Book Gap Challenge by Donalyn Miller

Marking the end of another reading year seems artificial to me. There isn’t a noticeable difference between my reading life on December 31st and January 1st. I am caught in a book on any given day. I suppose the end of the year provides an opportunity to look back at the books I’ve read in 2012 and plan for 2013. According to goodreads, I will meet my 601 book reading goal with a few to spare. I have more than a few friends who outread me, but how many books I read this year isn’t that important. For a moment or forever, the books I read changed me. That’s what matters.

If anything, a new year offers me an excuse to buy more books. While pre-ordering 2013 titles today, I ignored our overflowing bookshelves. We don’t need more books. With three readers in our house, I refuse to consider our shared obsession a problem as long as Don, Sarah, and I keep feeding the pets and running laundry. We give away books. We visit the library. Our friends borrow books. I haul books to school. Nothing helps. When a book leaves our house, two more appear in its place. I suspect fairies, but I read too many fantasy novels.

I tell myself that I need to keep up with the latest releases because of my work with children, teachers, and librarians. Who am I kidding? Don teases me that only Nerdy Book Club members consider a book old if it came out six months ago. I could probably coast on my to-read pile for a year or two. I often sift through my book stacks like a dragon counting its hoard—moving whatever catches my eye to the top of the heap. Friends’ recommendations, great reviews, intriguing covers, or books my students requested, I create my own taxonomies for determining what to read next.

Selecting books by personal criteria, I miss a lot of books that other people read. Some books in our collection remain unread for months or years. I admit that I have never read Shiloh or Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, two beloved Newbery winners. I read The Story of Mankind Mind the Gap sign on the edge of a London Underground Tube station's platformlast year, so I deserve some forgiveness on this account. I never finished Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick. I would rather read Pride and Prejudice for the fifth time.

No one who reads should apologize for their preferences and reading experiences, but we can aspire to stretch ourselves or fill any perceived deficits in our reading lives. Cindy Minnich and other Nerdy readers on Twitter recently discussed their personal book gaps—titles they haven’t read in spite of popularity or acclaim. Even the most avid, open-minded readers admitted to skipping award-winners, avoiding certain genres, or postponing books for so long they remain unread.

Looking at my groaning bookshelves, my book gap is clear. I have series commitment issues. A devout fantasy and science fiction fan, I can’t keep up with the endless tide of sequels. Bitterblue, Insurgent, Flesh and Bone, and The Mark of Athena glare at me from the closest bookcase. I started Froi of the Exiles four months ago. It sits in limbo on my nightstand—never finished and never abandoned. Maggie Stiefvater’s Forever held a similar spot last year.  I read her new (thankfully stand alone) book, The Scorpio Races THREE times, but it took me six months to leave Mercy Falls.

Instead of finishing series, I endlessly start new ones. I read The Raven Boys, The Diviners, and Shadow and Bone this year—all three launch a new fantasy series. Perhaps, once I fall in love with a new world and new characters, I am reluctant to leave them. More likely, I enjoy falling in love over and over again.

Determined to finish what I have started—and purchased—I embrace the Book Gap Challenge. This year, I resolve to read more sequels. I invite you to reflect on your reading lives and join me in the Book Gap Challenge. What book is glaring at you? Whether it’s books with dragons on the cover (Yes, Mindi, I am talking to you), romance novels, or that Abraham Lincoln biography you bought last summer, we all have personal reading challenges. The Book Gap Challenge differentiates for every reader, recognizing individual needs and goals without competition.

Share your book gaps with other Nerdy readers and publicly declare your goal by posting a comment or linking to your blog post.

I have a copy of Shiloh if anyone wants it. There are two sequels:)

Donalyn Miller is a fourth grade teacher at Peterson Elementary in Fort Worth, TX. She is the author of The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child. Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy co-founder, Colby Sharp), and facilitates the Twitter reading initiative, #bookaday.