Category: The Reading Life

The Reading Life: Year-long Challenges: Readalongs

I enjoyed some wonderful readalongs in 2018. I found it helps to keep me on track, and it is more rewarding than reading a book by myself, especially if it is a complex or very long book. I haven’t been making it to book club much over the past two years, and the books they’ve chosen do not appeal to me very often. With readalongs, I can join or not join. And this way I get to read some books I might have always wanted to read. Don’t get me wrong – I have joined readalongs for books that are not typically in my stack, too. I’m not against reading outside my zone. That is one thing that I really enjoyed about my IRL book club. But the meetings weren’t working for me.

So this year, I have committed to three multi-month readalongs, one of which I am co-hosting! Imagine that. I am very excited about it. It is no mean feat to keep the momentum and enthusiasm up on something over the course of a year. So we shall see how it goes.

The Austen Readalong

The first one is called #ArdentlyAustenBookclub and is being hosted by @paperbackbones and @alchemyandink. We are reading one Jane Austen novel each month. This should be fun, because it will include a watchalong. I have only ever read Pride & Prejudice! I know. I am not sure how this happened. But this will give me a chance to read and discuss all of her novels at a reasonable pace. So I am very much looking forward to that. This only goes through July, of course, because then we run out of novels. I don’t own many of her novels, but I do have lots of books about her, that I have read. So this will give me a chance to look at those again too. I will also be watching some of the adaptations. I have never watched a Jane Austen adaptation. After this challenge, I will be able to hold up my head as an English major, I think.

A Year with Agatha Christie

I am also doing two Agatha Christie readalongs. I know. I just really love Agatha. And I haven’t read her in years. So when one popped up that looked good, I decided to try that. And then an online friend said she wanted to try reading some other Agatha, so she and I are reading the Miss Marple books. I read a lot of those when I was younger, but it has been years. So I’m really looking forward to diving back into Agatha again.

The first one is called #AYearwithChristie2019 and that one is a mix of the novels. I have already read The Mysterious Affair at Styles, his first appearance, and that was very good. Then I read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and now I get why it is mentioned in every breath with Agatha. I am looking forward to seeing how the characterization progresses throughout the books. The second is with my co-host, Alicia at @aliciaandherbooks and we are calling it #AYearwithMissMarple. We started with The Murder at the Vicarage, which was surprisingly funny! We are holding discussions on our accounts on the last day of every month. I’ll be hosting it later this week for The Body in the Library. Several people have already joined in! This is my first time co-hosting a readalong so I am excited to see how it goes. It was also very interesting with these first few to see the contrast between the two characters.

Classics

And finally, I’m going to be reading some classics. I read some good ones last year so I want to keep going. There is a challenge I found that looks good.  It is very loose, and has some good titles in it. But I’m going to swap out some of them for others I would rather read. I won’t reread Frankenstein again, but I do want to read The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin (which is one unread book sitting on my shelf! I remember starting it years ago but I never finished it). Another title that I particularly wanted to read this year is Moby Dick. Wish me luck! I am happy to say that I found someone to read it with me, because that is too much book to read not to talk about it.

The person who posted the starter list is Sarah @she.gets.lit.erary and she has agreed to read Moby Dick with me in March! So we’ll be doing a little readalong of that. I don’t know if we will be using a hashtag yet, other than the #getclassicallylit tag that she had already posted, but at this point I will just be happy if I can get through the book. We have set up a chat group, so if you want to join, you can send a DM to Sarah. I think the chats will be weekly checkins.

Of course, all of these are voluntary. I am not so mean to myself that I am going to worry if I fall short. But I think these are all different enough that I won’t get bored. And I am motivated enough to keep going. Would you like to see a progress report, maybe halfway through the year?

Some of you may not be familiar with some of the terms I’m using, so I’m going to drop these here.
Readalong – when a group of people decide to all read the same book at the same time. Usually capped by a discussion. Sort of like an online book club. Usually done with a series or a single author.

Reading challenges – usually defined as a set amount of time to read books that match certain prompts. Sometimes a readalong includes challenge prompts. People may use whatever books they like to match the prompts. Usually no discussion is scheduled.

Hashtags – this is a way for someone to find a group or challenge or topic on Instagram. If it for a discussion, like a readalong, sometimes the discussions are being held in private group chats, so you have to let the organizer know you want to take part so they can add you to the chat. Other times, you can simply follow the hashtag and chat with folks who use it. Or sometimes they have the discussion on the organizer’s posts, so you can just go there and take part. It varies and I’ve seen the discussions done a number of ways, but the hashtags are key. Use them to find or define anything!

