In Which I Explain How I Created My Own Unique 2021 Reading Challenge

I’ve been meaning to write about how I arrived at my personalized 2021 reading challenge, but somehow got off track. I was probably reading a book…

For those of you who enjoy numbers: this is a 12″ high stack of 12 books with a total of 4,248 pages that I plan on reading in 2021. πŸ€“

~ ~ β€’ ~ ~

I barely read any books in 2020. My focus was too scattered, my anxiety was high, and I couldn’t stick with it.

I forgive myself for slip sliding away from reading for pleasure last year because I am still here in one piece, healthy, relatively sane– and with a renewed sense of purpose when it comes to reading.

Allow me to explain.

As some of you know I’m a fan of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog and get her newsletter. When I saw that she had created a questionnaire that I could use to make my own CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE-STYLE reading challenge I downloaded the worksheets.

By answering her simple questions, I set my 2021 intention, evaluated my reading needs, and then made a list of twelve prompts that resonated with me based on the concepts of variety and escapism. As Modern Mrs. Darcy says: “Remember, your goal isn’t just to get through this challenge. This challenge is a tool to develop the reading life you want.”

Hallelujah!

But then after further contemplating the reading life I wanted, I had a brainstorm, one in which I devised a way to make this reading challenge more personal– and a bit less costly. Please keep in mind that just because I didn’t read much in 2020 doesn’t mean that I didn’t buy books in 2020.

Thus I found myself thinking back to a decade ago when I read a wonderful memoir, Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill.

In this book Hill writes about her decision that for one year she would only re-read books already in the house. That is, she read what she had on hand, then mused upon what her life was like the first time she read the book. This practical approach to deciding what to read next made an impression on me.

Obviously, I guess.

Anyhow, to be clear, I won’t be re-reading anything this coming year, but I will be reading what is here in the house, pre-purchased in good faith you might say– and meant to be read by me, dammit.

~ ~ β€’ ~ ~

MY 2021 CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN-ADVENTURE-STYLE READ-WHAT-YOU-HAVE-IN-THE-HOUSE-ALREADY READING CHALLENGE

a thriller

a memoir

a fantasy novel

a cozy mystery

a book of short stories

a recent NYT bestseller

a novel previously abandoned

a NYT bestseller from a while ago

a novel based on something literary

a non-fiction book set where I live now

a non-fiction book set somewhere I’ve never visited

a book I’d never heard of yet is on many required reading lists

~ ~ β€’ ~ ~

Do you do any reading challenges? Have you ever made your own? Inquiring minds wanna know.

192 thoughts on “In Which I Explain How I Created My Own Unique 2021 Reading Challenge

  1. I read 2-3 books a week and utilize my wonderful local library. After we downsized, I had no desire to keep a library of books I’d read. There’s also the financial impact of reading that many books a year which could hover around $2,000 or so. That’s a lot of plants and fabric. πŸ™‚ I know it’s not everyone’s choice, but the library works for me, and how can it not when all I have to do is ask them to buy a book I’m interested in, and they do. Happy reading this year. Looks like a good lineup.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I love your idea! I have read some of the books in your pile, and we can compare notes later. I work in a library, so I am surrounded by books. I read constantly, and my book sourcing method is this: Read the next right book. I trust that it will come to me when I need it. I handle thousands of books every day, and surprisingly few of them catch my attention. When one does, I read it. Simple as that. It’s led me in some really interesting directions.

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  3. Having seen the pile of books in person, I am impressed by the challenge. While I should find my own path and set of books, and I will to a point, I will no doubt end up reading a number of the same books (and have read a few of them already). Time to expand the scope and topics I pick to read. As always, your “Beanness” inspires me.

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    • Z-D, knowing how slowly I read books, preferring to dawdle rather than race through them, I’m impressed with my book stack, too. We’ll see what comes of my grandiose plan. You’re welcome to read any or all or none of the books in the plan. They’re here and paid for, so you know… go hog wild.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Love your challenge. I’ve read some of them. ,y challenge is 100 books. I’m also doing a bingo sort of thing. The big discussion in my household is if I should change the bingo card monthly, or if I should use the same card till I get bingo

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  5. I’ve read Educated, and have the Schwab book in my library list, but now I have you as a source to check out the others on your list to see if any catch my eye. Thanks for that. I have books on my shelf that for one reason or another sounded interesting when I purchased them but now as I move through them I have no idea why. I’m too frugal to actually buy anything just released so I’m way behind in actually reading so many recommended books as I just wait on library copies to come available. That’s enough of a challenge for me Ally Bean!

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    • Deb, usually I read books years after they come out, but last year I bought some current titles under the guise of getting back into reading for pleasure again. Didn’t work then, so I’m going to make use of those books that are like you said: “on my shelf that for one reason or another sounded interesting when I purchased them but now as I move through them I have no idea why.” 😐

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  6. I’ve been reading more during the epidemic. I recently discovered an under the radar novelist by watching the Hulu series β€œKilling Eve.” Granted, the title isn’t compelling, but the novels the series is based on are engaging and extremely well-written. The author is Luke Jennings. The books are known as the Villanelle novels. The subject matter is espionage and international intrigue. The novels feature two strong female leading characters.

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    • David, many people really got into reading during the pandemic and I would have assumed I would have been one. But I didn’t.

      I know of the show Killing Eve and need to watch some of it. I have yet to even see anything more than a commercial for it. Thanks for the author suggestion. The premise of the novels + characters sound like something I’d enjoy reading after, of course, I get through my assigned books here. πŸ€“

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    • Paula, I like reading but am a slow reader. Always have been which kind of makes it a miracle I majored in Eng Lit, but I did. It sounds like you’re doing great with your own reading challenge. Ever onward, eh?

