I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, and I’m not a fan of reading challenges either, but this is the time of year when these two coincide to the max, and ME NO LIKES.
There’s something about making grand vows in the spur of the moment that makes for a really bad incentive to keep them, and New Year’s Day is just one of them. I mean, why must one wait till the beginning of the next year to make goals or changes? I personally don’t see the incentive here: if you’d put off certain goals for until New Year’s Day, it’s likely that you’d been stalling because you didn’t have the mindset to execute these resolutions earlier, and making them on New Year’s won’t make much of a difference. Or at least, that’s what I found in my own case, although I don’t know about everyone else.
As for reading challenges, they’re a literary pet peeve of mine. Granted, I get the appeal of these–I really do. Reading challenges introduce you to so many new books that you ordinarily might not have read, but what I don’t appreciate is the blazing-through-of-one-thousand-books-a-year-without-really-getting-to-know-any-of-them attitude that people have when they do these reading challenges. Because to me, it seems like they’re prioritizing quantity over quality, and I don’t care for that.
At six years old, I finished twenty-five Magic Tree House books in two weeks; at nine years old, four Harry Potter books in three weeks; at ten years, the Narnia series in two weeks; at twelve, the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 3 days. I knew how to knock down books at pretty high speeds when I’m in the right mood, but I found that this rarely increased my appreciation because it just didn’t allow for the books to grow on me.
Taking a moment to contemplate an interesting phrase. Becoming excited when noticing a literary theme. Laughing your butt off at an inside joke. I just didn’t get as many prompts to empathize with the characters when I was rushing to fill a quota. That’s another reason why I dislike reading challenges…they just don’t allow enough time for re-reading.
From a young age, I discovered the value of re-reading. I think that anyone should give a new book at least a second or third chance before putting it aside. I’ve skimmed over some really great books in my time, even Harry Potter, which I thought was “meh” upon first read (oh the shame to admit this), and only after the second re-read did I completely go gaga for it.
But reading challenges discourage that. If you’re so hell-bent on finishing your quota for the year, what time do you have for re-reading? You DON’T.
Therefore, I dropped reading challenges years ago. Or at least stopped trying to knock off books at ridiculously high speeds because it was interfering with my perception for good books, which I didn’t want to happen. Instead, I focused on re-reading and analysis, which I think paid off in college. When I took my first English course ever, a Shakespeare course that was dominated by theater and English majors, I funnily enough excelled. My essays were frequently touted by my professor in class, I got straight A’s at end of the semester, and I received honors.
Which on paper didn’t make any sense: how on earth was I doing better than those people who devoured literature on a daily basis? Many of them did reading marathons, and yet they couldn’t keep up with me for some reason I instinctively knew the answer: re-reading. That’s all it really was. Many of those literature majors were more interested in ticking off a list of books to show off their scope that they’d actually forgotten the point of reading, which is to enjoy it.
So when my friends admit that they feel ignorant for not having read that many books, I tell them this: if you have even just a handful of books that you’ve memorized upside-down, cradled in your sleep, and chronically obsessed over, then that makes for a better reader than someone who’s strategically ticked off a list without having appreciated the full depth of any of those books.
The feeling of leisurely falling in love with a book is a gift. And in my not-so-humble opinion, the number of books you knock off in a year doesn’t really matter.
By the way, sorry to be such an ass on New Year’s Day lol. I’m such a cranky old cynic at times, and I wish I wasn’t…but I am. Someone call the doctor.