First published 27/12/19
For better or worse, releasing my first blog post at the end of the year obliges me to talk about New Year’s resolutions. After last year’s disappointment – with hindsight, it was optimistic to think I could set the world record for most fajitas eaten in one minute whilst dressed as a kidney bean – I have decided to go back to basics in 2020 and try to read more. In this post, I will offer a few thoughts on structured reading, then share my 2020 Reading Challenge. Every year, I conclude that my reading is too sporadic.
I read a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction, in various styles, genres and languages. I like the freedom of choosing whatever takes my fancy and more often than not I have multiple books on the go at any one time. I would guess that I finished close to 50 books in 2019, but would struggle to say what percentage were written by women, how many different cultures I explored, and whether I was exposed to more first- or third-person narrators.
Of course, it is not essential to know these stats. But having a greater awareness of our reading preferences is a useful way to understand and tackle our subconscious prejudices. The benefits of reading widely and diversely are well known and the best way to do this is to make a concerted effort to approach styles, cultures or themes that we might (unintentionally) be neglecting.
So my plan for 2020 is to be more structured in my reading, keeping track of every book and making sure to include works that I would ordinarily avoid. There are an overwhelming number of Reading Challenges available online, many of which I liked the look of and considered signing up to. Looking through the different lists, however, I found a lot of them too arbitrary (e.g. ‘a book with the letter W in its title’) or too rigid and specific (e.g. ‘a book about the medical profession’).
I have therefore chosen twelve categories myself, which will provide a rough framework for my reading in 2020. In an increasingly divided world, we should all make an effort to see things through other people’s eyes, hence why there is an emphasis on books that force the reader to acknowledge different perspectives.
Without further ado, here is my 2020 Reading Challenge:
1. A book by an independent author
2. A biography of someone you dislike
3. A “classic” you’ve not read before
4. A book with a second-person narrator
5. A book arguing for something you disagree with
6. A book with a child narrator
7. A book by an indigenous author
8. A book recommended by a friend
9. A book released in 2020
10. A book you’ve owned a long time and never read
11. A book set in a location significant to you
12. A prize-winning book
The only requirement is to complete at least one book from each category. Needless to say, the purpose of the list is to encourage more diverse reading and can be followed as strictly or loosely as desired.
In 2020, I have the following additional aims across all the books I read:
1. More than 50% by female authors
2. At least one book from each continent
3. More than 50% by newly-discovered writers
I can’t wait to get started and would love for you to join me. Get in touch and let me know what your reading plans are for 2020!