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2020: Why It's Time For New Directions

The year is barely a week old and I’m already feeling I’m in catch up mode. I meant to share my 2020 plans well before now but it’s taken me until today to work out what exactly I want to focus on this year.

I’ve spent the last few days soul searching as well as reflecting on my experience over the last few years when I set specific goals for reading and blogging. And I’ve come to a few conclusions which are going to influence what I do this year.

The End of Challenges

The biggest decision is to stop doing reading challenges that involve making lists of titles to read. I love the process of creating the list but as soon as that’s done, and it’s time to actually read those chosen books, my interest in them completely fades away. Having a list to work through takes away the element of freedom.

Instead of being able to choose a book at random from my ‘owned but unread’ shelves or delve into something that caught my eye in the library, I’m ‘having’ to read one of the titles on my list. Just so that I can make some inroads into that challenge.

It’s why I’ve never completed a #20booksofsummer project. Even reducing the number to 15 this year didn’t work (though I came close). It’s also why it’s taken me longer than the target 5 years to get through the Classics Challenge and why, unbelievably, my Booker Prize project is unfinished seven years after it began.

Away With Lists

Lists are clearly not my thing. Neither are challenges that require me to read specific categories of books or numbers of books within a specified time period. Some of those I’ve been undertaking in recent years, like the Booker Prize project have been entirely self imposed. So I have only myself to blame for that!

There’s nothing wrong with the challenges themselves. Plenty of other bloggers and readers find them enjoyable and rewarding and, amazingly, have the ability to cope with several at the same time. It’s not the challenge that’s the issue; it’s me.

2020 will therefore be a year without challenges. I’ll finish the ones I’ve already started – I’ve come so far with most of them that it would be silly to stop now – but I won’t go looking for anything new. I want a year of relaxed, stress-free reading.

I’ve Started So I’ll Finish

Booker Prize Project: One more title to go and then I’ll have read (or attempted to read) every winner from 1969 to 2015. That’s 50 winners in total. Once I’ve read How Late It Was How Late by James Kelman, I’ll be done. I don’t regret having spent time with the Booker Prize but my interest in it as a literary prize has seriously waned in the last few years so I won’t be committing myself to reading any of the post 2015 winners.

Classics Club challenge: I embarked on this in November 2012. According to the ‘rules’ I was supposed to have read 50 books from my list by November 2017. Well, it’s now more than 2 years later and I still have three titles yet to go. I’m using the latest Classics Club spin to give me a nudge towards the finishing line. I still have books on my original list that I haven’t read. I might get to them over time or I might not.

World of Literature Project: Another self-imposed challenge to read books by authors from 50 different countries within 5 years. I’m two years over the target date with 9 countries still to go. No reason why I shouldn’t find those remaining countries before the year is over. I’m not abandoning my interest in reading translated fiction and fiction from around the world – just taking away the pressure of specific goals.

New Directions

The one aspect of challenges I do enjoy is the camaraderie and feeling of connection to other bloggers. I don’t want to lose that – the social element of blogging is by far the thing that keeps me going. Without it, blogging would be just a form of vanity publishing.

Instead of year long or multi year challenges I’m going to switch my focus to small events; the kind that last just for a week or a few months.. There are countless numbers of these around so I’m going to have to be selective otherwise I’ll end up in the same rabbit hole I’ve been in before via challenges.

I’ll be joining events if and only if they take my fancy and I can do them without a reading list in sight.

Reading Events On the Horizon

There are already a few events that are calling to me.

Japan Literature Challenge, hosted by dolcebellezza is now in its 13th incarnation. It involves just reading books by Japanese authors between January and end of March. It’s a good opportunity to revisit some of the authors whose books I already own.

Paula at Book Jotter will be hosting the Wales Readathon throughout March. This will be the second year for the event and of course I have to support anything which promotes literature from my home country.

Unfortunately that readathon coincides with Reading Ireland Month hosted by Cathy at 746books so I might have to limit myself to just one book from Ireland. I’ll at least feel that I’ll have joined in the buzz. That’s what is so great about these short events – you can just dip in like this without any obligations to do much more.

Finally, in April, Simon and Karen will be hosting the 1920 reading club; a week long celebration of fiction, non-fiction, poetry published 100 years ago.

And that’s more than enough for me to be getting on with. What happens after April I’ll decide further down the road.

Will You Be Joining Me? Have you made any plans yet for 2020? Do they include challenges or do you prefer more free-form reading? Do post a comment below to let me know.

The Challenge of Challenges

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.

sundaysalonThat comment by Douglas Adams (the author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) sums up my experience with book reading challenges so far.

I like the idea of many of the challenges dreamed up by various bloggers, get enthusiastic about signing up for them and love the buzz of talking to people about them. But actually doing them; well that’s another story.  Do you ever have that feeling of running in race but each time you can see the finishing line, someone moves it? That’s how I felt so many times in 2013.

Of course, it was my own fault for taking on more projects than I really have the capacity for given that I do work full time. But more of an issue I’ve come to realise, is that having multiple challenges doesn’t actually add to the enjoyment of reading for me —in fact it takes the fun out of reading. I know that’s not the case for many other bloggers, some of them seem to thrive on challenges; the more the merrier. But for me, the more challenges I took on the more I began to feel I was reading to order instead of reading as my mood took me.

Rather than just being able to pick up a book because I thought it suited my mood at the time, I choose my next read based purely on the fact it was on the list for such and such a challenge and I really need to make more progress there. So reading became more and more of a guilt trip than an enjoyable experience.

And now we are at the time of the year where bloggers everywhere are starting up their 2014 challenges and sharing reading goals for the year ahead. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t get a newsfeed alert a new challenge. And some of them are so tempting especially the ones that focus on reading novels from different parts of the world.

But after much pontification, deliberation and debate I’ve decided that 2014 will be a year free of challenges. Free of goals. Free of reading resolutions.  I know I’ll still be reading classics, I’ll still be reading Booker winners and I’ll still be reading world literature. But I’ll be doing them without the pressure of any deadlines or goals. I’m simply going to read what I want and when I want. And if that involves digressions and diversions, that will be just fine with me.

Anyone else suffering this feeling of challenge fatigue? If so, I’d love to hear how you’re planning to deal with this situation.

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