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  • Writer's pictureEmily

2021 reading goals: challenge level

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

When I was in my last year of college, I decided that I was reading too many old books (I really liked Victorian novels), so I made myself pick something new. In the Library of Congress shelving system, it is easy to go directly to American fiction and then through that to the new stuff. I picked up The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende at random. I thought it might be a ghost story. There are a few ghosts, but also murder, rape, torture, and the overthrow of a socialist government. It was alot. I was upset for three months.

At that time, I really still expected everything in books to work out. "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means," as they say in The Importance of Being Earnest. I would feel betrayed if I read a book that didn't turn out "right". The House of the Spirits is an amazing book. I don't know what else to say about it. Maybe I am tougher now and if I'd read it for the first time now, I wouldn't have been so stunned. But.... Since then, I've been shying away from difficult books. And college was about twenty years ago.

I have forced myself to read something that I expect to be sad from time to time. The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison is a book I'd always meant to read, and I saw it on a Black Lives Matter reading list last summer. I checked it out, took it home, and really didn't want it anymore. It's hard to read. The main character has to navigate around the whims of all the white people around him, and it's exhausting. I got contact anxiety from reading it. I had to set myself an assigned number of pages each day and push myself through it. In a way, I hated it, because the MC is put into some very ugly situations, and some horrible things are done to him, but at the same time, I could see why it is a classic. (I wrote about it last August.)

Room, by Emma Donoghue, is a great book that I wouldn't read for about eight years after it came out. It's the one about a little boy born in the room where his mother has been held captive, and it's his whole world. I was more scared of that than anything Stephen King ever wrote. I finally bit the bullet a couple of years ago, and it was heart-breaking, but it was also beautiful. And it was hopeful, and I was ok. I may even watch the movie.

So, I'm going to toughen up a bit. I have a short list of books that I want to read. In no particular order: Beloved is another book that I want to read but am scared of. Also, it's hard to get at the library; every time I feel like I'm ready for it, it's checked out. Whenever I happen to see it on the shelf, it's when I have 15 books on my tbr pile. I don't want to put a hold on it and get it when I'm not ready for it. I should probably buy a copy. One way or another, I actually really want to read this book that everyone says is amazing. I've picked it up and read the first line a few times: "124 was spiteful. Full of a baby's venom." This is the year I'm going to read the rest, for sure.

I don't know anything about either of these books. Just that they're classics and I need to read them, but they sound sad.

These seemed interesting to me when I was supposed to read them for school, but hard. I don't know, I think that my senioritis was too advanced to let me get through Paradise Lost in high school, and I was really busy when I was supposed to read Childe Harold in college. I've been wanting to read more poetry. So, now :)

I've been wanting to read this book since I read The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep last summer. It's long, so I'm counting it as a challenge book.

These will only be attempted post-pandemic, which may have to wait for 2022. I actually tackled War and Peace once before, but it's such a huge book that I couldn't hold it while I eat, and then I got the audio version but lost my place and couldn't find it again. (One real disadvantage of audio.) I know that it's totally cocky to put both on one list, but I'm feeling hopeful.

My last decision is: do I let myself quit on any of these books? Usually I'm fine with ditching a book that hasn't grabbed me, but since this is my book challenge list, I think I won't.

I'd love to hear about anyone's reading goals for the year. Please leave a comment if you have a goal or a challenge of any kind.

BTW, the American section of the Library of Congress shelving system doesn't just mean USA. I know that Allende isn't American in the sense of being from the US. I don't know where the book was first published.

BTW again, I'm calling these my stretch goals or challenges now :)


How it's going:

February: Great Expectations

April and May: Paradise Lost


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