Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Favor of the One Night Stand (with reading lists)

I am not one to make the traditional to do list, listing what I hope to accomplish in a day. My to do lists are usually more specialized than that: ideas for my blog, books I want to read that month, reading goals, and shopping and gift lists. My favorite kind of list to make are book lists, I've discovered. Whether it be listing the books I am going to read for a particular challenge or keeping track of what I have been reading. I haven't been as fastidious about keeping my reading lists up to date this year, which is a bit unusual for me. Truth is, I've been letting a lot of things slide this year. Some of my excuses are good and others not so much. Perhaps one of my goals this coming year should be to get back on track.

The coming of the new year gets many of us thinking about setting new goals, perhaps even resolutions. The number of reading challenges out there today as compared to when I began blogging nearly three and a half years ago is astronomical. My first year and a half of blogging, I jumped on the challenge band wagon and stayed quite faithful to my lists. It wasn't so hard. I had set my mind to the task and kept my focus. The second and third years proved less successful. My head just wasn't in the game, so to speak. I was less focused and, as a result, was easily distracted.

I love the idea of reading challenges. They foster community and provide new opportunities to expand one's horizons. They also encouraged me get to some of those TBR books that had been sitting on my shelf awhile, at least initially. The excitement surrounding our beloved reading challenges is not only contagious but can also be inspiring. Sure challenges have their downside; we all know what they are. Many of the challenges this past year took that into consideration and were flexible as a result. Can't commit to reading one book a month for the challenge, pick a level with a lower commitment requirement! You don't want to commit to a list of books? You don't have to! Pick your books as you go. Such options proved to be a saving grace in quite a few cases. I missed the lists though. I made reading lists for a few, but not all. It just wasn't the same. Instead of feeling that accomplishment of checking a book off my list, I was erasing it and substituting in the book I read instead. While that still counted as progress, I felt like I was cheating a bit. I realize that's my own little hang up and completely irrational, but there you have it. Fortunately my finishing ANY challenges has become a worthy objective, and so, at this point, I've shed any guilt I might have been feeling.

I made the decision about half way through 2009 that I would try to go challenge free this coming year. I cannot even begin to tell you how difficult it has been not signing up for the many challenges that catch my eye. Reading your blog posts, so full of enthusiasm, makes me want to jump back on the band wagon. I want to share in that! No one would hold it against me if I changed my mind and decided to to take part in a few reading challenges this year. Most, if not all, of you would understand.

After much internal debate and hashing it out with anyone who would listen, I decided on a compromise. I will be participating in two challenges this next year. Both are ones I am already a part of. One is a year long challenge that began the middle of the year, the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge hosted by Beth Fish (and yes, I know I wrote my wrap up post already, but the short story collection came out this fall and now I have to read that in case I missed a story--and what if another book comes out in the series before the deadline?). The other challenge is the War Through the Generations Challenge. This year we focused on World War II (WWII) and this next year will focus on the Vietnam War. While I could look at each war as individual challenges, I prefer to think of the War Through the Generations Challenge as one continuing challenge, with several parts. I am still reading to complete the WWII part of the challenge and haven't had time to think about the books I want to read in relation to the Vietnam War just yet. Be on the look out for my official sign-up post sometime soon.

Because one of my favorite activities to do when it comes to the reading challenges is to make book lists, I asked myself why can't I still do that? No, really. Why couldn't I make lists of books I would want to read for the the reading challenges that interest me even if I am not participating in them? I get to have part of the fun without the commitment. Call it a one night stand, if you will.

The real challenge for me will be to hold myself to the one night stand rules. No guilt. No feeling of obligation. Not falling into that ol' relationship thinking. You see, I get easily attached to my book lists. I may say I am not committing, but will my heart feel otherwise? Will I think about the challenge after I make my lists every night, wishing I could just spend more time with them, nurturing them to see where the relationships go? You can imagine my concern. Unlike the traditional one night stand, I will, of course, read the books on my list at some point in the future. And maybe that will have to be my consolation. Oh, fellow book lovers, this will be a true test of will power, won't it?

Starting in January, I will be highlighting several of the challenges I would have participated in but won't be because of my self-imposed-almost-ban, sharing my reading wish list (made up mostly of books I own but have yet to read) with you. It'll help with my list making fix at the very least. Maybe you will offer your own recommendations or convince me to read a book from my lists sooner than later. It could be fun. Or it could be dreadfully boring for everyone but me.

© 2009, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. I must admit, I am a list-a-holic. Lists for my everyday tasks, lists for shopping, lists for TBR books, lists for challenges. Keeps me on track! I think the challenges you have signed up for are excellent ones!

  2. Wendy I think you should do whatever you want to do. It's fine to take a breather and sit some out for awhile and just work on what you have going on. They will always be there for you.

    I enjoy making lists and book lists especially for the sake of making lists. This year I am going to pay more attention to the lists that I am making.

    Good luck to you with the two challenges you have or anything you join or not join in the future.

