Good morning and a happy Sunday to you all! I know, I know, Sundays aren’t known for people being bright eyed and bushy tailed, as we all like a late lie, but if we talk about books, maybe we can shake this up a bit! If nothing else, we can get a little excited about some weekend reading, no? The books I have in mind at the moment are those I read for a recent library book challenge called the Winter Reading Challenge for Grownups – and it was intense! I am also participating in another, year-long challenge that entails one book per month, so this one won’t be complete for quite a while, but I will write about it before too long, especially given the perspective angle involved.
But for now, challenge for grownups.
As some of you know, my son, now 19, has been going to the library since he was two weeks old – it’s practically been his second home. He doesn’t go now as often as he used to, trying as he is to figure out how to juggle his more adult responsibilities (university, work, friends and associated activities, etc.). But I was a little excited to see him get into the choices I’d been working through for this library reading challenge, which is set up in the form of a bingo card.
With five rows of five columns per, each box has a category, and participants choose a book that fits. For example, the first row and my choices:
Poetry or Book in Verse
The Spiritual Poems of Rumi
Book to Movie
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
The Year of Miss Agnes
Set/About Somewhere You Want to Visit
The Printer’s Apprentice
Book You Were Assigned for School
The Cricket in Times Square
Each time you finish a row, you mark it complete, write down your titles and submit to the librarian, who gives you a small prize, which for me was a bookmark each time. Naturally, your bingo can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal. Additionally, each completed bingo row acts as an entry to a prize drawing. If you complete all twenty-five squares, you are also entered into the Blackout Drawing.
Oh, did I mention that this was for books read in between January 24 and March 7? Ha ha! Yeah, I had most of my choices picked out, but this changed a few times as I went along, planning what to read according to day of the week (e.g. evenings only), what was left, how overwhelmed I felt at any given moment, even with some of my selections being young adult (YA) books. For example, I wanted to re-read Emil and the Detectives, a book recommended to me years ago and that I had read a few times before. But I also had a work of Arthurian fiction on deck, and that was nearly 400 pages. Being somewhat organizationally obsessive as I am, I had a tendency to go over my choices nearly every day, which may or may not have been helpful.
I only learned about the contest, by the way, about a week into it, so I had that slight disadvantage, but also had something going for me because, having then recently been sick, I was spending a lot of time at home resting after work, so the reading gave me something to do. “Maybe I can pull this off after all,” I often thought. I did manage to get two books to do double duty, one also read for my year-long challenge and another as part of re-reading the Harry Potter series with my son. We also re-read it in 2020, which was something we turned to when the world was pretty much shut down.
Speaking of the world being shut down: I think most of us would agree it was not fun at all. With rare exception, people really need people, if on varying levels, and the shutdowns have really cast a pall over societies across the globe. They did a lot of damage short- and long-term. Our own library was closed for I think over a year. (I forget exactly how long, but it was a very long time.) So, I was really glad for this particular contest because, as I reasoned, it’s a fun way to get re-involved in a community activity at a pace – reading and meeting up – that works for each person.
To be honest, I really had no business attempting to read 25 books in about 35 days. That’s roughly a book a day and, like my son, I already have too much other stuff to juggle. Why voluntarily add this to my already-full plate? I’m not sure what I was thinking, though it may be that at first I thought I might do only one or two bingo rows. Then it started to seem possible to do it all, which may actually have been me taking leave of my senses!
Looking back, I ponder the idea that I really did need to work my mind a bit, having recently spent so much time sleeping and not much else. I don’t think otherwise I would have been able to participate in such an activity unless I stuck to YA for all 25, which I don’t necessarily wish to do – there are too many other books on my TBR that I want to get to. In the last couple of weeks, it wasn’t so much fun sitting to read for such long periods of time as I did but, having started and made my commitment, I absurdly forced myself to keep to it. So, I guess I’m glad I did it, because I did reach a number – 32 – by March 7 that in other years took me much longer to achieve. For example, in 2019, I read 37 books but only finished my first, with less than 100 pages, on March 6. In all of 2020 I ready only 18 books. That was a new low for me, especially given the expectations everyone seemed to be placing on themselves related to having so much extra time. (I still went to work every day, so never gained any of this spare and wonderful time.)
But these are just numbers, and I’d scolded myself before about this. What do numbers really mean, anyway? Are they meaningful in and of themselves? For me, they aren’t enough, which is why I’d been excited to discover, some years ago, challenges that led to trying out new genres or entire series, tackle some of your TBR, maybe re-read some old favorites. You know, quality over quantity. It’s a cliché, I suppose, but at least some clichés become so because they have value and meaning and are worth repeating. It isn’t accurate to say there was no quality in this reading, but the final determination would be in weighing what I got out of it all and whether it was worth the time spent focused on these particular books and what else was involved in getting them all read.
In coming weeks, I will be having a look at these titles and engaging in some brief discussion about them or the time surrounding when I read them, one row at a time, where they are in my history and where they might lead me moving forward. For now, a quick mention about the prizes I referenced above. I did end up winning one, a 1,000-piece puzzle that has already been showing me who’s boss. But it’s fun to look at, with its crowd of people (and one cat) reading books such as The Great Catsby, The Cranberry Tales and Moby Richard. Whether it was a prize from a single-row drawing or the Blackout (a term I’d never heard until this), I have absolutely no idea!
Stay tuned for my first row discussion ~