Friday, April 2, 2021

Loud Books and an Advent Calendar Reading Challenge

Loud Books

Do you have anything in your house that just screams at you constantly? Not out loud, of course, but in your mind? A pile of mess begging for attention? A dirty carpet demanding a vacuuming? A sink full of dishes asking what's wrong with you? 

There's this old Japanese idea that everything in your house has something to say: sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's negative, sometimes it's motivating, and sometimes it's just reminding you of basic responsibility. The theory is that the quality and tenor of your home life are highly influenced by this silent noise. If you have a lot of things sending negative messages and not much that has anything nice to say, it can drag down your mood and dim that feeling of peace and security that ideally fills a home. 

An example of something that sends positive messages in my house is my book collection. I have shelves filled with some of my favorite books in the whole wide world, and just looking at them makes me happy. Mostly.

An example of something that sends negative messages in my house is my book collection. Really it's just the ones I haven't read and the ones I was intending to reread a year or two ago but didn't. It's not that each book calling out to be read is a negative thing. I like getting excited about reading a book. The problem is that right now too many are yelling too loudly, and it's not just the physical ones on my shelf, it's the ones on my audiobook wishlist too. The longer I've owned them or had them on my list, the louder they yell. The more series I have going at a time, the louder they yell, and so on.

You'd think I'd be thankful knowing that I'm not going to run out of quality entertainment anytime soon, but instead the cacophony of books and series, things my friends want me to read and things I'm dying to start but I won't be able to for months, just creates stress. Isn't that stupid?

It's the most first world of first world problems, really shameful if I think about it at all, but that doesn't change the fact that I need my stress levels to go down and they're not going to go down unless I zero out my TBR shelf and the old end of my lists as quickly as possible and find a way to start over and start purchasing/borrowing/ogling books at a much more manageable pace. 


The Advent Calendar Reading Challenge

Toward the end of February, I took note of which books were the loudest and which were causing the most stress, and I created a challenge for myself. I pulled out my Advent Calendar with its 24 little doors, each door corresponding to a day of the month of... March. I wrote loud book titles on 31 slips of paper, and assigned each to a door. Doors 1-8 doubled as March 25-31. And then I set myself some rules and some prizes. 

I had to open a door each day and start the book written there. I didn't have to finish it, but, in an effort not to fall behind, I did my best. When selecting the books, I went for a variety of genres and themes as well as a balance of audiobooks (majority) and physical books including a couple of Manga. The goal was to complete as many of the titles within the month as possible, with the prize being out of reach until the end. 

Here's how it went: I followed the rules. I planned the challenge far enough in advance that I had no idea which books where where in the calendar, so each day was a pleasant surprise. Audiobooks I generally finished within 12-36 hours of opening their door. Physical books took closer to a week apiece, but they were spread out, so it worked. I ended the month with only two books incomplete, so I call that win.

Did the yelling stop? No, because I had much more than 30 books yelling at me, but the yelling is significantly diminished, which is all I could hope for. I expect it'll be a couple more months until I've really got it under control and peaceful, but I'm really happy with how much the challenge pushed me to accomplish. Here are the some stats:

I finished the Death Note series (two volumes), the Shatter Me series (three books, two novellas), the Rex Nihilo series (three books, will talk about in an upcoming post), the Edge Chronicles (two books), and a couple more at one book apiece. I caught up on five more series that haven't been fully published yet including Gilead (Question for all of you who read and adored Gilead, did you go on to read Home, Lila, and Jack? If so what did you think? I need someone to talk to about this).

I also read five sequels, getting myself closer to finishing up some more series (can you tell I had waaaay too many series going?) and nine one-offs including a little nonfiction. I want to stress again here, if you ever do a challenge like this you will need the variety. Too much of the same theme, genre, tone, character type, format, book length, etc. is likely to burn you out. 

Anyway, I finished, and I got to open my prize yesterday (which I ordered mid-month and left in the boxes). The prize was books, which in hindsight was a bit counterproductive. It probably should have been candles. Or yarn. But I did pick books that wouldn't add to the negative noise: continuations of series I've already committed to, and a couple I read from the library that I knew I wanted to own. 

So that's it! A fun, productive reading month. What about you? Do you like having lots of unread books on your shelf? Do you do reading challenges or marathons? Do you get yourself into multiple series at once? Does it ever feel like drowning? Let me know!

Coming Up Next: Sci-fi that Parodies Itself: Rex Nihilo, Red Shirts and More


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