On Reading Challenges for 2011

Posted on January 13, 2011. Filed under: Blogs, Books, Musings | Tags: , , , , , |

I realize it’s pretty popular to host reading challenges now. People seem to get amped up and rush into them with the banners waving. I’ve also noticed there are a ridiculous variety of these challenges.

One in particular caught my attention and got me started thinking about the challenges in general. It’s by Historically Obsessed and is a Lauren Willig Reading Challenge. Of course, if you’ve read my blog, you’ve probably gotten a little sick of my admiration for Lauren Willig’s historical spy series, but I can’t really help that; she’s one of my favorite authors.

The challenge asks readers to take on reading all the books in her series in a year. Currently there are 7 books out and one more coming in the end of January. That makes eight books total to read in the series over the course of the year. That’s not half bad, and I’ve been thinking of rereading the books on my list, so I might give it a go if the last two books have come out in paperback by the end of the year.

I started looking up reading challenges, though, and I came across this blog, which tries to stay current with all novel and non-fiction reading challenges thrown out there on the blogosphere. As I started reading through just a handful of the challenges for the year, I was struck by how serious some people are about these challenges.

Now, for the record, I’ve given myself some challenges. I plan to read at least 50 books this year, interspersed with a smattering of new authors and genres to open my outlook a bit. I think that plus the Lauren Willig Reading Challenge are all good things and things I would normally have come up with on my own.

Then there are challenges like the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge that takes a list of all books quoted, mentioned, or otherwise shown throughout all episodes and puts together a challenge for readers. Now it may be because I’m just not big into television and haven’t really caught onto a show that I wanted to watch since NCIS aired, but this strikes me a little much. The challenge files the books into categories and asks readers to pick a level, which determines how many titles from each category they will read during the year.

I like the idea of reading a variety of books, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’ll pick that out myself for now. I’ve actually already managed to branch into some books I never thought of reading before simply by picking them up from my pile and starting in on reading them. Perhaps these reading challenges are a good idea if you’re not into reading a variety of books or have gotten stuck reading a few authors and aren’t willing to branch out.

I decided last month I would try to branch out this year because I think it will make me a better author to be more well-rounded in my reading.

Does that mean I think I’m better than those of you doing reading challenges? Of course not! It just means that, for me, the reading challenges don’t seem like ones that I would enjoy. There are lots of titles on that Gilmore Girls list that I’ve put on the backburner and several that I’ve already read; so it’s not like I couldn’t join in the challenge. I’d just rather do my own challenge and read things that will both interest me and help me grow as a writer. And I’ll add that I want to do it in my own way.

If anything, I’d start a reading challenge to throw out all the other challenges and read a specified number of books within the year where you’re trying to challenge yourself to read outside your genre and author preferences. For me, the key is to read things I enjoy in between reading new genres and authors; that makes all the difference.

I hope this hasn’t come across as necessarily condescending. It’s just my thoughts for myself on reading challenges. I may yet join in the Lauren Willig one, but that’s one that I’ve been toying around with doing for a while now on my own. Joining the challenge has no real bearing on my doing it besides motivating me to post thoughtful reviews and commentary on the Historically Obsessed contest page.

Perhaps I should participate in a reading challenge this year simply to see what all the commotion is about. We’ll see.

What about you? Are you going to participate in any reading challenges? Which ones? Let me know what you think because I’m always curious!

Oh, and I’ll post another blog soon with my reviews on two of the books I finished this week: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and James Patterson’s Mary, Mary. So I hope you’ll look forward to those! Now I’m off to find another book to read to satiate my book lust!


P.S. I’m enjoying that challenging myself to do the reading has gotten me reading a few of those pesky books on my list that were sitting around my room looking lonely and unloved. Have you been doing the same?

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Musing on God Knows What

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: Books, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , |

I finished reading a second book on my list of 50 books yesterday and thought I would share a short review of it with you all.

Donald Miller is a well-known (at least in my circles) Christian author. His books are all in the realm of Christian non-fiction from my understanding, and before he authored books, Miller went on crazy adventures, joined various churches, experienced God at Reed College, and wrote for other, smaller publications.

I picked up Blue Like Jazz because a friend recommended it to me. To be fair, I’ll admit I didn’t want to read it. Not because it didn’t sound like a good book but because it was like so many Christian books. As soon as someone liked it, it became an instant sensation with people buying it up left and right. I always liked being able to find the more obscure or older books that seemed more personally meaningful to me, so I avoided it when it joined the Christian craze.

