year so most of my reading has been in the form of academic articles and reports but I have still managed to squeeze in a few “for pleasure” reads over June…
The Wolf Border – Sarah Hall – I had heard/read some good things about this book but once again my dislike of all topics “nature” had me steering away from it. I’m not sure what finally convinced me to give it a go but I am SO glad I did. I can fairly convincingly state that this will be one of my top reads of the year. The main character, Rachel, is lured back to her home in the UK from the USA to work on a project that is attempting to slowly introduce wolves back in to the English landscape. The strong portrayal of characterisation and place makes this book so memorable and unable to put down. I felt so connected to the main character and her story and the depictions of the wolves were amazing. I really have to stop judging books by their nature content!!
After Birth – Elisa Albert – I ordered this book purely on its description – “After Birth” cuts open the body of literature on mothering, birth, feminism, female friendship, female hateship — whether academic treatise or poem or novel — and wrenches out something so new we barely recognize it. Wet, red, slimy, alive: a truth baby. I will read anything that promises to offer up the “truth” about motherhood. I’m not sure that After Birth gives the definitive account of those early days and months of being a mother but it definitely provided one I could relate to in so many ways. A really raw, nerve shattering read.
Bad Behaviour – Rebecca Starford – A memoir from an Australian woman about her year as a teenager spent in an exclusive boarding school environment in the Victorian bush. The book explores her experiences of bullying and being bullied and the cruel and ritualistic ways in which adolescent girls can treat each other. This book was so engaging and honest – I really felt as though the author was trying her best to objectively reflect on this time in her life and how it had shaped her development. It brought back some painful memories of my own and made me realise just how much I need to foster my own daughter’s self esteem before she embarks into her life of female friendships…
What about you? What great books have you been reading lately?