Tuesday, January 17, 2012

50 Books...a retrospective, sorta

I've got 6 books on the burners (yes, I've read parts of 6 books) and yet...

3 of these are for Reading Challenges, 2 of those are from last year!

...I don't feel any sense of urgency, I definitely don't feel the same way I did this time last year when a 50 book challenge loomed on the horizon. I wasn't sure (with everything that goes on with day to day living) I'd be able to do it, I was afraid that my zest for reading had died. I wasn't even sure that I really liked to read for pleasure anymore. Those were dark times.

And, why were they?

You get pizza just for reading...pizza people!
Let me start at the beginning. Every since I can remember I have been an above average, avid reader. If my Book-It goal was 100, I read 120, if we had to read a book a quarter, I read four and I remembered. I remember drawing a poster (we could chose to draw a poster or write a page response) for the Phyllis A. Whitney book Step to the Music; a girl in one of those Civil War period pink hoop skirts standing by a man on crutches--a replica of the cover. I remember having to stay in for recess with a friend for three days (we'd been gone on a school trip when the punishment was doled out, so we had to stay in just the two of us) we read 3 of the books from The Chronicles of Narnia...I remember Digory and Polly and Mr. Tumnus and Prince Rillian. I remember the conversation we had about religion; sure I was only in 4th grade, but he was the first Catholic I'd ever met. I remember all the More Tales for the Midnight Hour especially the one about the moth collector. I remember reading The Last of the Mochicans (this is not the one I read, but I can't find it--yes, I remember the cover) as a graphic novel and reading a biography of Louisa May Alcott. I was sad when the girl jumped off the cliff and thought it was even more tragic that someone would punish their kid by making them put pepper on their tongue; events that happened in each of the books; respectively. I read the Emily books by LM Montgomery and because of those books I've written a letter to myself every 10 years since I was 14. I could read over 100 books a year and look over the list recalling each moment in the book, recalling each feeling I felt while reading. I used to keep list of the books I read just for this reason...I still have those list, I still get the same feelings.

In college I read a ton of books many of them were required for classes, but were still fun for me. I appreciate Early British lit, dislike explorer narratives, worship The Scarlet Letter as the first American novel and read The Sun Also Rises every year. I love Edith Wharton and Thornton Wilder, Toni Morrison, Harlem Renaissance poetry, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen.

Then it all just died.

Don't kill me, I'm just trying to finish Vanity Fair
In hindsight, it was a gradual sort of death...although it seemed all of the sudden. I read only the books I taught, and I read them over and over and over. I only read books that would help me with teaching. I  stopped reading for pleasure. Who has time when attending meetings and writing lesson plans?

I tried to get it back on my own. I assigned choice reading at the Honors level. This allowed me to have a list of books; a goal. I made it a point to read books from this list. I started assigning a Non-Fiction book project. It helped me read more non-fiction. It opened up a whole new world of books. But, I still wasn't reading like I used to...I wasn't make my own personal list. I felt like I was reading to survive.

And, then my friend Julie devised herself a plan--50 books in a year, and I soon followed with my own plan. I made it official on Goodreads, I made it official on my newly developed blog, I joined Goodreads reading groups, I joined challenges, I followed reading blogs. And, then I began to read. The reading started off kind of slow, but by summer I was ahead of my goal. I was ahead of my goal by 15 wonderfully, marvelous, glorious books!

I read everywhere and anytime. It felt like old times. I read my books to my kiddo at night. I read while she napped, I read while she was at daycare. I read on planes. I tried, unsuccessfully, to read in the car. And, people who are reading this, I read for pleasure!

It wasn't until school started that I realized I'd easily meet my reading goal, but not my challenges, and you know what I didn't care! Having those challenges just forced me to read outside of my comfort zone, having a goal of 50 just guaranteed that I'd read more than that. Having those challenges just meant that there was something on the horizon geared towards making me a better reader, thinker, writer, teacher...person.

And, then I read this lovely post by Gabe Habash and thought, "Oh, geez, what if I'm doing it wrong?" Seriously, I thought that literally for 5 minutes at least...you see Gabe (I feel like I can call him by his first name) counted his pages and I only counted my books. I read more books, but he friggin' read more pages (War and Peace in three weeks, really!? Gar, I'm soooo ashamed it took me 8 months to read Vanity Fair) and I stopped checking my challenge updates...I was *gulp* reading for pleasure. And, I realize, reading his post for the 15th time, that he was reading for pleasure to...he accidentally got caught up in the numbers.

And, I didn't feel any pressure...can you tell I did not play sports in high school? Can you tell I haven't a competitive bone in my body?

Will I continue my challenges? Yes, remember they've made me a better person. Will I do the new ones? Yes, to the best of my ability...there really are books I want to read! I've upped my reading challenge to 55 books (I could do more, but, then I'd lose all the fun of it!). But, I don't care if I don't meet my goal and I don't care if my challenges spill over into the next year or the next. If I'm reading just for the sake of reading who's winning? It sure ain't me!

I just finished a book last night and it felt so good to add it to my Goodreads list. It ain't pizza (there isn't a Book It program for adults or high school students, I know, sad right!?), but it's a start!

Oh, and I love looking at and reading my 50+ books list of 2011. I recall each moment, each feeling...it's fantabulous!

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