Regular readers will know I have been doing a challenge called Reading Down the House for the past year. I owned 17 books that had been sitting on my bookshelf for ages unread. I am determined to finish them all by the end of 2014!
I haven’t posted about it for a while because I’ve been resisting my own plan, and I keep thinking “I have loads of time left!” I realized I stopped looking forward to the challenge because I have at least two books a month that are “required reading,” one for Reading Down the House and one for my book club. Even though I always fit in some “off-list” books, I can’t read them in the more leisurely way I would like.
Let me tell you about my book club. A friend approached me seeking advice on starting one up. We planned it together and I am a member. The theme is International Fiction; that is, books which are set in other, mostly non-Western countries (although we did do one Canadian). Five to eight of us meet each month in one of our homes to discuss the latest book. We all put forward titles of books to read in the future. So far we haven’t declined any books that have been proposed, unless the library has too few copies.
Despite our best efforts to choose diversely by country and theme, the books have been a grim lot. It is an eye-opener to read about actual living conditions around the world. But reading and discussing these topics monthly has added a little layer of stress to my life! This is countered by getting to meet and chat with the group for social time, and being in the company of lovely smart people who are prepared to talk about serious books! Plus, there is the educational aspect of learning about other places and cultures, and finding new authors to read.
I am not the only one who is feeling overwhelmed by the necessity of reading such weighty content, so over the next few meetings, I hope we’ll devise a scheme to break the pattern. I once belonged to a book club where most of the group read the assigned book, but at the meetings, no one bothered to discuss it except to say if they liked it or not. I don’t want to go that far. But maybe we can vary the topics more and choose some lighter fare, or change themes. Otherwise, book club feels like a chore and we don’t want that.
I could also pull rank as a librarian and strongly recommend titles I approve of, but I don’t want to squash anyone else’s choices. Now that I think of it, perhaps I could email out non-spoiler book reviews of proposed titles so that we can all make more informed decisions on what to read.
Above: my favourite two book club books so far
I checked my Goodreads page to see how I rated the book club selections:
- 5 stars: 2 books
- 3 or 4 stars: 5 books
- 1 or 2 stars: 3 books
I mentioned last time that I gave up on one of my own books, Citizen Girl, bringing my Reading Down the House list to 16. Since it was in the chick-lit category, I will happily substitute another of my choice, from the library. I am thinking of picking up Me Before You by Jojo Moyes because it was such a blockbuster.
Happily, I did read one of my RDTH books this month, and it was excellent: The Birth House by Ami McKay. The author was the instructor at a writing camp that Link attended a few years ago. Link came home with a signed copy of the book, loved it, and begged me to read it. But did I? Nooo. It starts with a scene that threatened sexual abuse, and I was in the middle of reading Pope Joan, which also contained a lot of abuse of a young woman. I just couldn’t stomach another similar book, and then I kept avoiding it. So I really had to force myself to read it, but as it turns out, the threatened event doesn’t happen (not a spoiler) and the book takes many more positive directions. I liked that it was set in historic Nova Scotia and I know the places cited in the book. Of course I could kick myself for putting it off so long and for not taking the opportunity to discuss it with Link. I will have to find out if they remember it!
I have two left on my Reading Down the House list. First is One Hundred Years of Solitude. I tried not to leave all the serious ones to the end, but they have to feature in the mix! The other is a music book, From the Velvets to the Voidoids. I purposely left it for last because I am looking forward to it and I know I’ll be able to plow through it no matter what!
As recorded on my Goodreads page, of the 14 RDTH books I’ve read to date, I loved 6 of them, liked 6 of them, and didn’t like 2 of them. I think my success rate at choosing my own books is a little better than the ones chosen for me by the book club, but not perfect!
As a result of all this “required reading,” I have less time to read what I choose, or what catches my eye. I would have liked to read more graphic novels this year, and I’ve only read two Young Adult (teen) novels. Quite often I put a hold on a new book at the library, and I either have to suspend it (defer until later) or pass on it because of my other reading obligations. What I’ve been doing a lot is cramming – reading what I like, and then pulling a couple of late nights to get the book club title done at the last minute!
In 2015 I look forward to reading what I like all the time. I’ve already started a list of books I’m dying to read – I just don’t want the list to become an obligation, either. I look forward to having a clean slate!
If you have read any books from your own house lately, feel free to link your book reviews or posts in the comments.