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  7. I’ve always been a reader. It’s so nice to escape into someone else’s life sometimes. I have a box of books under the bed that I’ve bought or been given over the years, and have just been reaching in and pulling one out. If I start it and it doesn’t catch me after the first couple of chapters, I donate it. No sense in wasting time! If I see a book in a thrift store that looks interesting, I’ll buy it and add it to the box.

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    • Beth, usually your approach to what you read next is my approach to reading. I have many books people have given me, waiting on the shelf for me to get to them. Of course now so many people read books on e-readers that passing books onto a friend is becoming a thing of the past. πŸ€·β€β™€οΈ

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  8. Like Judy, I read a couple of books a week . . . most weeks. I borrow both fiction and non-fiction from the lending library at our clubhouse of the local library on the island. I’ve donated or given away most books I used to stockpile, keeping only reference books (dictionaries, health, cookbooks, yearbooks, bird guides, travel, etc.) ~ so nothing much to read around here other than what I borrow.

    I’ve read 2 of your books ~ Educated and The Jane Austen Society. I decided against reading the Crawdads book after reading an excerpt which revealed that it wasn’t my style of literary license. πŸ˜†

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    • Nancy, I’m a slow reader so your accomplishment is beyond me. *Yay* to you. I like your approach to how you choose what you’ll read next, taking advantage of your clubhouse lending library. That’s fun and practical. We have hundreds of books around here, I consider them old friends– and the ones I don’t like I send packing so that my bookshelves make me smile.

      I bought the books in my stack last year, so for once I’ll be more current in my reading. I read great reviews of the Crawdad novel, so it’ll be interesting to see if they lead me astray.

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        • I just requested 3 of your stack from our library stacks ~ The Ghost Fields, The Ghosts of Eden Park, The Castle on Sunset. I considered The House on Mango Street but decided it was not for me.

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            • The Ghost Fields ~ a pleasant murder mystery set in England. Satisfying and “fun” read.

              The Ghosts of Eden Park ~ somewhat tedious recounting of the life and times of a bootlegger in Cincinnati (Remus). In the sum up in the last chapter, the Asst. Attorney General (responsible for prosecuting prohibition violations) heads out to California to open a private law practice. She also decorates a previous boyfriend’s just opened Hollywood Hangout ~> the Chateau Marmont, a/k/a The Castle on Sunset!

              Not read yet, but next up ~> The Castle on Sunset . . . a/k/a Chateau Marmont!

              How’s that for a coincidence?
              Or did you choose those 2 books due to that unlikely tie-in?

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              • No tie-ins at all. I picked them based on recommendations from two different friends. Not connected at all, but apparently they are. Looking forward to reading them all. Thanks for the spoilers, I like knowing what is coming.

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                • The mention of Chateau Marmont is maybe a one sentence toss out late in the book. That’s why I was so shocked when I picked the next book I planned to read and saw “Chateau Marmont” on the cover. πŸ˜€

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  9. I try to keep lists of what I’ve read, but they become littered with titles of books I’ve abandoned. My point? Don’t hesitate to abandon any of the ‘assigned’ books as you progress on your challenge – you gave them a try and found them to be not worthy of your precious time to finish. Seriously.

    I loved ‘mango’, read ‘educated’ and found they both have many salient points worth pondering, even though they are totally unrelated! I like that subconscious interconnectedness of the arts!
    The top book on your pile looks intriguing, so I will search it out for a looksee HA!

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    • Laura, you’re a wise woman. I can see me getting all caught up in my head trying to decide if I’m allowed to drop a book in my challenge, not wanting to betray myself. Thanks for the perspective.

      I like that subconscious interconnectedness of the arts! Well said, I couldn’t agree more. Now, of course, I’ll be focused on finding those salient points as I read those two books.

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  10. I thought last year would be a good opportunity to read. I thought yesterday with a mega snowstorm all around would be a good opportunity to read. I want to do it but I’m too scattered. I have trouble focusing. Too much going on. Maybe some day I will just sit and read and I’m looking forward to it. I have quite a few on my Kindle waiting for me.

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  11. Good for you! I am a big reader but the number of books I read in 2020 probably declined because I had a hard time focusing and setting aside time for reading – all those hours playing computer solitaire! What is that about?!?
    I am a library lover as I am too cheap to purchase books. I look for recommendations in the blogs I read and check my library to see if the titles are available. I will watch your blog for the books that you liked best!
    Good luck with your reading.

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    • Ellen D, I like to read, majored in English Lit in undergrad even, but I read slowly. This many pages may take me all year to read. I understand about playing games instead of reading. I’m into Candy Crush Soda Saga on my phone. My theory is that, like with your computer solitaire game, by playing the game my attention is engaged enough to allow my brain to process my life. Or something like that.

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  12. This is fun. A few years ago I joined my local alumni club’s book club. I read the books they discuss every month. A book a month is a lot for me, but this year they have a book on the list thst I already read. Plus the book I’m currently reading is a fast read so I might have room for a few of my own choices. This sort of cripples me, but I have a few good resources to find a good book recommendation.

    In the past, I only read when I travelled. I relied on the lovely librarians to point me towards books I might enjoy.

    Good luck with your book challenge.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Ernie, I used to be in a neighborhood book club. It has since disbanded but I felt a real obligation to read what I was supposed to read for it, and that took me most of the month. At least with my own challenge I get to decide which book I’ll be reading. I agree about lovely librarians, and also wonderful sales people in bookstores– and Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy, too. Without them I don’t know that’d have read as widely as I have.

