Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why I've Decided Against a Reading Challenge This Year...

I've participated in the Back to the Classics reading challenge for the past couple of years, which has become an extremely popular venture. One year, I even took the Chunkster Challenge. However, this year, I've decided against online reading challenges and here's why.

The first year, it was fun. Coming back to classic literature was so rewarding and being bound by a challenge brought accountability. I couldn't wait to see how many categories I could read from. Oh, and the thought of winning an Amazon gift card simply for doing something I love was a bonus too.

The second year, things started to change. Being a homeschool mom, my personal reading time is limited. Since I was signed up for the challenge, I felt like I needed to spend the little time I had to read only on reading the classics in order to complete the challenge. Then I started to hear about Wendell Berry and a few other modern authors that I wanted to try, but since they didn't fit the challenge and my time was finite, it seemed like an impossibility. I started to put restrictions on myself and my reading, which led me to grow bitter. I even restricted my kids because if the book I was reading to them didn't fit the challenge, it wasn't happening. Truth be told, I was actually reading less because reading had become a burden and a chore.

Because of the spiritual warfare in my mind, I was already on the fence about joining another reading challenge this year. Then I heard Brian Phillips speak on Listening for Echoes: On Right and Wrong Reading Habits at the CiRCE Conference and it confirmed all that my mind was wrestling with. Below are a few notes I jotted down during his break-out session...

  • You will never get through your reading list.
  • You will never have enough time to read.
  • You will not have enough money to buy all the books you want to.
  • The more you read, the more there is to read. 
  • It's OK to read purely for enjoyment. 
  • It's OK to eat junk periodically as long as you admit what it is and sharpen your tastes. 
  • You can read through the right books in the wrong way. 
  • Make time to read everyday. You don't have to feel guilty. Feed your soul. 
  • Read and delight in what you are reading. 

After contemplating on these thoughts for the past month, I have decided against participating in an online reading challenge this year. Life is short and in this season my time is short. Therefore, I will not be shackled to someone else's ideally categorized list. I have enough book lists of my own. I love to read...and I love to read classics! I will continue with Homer and Augustine, Shakespeare and Plutarch, Dickens, Austen, and Bronte, but I will also throw in a little Wendell Berry and the like as I see fit. My chains are broken. I have been set free. The list of reading possibilities this year is endless and knows no bounds. I'm very excited about the prospect. It feels good!

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