Tag Archives: required reading

Whether to reading challenge or not

15 Dec

reading challenge

This has been my third year doing the Goodreads reading challenge, and it will most likely be my last.

I’ve always been a huge fan of lists. To-Do List, 500-best lists, Bucket Lists. So naturally a reading challenge seems right up my alley. The Goodreads reading challenge is as simple as they come. You pick a number of books that you’d like to read in a given year, and you try to read them. In 2013, I succeeded and read 52 after I had set a goal of 50. In 2014, I came up short reading only 49 when my goal was 55. And this year, I’m currently at 44 of 55 and will probably not reach my goal.

The arbitrary thing about this challenge is that I could go into my account and change my goal. A lot of the people I’m friends with have goals of 10 books, 15 books. I’ve surpassed those numbers, and 44 is nothing to scoff at. I like the idea of the challenge in that it pushes me to read more which is always worthwhile. But I’m afraid it was negatively affected my reading habits.

I don’t feel down or unaccomplished for not reaching these goals, because I know exactly why I didn’t make it. Last year, it was the fault of Game of Thrones. This year it’s the fault of Outlander. In their respective years, I decided to read through these series and the volumes are not small or quick. I loved them though, especially Outlander.

jamie fraser

But these series slowed me down. I’ve only read the first three books of the Outlander series, and each one took me about three weeks to get through. The reading challenge was looming over my head, though. So instead of savoring Gabaldon’s descriptions of Jamie Fraser’s fiery locks or the sweet tones of his Scottish accent, I kept thinking to myself, “read faster, get through this, you’re so behind on the challenge.”

At bookstores and at the library, I found myself running away from larger books and favoring large font, shorter books, knowing that I could get through them faster. And I’ve never found myself intimidated my large books before. So instead of the reading challenge pushing me to read more, it only pushed me to read faster, to pick quicker books and shy away from larger tomes. I became so concerned about my numbers and how they stack up. I want my annual number to be better than the last.

The challenge can be a great thing for the right reader, but next year, I’m giving myself permission to read whatever book I want at whatever pace I want. If I decide to swim in the literary lake that is a poetry book, I will do so and not be rushed to meet some number I forced upon myself. It’s all about quality as opposed to quantity after all. Every good reader knows that.



Conversations with Maya Angelou Edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot

8 Jun

mayaWhat an incredible woman. My associations with Maya Angelou where formulated in high school when, like so many others of my generation, I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” I remember liking it, but like so many books forced upon me in high school, I don’t remember too much about it, or her, other than the basics. She was raised in the South during segregation, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend, and she had her son at the age of 16. She went on to become a symbol of Black female strength and was even named Poet Laureate during the Clinton Administration, becoming the first poet since Robert Frost to read at the presidential inauguration.

A+ for that book report. But reading these interviews about Maya Angelou made me want to re-read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and perhaps to go back and read all those other books I rushed through in high school so I could finish my Calculus homework.

I knew she was a poet and an author. I did not know that she was a playwright, a screenwriter, a director, an actress, and a dancer. That she had been nominated for Tonys and was the first black woman to write and direct her own film. She worked along Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X during the Civil Rights Movement. Fluent in seven languages, she also was a master at cooking regional African cuisines that she learned while teaching in Ghana. All this from a woman who never went to college, who worked as a madam and a stripper. She seemed to always push forward, pick herself up and accept any challenge presented to her.

These interviews with her felt like How to Live Life 101. So much zest for living, always striving to write better, and looking for ways to influence and improve the world around her. So many gems to quote, like…

“What do you mean, do I consider myself a feminist? I am a feminist. I’ve been a female for a long time now. I’d be stupid not to be on my own side.”


“I want to know more- not intellectually- to know more so I can be a better human being, to be an honest, courageous, funny and loving human being. That’s what I want to be – and I blow it 86 times a day. My hope is to cut it down to 70.”

This book spans her thoughts on racism in America, the plight of white women vs. the plight of black women, motherhood, creativity, how to write, travel, and how to be happy. From page 1 to page 240, I was gripped by her unwavering love of life.

“Living life fully, fiercely, devotedly, makes you much more able to accept other people who are doing the same. All we’re trying to do is to get from birth to death. And you can’t fail. Even if you only live five minutes, you have succeeded…But it seems to me that life loves the liver.”

Phenomenal woman, indeed.