18 January 2013


Life as a Reading Challenge, Chapter 10

Although I haven't signed up for any 2013 Reading Challenges, looking over some of them has helped to remind me of what I'm trying to do on this blog. I'm referring to the ones with monthly themes.

Take the Paranormal 2013 Reading Challenge, "each month featuring a different category of paranormal creature." January gets Vampires, probably because it is the easiest category to get everyone started; my beloved October gets Ghosts, for the spooky factor, I guess; and December gets Other, defined as "sirens, unicorns, centaurs, time travel, etc."

Then there is the Reading Romances Challenge, in which each month is devoted to a well-known (and well-loved) Romance cliche. January's theme is Marry Me?, which means arranged marriages; February is Foreigners Do It Better month, which is as self-explanatory as it is hilarious; and December gets Cinderella, for either rags-to-riches or riches-to-rags stories.

I'd be more likely to do the first challenge than the second, if only because I'm so out of the Romance reading loop that no titles jumped to mind when I read the second set of categories. But I'm not doing either of them, am I? So what is the point of this post?

Answer: The point is to make a proper apology to Laura Ingalls Wilder's fifth Little House book, By the Shores of Silver Lake. I should never have raised its hopes.

When I was drafting the "Two or Three" Book Club poll for the December/January series, I planned to commit to either all five Percy Jackson books or the first FOUR Little House books. At the very last second before hitting "Publish", I changed the second number to five as well. It's a decision that started haunting me two weeks ago.

And now that February is looming, it's only getting worse. I seem to have bitten off more than I could chew over December and January. But extending the readalong to February seems like the wrong thing to do.

The aforementioned reading challenges with monthly themes are reminding me how necessary it is for things to end when they say they'll end, even if so much more seems left to be said. Not just because it's better to leave everyone wanting more than for things to wear out their welcome, but because respecting arbitrary forms can be beautiful. Just ask Petrarch.

* * * * * 

But there is another issue that has been needling me. For the past few months, these arbitrary forms have been my only forms. That is, I haven't read anything that wasn't for this blog since before Pet Sematary. Yes, I think that's a problem. 

The reason monthly themes aren't a real limitation is that a challenge participant who wants to continue reading about vampires or arranged marriages (or even vampires in arranged marriages--Whatever floats your boat!) after January, and well into the rest of the year, can do just as he pleases. It doesn't matter that it won't count for the challenge, because the challenge is secondary to one's personal pleasure in reading. But my experience has been the exact opposite: the challenge--the commitment--has become my primary reason for reading.

Last December, I could have crammed down the first five Little House books like one of Almanzo's dinners and had a great time anyway. But because I had to blog about them, too--writing not just any blog posts, but readalong posts--that changed things. Now, I don't mind reading this way. I've read books under different circumstances, and they have all proven to be interesting experiences. But these days I'm reading only this way. Even if I manage to finish the most eclectic bunch of books in the world, they won't make a dent in the sameness.

In the last "Life as a Reading Challenge Post" (See Chapter 9), I asked whether other book bloggers felt pressured to read what their readers wanted, at the expense of what they wanted. Now I ask whether anyone else feels pressured to turn every book read (or movie watched) into a post.

I don't think that blogging about a book or movie should become the default way to enjoy it, any more than writing a report for class should be the default way to appreciate it. And my practical application is to insist on some blogging silence. If I ever do read By the Shores of Silver Lake, you probably won't hear about it on this blog.

Image Source: By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Angie Tusa said...

Because I make the schedule for my series way in advance, I realized after finishing The Shining, that I don't need to have another King novel finished until February 2014. Between then I just have short stories to read. It was a nice sort of excitement when I suddenly realized I could actually spend my reading time on something other than King for a little while. So I know how you feel!

It's also become a fairly common thing after Jak and I watch a movie together that he will ask me, "Are you going to blog about it?" and while once I probably would have felt the need to do so, now it really just depends on if there was something in the movie that feels worthy of discussion.

Enbrethiliel said...


It would help to take a leaf out of your book and actually have a plan for my blogging! I tend not to think of things more than a month or two in advance--because I've abandoned so many long-term projects by the wayside--but I can see what a difference it would have made to have written all or most of the readalong posts weeks before they were needed.

I really like sharing my thoughts closer to "real time" and letting previous discussions alter the direction I thought I wanted to take; but the trade-off is a huge time suck.

We have some common ground when it comes to movies, though. Although I always bring along a notebook and pen when watching movies these days, I often know within the first fifteen minutes whether it's going to make it onto the blog or not. But if I ever do a "watch along" that will take about a month to complete, you can bet that I'll be moaning about the sameness of it all, too! =P

Jenny said...

Well, enjoy your challenges. I don't know why we feel the need to write a review for every book we read, but I sadly do. Maybe I should stop worrying about it.

Enbrethiliel said...


There's something about review blogs . . . They demand to be fed, don't they? LOL!

But I also think that we get a real sense of closure from publishing any sort of reaction to a book we've read. I guess I'm just used to finding my closure in more ways than one! =)