Ah, summer. The time for lazy reading by the pool, picking up whichever book strikes your fancy… or frantically completing long summer reading assignments. It depends on who your teachers are.
I definitely had a couple of long, involved reading assignments during my school years, most notably the summer before I started college. It was strongly suggested that we read an abridged version of Don Quixote before term started. Being the rule follower that I am, I went to the library and could only find the unabridged version… so that’s what I read. Even with that experience, though, something about summer brings out my enthusiasm for planning large reading projects.
What do I mean by a large reading project? Well, make no mistake, I completely believe in reading for fun and pursuing those reading materials that interest you. And my reading projects are materials that interest me, but they are those items that I never seem to get around to in the course of my normal reading: really long, thick novels that don’t automatically call to me when I flop down on the couch at night, for example, or lists of books that I wouldn’t remember to get to if I weren’t intentional about it.
Here are some of my completed reading projects from years past:
- Read all the Alice books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
- Read Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.
- Read The Collected Poems of Dylan Thomas and a volume of poetry by Natasha Trethewey (then poet laureate of the U.S.).
- Find and read all of John Marsden’s Tomorrow series (the first of which was a 2001 Selected Audiobook for Young Adults pick).
All of these were books that I genuinely wanted to read. But Anna Karenina (like many other “classics”) is of an imposing size, and takes some time before you start to really identify with any of the characters (I ended up loving it). The Marsden series took awhile to track down, including having to request that my library purchase 2 of the 3 Ellie Chronicles, which follow the Tomorrow series proper. Poetry can require more thought than I’m often willing to put into my reading without prepping myself beforehand. I had to make them into projects to get them read.
I’m currently working my way through these projects:
- Read Les yeux jaunes des crocodiles, a French novel, in French (although I have a translation handy to refer to after reading a section in French).
- Read all six of Jane Austen’s completed novels.
- Read a selection of questions from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. This is a project to let me get a small picture of the reading my husband does regularly.
Of these, only one is what I would call “active” mode. I am currently reading through the Aquinas book, trying to read a little each day (then picking up my mystery novel once I have!). I’ve read five of the six Austen novels, but I don’t know when I’ll get to the sixth. I started the French novel last fall, and it fell by the wayside, but I hope to pick it back up later this summer.
Obviously, my project reading is not a model of efficiency. Everyone’s reading style is different– see this Hub post about reading habits to get an idea of the variety. Still, I like having projects to work on along with my regular reading because they help me broaden my reading and read books that I might not otherwise. I never seem to have trouble coming up with projects, and certainly have several in mind for the future:
- Complete the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge.
- Read all past Printz Award winners.
- Read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.
- Read all the novels we own but I haven’t read (that’s an intimidating one, given the size of our library).
What about you? Do you have assigned summer reading projects? Do you have your own reading projects that you are working on? I love to hear about other people’s reading projects… they give me more ideas for future projects!
-Libby Gorman, currently reading Holy Teaching: Introducing the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas by Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith aka J.K. Rowling