  3. I've never been very good at making reading to-do lists. Matter of fact, if it's on a list I've made I'll probably be more likely to skip it for some reason. I'm a bit excited about the reading challenges in 2010 because I'm finally just about caught up on my reviews (will be by New Years at least). Have fun with your lists :)

    I can't wait for the next Sookie book to come out!

  4. Wendy, I could have written your post. I have been struggling with this same issue. I also have so many deadlines for off blog writing, that I get too stressed. I realize that much stress in my life was caused this year from the stress in trying to satisfy challenges of worry about self impossed and publishers deadlines. I have to adjust in 2010 and read and write smarter.
    I also have decided to limit the challenges I do. I have decided to keep War Through the Generations, because history is important to me..my passion. The Sookie Stackhouse challenge I am a participant in and loved her first books so I will continue with these for fun and a release from pressure.
    Thanks sooooo much for this needed post. I have been wrestling with similar thoughts since September.

  5. I used to be "challenge free" and then I finally completed a challenge. I'm afraid I may be biting off more than I can chew next year, but it's not stopping me!

  6. LOVE LOVE LOVE the title --- and the explanation! What a GREAT idea and if I fail terribly at challenges this year, I just may follow in your footsteps in 2011.

    I, too, am a list maker and goal oriented. If I set a goal to complete a task (or challenge, in this case) I will typically wear myself out to achieve it.

    I have decided to be more deliberate about the book challenges I join in 2010, and I have vowed not to let my success (or lack thereof) cause any guilty feelings. We'll see how I do.

    I look forward to reading your "if I was joining...." book lists in the coming weeks :)

  7. I think this is a GREAT idea, especially since you'll be making lists of books you (mostly) already own. Best of luck with your goals!

  8. I'm hoping you are happy with your decision about your 2010 reading plan.

    I love making lists, but also found myself making substitutions on my challenges throughout the year as I found other book that I wanted to read instead of the ones I at first glance thought I'd enjoy. Hey my philosophy is "life is too short for regrets -- do what makes you happy" --and that applies to my reading as well :)

    Happy Holidays Wendy

  9. I don't join too many challenges. I do enjoy read-alongs but challenges for some reason instantly turn my reading into work and that's not what I am going for when I settle in with a book.

    However, I do love book lists but haven't been too faithful to them. Instead, I have one shelf at home that houses my must-reads. Seeing them there, really motivates me to read them.

    I wish you luck with your challenges this year. I am always in awe of the bloggers that complete them.

  10. I don't do very many challenges, and one of the things that's held me back from them has been the reading-list requirement - when it comes to those, I guess I'm a commitment-phobe :-). I seem to prefer the challenges that only ask you to commit to a certain number of books. But having said that, when I have made lists of "possibilities" for reading challenges, I've enjoyed the process much more than I expected to.

    I'll look forward to peeking in on your one-night stands, Wendy - it sounds like a fun idea, and a great way to tackle that list-making jones of yours :-D!

  11. I never really make lists any more because I do NOT stick to them. I like your approach a lot!

  12. I love to make the lists, but have yet to successfully complete a challenge. I may join one or two next year, but it seems smarter to stay away.

  13. I like your idea of the "one night stand". I love the "idea" of the challenges because they do inspire me to read different things and make lists but the minute I join one I seem to be in the mood for something else. So I like the idea of using the challenge to spur me on to read and make lists of what to read but not officially participating in the challenge. Sounds like a win/win for me!

  14. What a great post, LF. You have an amazing way of distilling things to precise, concise facts. I'm seeing a trend where people are putting incredible pressure on themselves with all of the challenges and the tours and the ARC reviews... I don't understand it myself. I do this for fun and if that ever changes, I'll let it go.


  15. I love making lists of all kinds. Challenges are tough. They do encourage me, but I do need to restrain myself. I limited myself to 4 next year.

  16. Sandy - List making is very addictive. :-)

    Nicole - Thank you. I think staying away from most reading challenges will be a nice change of pace. I can still cheer my fellow bloggers on, of course. :-)

    Jen - There's so many great challenges coming up this next year. I wish you luck on the ones you've signed up for!

    It's hard to be patient when we're all caught up in a series sometimes, isn't it? LOL

    Wisteria - I think a little bit of stress is healthy, but too much can really bring a person down.

    Kathy - Reading challenges are so addicting! LOL

  17. Molly - Thank you. :-) I think it's a great idea to be deliberate about the challenges you join. And then being okay even if you don't succeed. It's really all about having a bit of fun, I think. I wish you luck with those you've signed up for.

    Heather - Thanks, Heather. I think it'll be fun--and stress-free.

    Diane - The good thing about making the lists without actually joining the challenges is that it won't matter if I come across another book I want to read instead. I don't even have to read any books related to the challenge if the mood doesn't strike me. But I get to make the lists, and that'll be fun. :-)

    Ti - I have mixed feelings about read-alongs. I think when done right, they can be really fun. When I have joined in, my experiences have been both so-so and good. Unfortunately for me, I rarely want to read a book when everyone else decides it's time.

    I am surrounded by my immediate TBR pile and it only seems to grow. Sometimes it can be a motivating factor, but other times not so much.

