February 23rd, 2010

Groups and Challenges

In Writer Guy’s review of Century as part of Canada Reads Independently, he wonders if he’s right in calling CRI a “challenge.” I’m sure it’s fine to call it whatever one likes, but I much prefer a term I’ve learned from my bookfriends on GoodReads–a “group read.” To me, that implies better what I think these projects intend: to get people agreeing to read something as a group so they can then talk about it. So fun and friendly.

“So why aren’t you participating in any of these group reads, RR?” would be a reasonable question to ask, at least lately. It’s true–I love book conversations and though I’m not the fastest reader, I’m fast enough to read a book purely for the sake of participating in a conversation. I used to quite often. But I can’t quite get committed lately. Maybe it was the demanding, structured reading in grad school that’s put me off. Maybe it was a few book-club related incidents–a club-wide insistance on reading “challenging” books that weren’t “too easy” or “light”…which ended with me miserably hauling myself through a couple books that no one else liked, or indeed, bothered to read.

I think these sorts of group reads a project like Kerry’s, or in fact Canada Reads itself, seems very fun indeed–as warm an invitation to conversation as one could hope for. I love the idea of a group of people focusing their reading so they can share it. All I can say is I really hope to get it together for next year.

Meantime, I’m trying one of the less-structured options of group reads, one where participants don’t read the same book but engage in the same kind of reading and then share thoughts on that. One that appeals (because I was already sort of doing it privately) is a retro-reading challenge. Rereading has been a hot topic on The Literary Type lately, and now over at Free-range Reading, Mark suggests the Retro Reading Challenge. Ok, fine, it’s got the word “challenge” in it, but it still seems pretty fun and friendly to me:

“So here’s the idea, which I’m calling the Retro Reading Challenge, and I hope you all will play along. The idea is to pick a book that you read and adored years and years ago, then reread it now and write a review of it to capture your impressions. Did you still love it? Did you see flaws (or strengths) that you missed the first time? Did you have an “Oh God, what the hell was I thinking?” moment?”

I might not quite be able to comply with all the rules–the book needs to have been something I read only once, at least 15 years ago–but I *might* have Mostly Harmless only once, in my early teens–it wasn’t in the giant omnibus that I owned as a kid, since it didn’t come out until 1992. And it’s way darker than the others, so it’s conceivable it wasn’t on my reread list. And it fits in nicely with my don’t judge Eoin Kolfer too harshly project, which has been going on since fall (I’m halfway through *So Long and Thanks for All the Fish* right now, if you’re curious) and will end when I read *And Another Thing* and try not to hate it for not being written by Douglas Adams.

SO! Rambling aborted, I will read *Mostly Harmless* and review it as part of the Retro Reading project. Yes. This is my plan. Baby steps.


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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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