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On reading challenges

Every year, I eyeball the various reading challenge lists that go around. They should absolutely be my catnip since I live a life surrounded by books. Fundamentally, I think they serve a valuable purpose in providing a structured framework for people who want to read outside their normal boundaries. And can I say, for the record, that Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge for 2017 is woke, and I love it?! But I’m not doing it, or any other pre-specified challenge this year. Not exactly.

I work in a library. I am surrounded by books every day, and to the lament of my to-read list, new books that I want to read constantly cross my path, so my to-reads are in a constant state of flux. I’m also notoriously stubborn, and the moment a task feels like homework, I’m checked out (yes, librarian pun intentional. You’re welcome). Because of these things, I’ve determined three flexible categories intended to serve my own specific needs.

With a to-read goal in 2017 of 110 books, averaging about 8 books a month, I have figured out that three “challenge” categories a month will give me structure, built-in-deadlines, and enough room to read whatever else crosses my path without feeling like my reading is dictated by external parameters.

  1. Read at least one book per month of #OwnVoices, because we need diverse books. I am uniquely positioned to signal boost great books or underappreciated books from underrepresented perspectives, but I’m not doing anyone any favors if I’m not aware of what’s out there. My Twitter feed is a great way to follow the conversation, but I can do so much more if I’ve read things and can sell them that way. I also want to be conscientious about how I talk  about these titles, too. I don’t want to fall into the trap of making diversity sound like something that should be consumed, like vegetables, because it’s good for you–I want to signal boost stories because they’re beautiful, heartpounding magical journeys with the strength of family love at the heart of it, or sweet YA stories of friendship and first romantic love.
  2. Read at least one new or forthcoming book a month. I actually did much better last year than I’ve done in the past, but this is also an area that needs conscientious work since it’s so easy to get caught up in, well, getting caught up with all the things that have already been published that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I was finally able to participate in LibraryReads‘ year-end best of list last year, and I’d like to do so again this year, with the hope of helping bring more attention to the speculative fiction that I adore. I also have a veritable cache of delicious books waiting on my Kindle from Netgalley and Eidelweiss, but e-books are a format that is not my primary way of consuming books, so I need a bit of a nudge there. This also includes reading more of the “it books” that take library hold lists by storm, just to better know what the fuss is about.
  3. Finally, I vow to read at least one book a month that is not in my usual reading genres because it’s important for a librarian to be widely read, and I tend to read deep in several genres without branching out much, left to my own devices. I’m trying to decide if it’s cheating to allow myself to use book club books for this category since they’re titles I’ve already committed to reading and what I choose for them is rarely what I would choose for myself. I think, in the spirit of this challenge, it would be cheating, but I’m leaving myself a little wiggle room in the event of the occasional hectic month.

And that’s what I’ve got. I’ve knocked out two categories this month already and the only thing holding me back from the third is waiting for my library’s adult winter reading challenge to start since the book I want to read is on theme but can’t be read before January 15. I’m going to try and do end-of-month reading wrap-ups, both to keep me accountable and, honestly, to have ready-made blog content. Here goes, 2017.


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New Year’s Goals

Yarn-related goals:

  • Explore the possibilities of Tunisian crochet further.
  • Expand my knitting skills. This means actually learning how to purl because garter stitch is going to get boring after a while.
  • Work from stash for budget and space reasons, as well as to keep the furry orange menace from antagonizing my stash.
  • Make a fitted garment. Shawls are wonderful, but it’s time to attempt a cardigan again after that failed attempt a few years ago.
  • Finish up the slew of WIPs (works in progress). To make this more concrete in terms, all items in my Ravelry projects that were in-progress at the year’s beginning must be complete by Dec. 31, 2013.
  • Give more of my crochet time to charity, whether that’s preemie hats or cat beds or afghan squares.

Book and library-related goals:

  • Read at least 50 books this year.
  • Among them must be at least two classics. At present, I believe the contenders are Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo and Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend.
  • Expand reading into other genres, or at least, taste a sampling of the ones I’m less acquainted with, like thrillers, mysteries, and romance novels.
  • Read at least the first George R. R. Martin Song of Ice and Fire novel. If they’re as amazing as I’ve been led to believe, the rest will follow suit.
  • Read at least five books that have been sitting on my bookshelves but were never read. Good books will be kept, the rest sold back to Half Price Books.
  • Post reviews of my reading, here and perhaps as submissions to the library’s staff picks blog if I can work up the courage.
  • I love being a page, but it’s time to start applying to higher-level positions at the library. Ideally, this will result in the gaining of said position, but right now, I’m not getting anywhere without applying. Time to change that and at least gain some interviewing experience.

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