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  13. No I don’t have a list or challenge. I enjoy reading and generally read around 12-15 books a year. I rarely re-read books largely because I have a very good memory and can remember them from the first read even if it was a very long time ago. I read a mix of fiction and non-fiction. The total excludes cookery books.

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  14. I love this idea. I also follow and enjoy Modern Mrs. Darcy. She gives me plenty of ideas for new books to read. In fact, I probably found her through your blog! So thank you for that!
    Re-reading an old favourite and seeing how I’ve changed since the last time I read the book is an added bonus, to my reading life. I started a book journal this year (also probably thanks to something I read on MMD, although I wasn’t thinking of her blog when I purchased it). You’ve given me something to think on, for next year. Like setting up my own private book club, membership of 1 – with a set book list to work through. This year I’ll be following my usual no-plan plan, that is: reading whatever takes my fancy/is available to download from the library/recommended by others.
    Have fun, Ally!

    Deb

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    • Deb, my reading plan is usually a no-plan plan but this year I’m going to be intentional, oh yes I am. I don’t read many books, but I always enjoy reading what Anne has to say about the ones she’s read. Maybe I’m a reading enthusiast more than a reader at this point. πŸ€”

      I’ve never kept a book journal, other than in college when I majored in English Lit and it was mandatory, which might be why I rebel against the idea now. However, I can see how that is a cool thing to do and hope yours makes you happy.

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  15. I loved Educated by Westover; I read it because it was on President Obama’s list of books that he loved and recommended for 2018 or 2019.

    I don’t do any reading challenges. I find books by reading book reviews in the Washington Post, NYT, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and in the blogs I read. Sometimes, I read Amazon’s suggestions. I’m always on the lookout for a good book. I just finished Hamnet, a book I came late to and discovered from fellow bloggers. It is, I think, the most beautifully written contemporary fiction book I have ever read.

    Libraries are not for me. I don’t like giving books back. After a while, if I find I haven’t reread a book or can part with it, I’ll give it to someone else to read or donate it.

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    • nance, I didn’t know that Educated came with such a recommendation. That makes it even more intriguing to me.

      I’ve never heard of Hamnet, so I’ll make note of it and put it aside until after [if?] I get through my 2021 challenge. I don’t do much with libraries either. When we moved here the nearest one was a half hour away so I never got in the habit of using one. Especially when at that time there was a locally owned bookshop with a cozy fireplace and a staff that never steered me wrong. Miss that place something powerful, a victim of bookstore chains.

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    • Donna, I’ll take your suggestion and read those books in the order your did. Thanks. I want to read more so I’m hoping that by thinking through *why* I’m reading what I read I’ll stick with it. Plus Modern Mrs. Darcy’s worksheet was fun to do, so nothing ventured, nothing gained.

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  16. I’ve never done a reading challenge but once I get past my move I’d like to do one for 2022, do I’m bookmarking the idea. From your stack of books I’ve read “Educated” and it was fastinating read. I got it off Obama’s list of the best books from whatever year it came out.

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    • Jean, I’ve never tried a book challenge before. I’ve been in book clubs, which is a challenge of a different sort. πŸ™„ I decided to put together this list after I did Modern Mrs. Darcy’s worksheets which I found insightful. I’m looking forward to Educated. It seems like everyone has read it except me.

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  17. I used to belong to a book club, the kind where when you were the hostess you got everybody’s subscription and could purchase as many books as you could with the cash. These books were pooled and one had a wide choice each month and you could take as many as you liked. Each month each member (12 of us) would give a review of the books they’d read. It was awesome and had me reading quite avidly. Now that I’ve retired to a remote place where not much English is spoken and there is no book club, I’ve taken to listening to books rather than reading! Audible is awesome. I find my eyes get tired and I lose concentration when reading the printed word. On audible I can ‘read’ while doing other things. I “read” while doing chores. I “read” on my one-hour daily walk. Audible has lots of freebies as well as the one book credit per month. It suits me perfectly. I do also read ‘real’ books but they take longer. I thought when I retired I’d have more time to read and I do but my eyes get so tired!
    I have never had a reading challenge but like the idea a lot. Perhaps I will set one for myself. Good luck with yours.

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  18. Ally, I like your reading challenge. I did one Toronto Public Library Reading Challenge in 2019. It definitely made me read more widely. Last year I read 111 books, my best record to date thanks to lots of time at home. I plan to participate in the Toronto Public Library Reading Challenge this year (12 books in 12 categories in 12 months). I know I’ll read more than 12 books. Will see how I do with the categories. Good luck with your book challenge.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Natalie, I’ve seen book challenges offered through universities, but not public libraries. It makes sense that they do, of course. 12 books in 12 categories in 12 months sounds fascinating, and quite flexible for you. I don’t read much now that my eyes get tired quickly & I do so much online in the blogosphere, but I might try listening to some books– which isn’t really reading so it’d sort of be cheating, but maybe that’s ok?

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  19. I read voraciously and am rather like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. I’ll read the phone book if I have to. My preferred genres are mystery, thriller, courtroom drama, spy, history, some sci fi but not fantasy. Except Game of Thrones, Tyrion is da bomb. I’ve been known to devour light beach reads as well… love Anne River Siddons and Pat Conroy. Just finished a massive bio on Eleanor Roosevelt. So basically I have no plan. If it strikes my fancy at the moment I read it. Unless Oprah picks it because I haven’t liked any of her choices.
    🀣

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    • River, when I was younger I read voraciously, but as I’ve aged my interest in reading has fallen off. Or at least my interest in reading books for pleasure as waned while my interesting in reading blogs has waxed. I like mysteries, histories, and light beach reads, too. I rarely read a biography of a famous person, but I do like memoirs. I don’t know if I’ve ever intentionally read an Oprah pick, but I do have some books that say Reese Witherspoon approved of them for some reason.

