Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Sunday Salon: In Which I Say a Merry Bah Humbug to Reading Challenges

Perhaps this is just me and my own observation ... and maybe I am entirely way off base here (it has been known to happen) ...but I've noticed a shift of sorts regarding challenges.

Reading challenges, I mean. The other kind of challenges - the ones involving life and whatnot - there's no end to them, right?

Maybe it is a byproduct of having book blogged for 4+ years now and thus suffering a bout of challenge fatigue, but I think it is something more. Usually by this time in December, I'd have gleefully signed up for at least a dozen or so reading challenges set to kick off when the clock strikes midnight on January 1.

This year? I've marked a few to participate in, but honestly? I'm not all that enthused about them. It seems like I'm going through the motions.

And, again, maybe it is me - but it doesn't seem as if there are as many challenges as there used to be.

That's certainly not to say that they aren't worthy of participating in. They're a lot of fun. People put a LOT of work into them. They are a great way of finding like-minded readers and forming connections with other bloggers and discovering new books and finally reading those books you meant to read.

So I'm torn. Part of me loves reading challenges ... but another part just isn't into them, at least not right now. Part of me loves scanning the library book shelves for books to fulfill challenge requirements and another part of me wants to read what I want, when I want, with total disregard and abandonment.

This shift in my thinking became palpable just the other day. I'm really close to finishing up the A-Z challenge. I only needed books beginning with C, K, P, and V ... and I'm done. This past week, this looked doable. However, I just abandoned the K book I was reading on my Kindle. (Too repetitive.) Same for the V book I was reading in print. (Way too heavy for Christmas ... and I'm sorry, way too many grammatical errors.) I could have slogged through these just for the challenge sake, but I don't want to.

Plus, I don't finish books just for the sake of finishing them. Never have. Life's too damn short for that, as we all too sadly learned in the past 9 days. I have no qualms about abandoning books. Thus far, 16 books this year wound up on my DNF list. That's a lot of books - and more time and room for books I did enjoy.

Take the book I'm currently reading. It's Christmas and there's snow outside and I'm in the mood to curl up with some Christmas Stories by Charles Dickens.

But's the thing. This damn thing is 758 pages! For real. (Never mind the cheery, festive illustration on the cover - although, since we're all about ready to go over the fiscal cliff - and some of us have already toppled over it -  it is kind of fitting.)

So, by reading this I'm pretty much saying goodbye to K, P, and V for the reading challenge. And that will be one additional challenge left unfinished and one that I was so close to completing.

Why the hell should this be one more thing that's stressing me out?!

Maybe I'm too competitive (with myself) and too Type-A for this, because, really? THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PROBLEM. This has happened before. I do this shit to myself EVERY DAMN year, even when I begin the year by telling myself I'm just doing the challenges "for fun" or to "see where my reading falls in the challenge." It starts off that way, but somewhere around the Fourth of July or Labor Day, it changes.

Maybe it is time to just ... stop. Or, at least wean myself off gradually and only do a few challenges and keep this low-key. Simplify this reading life. I know others have done this. Yinz seem happier for it, don't you?

This also means that I'm putting my Memorable Memoirs Reading Challenge on hiatus for this year. I apologize to those who may have been looking forward to it and for saying previously that I would definitely be bringing it back. I don't want to hand it off to someone else completely because there's a chance I may feel differently next year or even in a few months. Maybe that's selfish of me, I don't know. But, for now, I know I haven't been able to give it as much attention as I should have - and honestly, there are other projects I want to work on. I don't think the book blogging world will miss the Memoirs challenge too much and if someone wants to start another one, then that's perfectly fine.

My favorite Christmas ornament,
given to me by my parents when
I was very young. Taken by me
last year, when it was on our tree
(as it is every year). 
Anyway, it's Christmas. We have a week ahead of us that will be spent with family and friends we rarely see, and I plan to make the most of it. I refuse to spend one minute of it worrying about what I'm reading or not reading, or if I'm reading enough, or competing with myself to achieve some lofty, if not impossible goal I committed to back in January - and beating myself up when I don't.

That's ridiculous. Again, life is too short for that.

So, that settles it then. Only a few challenges this year for me. (Probably only Beth Fish Reads' What's In a Name and Mt. TBR.)

And, oh yeah ... for those who are celebrating, a very Merry Christmas! (And for those coming home or going a-visiting, safe travels.) Here's some Dickens for the road, to take us out:

"And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday - the longer, the better - from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will; where have we not been, when we would; starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree! 

Away into the winter prospect. There are many such upon the tree! On, by low-lying misty grounds, through fens and fogs, up long hills, winding dark as caverns between thick plantations, almost shutting out the sparkling stars; so, out on broad heights, until we stop at last, with sudden silence, at an avenue."  "The Christmas Tree," Charles Dickens, 1850

Have you noticed  fewer reading challenges this year than in previous years? Are you reducing the number of challenges you're participating in or increasing them? I'd love to hear about it. And, if you're a challenge addict (like me) who has scaled way back, tell me how you went cold turkey and did that, too. 

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Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I know when I get ready to post my challenge update, I will have fallen short...again. However, I'm not gonna blink once about it. I think the best way for us to remain authentic readers and writers is to do just that. Be honest with ourselves, read what we want to, and write about it. If we want to. Life is too short for anything else. I sign up for challenges a little differently than most. I sign up for challenges to catalogue stuff I know I'm gonna read. Like you said, I can then link up with other readers who like the same stuff as I do. I've fallen short of the linking up part this year and plan to do better in the year ahead...simply bc I enjoy it. If I ever stop enjoying it, I won't do it anymore.
I enjoy reading your posts, tell it like it is :)
Have a wonderful holiday and hug all your loved ones an extra time or two :)

Amy said...

I'm much more likely to join a read-along of a specific book than a reading challenge. I like discussing a specific work with a group of people.

Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

I gave up on challenges awhile ago. Blogging and accepting books from publicists and committing to book tours puts enough pressure on my reading!

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

In 2012, I learned something from the previous years and only signed up for five. Even then, I was struggling to complete one of them (A-Z), having to pick up books I wouldn't normally have read.

That's over, though. This coming year I have tailored my choices to reading books I would normally read anyway, like the Mt. TBR, etc. And only four!


Karen said...

Maybe if none of the challenges so far are lighting your fire, you could create one of your own? There could be plenty of others looking for a spark too...