But my friend told me I would like it, so I grabbed a copy before going to China, left it in the house, and have subsequently picked it up again. It’s an easy, short read and took me about a day to read the whole thing.

Blue Like Jazz carries the subtitle “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality,” which is a fairly good description of the book. Instead of spewing the same Christian terminology and teaching why we should do this or do that, Miller looks at his own life and faith and describes those using metaphors the church, as a whole, might find a bit odd.

I enjoyed reading the book as it was quick and easy to grasp. I didn’t enjoy some of the stream of consciousness moments that seemed at random and unmoored with the theme of the chapter. Each chapter is broken into themes that are basically the idea for the whole chapter, and no chapter is completely sequential. I tend to think you could take the chapters apart and read them separately, out of order, and be just as happy as you would reading the book through from beginning to end.

What I liked about it was Miller’s blunt honesty. He never sugarcoats things, and the whole book is laced with his derision towards organized religion, particularly churches as a whole. At the same time, you come to recognize Miller’s faith for what it is: the faith that an individual person has developed through his own myriad of experiences.

It’s a journey I’d like to take sometime.

So while this isn’t the best Christian non-fiction I’ve read, it’s good, and I enjoyed it. I would even recommend it to some of my non-Christian friends as a means of understanding more of the Christianity I strive to move towards. It’s no Mere Christianity, but then again, few authors compare to C.S. Lewis. In his own way, Miller chronicles his journey of faith and reminds me that I, too, have a story to tell if I can just muster the courage to explore my own life and faith. And that is encouraging.

So what’s next? I decided to read something different and am now in the middle of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game in my second attempt to like sci-fi. We’ll see how it goes, but so far it has been a fascinating read. I like Card’s writing style, but I’ll talk more about that in a subsequent blog, I’m sure.

Oh, and I started reading Chinese for Dummies and practicing all the lovely Chinese I can find in the book. Let’s just say this is going to be a lot tougher than it looks!

I’ll update with more later!


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Writing about Reading about Writing

Posted on February 20, 2010. Filed under: Books, Editing, Musings, Science Fiction | Tags: , , , , , |

I’ve been wanting to make this title for a post ever since I first thought about getting out some writing-related books to read. Of course, I had to hold off until I officially started reading one of said books, and that wasn’t until after I have purchased one of said books. Confused yet? So am I.

Anyway, I’m currently in the middle of a reading spree of books that might possibly help me in editing my novel in March. I have no idea whether they’ll be of great help or not, but I’m going to try them and see. I’m looking forward to some of them; others are pleasure reads that I can finish shortly and move onto the next book.

So my pleasure read at the moment is Fusion Fire by Kathy Tyers. Again this is the second book in the Firebird Trilogy. It’s a good book so far, and since I’d already started reading it, I’m picking it up where I stopped reading. It’s not that hard to get back into, and I hope I’ll finish it soon.

As far as writing-related books go, I’m reading Orson Scott Card’s How To Write Science Fiction & Fantasy after purchasing it the other night with my dad. So far it’s had more emphasis on writing sci-fi, which I can understand given Card’s background. (Though he has written for both genres.) However, he offers a lot of insight on world creation and other elements.

It’s a five chapter, short book, but it’s making me think a lot about my own world. What is it that makes it a fantasy? What is it that could stand more rules and structure? What requires a bit more development? These are all questions I’m thinking about as I read Card’s book.

I like his style. So far I’ve been pretty impressed, and now I’m kind of wanting to read Ender’s Game and Hart’s Hope as he mentions both those novels in the book. He uses them as examples for his world creation process. I’ve never read any of his novels before, but I’m thinking once things settle down and I’ve shaved off more of my reading list, I’ll invest in a few of his novels and see how he writes fiction.

At this point in the game, I’m pretty sure he’ll impress.

But I’m going to have to end this little post because it’s been a crazy, hectic day, and I have quite a bit to do. I have a choir rehearsal for a concert in less than thirty minutes, am trying to speed up the bake time on tamale pie, and need to get my contacts out because they’re bugging me.

Oh, and I went to the home and garden fair today with my dad. It was really lovely, and I managed to purchase some seeds to start an herb garden. I also got two planters: one has lavender that you sow yourself, and the other has peppermint that’s getting ready to sprout. I’m rather excited about it myself. I got thyme, basil, and Italian parsley seeds as well. We’ll see how it works!

Comments? Thoughts? Snide remarks? Let me know!


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