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  20. I love this! Thank you! I didn’t do much reading last year (for the same reasons you listed) and want to try to do a bit more this year. Usually I challenge myself to 50 books/year, but that’s been unrealistic for a while. This year I’ve been thinking about 12 books, just one a month. Surely I can do that? I’ve signed up for Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge and will see what comes up, but I suspect I’ll be doing something similar to what you’re doing — reading what is already on my bookshelf. I might not have been reading many books, but I did buy them. Thank you again for this idea. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 3 people

    • Robin, I’m pleased that this idea works for you. Years ago I read a book per week, but those days, and my youthful eyes, are long gone so a book per month seems doable. At least with this list in mind, and a stack of books staring at me every day, I have a plan of action about my 2021 reading goals. Onward I go.

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  21. My challenge this year is making my way through the very large pile of books next to my bedside table. It grew this year, I wanted to make my contribution to helping our little independent book store survive! I also have my (right now Zoom) book club to keep up with, and we have been reading some pretty dense non-fiction. Like to weave in some light mysteries and short stories. I’ve read quite a few of your bookshelf, and you are in for a lovely year of reading!

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    • Dorothy, you sound like you’ve decided on some clear reading goals for the year. I’m no longer in any bookclub and truthfully I don’t miss it. I have enough difficulty keeping up with reading what I think I want to read– without other people telling me what to read. I do like that you know of some of my 2021 choices and liked them. That’s encouraging.

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      • I know what you mean about trying to keep up with it all. I actually skipped the last book because it was too much of political nature and I didn’t need more of that in my life! I think from now on, I will definitely not feel guilty if I’m totally uninterested in reading a book. Having said that, I do know that there have been quite a few books I’ve read in the club that I never would have picked up, but actually enjoyed reading them. Ah, so many books, so little time!

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  22. A very interesting post, Ally. Like most of us, I find I am inundated by books coming at me from every direction. Since I began blogging, I enjoy the diverse genres reading Indie authors. The re-read gave me goosebumps. I do have books that I LOVED reading the first time around since I first began reading I will think about this option. A great post!

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    • Erica/Erika, I know what you mean about books coming at you from every direction. I get so many suggestions and I appreciate them all, BUT I need to read for me now. Plus I don’t read as much as I once did, so creating this challenge seems like the way forward for me. The premise of Hill’s book has stayed with me so I’m glad it resonated with you, too.

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  23. I’ve also had trouble reading in the past year; focus and access to print have both been in short supply. I’m refraining from commenting on the books I’ve read in your list, though I really really want to. I did just finish listening to Addie LaRue (I think Kate recommended it?), and will offer that listening counts as reading to all the best librarians and teachers I know, and it’s been a way for me to consume story despite my problems with focus. I listen while cooking or cleaning or grocery shopping or walking alone. It helps me get through chores I might otherwise put off. Wishing you the best with your challenge. (OK: One comment: If I could read only one of the books I know in your stack–and I only know about half–I’d choose Educated. An amazing story, very well-written. I read this one in print.)

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    • Rita, I think I got the idea to read the Addie LaRue book from Kate, too. I’m enjoying it. I’m fascinated to read that librarians and teachers consider listening to a book to be the equivalent of reading one. I’ve never gotten into listening to books because it seemed kind of wrong… or sneaky… or I dunno, something less than. Of course now that my eyes are beginning to tire easily, I may revisit my opinion about listening to books. You make a sound case [no pun intended] for listening to books. Thanks.

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      • I’ve found that some books lend themselves well to audio, and others do not. And the reader’s voice and skill is crucial. But all the skills we bring to comprehend written texts are just as necessary for comprehending audio or film texts. I think there’s a misconception that someone watching or listening automatically understands a text they are consuming, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. When I was teaching, I sometimes used film to teach literary concepts because they did eliminate the need to decode text (a barrier for some students), but students still needed to work at comprehension and analysis. Sometimes I think an audio text is more challenging because you can’t flip the pages back to re-read. Not easily, anyway.

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        • I’d guess that what a person gets out of listening to a book is contingent upon that person being a good listener. If your mind flits when someone else is speaking then much would be lost. Same for reading the written page, of course– but like you said at least in that situation you can easily flip back a few pages to refresh your memory. I’m a good listener, so I’m thinking that I may enjoy Audible. Not to mention it’s something new & different for me to do during this long winter.

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          • Check to see what your local library has, too. Ours uses an app called Libby for ebooks and audiobooks, and I’ve become a huge fan of those since last spring. I had an audible account, but I just closed it because I’m so happy with the library’s offerings. Audible is probably best if you want to get new things right away, though.

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            • Interesting analysis. I’ve heard about Libby but don’t know anyone who uses it, so thanks for the information. Reading used to be so simple, buy a book, read it, pass it onto a friend or put on the shelf. Now? There are angles and ways and wherefores galore.

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              • Libraries closing during the initial pandemic shutdown last spring pushed me into digital books. I still prefer print, though, and recently I’ve been buying them again, something pre-pandemic me swore off of. They are my comfort food. The library is checking out print books curbside, but it’s just cumbersome enough that I haven’t used their new system. I cannot wait to go back to my local library and browse the stacks!

