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The Joy of List-Making

January 7, 2014

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It’s difficult to find a bookworm who doesn’t love lists. There’s something so beautiful and orderly about them, each item receiving its own line and perhaps a bullet point or annotation. Lining up the world, as it were, creating categories and finding connections. And yet, lists are not always about boxing life in: they can also be a way of expanding possibilities. Creating a list can lead to new discoveries or the reinvention of olds ones. They can be a kind of magic.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying, I have decided to join in reading challenges again this year. I miss book lists, and despite my intentions to simply make my own lists without external prompting, I make far fewer of them when I’m not involved in challenges (my bookish lists category reveals three from 2012 and one from 2013). I don’t know why. Lu wrote a lovely, reflective post recently about how she reads that reminded me of how much I enjoy themed reading as well. So in addition to joining a few challenges, I’m currently brainstorming some themes to explore this year, which will also require lists to be made.

Once when I was at the library with my niece last year, doing catalogue searches on cheetahs and fish, a lady passing by asked me if I homeschooled. I smiled and said no, but since then I’ve realised that in a way I do homeschool. It’s just, I’m homeschooling myself. If higher learning were free, I would be a perpetual student, moving from one speciality to another. Luckily for me, I live in a country with free, extensive libraries, and I have plenty of time and opportunity for reading. Themes will be a way for me to push deeper into my interests, and making a tentative list of possibilities has been great fun these past few days.

I’m sure I’ll share results with you soon. For today, I wanted to list some of the challenges that caught my eye, and to ask for your suggestions for other challenges I might have missed, as I’ve been a bit out of touch. I have compiled them all into a challenge page, and as I finish my list for each one, it will appear there. I plan to include books I’ve already read and would suggest to other participants, to make it a better resource, but all of that researching and formatting will take a bit of time.

In no particular order, here are the challenges:
Arthurian Literature
POC Speculative
ERC 2014
European Reading
Harlem Renaissance
russian literature 2014
Russian Lit
Scotland badge
Read Scotland
Pre-Printing Press
Back to Classics

This list is pretty tilted towards Europe, which is far more a reflection of what challenges I came across than my geographical preferences. If I can’t find challenges relevant to the rest of the world, I’ll simply incorporate them as themes. I can’t wait to get started creating some book lists!

33 Comments leave one →
  1. January 8, 2014 1:40 am

    There’s always ‘January in Japan’… ;)

    • January 10, 2014 3:18 am

      I checked to see if Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese challenge was open but I missed yours! Sorry about that. I’ll have to see if I can get a Japanese book in time!

  2. January 8, 2014 3:06 am

    Wonderful challenges, Eva! The European Literature Challenge and the Russian Literature Challenge sound quite appealing to me. I read a lot of European literature every year (mostly German and French) and this year I am planning to read more Russian literature. (German Literature Month happens every year in November and it is hosted by Caroline from ‘Beauty is a Sleeping Cat’ and Lizzy from ‘Lizzy’s Literary Life’. I participate in it every year and it is lots of fun and has significantly broadened my reading horizon. I thought I will mention it, in case you are interested.) I will keep an eye on these challenges. Hope you have fun participating in reading challenges this year. Looking forward to following your reading-challenge adventures.

    • January 10, 2014 3:18 am

      I almost never read German lit! So I’ll have to check out your blog for some ideas. Thanks for the link. :)

      • January 10, 2014 7:28 am

        Hope you find some interesting German books that you like, Eva. If I can recommend just one book, I would recommend ‘The Wall’ by Marlen Haushofer. I discovered it last year and it was one of the greatest reading experiences of my life.

      • January 12, 2014 9:03 am

        Oh thank you! My library has it, so I’ll definitely put that on my European challenge list. I’ve had your favourites of 2013 post open in my browser for days now: there are so many books to look at it’s taking me time to sort through. So it’s nice to have a shortcut. :)

  3. January 8, 2014 4:28 am

    Happy themed reading, Eva! Love those challenges and though I don’t think I’ll commit to one, I’ll be looking forward to reading everyone’s choices for the poc speculative challenge.

    • January 10, 2014 3:19 am

      I’ve got part of my list for the POC speculative challenge up!

      • January 10, 2014 10:37 am

        Looks great, Eva! I’m hoping to try some Jemisin this year and maybe read another Butler, I’ve only read Wild Seed. Happy reading :)

  4. January 8, 2014 10:16 am

    I’m also participating in the Arthurian Lit challenge. Like you I stopped doing challenges for several years. But this time the variety and themes just swept me away, so I had to join a couple.

    • January 10, 2014 3:19 am

      I’m joining um, more than a couple. lol If you’d like to see my suggestions for Arthurian lit I’ve added a few!

  5. January 8, 2014 10:34 am

    I got back into challenges this year, too. You should do the Postal Reading Challenge at The Indextrious Reader, though. That’s the one I am looking forward to. :) Good luck with your challenges!

