Reading, Writing, and Good Intentions

Well that’s Reading for Writing all done for term one. I’ve had a ball – I hope my students did too. (I guess that will become apparent when I get the signups for the term two classes …) The thing that amazed me was how happy everyone seemed to be to do the close reading part. I was expecting it to be like pulling teeth, with lots of “but it takes all the magic away!” comments. But the hardest thing was getting them to do the writing exercises that followed!

Not that we’ve been doing the close reading part quite as intensively or formally as I’d planned – it tended to be far more random, with me prodding them towards a couple of things that I’d marked down in advance, and then just pursuing whatever came up. But we did end up covering a lot of bases, and I kept discovering things I didn’t know or hadn’t noticed, which is either a very good sign (because the group must have been engaging at a deeper level) or a very bad one (because I’m a lazy idiot who hadn’t prepared enough). I choose to go with the former.

So it seemed eerily apt when I came across Bob Hostetler’s blog post, The Intentional Reader. Essentially he sets himself a list of books every year to read through, chosen from a number of different categories. A Personalised Reading Programme, created a year in advance. January O’Neil blogged about it on ReadWritePoem back in January (yes, I’m slow – haven’t we had this discussion before?), and offered her own version.

It sounds like a very good idea to me. I’ve been taking part in a couple of reading challenges over on LibraryThing, one of which is a changing series of monthly prompts – a book that won the Hugo award, a book with a colour in the title, a book by a LibraryThing author, a Canadian book, a book you swore to avoid, etc etc. A challenge that I haven’t signed up for this year, but which strikes me as being in a similar vein, is the 1010 Challenge: to read ten books from each of ten categories in one year. (You get to set the categories yourself, or use categories that others have come up with – there are some seriously inventive people out there!)

Ultimately it’s all about reading. And thinking about what you read, rather than just skimming through. I know there are big areas of ignorance in my own reading – I’ve never read any Homer, for example, and my knowledge of NZ history is pretty sketchy. And I don’t read biographies, or westerns. Or much literary fiction. So a challenge like this would certainly help to push me into broadening my literary horizons.

How do you read? Do you ever “programme” a course of reading for yourself? Or just bob along happily with the flow of the moment? How often do you read something out of your usual range?

3 Replies to “Reading, Writing, and Good Intentions”

  1. You don’t read much literary fiction? Do you read fiction in general, and just what is literary fiction, anyway? I suspect it means “whatever the critic concerned thinks is well written”. Or perhaps it means books that win awards but don’t sell well. I’m quite glad that no one had tried to distinguish “literary poetry” from “chick lit poetry” or “airport bookstore poetry” or “blockbuster poetry” or whatever!

    I don’t really do planned reading in the medium to long term , but I do think I range over quite a few genres. No sports books though. Unless you count “All Blacks Kitchen Gardens”. As for ten books in ten categories in a year, only if I gave up my day job. And then I’d have no money for books. One book in each of ten categories in a year would be more like my level.

    1. No, I read quite a lot of fiction. I don’t think I can explain what I mean by “literary fiction” any way other than by saying “the stuff usually referred to as literary fiction”. Which is a bit wimpy of me, I know.

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