My 2023 Reading Challenge

Some people go on vacations to have fun. Others might enjoy a night out or a party. I’ve heard about folks who go outside to hike or ski to have fun, though I don’t understand how that’s possible.

For me, fun means alphabetizing my spice drawer, using my label maker, and coming up with reading challenges for myself. The latter is what I’m sharing today. Last year, the books I read were overwhelmingly from the library. I love my local libraries, but my library usage meant I ignored the books I own. So to help me focus on the books already on my shelves, I came up with the following challenge. The only rule is that each title must be from my personal collection.

My 2023 reading challenge

Read a Presidential Biography

I enjoy reading about history, specifically presidential history, but that sort of nonfiction can take a while to get through, so I end up reading less of it than I do lighter work. This prompt will help me cross an unread book off my list and encourage me to pick up the type of longer volume I sometimes avoid.

I’m most excited to read:

  • And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle by Jon Meacham
  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama
  • No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Read an Unread Book I’ve Owned for Years

I’ve realized that reading books and acquiring them are two entirely different hobbies. The acquiring is a lot quicker, so I get books faster than I can read them, something I know any book collector will understand. I hope to read several of these long-ignored books in 2023, but this challenge will help me make sure to read at least one.

I’m most excited to read:

  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
  • Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Read a Classic that Intimidates Me

I don’t read a lot of what’s considered classic literature, and I don’t think anyone needs to in order to be considered a reader. However, several classics are on my bookshelves already, so I might as well read one.

I’m most excited to read:

  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Read a Poet’s Complete Collection

I read many short poetry books, but I hesitate to pick up brick-sized complete collections. That didn’t keep me from buying some, though. This year, I want to take my time and sink into one poet’s work. If nothing else, I know this would make my college poetry professor happy, and I still want to impress her.

I’m most excited to read:

  • Emily Dickinson
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Langston Hughes

Reread a Favorite

Because new books are always coming out, I put rereading on the back burner. But every time I do reread a book I love, I’m grateful and vow to do it more often.

I’m most excited to reread:

  • Stoner by John Williams
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  • Glaciers by Alexis Smith

Read a Book Someone Gifted Me

The last time my friend Katy saw my book collection in person, she said, “You have a crap-ton of books.” Indeed I do, yet my family and friends keep getting them for me. So whose fault is it really that I’ve run out of room on my shelves?

I’m most excited to read:

  • Surrender by Bono
  • The Night Singer by Johanna Mo
  • The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

Read a Book I Started but Didn’t Finish

There are two primary reasons why I don’t finish a book: 

  1. It’s not good.
  2. It’s good, but it’s not for me right now. 

While the books in the first category get to go on an adventure to Goodwill or a used bookstore, books in the second category stay with me until I’m ready for them again. 

I’m most excited to finish:

  • This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
  • Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Read a Book in Translation

An easy way to expand your reading is to pick up titles that have been translated into English from other languages. During college, I discovered my love of Japanese literature. Last year, I decided to read more French lit. This prompt is one I’m eager to fulfill.

I’m most excited to read:

  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

Read a Children’s Classic

The reason for this category is simple: my friend Candace has been asking me to read The Little Prince for years, and I still haven’t. There are no book options for this prompt, just that little book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Read a Book Recommended by a Friend

Candace isn’t the only friend giving me recommendations. Fellow readers have recommended a lot of exciting books to me over the years, many of which I meant to pick up as soon as possible. “Meant” is the critical word in that sentence.

I’m most excited to read:

  • Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
  • If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio
  • Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart