my read-less challenge

It is a truth universally acknowledged that nursing a milk-addicted toddler gives you ample time to read. (Related: Send weaning instructions, please.) I took advantage this year. Maybe too much. Somewhere around book 70 (number 3 in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series–this year’s obsession) I realized I was consuming the written word rather than considering it.

Is this good or bad? I don’t really want to delve into that because I suspect it’s not one or the other. But I do know that some days my head was swimming with voices and ideas that, in the end, didn’t nourish my soul or my taste for beauty and excellence. Or to put it less high-mindedly: I’m not sure I chose wisely.

Also, read slowly. Just as a fine meal should be savored, so, too, good books are to be luxuriated in, not rushed through. —Karen Swallow Prior in On Reading Well

In 2019, I’m choosing luxury reading.

Luxury reading takes time and needs a lot of mental rambling room. Luxury reading means reading intentionally to shape ideas. Luxury reading means choosing works that merit the close attention. Each month is devoted to a category that will hopefully lead me to form ideas about a genre, about an author’s work, about what draws me back to old favorites–and be fun to choose titles for, of course.

Here’s my month-to-month plan and yikes. I’m already gulping at the titles I know I’ll miss doing it this way. But one of the beautiful things about books is that they don’t go away. There’s always 2020.

January // A Month of Mystery
I’ll probably focus on G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown series here, but I can’t help myself: I’ll dip back into Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and The Moonstone, too.

February // Childhood Favorites
The books that made me fall in love with reading in the first place will be my companions through this cold and gray month.

March // Middlemarch

April // Only Books I Own
Is this an excuse to buy more books? Probably.

May // Nonfiction
My most wide-open category. Maybe I’ll pick up some of Wendell Berry’s essays, a memoir, a narrative history or just plain history. We’ll see.

June // One Author Only
But who? I’ll take recommendations of who is worthy of 30 days of attention. Speaking of recommendations…

July // Books Recommended to Me
Nominate your favorite now!

August // Short Stories
This will require some research, but I’m hoping to hit both the classics (like Chekhov) and new favorites (like Simon Van Booy, BJ Novak, and Katherine Heiny).

September // All Rereads
Comfort reads for the start of fall.

October // Faith-Building
We’ll see what this means when I get there.

November // One Book at at Time
A practice in restraint.

December // Poetry
Hopkins, Berry, who else? I’m not very good at poetry.




  1. Greg Smith

    June: Fyodor Dostoevsky, greatest novelist of all time
    December: Emily Dickinson, greatest American poet

  2. Julene Smith

    Of course, Dad’s selections are excellent, but my one author pick would be C.S. Lewis. As for your December poetry concentration, you could also choose from Chesterton, T.S. Eliot, and Frost. I am excited about my recommendation for October because I want to read it myself. Yesterday a former student visited me at Network and recommended Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Though she read it semester’s ago, it continues to affect her understanding of the gift of life.

  3. joannalinberg

    YES. I knew I could count on you.

  4. joannalinberg

    And then we can talk about it!

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