Thursday, 3 November 2016

2016 reading challenge

Considering my job, it probably comes as no surprise that I enjoy reading. It relaxes me and centres me after a stressful day. I have built a career around reading and the empowerment it provides; I value it so much that whenever I go abroad to a non-English speaking country, the feeling of illiteracy I have scares me; losing the ability to read makes me feel vulnerable. As a librarian I consider it my duty to read widely in my spare time and I like to cover different genres. I used to take inspiration from the Richard and Judy Book Club or the Six Book Challenge, but this year I came across the 2016 Reading Challenge, which I have just completed. 

I’ve no idea where the challenge originated, but a friend mentioned seeing it on social media. I decided to omit one element of the challenge – a book you have previously abandoned. There is so much great literature out there (whatever your definition may be), and life is too short to spend it reading things you don’t enjoy. I’ve only ever abandoned a few books and the possibility of revisiting them felt like torture.

I really enjoyed this challenge and reflecting on my choices. Some books I read in paperback, some via a Kindle. I like both formats and don't particularly have a preference, it depends on where I am. Sometimes I find it hard to decide what to read (spoilt for choice!), so it’s nice to have a little gentle guidance. I liked the way this challenge doesn’t only focus on modern releases. This challenge encouraged me to tackle some books I would never have considered before, such as Prayer. It also gave me the push I needed to tackle some books which had long been on my ‘to read’ pile but had never made it to the top, such as Black Beauty. The challenge also introduced me to a new author - Ann Cleeves, and I've since gone on to read another of her books and hope to read the whole of her Shetland series. There were two I didn't enjoy very much and found myself disappointed with Alice in Wonderland and Atonement. I most enjoyed I am Malala and the Diary of Anne Frank. They were quite similar and both very inspirational. I passed on my copy of Malala to a charity which supports refugees, but my copy of Anne Frank will stay with me forever; I purchased it at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam last year.

I have read other books alongside these titles - books I fancied but which didn't fit into any of the options. I think when following any reading challenge it is important to be fluid so as not to lose the enjoyment. I didn't notice at the time of choosing, but a lot of my choices were children's books. I didn't really read as a child and now I find there are huge gaps in my knowledge of children's literature. For instance, am I the only librarian who has never read a Roald Dahl?! I really *must* rectify this! I shared my challenge progress with friends on my Facebook page and was surprised to see it generated a lively discussion, with one of them even accepting the challenge herself.

Whoever designed the 2016 reading challenge – thanks for giving me hours of pleasure!

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