The Challenge: Filling in the Gaps

Everyone has books they have meant to read and never have gotten around to read. Everyone has books they managed to avoid reading in school, the classics we were supposed to read because they were good for us in some way. (We didn't buy that logic on every single so-called "classic," did we?)

How about the books everyone else has seemed to read, or the books you have eyed on the shelves, wishing you could find the time to read?

How would you like to get them read?

Take the Fill in the Gaps Challenge: make a list of 100 books you want to read, for whatever reasons (and you don't even have to tell anyone why).  Now, make a promise to yourself that you will read them during the course of the next five years.

Don't laugh.  Better, don't hyperventilate.  In your heart of hearts, you know you can accomplish reading 20 books a year, if you really set your mind to it.  On average, you could spend two and a half weeks to finish each one.  That's an average, of course.  Each book is different, and some will go more quickly than others.

How long do you think it will take you to read DraculaGone With the Wind? Madame Bovary? Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell?  Probably less time than you think.

If you're not sure what books you want to put on your list, visit the Fill in the Gaps Web site for ideas.  Stroll through your local library and talk to the librarians.   One librarian in particular has created her own collection of lists: Nancy Pearl and Book Lust.

Talk to booksellers and see what they like; they have access to thousands of titles, so their choices could be interesting.  Emily at My Borders turned me onto Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, and I am forever grateful.

Your local library probably has a few list of award-winners and bestsellers.  My friend Carole has pledged to read every Pulitzer Prize winner, and she already has made great headway in the past year.  Go international with the Nobel Prize.  What kind of books do you prefer? If you're a fan of horror novels, check out the Bram Stoker Award winners.  If you like mysteries, check out the Edgar Awards. Consider a Newbery Award winner, no matter your age. Here's an idea: if you want to be different, choose a runner-up — if they were good enough to be nominated, they were good enough to win, right?  Find a new favorite author.

If you run out of ideas, visit the Fill in the Gaps Web site to see what other people have put on their lists.

Remember, this doesn't have to stunt your other reading of current bestsellers, textbooks or other "must-reads" already in your life.  Pepper your reading time with these gap-fillers. Here are a few ideas of how to incorporate reading into your daily life:
  • Leave books around the house so you can pick up a book while the pasta is boiling.  
  • Designate one or two nights after work and school "pleasure reading nights"  for the entire family.
  • Turn off the TV and TiVo/DVR your shows one or two nights a week.
  • Read for 30 minutes before bed.
  • Designate your gap books for reading aloud with the family  — if they're appropriate: The Wind in the Willows may an easy book to share, whereas Silence of the Lambs or Lolita might not be as popular choice.  (Or maybe it is: who's to say what works for you?)

I will post my list soon, and I will keep you abreast of how the list is going.  You do the same with me.  Let's show each other just how easy it is to read what you've always wanted to read.