Book Nook: The Reading Challenge

by Lori Walker
published in Reading

I’ve been putting off writing this column. I love getting to check in each month and talk about books, but the practice of keeping track of what books I’ve picked up in a given month and then deciding which ones to share (I mean, how much of a particular book do I need to read before sharing it?) became a little cumbersome. Thus, I’ve decided to mix things up by kicking off January with a reading challenge.

I’ve gone through my shelves and selected twelve books that I have had for quite a while that, for various reasons, I want to have read by now, but just haven’t. Some are older releases, some are newer ones. Some I have never picked up and some I have read a chunk of. Throughout the year, I am going to finally finish them and I’ll use this column to report back.

Why now? Well, January seemed like a good time to mix things up with this column, just like it’s a good time to mix up anything.

The Reading Challenge Books:

  1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  2. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  3. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky
  4. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  5. Howl by Allen Ginsberg
  6. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann
  7. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  8. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  9. The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero
  10. Swing Time by Zadie Smith
  11. Yoga for a World Out of Balance by Michael Stone
  12. A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

A note about the order: These are listed alphabetically because in my opinion there is nothing more fair than the alphabet. I’ll read them in whatever order strikes my fancy.

Why These Books?

Each book in this reading challenge has its own personal reason for being on the list. I’ll run through a couple right now. Killers of the Flower Moon? They shot the film in the next town over from where I live and I want to read it before the movie comes out. Swing Time? I love Zadie Smith, but sometimes her writing makes me feel dumb, so it’s a good challenge for me. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings? I am ashamed that I didn’t read this book back in high school and I need to rectify that. Kitchen Confidential? I love food and cooking and started this one last year and it was pretty badass, so I want to finish.

As I finish these books, I’ll explain the personal reasons for reading them.

Make It Personal

That brings me to my next point about reading.

Reading is such a personal thing. We approach books for our own reasons, with our own thoughts, feelings, and histories. And we set books down the same way—individually. Hopefully the process of reading a particular book leaves us changed in some way, but still the experience of reaching The End is a unique proposition.

I’ll give an example. I read Catch-22 in high school. I loved it. I thought it was hilarious. I loved the logic or lack thereof. I know some people get frustrated with that one because it jumps around. Like with many books I love, I shoved it in my dad’s face and he read it. His verdict? Well, he couldn’t get past the profanity. (Cue major eye roll from 17 year old me.)

But that really illustrates my point. People bring their own stuff to each book they pick up, which makes it a unique and personal experience. No two experiences are alike. And I think that’s beautiful.

DIY Your Own Reading Challenge

I’m (gently) challenging you to look at your shelves and find 12 books that have been hanging around for a long time. You bought them at some point. Now is the time to remember why.

If you’re anything like me, there will be an additional challenge with this reading challenge. As soon as I “have” to read a book, I struggle to do it. I avoid it. But I’m hoping for a little social accountability here.

Tell us in the comments below: What books are part of your reading challenge for this year?

Lori Walker is the Operations Maven at DIY MFA. Though she’s fallen off the wagon as a writer, she’s hoping to return to writing essays (perhaps even a novel!) through her involvement with DIY MFA. She is also Launch Manager, Web Editor, and Podcast Producer for DIY MFA and a Book Coach. She resides in Smalltown, Oklahoma, with her husband and their cat, Joan Didion. You can follow her on Instagram at @LoriTheWriter.

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