Saturday, July 7, 2018

On making lists, reading long lists, and creating a new reading challenge for myself

I like making lists, which, at least among my bookternet communities of readers, writers and librarians, is not at all unusual. Lately, however, I've realized that I don't enjoy crossing things off lists as much as others seems to. It seems, odd, right? Isn't the point of lists to finish them? Either I truly don't enjoy reaching goals or I have become a realist. Here's my secret: I don't think I've ever actually finished reading an entire list of books I've made. I am one book away from finishing the 2012 Orange Prize (now Women's Prize) longlist (including the short list and winner.) But I'm also working on reading every book ever longlisted, shortlisted, and winners. (And by working, I mean I have many lists, one listing the ones I most want to read, one listing them in order from shortest to longest--achieve more faster!, one listing winners, one listing the one I most want to read for each year of the Prize, etc.) I've similarly attempted to read all the books for most major awards. It's not possible, unless, of course you enjoy crossing things off of lists more than making new ones. Or if you read more than I do. Or if you can manage to not get distracted by the next book award list or galley of your favorite author or decide what you really need in that moment is a good mystery or memoir or graphic novel or classic.

The 2018 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize long list


All of this is to say: I'm going to attempt to read this year's First Novel Prize long list, which is hilarious and also exciting, even if I don't actually read them all. I will read more than I would have if I didn't just make a checklist in Google Keep. You might ask why I would attempt such a thing when I have a terrible track record. There are two reasons. First, my reading has been floundering. I am in need of a list to guide at least some of my reading. I don't want to pick from the thousands of books I want to read; I want to pick one from a specific list. Second, this particular longlist features 26 books, and I want to read all of them. Not just the ones by women (who, incidentally, comprise a majority of the list). All 26 of them. None of them are chunksters (those always derail my best intentions.) They're diverse and exciting. And as much as I love picking out my own books to read, I also like it when other people give me a list and tell me to read them all. What I love most about reading book award long lists, however, are the conversations. I like to pretend I'm judging along with the judges. Which novels would I put on the short list in September? Why? Which would I pick to win? Inevitably, it will never be the one to actually win because I have my own taste in what makes a book the best of the bunch.

I hope to read all 26 titles before the shortlist is announced in September. I also realize there is very little chance of that actually happening. So I also hope to read all 26 titles by the end of 2018. And I hope to read one by the end of the weekend. As always, you can follow my progress on my First Novel Prize page.

Now tell me: have you read any of these titles? What should I push to the top of my list?

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