Wednesday, 13 January 2016

My 2016 Challenge

I don't really do New Years resolutions. I admire those who do and manage to stick to them, but I find the idea of tasking myself to do something for an entire year, or within an entire year, just isn't practical. There are too many variables. Often I'll lose interest in something pretty quickly, or discover it just isn't something I enjoy. Life is too short to continue doing something you don't enjoy.

I like to set myself little challenges instead. I realise that this may just be semantics, and perhaps I am making a resolution after all, but these challenges are mostly around trying new things or doing something I've always wanted to do. They're often a bit vague and easily accomplished.

This year I've set myself the challenge of reading 52 physical books in a year. You see, I love books. I love the look, the feel and the smell of them. I love the way the words of a good book seem to leap off the page, how an enthralling story makes me read faster, longing to get to the end to see what happens. I often have to force myself to slow down and re read paragraphs I've just skimmed over. The second I had a disposable income I started to purchase my own books. Usually they were second hand books being sold by the library, with the occasional trip to a bookshop where I would spend ages going backwards and forwards between the shelves, wondering what to choose. Some people bought hundreds of CD's. I instead bought so many books that the shelves of my bookcase sagged under their weight.

I've continued to buy books. Usually it's when I head into town to purchase something for someone else. I'll head into Waterstones fully intending to only buy a gift and walk out with a bag so full the seams are at risk of splitting. The problem is, I've stopped reading them. I fully intend to, then when it comes to go to bed I pick up my phone instead and read via my Kindle app. Books lie there, collecting dust, many of them half started and not finished. Too distracted during the daytime by housework or other crafts, my books have become decorations rather than reading material. I've still read book after book on my phone, but I've missed the joy of reading a book I can hold in my hands. I've also put a ban on myself buying any more books until I've read the ones I've purchased and not read. This is incredibly difficult for me.

Therefore my 2016 challenge is to read these books. No, I haven't bought and then not read 52 books (although I wouldn't be surprised if the number is close to that...), but I'd love to read the other books I own. I want to read all of the Discworld novels in order, re read Harry Potter, and have a decent sort through to see what books I should perhaps be getting rid of.

It is the 13th January, not quite two weeks into this year and so far the challenge is going well. I've read 3 books, one of which I'd started and not finished, two were completely new reads. The first was The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Given to me as a gift by Bex, I found it incredibly interesting when I first started reading it. I don't know why I stopped (I probably got distracted by another book), but I'm glad I picked it up again.

This is a wonderfully researched book that explain why habits form, why they are hard to break once formed, and how to form the habits we want to have, all with real world examples. It's a fascinating insight into how our brains work and why we are our worst enemies sometimes. Corey read and finished it before I did and I noticed how he tried to utilise what he'd learnt. I finished it last week. I very much hope to use my knowledge for my own benefit.

The second book I have read and finished was The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I had bought it years ago when I saw it recommended either on twitter or Any Other Woman. It was an easy, very enjoyable read. It's one of those books that takes you through so many different emotions as you go on the journey with Harold. I laughed, cried and despaired with him. When it came time to turn the light off and sleep I didn't want to put the book down. I finished it on Monday and have already leant it to a colleague in the hopes she too enjoys it as much as I did.

The third book, finished this afternoon when I came home from work, was As You Wish by Cary Elwes and Joe Layden, If I were reading my books in order of the date I had got them, this should have been one of the last. Corey bought it for me for Christmas last year. I was given another copy at my London hen do. I just couldn't resist it, though. The cover was a thing of beauty. Don't be deceived by its plain look, it feels amazing to touch and hold. When I picked it up I remembered why I keep buying books, why I could never just be an Ebook reader. The book was also well worth a read. I am a massive fan of The Princess Bride. I quote from it at any given opportunity and beg people who haven't seen it to watch it. This book is a must read for any fan. It's quite possibly the most delightful thing I've read in a long time. With plenty of behind the scenes stories from those who were a part of it, it has given me a much greater insight to how the film came about. What became clear as I read it was how much enjoyment all those who were a part of the making of the film had in being a part of it. It's clearly something they are all still very much proud of. There are no "tell all" sordid tales, or bitching about others within the book, although there is also a lot of honesty contained within. I've given one of my copies to a colleague who loves the film, too.

I've thoroughly enjoyed getting back into reading like this again. Holding the books while lying in bed hasn't been the pain in the backside I thought it would be. I've sped through pages and pages each evening, eager to continue reading on the following night. I've only encountered two problems:

The first is that I had started reading Wolf Hall years ago and had gotten a fair way through, but not finished it. I picked that up, intending it to be one of the books I finished first. It turns out that I'm not overly fond of it. I don't know if that's because it's not really a book my brain wants me to read at night, or because I just find the style it's written in to be a bit too different to what I usually read. I've decided that I'll try again at the weekend. I do want to finish it, as well as Bringing Up the Bodies, even if it is to decide they are not for me. I struggled to get into the Book Thief, yet got hooked about half way through and absolutely loved it. Hopefully this will happen again.

Secondly, I thought that reading these books would help me go to sleep at night. Instead my brain seems overly excited at the fact that I'm reading actual pages. It wants me to finish the book then and there and each night resists going to sleep. Rather than getting to sleep within the usual hour I designate, the clock hits 12 far too often with me wide awake (my bedtime is 9:30). I'm hoping I'll get into a routine, as my sleeping patterns are a bit messed up after the Christmas break, but for now I'm reading books for half an hour followed by my phone for half an hour (I have an app that reduces the blue light on my phone in order to prevent issues with sleep from it).

Tonight I'm going to start reading The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett again. I intended to wait to read it until I'd read all the other Discword books (including some of the more recent ones I've bought and not read), but I couldn't resist it. Once again, for a reason completely unknown to me, I stopped reading it and it has sat, half finished. I should have it finished by the end of the week. It'll be a bitter-sweet read, knowing it's his last, but I'll enjoy every minute of it.

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