Readathons – a set timeframe in which to read books. Sometimes the readathons involve prompts to help you decide what to read. Popular ones are Bout of Books (a week-long readathon), #24in28, #TBRKnockdown and many more.

 

Let me know what your plans are for this year! I know there are a lot of other challenges that are aimed at helping you read books you already owned. One I did before was Beat the Backlist. She is doing that again this year. That one is great if you want to engage across platforms and chat a lot. I will also be doing some readathons to help me along, because my GoodReads Reading Goal this year is 100 books. I am sure I can do it but I love the readathons. Did you set a Reading Goal on GoodReads? If so, what are you doing to keep yourself on track?

The Reading Life: Year-long Challenges: The Unread Shelf

I have been paying very close attention to my reading life lately. Perhaps more so than in past years. Most of the time I would just request books from the library, and then read them as they came in (or not, you know. Sometimes those piles come in all at once!). But this year, I am doing some challenges that will cover areas that I have been meaning to get to.

The first one is something on Instagram called The Unread Shelf Project. Imagine! Reading the books you already own! Waving your arm across an entire bookcase of books that you have actually read! What a concept. It has been a long time since I could do that. I’ve tried a couple “Read Your Own Books” challenges before, but I fell flat with them after only a month or two. I know that #BeattheBacklist is going on again this year, but I like Instagram so much that it made sense to find one there.

It is run by a lady named Whitney, and she is just so pleasant and non-judgy and kind. I know she did this last year but for some reason I didn’t join in. But this year, I was on top of it. Her first task was to Count. Your. Unread. Books. Because you have to know where you are starting from.

Friends. I counted 500 books. And those were just the books I could see. That doesn’t count the books in boxes or the books that were in the bookshelf behind the Christmas tree or books behind other books on the shelf. Yes, I have subscribed to the notion It’s Not Hoarding If It’s Books. But honestly, things are getting a little out of control. Last year, I ended up buying a lot of books from shops on Instagram. A good many of them were vintage books or subjects that were hard to find, and a lot of them were titles I thought would be helpful for my research for my book. Well. That only goes so far.

Now none of those new books have homes. They were in piles and stacks all over. And what I need to do is to look at the books on the shelves and decide what I want to keep and what I don’t. Because I’ve acquired two new short bookcases in the past two years, and they are both full too. Yikes. So I’ll be taking a long hard look at the old bookshelves, and digging into the boxes and bags in the basement, and choosing which books I want to read, and those that I don’t want to read will have to leave.

So already this project has helped me. But she also has little mini-challenges and each month there is a basic challenge. For January it was a No Buy No Borrow month. But this was hard because I had already requested books for readalongs and other challenges. I needed a little more of a heads up on this. So I did borrow, and I did buy an eagerly awaited title that released at the end of the month (King of Scars, natch). But I didn’t make any random trips to Half Price Books. So there’s that.

I’m looking forward to enjoying the books I have, and finding new homes for the books that I no longer want, or maybe never wanted in the first place. I am not going to beat myself up about it, because working in publishing for twenty years means you are bound to acquire some books. Now, like Whitney says, I just want to be more intentional about the library I am building. And to feel comfortable surrounded by the books I love, instead of feeling frustrated about having stacks all over the floor.

 

As part of the mini-challenges Whitney did little weekly challenges too. The first one was just read a book you already own. For my choice I read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley, which is the first Flavia de Luce mystery. I got it at a bookswap last November (so maybe it wins a prize for being read closest to acquisition date!), when we had a MN Bookstagrammer meetup. I also got three other books but we won’t talk about those yet. The person who brought this had raved about the series, and I have since joined the fanclub (I mean, not literally, but yes, I will continue with the series). It has a very sweet and clever protagonist who gets into all kinds of scrapes.

The February monthly challenge is to read a book gifted to you. I am choosing the last book I was given, Upstream by Mary Oliver, which I got for Christmas of 2017 from my Book Aunt. I started it but didn’t get very far, and with the recent passing of Oliver I feel like it is a good time to read it. I remember that what I read was lovely. I don’t know if Whitney is doing the weekly challenges again this month, but I am ready to make some headway, so give me whatever you’ve got!

All in all, I can see where this is going to be a good exercise. I want to treat my books better, read more widely (I’ve really been deep in YA fantasy the past couple years), and try to sort out my book organization. Looking forward to what this challenge brings! If you are on Instagram, you can follow Whitney at @theundreadshelf and you can join the challenge at #theundreadbookshelf2019.

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