Looking at my reading list from some different angles

I’m not a competitive reader. I don’t typically sign up for the “read 100 books in a year” challenges et al. The prospect just leaves me a bit intimidated, a bit bewildered, and a little worried that the unalloyed joy of reading would go right out the window if I set myself on a path like that. Kudos to you who try them – they’re just not for me.

That said, a couple of reading challenges have come across my radar that had me thinking about how I stacked up without being conscious of setting out to meet those specific challenges. I made some interesting discoveries.

The 5th Annual Canadian Book Challenge
from The Book Mine Set blog, by John Mutford

The concept of this challenge is to read and review at least 13 Canadian books (of any genre or ilk) in the period from July 1st (Canada Day, of course) to the next July 1st. Participants share links to their reviews on Mutford’s blog. Yes, there are prizes, but Mutford emphasizes throughout that the main point is to share one’s delight in Canadian literature and have fun.

If I was part of this very worthy challenge, how would I fare? From July 1st, 2010 to July 1st, 2011, I read and reviewed 24 Canadian books of fiction (novels and short stories) and poetry, as follows:


Up Up Up, by Julie Booker

In that period, I read one more Canadian book of short stories, Up Up Up by Julie Booker, for which I haven’t yet written a review. I adored that feisty, ebullient collection of indelible characters, many of whom seemed able to simultaneously squeeze the heart and tickle the proverbial funnybone. I know I was extremely busy with the day job around that time (and Up Up Up probably buoyed me through that patch), but I do need to go back and fill that gap in what I know I wanted to review this year. Till then, here’s a review that I think captures quite nicely what that charmer of a book is all about. (1)

So far, from July 1st, 2011 to the present, I read and reviewed 7 Canadian books of fiction (novels and short stories) and poetry, as follows:

Cool Water, by Dianne Warren

I’ve read, but not yet reviewed, the following. Since I haven’t reviewed them, I’ve found and linked to some other interesting and astute reviews.

So then … I’d say I’m pretty enthusiastic about literature from my home and native land. That’s not such a bad thing, eh? In the July, 2010 to July, 2011 period in which I read 25 Canadian books, I read a total of 39 books – 64% CanLit.

If I wanted to spawn a personal challenge from these findings, I could go in different directions. Do I challenge myself to read yet more CanLit, or do I challenge myself to venture further outside Canada’s borders for my reading choices? How conscious/premeditated/planned versus unconscious/spontaneous/instinctual should my reading list be? Fellow readers, how much do you think about, plan or not plan your reading in this regard?

Here is another reader challenge that was promoted this year:

Year of the Short Story

As it states on the web page, YOSS (Year Of the Short Story) aims to unite fellow writers and readers everywhere in one cause—to bring short fiction the larger audience it deserves.

So far this year, I’ve read 4 short story collections:

I’m still hoping to read at least two more this year:

  • The Odious Child, by Carolyn Black
  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis

In 2010, I only read one short story collection:

In 2009, I read four short story collections:

I do think I want to both read and review more short story collections. I’ve certainly enjoyed the collections I’ve encountered in recent years … so yes, why not more?

It’s been interesting to step back a bit and assess the patterns or trends or inclinations in my reading, to see if I want to consciously adjust them in any way. Are you doing that with your own reading? Is that a good thing to do from time to time … or should reading just be an uncatalogued, spontaneous, follow your heart/go with the flow kind of thing?


1. Book Review: Up Up Up by Julie Booker, by Katherine Laidlaw, This Magazine, September 14, 2011

2. The Canadian Book Review, March 9, 2011

3. Reading for the Joy of It blog, Janet Somerville, October 3, 2010

4. The National Post, Katherine Govier, March 20, 2010

5. Quill & Quire, rob mclennan, November, 2010

6. Pickle Me This blog, Kerry Clare, September 15, 2011

7. Globe and Mail, review by Andrew Pyper, September 17, 2011

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