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!