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  24. I have lost interest to read books for the last several years now. I have bought some planning to read them straight-away, but I only read two books last year. On my mom’s recommendation, I purchased The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek early last month and I started it. It’s good so far, but I set it down and haven’t picked it back up. I’m too scattered brained to sit and read it seems. It’s weird b/c I used to read books all. the. time!

    Best of luck with your challenge! I hope you enjoy all the books in your stack.

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    • Deborah, I understand how/why you’re not reading like you used to. I’m the same. In some ways I think that a lot of my reading time is now here in the blogosphere so maybe I’m reading as much, just in a different form. I set up this book challenge as a way of guiding myself back into reading for pleasure. We’ll see how it goes, won’t we?

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  25. I love your reading list,Ally❀️ I too have a goal of reading at least one book a month this year but I’m taking a different approach and signed up for Audible. I’ve already finished two books and working on a third. As a writer I spend too much time in front of a screen and my eyes tire easily these days. So Santa sent me Audible and I’m loving having stories read to me! Best of luck in your reading adventures!

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  26. This is great challenge AB! I go through phases of reading books. If I find a good one, I’ll finish it in a couple of days and then not pick another up for months. I have plenty of unread books on my kindle. I should make a goal not to buy another until I read one. Loved where the crawdads sing πŸ™‚

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  27. I do love your take on this challenge and I have no doubt that you will fulfill your goal. I used to be such a voracious reader, but I’ve slacked off so much in the past few years. I mostly blame the internet. πŸ™‚

    Oh, and thank you for Mrs. Darcy’s link; that was a fun rabbit hole I fell into.

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    • Suz, I’m the same way as you. Once upon a time I read books constantly then along came the WWW and I stopped with the books, started with the world [I guess]. MMD is a great resource for reading. Glad you enjoyed her vibe.

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  28. I admire that handsome stack of books, which shows you have good taste, Ms. Bean. I’ve read at least two in your collection.

    No, I don’t usually re-read books. Yes, I dp set goals, usually at the prodding of Goodreads, though I don’t set too high a bar, like X-number of books each month. Right now I have a coupla books on reserve at the library to pick up.

    Reading keeps me sane, and (probably) fuels my writing.Thanks for the inspiration today! πŸ˜€

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    • Marian, I rather liked how that stack of books photographed, so thanks for noticing it. I don’t often re-read any books, but Hill’s memoir puts a different spin on the idea.

      I’m not on Goodreads anymore. I found it confused me more than helped me. I think that’s more of a commentary on my critical thinking skillz than on the website.

      I wonder sometimes if reading for pleasure fuels my writing here. I’ve never seen a direct link, other than when I mention a book I’ve read. Something to ponder.

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  29. I read more in 2020 than I have for a long time, averaging a book or two a week, I think, perhaps more some weeks. I became a lover of digital books a few years ago, and when my reading increased, joined Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, so my reading now is dictated by what’s available there. I feel $10 a month is well worth it. Of your stack, I have read Educated – occasionally a book will grab my attention and I will actually pay the price. Waiting for Where the Crawdads Sing to come down in price, or my impulse to buy to win out.

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    • Carol, many commenters have said that they read more in 2020 than in previous years. I know why I drifted away from reading last year, but I consider it a blip on the screen.

      I’ve never enjoyed reading on my Kindle. That being said, $10 a month is a great deal if you’re reading as much as you are so I can understand why you’re enthusiastic about it. If nothing else the comments on this post have been as varied and inspiring as the people who wrote them. We all like to read, just in our own, very different, ways.

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  30. Good for you, Ally. My main reading challenge is to not spend too much of the day reading when I have other things I have to do. πŸ™‚ I read every single day and I re-read favorite books/series more than once. I have lots and lots and lots of books and collect books by favorite authors, but at places like Half Price Books and other used book stores. I’m thankful every day for the library and at this time for e-books as I couldn’t afford to buy all the books I read in a year.

    janet

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    • Janet, clearly you’ve found your groove with your reading and that’s cool. I like how you read a variety of subjects in a variety of ways. I prefer a book in hand, having never taken to an e-reader but I can understand how for you it’s the way to go. Carry on, my dear. I’m sure there’s a book waiting for you to get back to it.

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  31. My reading challenge is to finish the Book Club book every month, even if I don’t like it. It’s also to have a good mystery to distract me, and to try to order more from my library, versus buying Kindle versions. Then my goal is to read the library book before it disappears from my tablet! Not very lofty goals. πŸ™‚

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    • Margaret, I used to be in a book club and don’t miss it at all. It seemed like homework to read our book of the month, so I can understand your challenge in finishing whatever book it is. I like mysteries so having one nearby is a good idea; I’m with you on that. I don’t enjoy reading on my Kindle, so I’ve never tried using the public library to get a book on a screen instead of in hand. I’ve bought a few books for my Kindle, but they just sit on it, never calling to me.

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  32. Great idea. I am trying to use my in-house books to fill my PopSugar categories too. I have about 10 picked out so far, but since my goal is 40 books this year, I have some searching to do! Fortunately, I have the stockpile – LOL

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    • Janet, I understand your problem. Finding the right book to fulfill a reading challenge can sometimes be as much of a challenge as the actual challenge. 10 seems like a wonderful start, says the woman whose goal is { fingers crossed } 12!

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  33. I enjoyed Educated and will be eager to hear your thoughts about it. I’m reading in spurts again, but that seems to be working in terms of keeping me reading. I’m not keeping track, though. I’ve read 4 books already this year. They were library books. I, too, have books in the house that I haven’t read, but could. Perhaps I shall interject them with my library books, inspired by this post by you.

