Saturday, April 12, 2008

What's the appeal of reading challenges?

In the last six months my lunch time surfing has revealed the world of literary blogs. I find them astonishing on two counts: 1) the sheer volume of books these people read each year and 2) the popularity of reading challenges. In my world I am considered a voracious reader but last year I only read 20 books and the year before only 20 books. The people I know think I am odd because I actually keep a reading diary and know exactly what I read. But compared with the bookish blogosphere I barely read at all. On the one hand it is comforting to know that there are far more book obsessed people out in the world than me. On the other hand it makes me feel like I better step up my performance before I can even begin to consider myself a real reader.

This brings me to challenges - I simply do not understand the appeal. On my bookshelves at home are hundreds of unread books that I really want to read. Moreover I acquire books at a far more rapid pace then I can read them and accumulate lists of books that I want far more rapidly then I could ever obtain them. So why would I want to conform my limited reading time to comply with a reading challenge? I understand wanting to share your thoughts on books through blogging and I can see that exploring a new genre through a challenge might broaden your perspective but why put aside books that I know I want to read to read ones that begin with the letter A or have an animal in the title? And these bibliophile bloggers don't seem to join but one challenge at a time but numerous ones!! How in the world do that they do that and still have real lives - which they seem to have from their posts? Maybe I am just jealous of these bloggers' apparent ability to fit so much reading into their already full lives.

How can I condemn something that I have never tried? I admit that makes me uncomfortable and so I need to do something about it. I have been wrestling with this thought ever since Carl V. started his Once Upon a Time II Challenge. I should try it - no way I don't have time - but it could be fun - but that means I won't read these books here on my bedside table! Uncle - I give up. In the spirit of research I am going to try the challenge to see what it is like.


Carl V. said...

I certainly can understand your qualms. That is why for the most part I try to make the few challenges that I host during the year have very , very BROAD parameters and easy, one book only options. I am very much a whim reader and the challenges I host are based entirely on knowing my own reading patterns and knowing what kinds of books I tend to gravitate towards during different seasons of the year. I want anything I host to be structured in such a way that a person can just read one book in that genre if they want, post a review, participate in any giveaways and still get the sense of community that we all get from this.

Plus a huge part of reading challenges is that they introduce one to book bloggers with similar interests thus helping people to find those bloggers who over time become really good friends.

So I can say for me (and I feel confident that I speak for many challenge bloggers) that it has nothing to do with seeing how many books we can read or allowing others to dictate our reading habits. It is much more about taking the reading experience from being solely a solitary experience (which is still great) and making it a group experience.

Over the past two years of hosting challenges I have met some of the most amazing people who have changed my life as I have theirs. I have discovered authors I might have never gotten to whose works are among my favorite and I have been able to open up various genres of reading to folks who have never had the courage or desire to try before, only to discover that they found books that are like old, dear friends.

Anyway, just thought I'd share with you. Sorry for babbling on.

Moo said...

I really did enjoy the challenge. I just don't read fast enough to read five books in two months without feeling a little pressured. I think next time I will try to do a one or two book option.

I wanted to try the full challenge however to attempt to participate instead of just lurking. I am a natural lurker. My husband was just saying this morning, how can you be shy on the internet - nobody even knows who you are? Which of course makes perfect sense logically but that doesn't mean I am not still reluctant to post comments.

Julie said...

I don't understand the appeal of challenges either. I think a big part of it, for me, is not wanting to be told what to read. Although I keep a TBR list, I am very erratic in how I choose what I'm going to read next. The idea of making a list of books that I Promise To Read is anathema to me. Even if I'm the one who made the list, I would still feel uncomfortably boxed in.

That said, I did join the Soup's On challenge, but that's about cookbooks -- a whole nother kettle of fish. :)