Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer reading wrap-up, and some plans for autumn

The calendar says I can wear white shoes for another week or so, but back-to-school means "autumn" to me, and with a couple of my reading challenges winding down, it's time to evaluate how I did on my reading goals this summer. Short answer: Not too bad at all.

My first goal was to enjoy reading for pleasure again. That may seem a bit looney, but after six years on the tenure track, I had gotten into the very sad habit of thinking of reading as a chore. And let's face it, it can be if you only associate it with work, work, work. Or even worse, when you associate it with guilt because you ought to be working. (You'd think as a stupendously lapsed Catholic I could discard the guilt, but it appears to be the one thing that stuck.) This summer I enacted what I already knew -- I am better at working when I actually make time to do little things for myself, like read or take a walk, or play a game of Scrabble with my daughter. My TBR pile is a source of potential pleasure, not anxiety. Even now that the semester has started, I'm still making time for reading. The joy is back. Goal one accomplished.

My second goal was to expand my reading horizons. I took two positive steps toward that goal. First, I joined a couple of different reading challenges: fitting books into the challenges introduced me to reviews of books across a wide range of genres, and by a variety of authors that were completely new to me. I've benefitted from the regional challenges in particular: the
Japanese Literature Challenge 4 and the Scandinavian Reading Challenge were responsible for my two favorite books of the summer, Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen and Tove Jansson's The Summer Book. (Okay, I also read a couple of lousy books, but the good books more than made up for them.)

As my second step toward widening my horizons, I started participating in discussions about books. I found some book blogs I really like to read. Checking my Blogger Dashboard with a cup of coffee has become part of my day -- a part I really enjoy. I owe a great portion of my current TBR pile to the insights provided in the thoughtful reviews of many book bloggers, and I'm really thankful for that. (I'm also thankful that I have access to one of the world's largest university library systems, but that's another blogpost altogether.) So I'd describe the state of my second goal as "progressing well." You can always be more "expansive," right?

So what's up next? After all, this is a blog about what I'm doing when I ought to be grading. With the papers about to roll in, I need to shore up my procrastination skills. Not to worry: I am happy to report my grading avoidance strategies for the fall will be many and varied!

  • Number 1: Complete the challenges I've started, and find some interesting new ones. I've already started on this goal. I have three Scandinavian titles left to blog about, one of which I've already read. I'll probably add two more to the Japanese Literature Challenge as well (I'm Yoshimoto-obsessed, so thanks, Meredith). I've also joined the Middle East Reading Challenge over at Helen's Book Blog. For that challenge, I'm hoping to read at least 4 books from across the region: one from Israel, one from Lebanon, one from Egypt and one from Iran. If anyone has any suggestions for titles, I would love to hear them.

  • Number 2: Participate in a read-along. I've read posts about read-alongs, but haven't done one yet. Since I haven't found a book club in State College, I feel like I might really enjoy this. One thing I know for certain about myself is deadlines keep me honest. Once I attach a date to something, I can usually do it -- not early, but at least on time. Again, any suggestions are appreciated.

  • Number 3: Be a better blogger. I'm pretty new at this, but I already realize my site could be better. I'm going to work on designing some new pages and some indexing. I also plan to update more often. I only have a few, highly valued followers, and they deserve something new to look at more often than I've been providing it. I'm thinking four posts a week. Might be too much, but at least it's a goal!
We'll see how it goes.

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