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    • Tara, I’m beginning to think I’m the only one here who hasn’t read Educated. It seems to be THE book. I’m hoping that this challenge gets me back into reading for pleasure again. Last year did me in when it came to book reading, but this year I can do better. Maybe a bit of structure is what I need…

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  34. Great way to work through your tsundoku. I am a slow reader also and get most of my books through the library… which, of course, means that I am constantly renewing the books I borrow. I don’t know how many books I read a year. I’m in a book club, so there is at least 12, then some that I read about and sound good, and then the ones in my tsundoku pile (many that I picked up in second-hand stores) stacked next to my side of the bed. I’ve read a few of the ones in your pile and hope that you plan to write a review (even if it’s a thumbs up or down) as you make your way through.

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    • Janis, I had to look up tsundoku to find out what it meant, but now that I have it is perfect. Thank you for this new vocabulary word.

      I’m no longer in a book club so what I read is up to me hence this challenge. I’ll talk about whether I liked a book or not, but no reviews here. THAT is way too much like being in college… and writing for a grade. Good golly that made me crazy.

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  35. I love reading challenges and MMD AND your stack of books. I see some familiar titles reads. The two that stick out the most: 1) Commonwealth – I’ve tried about 6 times and just have never been able to finish, so please let me know what YOU think of it when your done. 2) Addie LaRue – may have been one of my favorites from last year. I cried a bit, but I’m a sap.

    I had a hard time getting into reading at the beginning of this year but I recently mandated a family reading time for 30 minutes most nights (when we aren’t watching my niece play basketball via YouTube live) and it’s gotten me back into the swing of things!! Hope this helps you too!

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    • Katie, that’s a good idea to assign a period of time as the official reading time, whatever else be darned. I put Commonwealth aside, too– it is my abandoned book. I really liked Addie LaRue, and it is the first book I’ve read this year, so the other books have a high bar to pass over. We’ll see where this goes. 😧

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  36. I just have my standard annual Goodreads challenge (goal: 18 books, same as it has been for the past three years, all of which I have FAILED but whatevs!).

    I love the idea of a re-reading challenge, though. Honestly, with all the books we’ve got in the house, I could spend the rest of my life re-reading them all and never run out of pages to turn.

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    • Swinged Cat, I like your consistency, both in the number of books you hope to read, and your acceptance of what happens. To thine own self be true.

      Hill’s memoir about re-reading her books was the first time I’d ever heard of an author admitting to re-reading a book. While her reading list was academic and classical, her approach to reviewing her life through her books was intriguing.

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  37. Great post! I totally relate!! I am an avid reader but I haven’t been able to finish a book since covid lockdown… I was reading voraciously up until the first lockdown of March 2020 and then I just fell off a cliff! Trying to get back in it! Great list, I will borrow it! Thanks!!

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    • bosssybabe, your story rings true with me. I like to read books, when I’m not reading blogs, of course. I don’t know if this challenge will get me back in the groove, but it got me thinking about what kind of reading life I want so that’s great.

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  38. I don’t do any reading challenges (or challenges at all – I have a heavy-duty work life and I just like to read blogs). I like to read but for the last few years most of it has been work-related. I try to read one or two books during my summer holidays. I’ve been interested recently in biographies, although not exclusively. Have fun with your challenge. πŸ™‚

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    • Lynette, I know what you mean about reading blogs. I probably would be reading more books if it weren’t for my interesting in blogging. Gotta see what everyone is up to. My husband reads biographies and seems to get good ideas/perspective from them. I’m more of a fiction reader.

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  39. I’ve never done reading challenges, except perhaps to remind myself that I have too many books I meant to read sitting on my shelves. (By the way, I’m a slow reader, too.) Daughter and son-in-law gave me a great historical fiction book for Christmas, “The Bear and the Nightingale” by Katherine Arden, which is reigniting my passion for long ago and far away. So now I’m thinking maybe I should let others pick out the books I will read! πŸ™‚ Good luck with your challenge!

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  40. What a unique challenge! I’ve read Neil Gaiman books and those by V. E. Schwab, so I’ll be interested in your take on their listings.

    I never do reading challenges. I’m too weird, I guess. I read for inspiration for my own writing and entertainment. So I might read thirty picture books or a behind-the-scenes of a movie book. I rarely read NYT books unless they are YA or MG or a friend begs me to read one (like ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE).

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    • L. Marie, this is my first real attempt at doing a reading challenge. I created it using the principles in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s worksheet, then giving it my own twist.

      Usually by the time I read a NYT bestseller it’s so old no one remembers it. I’ve read reviews of All The Light We Cannot See, but have yet to read it. I take it you liked it.

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  41. This is so cool! Good luck with your task – enjoy! I love how you designed this, very nice. A friend gave me a copy of Stardust many years ago but I have not read it. Maybe this year! I am also keen on reading your thoughts on Educated – also interested in this one.

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    • Markus + Micah, it was fun to answer the questions on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s worksheets then take it from there. I’ve never tried anything like this so I’ll see how it goes. I’ll eventually talk about the books I read, but considering how slowly I read it’ll be a while.

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  42. Hi Ally! I had to do the same thing last year – start reading the books already in my house. It became a challenge, though, when I decided to get a Kindle and loaded a few books on there. I’m always behind in my reading, but there are so many good authors and books out there, that it’s difficult not to want to add another one with the intention of reading it “later.” Much luck to you in your reading challenge and other than “Where the Crawdads Sing,” I’d be interested in which of those books you found most captivating. I have plenty of room on the Kindle…

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    • Mary, I read slowly so in some ways this challenge is overwhelming to me, BUT I want to get back into reading for pleasure [and I’m frugal by nature] so this is what I’m going to do. I’ll let you know what I think of these books eventually knowing your Kindle is waiting.

