I’ve spent the last two and a half years reading books for a book challenge my best friend and I decided to take on. She’s a much faster reader than I am and finished in about a year. It was the first time I’d ever done a reading challenge, as before I chose my books by whatever was at the front of my shelf and I hadn’t read yet (or wanted to reread). It only took up over 2 years, and yet, now that I no longer have that reading challenge, at the end of it, I found myself feeling a bit lost.
I looked at my bookshelf and suddenly felt overwhelmed with just how many reads I had ahead of me. How can I ever make it through that jungle? I needed a break from reading goals, if only for a day or two. Instead of trying to figure out what the next challenge would be or how to go about choosing my next read, I settled back in with a book I’ve had ongoing for as long as that last reading challenge, Leyenda. This one’s been a slow go because it’s my first time reading an entire book in Spanish. Yes, I’ve been reaching out of my comfort zones for reading for over two years only, but already I feel like I can’t go back to the way I used to choose material.
I can’t just blindly pick something up without considering what kind of writers and stories I’m supporting. Taking on that book challenge I think has made me a more conscientious reader. Like my TV-watching habits, I’ve learned to recognize what is worth my time and what should be let go.
I looked at my shelves a few days ago and thought, “What can I get rid of? What doesn’t need to be read or reread?” I still haven’t gotten around to clearing out my book case, simply because I haven’t had the time, but once my vacation comes around I’d like to dedicate a day to truly weighing my options and getting books off the shelf that really don’t need to be there. I did a mini version of this a few months ago, but then I was just trying to make space for new books I’d purchased. This time, I want to go into it with a real critical eye, so that I can continue to challenge myself with what I read.
I’m not saying I’m giving up YA or sci-fi/fantasy books completely, but I am attempting to be more aware of what I pick up off my shelf. Taking on that reading challenge for two and half years made me realize that I need to expand my horizons, so I’m including more diverse reads, whether it’s by authors of color, women, queer writers, or some combination thereof.
After three days of taking a breather with my Spanish-language book, I decided on Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Books like this one are difficult but necessary if I’m going to become not only a better reader and writer, but a better person. Reading challenge accepted.