Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Should a reading challenge be challenging?

I want to plug a reading challenge that I have joined, the admirable Our Mutual Read.  Four (or more) books published during (or on the subject of ) 1837  to 1901.  So Victorian, chronologically, although non-English (non-Victorian) books are fair game.

Now, if there's any sort of reading I would like to encourage right now, it's books published between 1837 and 1901.  Good books, at least.  I plan to read 80 to 100 of them next year.  There is no "challenge" to this Challenge.  Nothing but overlap.  I signed up, really, just to be able to keep an eye on what other people are reading.  And to be a friendly book blogger, and to encourage people to read Robert Louis Stevenson or some other Scottish writer.

I love the idea of the Reading Challenges.  Serious readers know how to organize their reading.  The best Challenges help people learn to organize.  But I already know how to do that.  When I get back from Morocco, I will spend a week on the Wuthering Expectations Scottish Literature Challenge, during which I will probably go on and on and on about Reading Challenges and why I like them and why I don't.  Or I'll be wise enough to suppress all of that.

In the meantime, however you do it, read some good books.

16 comments:

  1. I've begun a reading challenge, I am reading the books listed in The Well-Educated Mind and The New Lifetime Reading Plan. Using the former book I am also challenging myself to read deeper and better than before.

    "If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn." -How o Read a Book

    The answer to your title is yes. To be well read you don't just read a lot of books but you must read good books well. As I'm sure you know.

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  2. Thanks for that quotation - it's exactly right.

    All right, last comment - off to Morocco.

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  3. Have a great time, I am so jealous.

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  4. Many of the challenges I have signed up for this year will not be a challenge for me to complete-like Amateur Reader it is not a challenge for me to read Victorian Era Novels or read books from a diverse range of countries. That is what I do and have done for a long time. Some Challenges can motivate us to go into new areas of reading. The Japanese Literature 3 Challenge asked that we read only one Japanese origin work and ended up opening up a new world of reading to me. Maybe if Reading Challenges were called Reading Themes they would generate less controversy and not create the feeling in people that they have failed if they do not finish them. For sure I will be participating in the Scottish Challenge.

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  5. Mel- If you are reading good books then it should be a challenge. You have to challenge yourself to get the most out of them. I don't understand why you say it wouldn't be a challenge to read Victorian Era novels or works from around the world? Unless its a haphazard jumping around with only cursory readings even familiar works can yield up new rewards. People can spend a lifetime studying one great writers work.
    Also I saw your blogger profile, my husband is from the Philippines. Haven't been there yet.

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  6. Autodidact-I did not mean that the books were not challenging I meant it does not take me out of my comfort zone-it would be a challenge for me to read a teenage vampire romance novel-I meant that this is what I naturally do-it was a challenge to me to first read Japanese novels for example, now it is something I naturallly do-it does not mean the books are not a challenge-I am sorry if my post was not clear but it is pretty much along the lines with what Amateur Reader meant when he said completing a challenge to read Victorian novels would not be a challenge to him as that is what he likes to read-

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  7. Autodidact101-to clarify my remarks on challenges-I recently saw a challenge involving teenage vampire romance books-that would be a challenge for me-for millions of others it would be what they do naturally hence no challenge for them-this is all I meant when I said reading Victorian novels would not be a challenge for me-likewise joining in the Wuthering Expectations forthcoming Scottish challenge will be easy for me as I will be happy to reread Boswell's travel book on the Hebrides Island-

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  8. It would be a challenge for me as well but I think that is a pretty poor use of the word and I don't think that is what Amateur Reader is asking.

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  9. Autodidact-I think it is the word challenge that stresses people-just call them themes! Like Disney World has theme parks-the use of the word "challenge" may have taken on a different meaning among book bloggers-but you make a lot of good points and I like forward to the Wuthering Heights Scottish Theme reading event!

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  10. There is no real answer to the question as to whether or not a reading challenge should be hard or easy or just a coming together of like minded people-the question is not really a factual question-there are easy challenges and their are hard ones and medium ones and some silly ones (to me)-challenges should be what ever the hosts and the participants want them to be-

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  11. I think people should challenge themselves through their reading, there is no better way to expand their mind and understanding. I'll reference back to the quote from How to Read a Book. If using the definition you are talking about I agree 'theme' would be more appropriate, which is the answer to the question, if they don't want it to be hard then they shouldn't call it a challenge. But a reading challenge should in fact be that, to few people seek simple entertainment and do not seek to improve themselves. I stress the simple, I'm not against entertainment. Its just better to develop a taste for good entertainment. But again just because you've read a book before or books from a particular genre before that doesn't take the challenge out of it. Not if they are good books anyway. Also the word couldn't 'stress' people. A challenge should have a measure of fun and excitement to it.

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  12. Wow my grammar is so bad in that last comment I wish this had an edit. That is supposed to be shouldn't not couldn't.

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  13. ""If you are reading in order to become a better reader, you cannot read just any book or article. You will not improve as a reader if all you read are books that are well within your capacity. You must tackle books that are beyond you, or, as we have said, books that are over your head. Only books of that sort will make you stretch your mind. And unless you stretch, you will not learn"- I agree completely and have thought this way for the last 50 year or so-In fact I still have my copy of the original life time reading plan from Clifton Fadiman which I first read near 50 years ago as a very bookish early teenager-as to the use of the word "challenge" it is an accepted way to use it among the many 1000s of book bloggers so even though we may see nothing challeging about a Harlequin Romance Reading Challenge (and yes there is one) it is just semantics to quibble over the word-I agree agree with your reading credo -the only disagreement we have seem to be over the use of the word "challenge"-it seems to late to change that and just a semantic issue any way-you make a lot of great points and I am happy to see another Fadiman fan out there in Blog Land!

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  14. People frequently use words incorrectly, ironic, anxious/eager, allusion/illusion/delusion, that doesn't mean we need to take it lying down. There must be purists! People who demand the language be used correctly. Why can't the English learn to speak?

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  15. good point-I wonder who the book blogger was who was first coined the term "Reading Challenge"-of course Language evolves

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  16. I think joining a "challenge" because you want to promote it is a great reason. And I'm impressed with your number of Victorian books! For me it will be a challenge to make sure I stay focused enough on Victorian England to get through the 8 I want to read!! There are so many books in so many times that I want to read RIGHT NOW. That is why it's a challenge to me!

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