Tag Archive for reading challenge

Thoughts on the Hardcopied challenge

Stack of five printed books that I read in July

My five Hardcopied books


So, three weeks later, what did I get out of the Hardcopied challenge, to read only print books for the month of July?

First thing. I already read a lot of print books, but the Hardcopied challenge got me to slow down. (On my time off. The working day was as hectic as ever, alas.) I hadn’t finished many books this year, after averaging one book a week last year, but in July, I decided that sunny Sundays were reading days. So every Sunday, I went to a different Toronto park with a book, and I read. (I sometimes went out in the sun to read on Saturdays too. I was inspired.)

I could feel the difference right away. Of course there were still distractions; any park worth its name is going to have those. But there wasn’t the pressure that I had to jump–to a different topic–a different thought–a different online task. It didn’t take long before I was reading longer passages and then stopping to think about them as I looked around. I noticed a lot of things around me. The house across the street from the park bench by my building, where the new owners had really been spiffing it up. The different people and their different dogs, strolling along the boardwalk down by the beach. And who could resist the guy in High Park, who sat coaxing tiny chipmunks onto his hand, where they sat eating nuts, their fluffy little tails hanging off his palm?

There was no pressure to get one thing done solely so I could get on with the next thing. I also stopped work a little earlier on some days (I work at home) so I could lounge around with a Blue Jays baseball game in the background and read some more. So I finished five books in July, after only managing one each in April, May, and June. I’m not sure I’ve ever enjoyed a stint of reading quite this much. And it’s been a great, relaxing summer too.

I’m already kind of eager to do it again. I may toy with the idea of doing my own Hardcopied thing every second or third month or something. But I do want to continue to set aside long stretches of time just to sit and read. And think. And absorb.


Reading Challenges or Not?

So! Shortly after I post the Reading Bingo Card for doing a reading challenge for 2014, Richard Lea, book blogger for The Guardian, writes about why he thinks reading challenges are not a good idea at all: The bad side of Goodreads’ Reading Challenge. He thinks that the last thing we should turn into some kind of numbers game is the reading of books.

As Lea says, “It starts right there in the name. Since when was reading any kind of challenge? Isn’t it supposed to be fun?” He likens reading challenges to some kind of “bookkeeping” activity. And he may have a point:

All this talk of pledging, of targets, of tracking your progress, is just another step in the marketisation of the reading experience, another stage in the commodification of literary culture.

…literature is one of the few areas of modern life where it’s not all about the numbers.

What he’s getting at is that the heavy tracking of completed reads, the ticking off of titles from your list, turns the exercise into nothing more than a kind of “fill in the blank” exercise. Are we really engaging with the actual contents of the books themselves? We may be preoccupied primarily with saying, “There. I’ve covered that one. I’m halfway, through the year and still on track to meet the goal.” If reaching the requisite number is our goal, are we really benefitting from the books themselves?

I’m of two minds about this one. I think he’s probably right, and yet…there’s still the element of deciding to pick up a book because I’m “supposed to,” and then really getting into it, whereas I might have thought, “Nah, maybe later” if I hadn’t had the number in the back of my mind.

For the first third of last year, I was averaging more than a book per week. I was just enjoying reading, but I did note, “Hey, I might read more than 52 this year.” (I keep a list, you see; I have done so for many, many years.) But then, around October, I just stopped, for some reason. I don’t know why. I read almost nothing for more than two months. And I ended up with 39 books finished in 2013, which I found kind of depressing.

So maybe there’s a compromise. Maybe we can use these goals as a way to keep ourselves reading, but without getting too hung up on rushing through just to tick off the titles. If we don’t quite reach the number we hoped for by the end of the year…ah, well. We really loved the books we did read, and we got a lot out of them.

I think that might work. And also…anything that doesn’t fall into the trap of “commodifying” human existence (we are more than cash sources and more than numbers!) is fine by me.

Reading Bingo: Nice Way to set Reading Goals

I like this idea for setting reading goals for 2014. Instead of just saying, “I’m going to read 50 books by the end of the year,” make sure you’re reading a variety. Random House Canada has posted a printable Bingo card (Reading Bingo Challenge 2014), where different types of books are positioned on each square. Here are some samples:

  1. A book set on a different continent.
  2. A book with a one-word title.
  3. A book that scares you.
  4. A book of short stories. (This would be the hard one for me; I don’t really enjoy short stories.)

Actually, let’s just show you the Bingo card. 🙂 But go to the site, because there’s a YA version too.

Random House



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