SuperBookworms and Reading Challenges

I wrote about my discovery of SuperBookworms at the end of 2007.  I was in awe of Eva who read over 200 books that year.  Well, this year she’s read over 400!  And she’s not just reading little escapist genre novels, but mostly a diet of big meaty literary books, and she follows up her reading by writing long elegant and educational reviews.  If you love to read you will find Eva’s blog a total inspiration.  Eva is part of an Internet sub-culture of online bookworm bloggers.  These people love books and reading, and they inspire each other to read more by proposing reading challenges.  A reading challenge works to get people to read a certain type of book, or a certain number of books.  Here are some examples of 2010 reading challenges:

There’s even a blog about reading challenges, A Novel Challenge.  Each of these sites will set up the rules for the challenge, and many of them will ask you to register – all this means is your name (real or imaginary) and blog URL gets added to a public list of people joining the challenge.  That way other people can go check what you’re reading.  You can link to your blog’s home page, or to a page created just for the challenge.  Most sites that host a challenge also create a challenge logo with link that you can place on your blog to help advertize the challenge.  Some challenges get 100-200 readers.

If you love discussing books, a reading challenge is merely an informal online book club.  There’s no real obligation.  It’s a great way to find new books and meet likeminded bookworms.  And some of these bookworms are super bookworms, which I’ve define as bookworms who read over a hundred books a year.  I’ve never found anyone who has read as much as Eva read this year, but it’s not uncommon to find readers who read 100-200 books a year, and pretty easy to find a handful of readers who read more than 200 books in a year.  I once read 478 books in 18 months, but I was a college dropout at the time, avoiding work, and they were mostly little science fiction paperbacks. 

I’m lucky to finish 40-50 books a year.  I aim for 52 a year, or one book a week, but in recent years I haven’t even made that goal.  I don’t think my mind could handle 400+ books like Eva reads – that’s just too much for me to think about.  Eva has health problems and reading is a relief for her, but her mind is far sharper than mine, and can digest and process vast quantities of words.  I can’t, even though I wish I could.  I mentally move like a sloth compared to Eva’s hummingbird speed thinking.  I would love to read and review more books but there are physical limits for everyone, and I’ve long discovered my limits.

Because of my reading limitations, I’ve decided to improve my bookworm life from another angle of attack.  I want to read fewer books, but find intensely great books to read.  I have three reading goals for 2010.  First I want to read 10-12 books published in 2010, and hopeful find books that will be on the best of the year lists at the end of 2010.  Second, I want to read another 10-12 classics that are memorable across the ages.  Finally, I want to read 10-12 books off my bookshelf – I have hundreds of unread books that I couldn’t wait to read them when I bought them, but have been neglected ever since.

I was very disappointed in my 2009 year of reading. I want to make 2010 a standout year.  Since 2002, I felt I’ve been going through a reading renaissance, but things got stale last year.  This past decade was the most exciting time for reading since I became a bookworm in my youth.  Reading excitement fell off after my early college years, and it wasn’t until I discovered audiobooks in 2002 that reading got exciting again like it had been in my teen years.  I don’t want to lose that thrill, but I think it will take concentrated work.

What’s really sad is I have so many great books on my bookshelves going unread.  I took five minutes and grabbed all the books that made my heart ache that I didn’t read this year.  I should give these top considerations for 2010.  I could have grabbed ten times more.  I’ve got to stop buying books if I can’t find the time to read them.  Here is my personal reading challenge – finish 10 of these books before I write my reading roundup one year from now:

  1. The Book Nobody Read: In Pursuit of the Revolutions of Nicholas Copernicus – Owen Gingerich
  2. The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade that Gave the World Impressionism – Ross King
  3. H. G.: The History of Mr. Wells – Michael Foot
  4. The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World – Jenny Uglow
  5. A Long Fatal Love Chase – Louisa May Alcott
  6. The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature – Steven Pinker
  7. Emotional Intelligence:  Why it Can Matter More than IQ – Daniel Goleman
  8. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Society – Jared Diamond
  9. Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe – Simon Singh
  10. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – Dave Eggers
  11. Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions – Lisa Randall
  12. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature – Erich Auerbach
  13. Rare Earth: Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe – Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee
  14. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science – Richard Holmes
  15. Stories of your Life and Others – Ted Chiang
  16. The Axemaker’s Gift: Technology’s Capture and Control of Our Minds and Culture – James Burke and Robert Ornstein
  17. Body and Soul: The Making of American Modernism: Art, Music and Literature in the Jazz Age 1919-1926 – Robert M. Crunden

If I finish any of these books, I’ll write a review and make a link of the title.  Just creating this personal challenge makes me feel excited about 2010.

JWH – 1/1/10

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