In the busy world that we live in, it can be difficult to make time and find the time to read. Some people might even question, why bother reading at all? There are countless articles about the benefits of reading: lowering stress levels, helping anxiety, improving concentration, increasing learning, building empathy… But that is not what I want to talk about today, well not really. I think that reading is an extremely important task that we should all try to do, and that some of us should try to do more of, however we often get stuck in our own worlds and find it difficult to step out of comfort zones. In order to combat this I’ve come up with a reading challenge for 2016. It consists of 12 tasks that you can complete throughout the year with the hopes that you will learn something new about the world and yourself.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 1: Read articles from a newspaper you would never usually read.
Never before has it been easier for us to create our own micro-worlds. We read the news we like because it panders to our ideas about politics, laws, religions, etc. By reading things that simply reaffirm our own ideas we never actually get to see things from a different perspective which is why this is challenge number 1. Even if you find a newspaper that goes against your normal beliefs, stick with it for a month and learn something new.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 2: Read a book in translation.
Nothing can open up your reading world more than reading a book from another language, culture, and country. Try something new and be daring. Some of my favourite books have come to me in translation. In the interest of broadening your mind, try to read something from the other side of the pond.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 3: Read a book by a woman.
There are so many amazing female authors in the world, yet women struggle to get published and to make a living from writing. If you want to save some time, why not read a female author in translation?
CHALLENGE NUMBER 4: Read an oldie.
Most of us English speakers were tortured with Shakespeare and Austen in high school, but I want you to forget those days and try again. Find a classic literary text and read or even re-read it again. You would be surprised what years of growing up will do to your interpretation of a book that you were forced to read when you were 15.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 5: Read a collection of short stories.
As you may already know, I want to breath some fresh life into the short story, which is why challenge number 5 is all about the short story. Short stories are great for readers on the go because you get a complete narrative in less than 5,000 words sometimes! If you don’t know where to start, Granta often have collections of stories that they bring out in a regular basis usually based on themes like travel, women, sports, etc. Go on, think mirco for a while.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 6: Read a new genre.
We all have our favourites from crime, to romance, to thriller, to adventure, but this challenge is asking you think outside the genre box and pick a new field that you are yet to explore. If you are feeling a bit too cautious why not even try a sub-genre? For example, if you like crime, why not try Nordic noir?
CHALLENGE NUMBER 7: Read a non-fiction book.
For some people, non-fiction is a favourite, but it is often overlooked and therefore, sometimes misunderstood. Find a memoir, critical book, research book and dive in. I am reading “The Biography of Cancer” at the moment and it is really amazing.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 8: Read a book by an indigenous author.
Indigenous covers a lot of ground here, but I am leaving it open like this so people from around the world can explore something new. There are so many indigenous Australian, North American, and South American (just to generalise a few regions) to start with. These books are particularly important as they can offer an insight into a world that has been forced to the brink of total destruction.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 9/10: Read a BIG BOOK.
I’ve combined these two challenges together because it is a rather huge task. Many of us are put off from reading big books because we always think: ‘How will I have the time?’ Well, I am asking you to make time. This challenge, over two months, is to read a book over 600 pages long. You’ll have forearm muscles to rival the best of the best when your done!
CHALLENGE NUMBER 11: Read a funny book.
Reading doesn’t have to be all about serious learning, which is why challenge number 11 is to read a funny book. Read a book that will make you snort-laugh. It doesn’t matter the genre, just make it giggle worthy. If you don’t know where to start, try Tina Fey’s “Bossypants”.
CHALLENGE NUMBER 12: Read a book from your local library.
If you’re over the age of 12, you probably haven’t visited your local library in a while. This last challenge is not just about reading, but about building on community connections and supporting local services. Go to your local library, get a new library card because you probably lost your old one, and start borrowing!
I hope that this reading challenge gives you some new ideas about expanding your literary horizons. Let me know your progress throughout the challenge and if you have set yourself any reading challenges for the year. As always, remember to share the reading love.