  6. January 8, 2014 11:31 am

    Thank you for the kind words about my post. I think Nonfiction November, which I ran with Kim at Sophisiticated Dorkiness, was the moment when I realized just how much I miss coming up with book lists and reading about one thing for a span of time. I think my real focus this year will be reading books that I own and trying to reduce the number I have on my shelves, but I am also going to be picking times when I just focus on one thing. I’m thinking about doing a linguistics one soon, since I have 3 books on my list that have to do with language. I’m also definitely doing Nonfiction November and Comics February again this year, since they were two of my favorite months last year!

    These challenges all look like so much fun. I’m especially interested in the POC Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge and the Harlem Renaissance Reading Challenge. I can’t wait to see your lists!

    • January 10, 2014 3:20 am

      See I can’t understand wanting to reduce owned TBR books. I hoard them, I suppose for the zombie apocalypse when libraries will no longer be easily accessible. ;) I’ve got part of my POC spec list up if you want to read it!

  7. January 8, 2014 3:40 pm

    We’re going in opposite directions – I posted this week on how 2014 would be a challenge free year LOL. To add to your list how about the Great War themed read – details are here

    • January 10, 2014 3:21 am

      Thnx for the link and comment! I went challenge free for a good 3 years, so I understand. :)

      • January 11, 2014 4:41 am

        Oh boy, I’m finding it hard enough to last for 2 weeks.

      • January 12, 2014 9:04 am

        Well if it’s not making you happy go back to challenges! :)

  8. January 8, 2014 5:29 pm

    I am continuing my Global Women of Color, but more of a blog and reference exchange than as a challenge. I’d love to have some more people involved.

    • January 10, 2014 3:22 am

      Oh good to know! I’ll blog about it on Sunday. I’m read Raj right now thnx to you btw and loving it. :D

  9. January 8, 2014 6:33 pm

    You make me smile, lady. Partly because I have given up challenges too but appreciate their perpetual allure; and partly because my God do I love lists. I have trillions of list venues in my life — most recently, a piece of old molding with like a paper roll attached to it? And a ropey string across it so you can tear off the pieces if you want? (I’m not describing it well but it’s a really good list-making venue.)

    • January 10, 2014 3:22 am

      Oh I think I can see it in my head & that does sound fab! I find sticky notes w lists everywhere. lol

  10. January 8, 2014 8:52 pm

    I’ve taken part in the European Reading and I’ve loved it! I think you will too.
    Have fun with your challenges!!

    • January 10, 2014 3:22 am

      I’m sure I will; I don’t read much from the continent!

  11. January 9, 2014 12:09 pm

    Lots of interesting challenges here — even though I’m sticking to just a couple this year myself, I understand the appeal of making The List. It’s one of my favourite parts of challenges! And sometimes when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed having a list makes it so much easier to proceed.

    • January 10, 2014 3:23 am

      Yes. I also like how lists are there for when I’m feeling lazy and don’t want to research new books/authors to try.

  12. January 9, 2014 4:30 pm

    This made me smile HUGELY!!! For a lot of reasons, not the least of which is I LOVE YOUR BOOK LISTS!!!! :D :D :D But also because I sort of had that same feeling this year–about missing reading challenges. I went and made myself two google docs to keep track of them (one for 2014 ones and one for longer ones)…I didn’t put them on my blog because I figured no one really needed to witness my insanity. :P I made myself a personal challenge too–I picked 104 “subjects” and am challenging myself to read at least 4 books pertaining to each. No time limit. No idea why I chose 104. Just for fun.

    Btw, did you check the blog? I know there’s a lot of challenges you wouldn’t be interested in to wade through, but maybe you’d find some gems too.

    • January 10, 2014 3:24 am

      Oh I want to know your topics! lol And I visited the other novel challenges blog, didn’t realise there was more than one, to write this post. Now I’ve visited the one you mentioned and found more challenges to add! :O

      I miss my old linked & annotated lists, but I don’t think my hands are up for it. Oh well, even a plain list is better than nothing.

      • January 10, 2014 5:55 am

        I didn’t realize there was more than one reading challenges blog either! Funny that we each knew of a different one from the other. :P

        ANY book list put together by you feels like a gift to me!!! You manage to find books I know I’d never ever hear of any other way! But I hate for your sake that the RA is keeping you from doing something you enjoy. :( I know life is all about choices, but well, you know…

      • January 12, 2014 9:05 am

        Well, if I wasn’t sick, I’d have a full time job, so I probably wouldn’t have time to do crazy extended lists anyway. That’s what I tell myself at least. ;)

  13. January 11, 2014 2:57 pm

    I stopped doing challenges a few years back because I never kept up with them, but I do love reading your lists so I’m excited that you’re getting back into it!!

  14. January 19, 2014 1:45 pm

    My problem with challenges is really just that I never seem to complete them. They do get me super excited and I love the act of compiling lists of books that I want to read. At times though, actually delving into the lists seems so daunting to me. I have a huge struggle with getting started in projects.

    I love that you are sharing your lists and allowing readers to use your lists for a resource. Thank you for that!

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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