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  43. Your stack looks quite interesting! I loved “Where the Crawdads Sing” and “The Jane Austen Society” is the next in my pile. It seems like at least one of my kids had to read “The House on Mango Street” for English, so I may know all about it. lol. I’ll have to check the others out though. I’ve done Modern Mrs. Darcy’s reading challenge for a few years now, but did not sit down to peruse the new one…honestly, because I had little breathing room to do the legwork. Things have slowed down a little so I may check it out. We “inherited” many books from my in-law’s estate. There are quite a few in there that I want to read. I may see if any fall into proper genres. πŸ™‚

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    • Amy, the Mango Street book is new to me in the sense that I didn’t know I was supposed to have read it. I enjoyed doing MMD’s worksheet and it helped me get focused on reading for pleasure again. I’ve never done any reading challenge so this is new for me. I like inherited books, both in a sentimental way and because they give you the opportunity to read something outside your usual interests.

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  44. Wow, Ally, your approach is practically scientific. I, too, have a houseful of books begging to be read and, like you, have been distracted by the crazy goings on of the last year(s). I hope you report on any that you highly recommend. I’ll do the same. Happy Reading!

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    • Anna, I’ve never tried doing a reading challenge so this is new for me. I enjoyed doing Modern Mrs. Darcy’s worksheets and feel like I have a handle on what I need to be reading. I’ll eventually talk about these books again, but I read slowly so it’ll be a while.

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  45. Ally, you know I’m all about the reading, but I have only once done a formal challenge which was aimed at focusing my attention on reading those (oh so very many) books I already have either on my bookshelves or on my kindle. I got about six months into it and fell off the wagon to consume some shiny new books πŸ™‚ With hindsight, the fact that I made any progress into my book backlog was a win.

    I do take my hat off to you for making a second attempt with a book you put aside. I used to plough on to the bitter end, no matter what. But I do give up now if it’s not gripped me by halfway – too many books, too little time y’know πŸ˜‰

    Good luck with your challenge – I look forward to hearing your views on you chosen (& beautifully photographer) selections.

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    • Deb, this will be the first time I’ve tried a reading challenge like this. The fact that I could create my own idiosyncratic reading challenge got me into doing this. I read slowly so for me this is overwhelming, but once upon a time I majored in English Lit and read gobs & gobs of books, so I should be able to do this little commitment to only 12 titles, I hope. And if I don’t? Welp, I tried and that works for me.

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  46. I CAN’T WAIT to read about the books you read from this list. An excellent Reading Challenge. When I was young, I set up my own reading challenge – I could only read a Nancy Drew book every OTHER book. This made me try other middle grade books (at the age of 9) and this idea has stayed with me since. I’ll admit, it was harder for me to do this in 2020 because I really craved escapism. Same with January 2021. I read a “fun” book (by Elin Hilderbrand) and then from the library got a new literary novel called Hamnet (about Shakespeare’s son who died from the plague). Ummm, I lasted four chapters. VERY beautiful language, but slow and plodding (for me). I’m now reading Daniel Silva’s spy novel The New Girl. Ahhh, that’s more like it!! πŸ™‚

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    • Pam, your youthful reading challenge is perfection. I loved Nancy Drew books so I understand your approach to spreading them out. After doing MMD’s worksheets I realized I was craving variety and escapism in my reading so this list reflects those idea using what is here. I want to read something by Elin Hilderbrand; her name comes up often among the people who I know so I’m curious. BUT that’ll have to wait until after I do this challenge. Priorities!

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  47. I’ve never set a reading challenge. I tried to join a few, but it just never worked. I do read a lot, but it tends to be non-fiction, particularly, books related to whatever I’m writing about. Plenty of poetry, too, and journal articles to complement the books. When something catches my interest, I start reading — and if something really resonates, I re-read multiple times. I can quote passages from a few of my books like people quote Bible passages; I know them that well. They’re friends!

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    • shoreacres, I think the same way about many of my books. They’re my friends so I keep them, rather than letting them go. At least yet. As for doing this challenge it’s a first for me. I enjoyed answering Modern Mrs. Darcy’s prompts, so I feel like I have a better sense of purpose about my reading for pleasure going forward. Plus the books are here… and I have the time… waiting for the vaccine, you know?

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      • I hope you get that vaccine sooner rather than later. I’ve had my first (with absolutely no reaction — not even a sore arm) and have my second scheduled for later this month. In a week or so, pharmacies will begin distribution here, too, so I suspect it won’t be all that long before those younger than 65 can get vaccinated.

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        • I have my fingers crossed that it’ll be soon, BUT yesterday the governor announced that for my age group the soonest it’ll be available will be March. I wait as patiently as I can. 😐

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  48. This is such a great idea! I love all things organized.. Too bad I can never stick to a reading challenge for myself. πŸ˜…

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  49. One of my goals for 2021 is to read as many books as possible. I love your list of different genres, I mainly stick to non-fiction (preferably action and adventure), but gonna widen my reading challenge by indulging in different categories. Would love to read a detective novel and some classic. Thanks for sharing and have a good day. Aiva πŸ™‚

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    • Aiva, I want to get back to reading for pleasure, so this challenge is a start. I picked a variety of different genres because I thought that might keep me going, curious to see what the next book offered. Best of luck with your goal and thanks for stopping by to comment.

