Have you ever participated in a reading challenge? Up until last year, I had looked at many different ideas but had never taken one up. I figured that I read enough and well enough that I didn’t need the challenge. However, at the end of January 2013 I noticed that I was in a reading rut. In three months I had read 33 books; 23 of those were Young Adult. Now this wasn’t an issue at all. I love YA and it will always be my favourite genre. However I felt that I needed to branch out. There were many genres that I avoided, or just never really noticed and from this, my reading challenge for 2013 was born. I decided to spend each month of the year reading a different genre. Some months I spent finishing the piles of books that I had been meaning to read, and finishing off the books I had chosen for the themed months. The rules were fairly simple – I had to choose the genres based on what I already had on my bookcases. I was working in the bookstore at the time and I had rescued so many damaged books that I was not short on ideas. Here is how some of my year went:
February began with Non-Fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading for this month. We often read fiction to escape from our real lives but non-fiction, or auto/biography as I had chosen, throws you head first into the lives of others. They are often painful, sad and maddening but they always leave you with a message, filled with wisdom or hope. I was challenged with how I viewed the world and forced to face issues that were reflected in my own life. It was a heavy month of reading but a fantastic start to the challenge.
April was fantasy. Now while I adore children’s fantasy, I had always struggled with the grown up stuff. I had read Game of Thrones the year before and had not enjoyed it at all. I chose books from authors I knew from work (the popular kids – Jasper Fforde I’m looking at you!) and I was not disappointed. The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman was the only one that I struggled with but the others I have gone on to continue the series. They were what I consider to be ‘light fantasy’ but because it was enjoyable I have gone back for more!
July was the hardest month and I can honestly say it is one of my least liked genres. Science fiction was the most challenging mainly because I don’t understand it which I am more than happy to admit. I missed the messages lying below the surface and even when I read reviews, it still didn’t make sense. William Gibson’s Neuromancer remains as one of the hardest books I have ever read. I still couldn’t tell you what happened…
August was like catching up with old friends. Crime is one of my favourite genres but I had kept away from it for a while due to a personal experience I had. I have Ms J.K Rowling to thank for getting me back into it! I started with her series under the nom de plume Robert Galbraith. She is such an exquisite writer and I completely fell in love with her new characters. I managed to cover all my favourite authors within the genre – it was a satisfying month!!
November was the last of the themed months and it was such a sweet ending! While I have read many, many stories of love I had only read two true romance novels! This month had been prompted by a visitor at work, the co-creator of the romance website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Sarah Wendell is a very smart and funny lady. She talked to us about the stereotypes and clichés surrounding Romance as a genre and the raw deal that its readers are subject too – to the point where most are ashamed to admit they like the genre because they have been continually shamed by others. I went to a local bookshop with my romance-reading friend and she helped me pick out some good reads. I had another friend give me a whole box of hers. Between the two of them, they showed me all the different aspects of the genre and I loved it all. It was everything I expected it would be but at the same time, it was nuanced and witty, and left me feeling hopeful that Prince Charming might actually be out there!
At the end of the year, I was really happy with what I had achieved. I had rekindled my love for some genres and learned to love others. The result? I feel as though it made me a better reader. I can pick up any book and give it a go, no matter how different or challenging it may be.
And 2014? I just want to read more than I did in 2013!
Over to you – what reading challenges have you taken on and how did you go?