    I'm confident I can finish the two challenges I'm signing up for. :-)

    Florinda - I'm good at making the commitment, but lately my follow through is terrible. :-)

  18. Aarti - Reading lists can be hard to stick too, that's for sure.

    Lisa - Or you could try it my way. LOL Reading challenges are a lot of fun, but I know they commitment aspect turns some readers off. There's so much flexibility in many of the challenges coming up that will appeal to some who might not have wanted to participate in challenges before. You have to do what is best for you, regardless, whether that means joining a challenge or not.

    Kathleen - Signing up for one and being in the mood for something else has happened to me quite a few times in the past. I think it will be fun to give myself more freedom this year--not to mention a much needed break.

    CJ - Thank you! And here I thought I was rambling on and on. :-)

    I really have enjoyed participating in challenges and book tours and such. It's work sometimes, sure, but it's fun work. I don't want it to ever feel like a complete obligation or something I dread doing. Once it loses that fun and rewarding aspect, I'll be moving on.

    Stacy - Restraint is not my middle name. LOL I'm so bad about holding back. Good luck with your four challenges! Four is very doable. :-)

  19. I thought about doing the very same thing you're planning because I do love to make lists--I even made a couple of lists. But the fact that the lists even existed made me feel stressed, so I think challenge free (other than readalongs) is the way for me.

    I did a post about this last week and someone (I forget who) said she was thinking of doing retrospective challenge lists once she realized she had read enough to complete one. I kind of like that idea!

  20. Nah, not boring at all...I love reading people's reading lists. My tbr pile doesn't like it so much, but since when do I ever listen to it?

  21. I couldn't start a list, only because everytime I tried then I be reading it out of orders. Or I be in the moods to read something else. And it'll be too much chore for me if I participates on any challenge. But I like to sorta bring my TBR pile down (although that didn't help much, since I tend to be buying books more quickly than I could read them - That why TBR pile kept piling up teehee), and this is why I only participating on 50 Challenge Book which was started from a friend from my Yahoo group list email.

    I find it interesting that you particiating on the War Challenge. Especially the Vietnam War. I was born there but raised in America after quickly leaving there during the Vietnam war :)

    I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  22. Fellow list addict here! I not only love making lists of books, I love reading other people's lists. And I think this is a great idea/compromise for the reading challenges.

  23. I think that sounds like a great compromise and I, for one, will definitely be checking out your lists!

    I was thinking of doing a no-challenge ban in 2010 but since I really didn't participate in many challenges this past year (less than five), I decided I would go in the opposite direction and join as many as looked good to me and fit my own reading goals for next year. Right now I'm up to about a dozen but will probably add more. Will I finish them all? Probably not. But I'm hopeful that I will enjoy myself in the attempt. (Or I could drive myself to drink, we'll have to wait and see!)

  24. I really love this idea! Of course, I've already signed up for a whole bunch of challenges, but there are still some I'd like to try out, but am afraid I'm too overcommitted. Do you mind if I "steal" your idea for my blog? I'd like to make a few lists for "If I joined" challenges myself...

  25. Teresa - I considered that too--that I might feel that tug of obligation to follow through even though I haven't joined any of the challenges. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully I can stick to my guns.

    I like the retrospective challenge list idea!

    Jill (Softdrink) - I really like reading other people's reading lists too. :-) My TBR pile agrees with yours though. Reading lists are dangerous.

    Julia - Most of the challenges requiring lists haven't made it a requirement to read in order fortunately--at least the ones I've come across or participated in. I do know though what it's like to be in the mood to read something not on one of the lists. Like you, my TBR pile is constantly growing--faster than I read the books on it. I beet you would have an interesting perspective to add if you decided to join. ;-)

    I'm really looking forward to the Vietnam War Challenge.

    Good luck with your challenge!

    Carrie - Thanks! I thought it would be fun to try at list, and maybe take care of that reading list itch that I get every time I see a new challenge announced.

    Lesley - I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes checking out other people's lists. :-)

    You'll have so much fun with your challenges this year, I just know it! Good luck!

    Elizabeth - So many of the challenges out there are tempting. It's hard to resist. You are welcome to steal my idea for your blog. I won't feel so crazy then, and I'd love to read your lists.

  26. I love the reading definition of a one-night stand!

    I'm having fun making the lists for the challenges I've joined and I'm really hoping to stick to the lists because they'll help me get through the mountain of books I already own.

  27. Lisa - Good luck with your challenges and getting through your TBR stacks!

  28. I am a definite list maker. I have been known to get up in the middle of the night and add to lists. So making the list is one of my favorite things about challenges too. But good for you for doing what feels right as far as joining or not!

  29. Kristen - I do that too--wake up in the middle of the night to write something down so I don't forget. :-)

  30. OK. So. I'm just now getting to reading your post explaining the one night stand thing and ... I LOVE IT! I'm right there with you. I love to make the lists, and I want to participate (at least in spirit!), but I need to be realistic about some things and not set myself up for failure. I think I just might join you in this idea. Can I use your graphic if I do? I will definitely credit you :o)


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