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  50. OK, I am definitely going to have to check out MMD. I have read so much about her from other bloggers this year. I read several of the books on your TBR list for this year and jotted down others. I will read anything by Ann Patchett, but was not fond of the “Crawdads” book, even though the rest of my book club LOVED it. It will be interesting to hear what you think.

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    • Laurie, MMD is fun. She’s informative, too. I don’t read a lot but I do take her suggestions to heart when I do. Commenters here seem to be mixed in their opinions of the Crawdad book: as many loved it as didn’t like it. I don’t know what to expect from it, but I will read it by the end of the year. For me this commitment to 12 books will be a lot, but that’s what challenges are all about, stretching yourself!

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  51. hi ally bean!
    what a great post to give us all
    ideas for making reading lists –
    and thanks for sharing Modern Mrs Darcy with us – going to check out the link.
    my reading right now is my usual nonfiction / but what i enjoy — and then reading blog posts (or soaking up photo posts) brings me enrichment
    best wishes with your list

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    • Yvette, I’m trying to get back into the swing of reading for pleasure so I’m hoping this challenge will focus me. If nothing else doing MMD’s worksheets was fun and insightful. I know what you mean about reading blog posts, much of my *reading* time is doing that.

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      • hi ally!
        i have learned to slow down and make sure i read certain bloggers because dang! there is some good stuff out here.
        maybe not all the ones in my reader – but god stuff and i hope this blogosphere doesn’t get all funky in years to come – like with ads or who know what – because do like it as is –
        and speaking of blog posts and reading – when i read the posts here at the spectacled bean- i still marvel at the way you always keep your posts at a succinct short length and get your various thoughts across topics delivered effectively

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  52. I’ve read “Educated” and “Where The Crawdads Sing.” Both very good.
    I recently purchased my two all-time favorite books, which I haven’t read for years and borrowed from the library the first time I read them: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Follow the River. I’m planning on rereading them this year. Other than that, I’ve got a raft of books on my “virtual shelf” at the local library. As for challenges, nah. I like to be a little more free-flow, but I applaud your efforts and might try it someday…

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    • The Travel Architect, this is my first attempt at doing a reading challenge. I usually read what I want randomly, but I thought this would be a good way for me to get back in the reading for pleasure groove. I’ve not heard of either of your favorite books, but should I succeed in doing my challenge I’ll look for them.

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    • Molly, I have books stashed around here, too. Hence the idea of reading what I have now first, before I go sneaking off to buy some new books. I must be strong and follow the plan. πŸ˜‰

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  53. I am relieved that you also struggled to read your typical booklist last year, because I failed. I used to consume 50-70 a year and since returning to work full time, it’s been more like 30-35. Last year? SIX. I read only six. Mind you, I read six great books, but I could not focus. I read one stellar novel, and otherwise found myself attracted to what I would call summer reading — small books with lighter subject matter, and perhaps some humor, and Ally Bean, this is important — it could not be in any way modern or dystopian, as even while I read light and fluffy things, (Biographies were nice.) I found myself thinking of The Plague, and The Stand, and The Handmaid’s Tale, and it was just a dark, dark time.
    I believe you were an English major as well? I’ve never found a reading challenge necessary. However, I also bought books left unread. I should extract them from their shelves and make a pile…
    Really, I should return to blogland.
    PS: I hope you’ll tell me how you like Paley’s short stories.
    PPS: I love Delia Crawford.

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    • joey, yes I majored in English in college, so like you I’ve never felt the need to do a reading challenge relying on my own curiosity to lead me to books. HOWEVER last year was different, I opened about 20 books with the intention of reading them but couldn’t get past the third chapter so I tossed them aside and FRETTED over my failure to read them. THEN I bought some more books thinking I’d just picked up the wrong book, but that, of course, wasn’t the case. Eventually it dawned on me that this damned pandemic had stolen my focus, which made me feel better about what was going on with me and me eyeballs not on the page. Anyhow, this is my 2021 reading plan and I shall prevail! Yep, I’m going to read these books and will report back here in good time.

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  54. Ally, I disappointed myself by not following through my intentions to read one book a month in 2020. Joni (The Homplace Web) had written several posts of book reviews and I bought several of her recommended books and enjoyed each of them at the various 2019 long holidays. Sadly I fell short in 2020 by not reading a single book. There they are in the drawer, sitting next to the two book lights (in case one died). I even intended to read them on the exercise bike and that didn’t happen either. I have remorse for that but blame it on the pandemic … my head is not my own, always burdened with some thought related to COVID-19. My mom and I had similar tastes in reading and she finished off a lot of books, so I have amassed a collection of paperback books which are downstairs in Rubbermaid totes which I refer to as my “retirement tubs” (filled with books, jigsaw puzzles), items guaranteed to take my eyes off the computer screen and onto something else. I likely will await retirement and can devote more time to savoring a book from cover to cover, without thinking I should be doing something else.

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    • Linda, you are not alone about not reading in 2020. It seems to be the way for many of us. I’m not one to need to read any current book, so your plan to attack your “retirement tubs” later sounds sane to me. I made my own reading challenge for this year hoping that it’d spur me into action. So far I’ve read one book so this might be working. πŸ€”

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      • It’s hard to focus on anything right now – 2020 drained us emotionally I think, not just the pandemic worries, the election year, just everything. And 2021 with its COVID worries just continues the feeling. On top of getting the new books to read in 2020, I bought some art materials, as I intended to begin charcoal sketching again. I even got some how-to books. I have not touched them either. I hope your reading challenge spurs you to read that tall stack of books Ally.

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