Last year I learned that our community library hosted a Book Nerd Challenge. Knowing my granddaughter devoured books and needing a little inspiration to increase the selection quality of the book I read (a person can only read so many Stephanie Plum novels before there are no more to read), I suggested we sign up. Acknowledging that we both qualify as nerds and readers, she agreed.
My original thought, “How hard can this be?” The goal was to read 50 books in a year. Sign me up! I am an English teacher. How could this be a challenge? Easy Peasey. Then I read the small print. There were 50 different categories ranging from historical nonfiction, to a book with a red cover. By the end of the year, I had grown.
The experience created a bond with my granddaughter. We read a couple of the same novels but most had different titles; however, we had interesting conversations as we discussed authors’ styles, different genres, and shared our favorites.
I read some material I would not have read if not for the challenge. They provided insight and enjoyment. Three books provided new information and a unique lens. Answering the challenge to read a book with a different political position than my own, I picked up a personal memoir written by John McCain. Since I am a democrat and he a republican, A Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations appropriately fit the category. It proved to be a stimulating read reinforcing my long-held belief that John McCain embodied a compassionate, honest individual who dedicated himself to the fight for democracy. The events of his life reminded me politics and humanity are two different things entirely.
The second text that I would not have checked out of the library but found rewarding was Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. The story shared his growth from poverty in South Africa to fame in America, communicated his belief that we are in control of our lives, empowered to create the world we desire, and exposed me to a culture rich in history. In fact, I am now an avid follower of his show on The Comedy Channel, The Daily Show.
The third book I added to my list of must reads had personal value, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor. My daughter had a stroke in September prior to the year the challenge began. Challenged to read a text from the 300 classification of the Dewey Decimal system. This presented itself as the obvious choice. Taylor shared her personal journey of recovery after a stroke. The authoritative voice of the text provided valuable resources while the stories shared compassion.
The book challenge also introduced me to some obscure pleasure reads. Love Handles by Gretchen Galway, a humorous romance; Autumn by Ali Smith, a story of spiritual love set post-Brexit; the next in the series by Katie Collins, Yews with Caution, a mystery romance, and of course a category welcomed Janet Evanovich’s newest novel.
With 50 categories to choose from, I reread my all-time favorite, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and devoured several classics. It also became a habit when walking my dog, to listen to an audio book increasing pleasure in my daily chore. Life doesn’t get any better than a walk on a beautiful day with my dog and a book.
Reading Became a Habit
Initially, inspired by a stubborn need to meet the goal, I forced myself to make time to visit the worlds of the novels. In the past, excuses created reasons to procrastinate, but now I found books provided a better alternative. When a new TV series premiered, I discovered books bring greater joy and engagement. When the house needed cleaning, I remembered it would be dirty again tomorrow. When the dog wanted attention, I held her bone in one hand and a book in the other. And when a task could not be postponed, I turned on an audio book.
After a year, reading became a habit I craved. My life became more fulfilled as I grew intellectually. The realistic stories of life replaced the unrealistic dramas on the screen. A pleasantness enveloped my my senses as I probed for the next text.
Reading Improves Writing
Perhaps the greatest benefit I realized through my increased reading, was the impact it had on my writing. I witnessed first hand what I had so often preached to my students. Reading improved my vocabulary, modeled unique styles, provided insights to new environments, inspired new ideas and prompted a desire to imitate other author’s success.
When the 2000 calendar began, 50 new reading categories were listed for the year’s challenge. And yes, my granddaughter and I are planning to win the prestigious title of Extreme Book Nerds.
Below I have listed the categories in case anyone is interested and wants to join the fun.
Leave a comment if you accept the challenge. and we can keep in touch.
1. A book about or set during WWII
2. The first book in a series
3. Nonfiction & Fiction about the same topic book 1
4. Nonfiction & Fiction about the same topic book 2
5. A bildungsroman book (Coming-of-Age story)
6. A book set during a holiday
7. A book with multiple narrators
8. A book recommended to me
9. A book with a green cover
10. A classic novel
11. A book with a weather element in the title
12. A book with a heist in it
13. A book with a Dewey Decimal number in the 300’s
14. A book written in the first person
15. A Young Adult (YA) novel
16. A book set in two time periods
17. A book with a baby in it
18. A book set in India
19. A biography
20. A book set in a favorite location of yours
21. A book from a celebrity book club
22. A book set in outer space
23. A true crime book
24. A book by two authors
25. A book that was made into a movie
26. A book of poetry or written in verse
27. A book by a famous non-author
28. A book with a pirate in it
29. A book set during the summer
30. A novel based on a true story
31. A book about the military
32. A book that was translated into English
33. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
34. A book with a number in the title
35. A book that scares you
36. A book with a long title (at least 5 words)
37. A book with a person’s name in the title
38. A National Book Award winner or nominee
39. A book based on a fairy tale or mythology
40. A book published the year you were born
41. A book with a cover that is your favorite color
42. A book by a person of color
43. A book found using Novelist
44. A book about a sport
45. A book with a time of day in the title (dawn, midnight, etc)
46. A title with an action verb in it (running, talking, etc.)
47. A book with a cat
48. A loved one’s favorite book
49. A book with a child or teen protagonist
50. A book with “Extreme,” “Book,” or “Nerd” in the title