In a good year, I’ll read about 25 books. One year, I set a goal to read 50 books. Another year, I set a goal to limit my reading to women authors. And in each of those challenges, I came up short.
The Year I Aimed to Read 50 Books
Diving in, I was looking at the table of contents, hunting for a short story about a library that I had heard about online. I found “The Library of Babel” (link to Wikipedia), and flipped to that page and began reading.
In 6 short pages, Borges created a vivid world stacked with potential. Drawn into his style, I began devouring more of his short stories; Hungry for each short story Borges served up.
And I abruptly stopped reading for several months. My mental stomach had eaten too many dense morsels that expanded as my mind chewed on them. Full up, I needed to digest what I’d read.
I believe, I read 40+ books that year. I learned to watch out for short-stories; I need to space out those dense morsels.
The Year I Aimed to Limit My Reading to Women Authors
In 2018, I recognized that the gender balance of whom I read leaned towards men. On January 1st, I set out to fix that. I began my endeavor with a gifted copy of “A Wrinkle in Time” (link to WorldCat).
- “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle
- “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison
- “Upstream” by Mary Oliver
- “The Origin of Others” by Toni Morrison
- “Paradise” by Toni Morrison
- “The Girl in the Tower” by Katerine Arden
- “No Time to Spare” by Ursula K Le Guin
- “Joy Luck Club” by Amy Tan
- “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” by Annie Dillard
- “The Writing Life” by Annie Dillard
- “For the Time Being” by Annie Dillard
- “A Room of One’s Own” by Virginia Woolf
- “Ordinary Beast” by Nicole Sealey
- “The Odyssey” by Emily Wilson
- “One Writers Beginnings” by Eudora Welty
- “Composing a Life” by Mary Catherine Bateson
- “Devotions” by Mary Oliver
- “Nimona” by Noelle Stevenson
- “Bored and Brilliant” by Manoush Zomorodi
- “Teaching a Stone to Talk” by Annie Dillard
- “Late in the Day” by Ursula K Le Guin
- “Devotion” by Patti Smith
- “Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe” by Kapka Kassabova
- “M Train” by Patti Smith
- "Late in the Day" by Ursula K Le Guin
- “Dog Songs” by Mary Oliver
- “Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit”
- “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- “Just Kids” by Patti Smith
- “Playing in the Dark” by Toni Morrison
- “The Left Hand of Darkness” Ursula K Le Guin
- “The Faraway Nearby” by Rebecca Solnit
During this time, I started following Maria Popova’s blog Brain Pickings, finding a kindred mind, whose reading spanned my common interests.
Then at mid-year, I started “Hope in the Dark” by Rebecca Solnit. I faltered and stopped my challenge within the first two chapters. The subject matter, drawing attention to and framing George W. Bush-era politics, cut deep, inflicting a wound on my psyche.
And I halted my challenge, leaving this wound only partially evaluated. Today, I recognize that I had pushed myself far past my comfort zone, reading the varied perspectives of a diverse cast of women. Seeing how they frame the inevitable transgressions a patriarchal society inflicts. Bearing witness or recounting the daily social aggressions each woman experiences.
In these readings, I found my empathy growing, as I actively considered new-to-me situations. And “Hope in the Dark” struck hard at my newly expanded, and still delicate, senses.
Again, I halted my reading.
Read Harder Challenge
As we’ve been working on launching Fables, I’ve discovered Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge frames 24 tasks to help broaden your literary base. Each task defines a characteristic. To complete the job, read a book with that characteristic. Examples are: An epistolary novel or collection of letters; A book by an author of color set in or about space; A book of manga.
I’m holding off on diving into that challenge. After all, I need to help get this bookshop open.
Written by Jeremy Friesen