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 last 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.
LOVE this post Donalyn!! Being a very late bloomer, my book gaps are more like book caverns. I am constantly torn between new titles and the oldie-but-goodies I missed along the way. My initial goal is to read more Newbery books and chip away at the Nerdies for 2011 and 2012 when they come out.
I also have a school goal to read more picture books to my 4th graders by starting 2013 with a picture book a day in January. I would LOVE any suggestions readers may have. You can visit my blog today to leave suggestion.
Oops..here’s the link http://thelatebloomersbookblog.blogspot.com/2012/12/picture-book-day-challenge.html
Here’s my post – please come and suggest sports books for me! (Ducks out of the way of the barrage of soccer, baseball, and dodge balls aiming her way)
Non-fiction in general fills up much of my book gap. However, I knew this since our Twitter conversation so I finished BOMB yesterday as my first book of #bookaday to try and remedy that.
Great Post Donalyn! My goal is to read more poetry and nonfiction in 2013. These book gaps were glaring at me when I voted in the Nerdys!
“The Power of Habit” is the first book gap book I need to finish. I borrowed it from our media specialist before it was cataloged. That was in September. This book seems apropos to this post!
Oh, how well you know me, my friend. I know you can’t comprehend how much I generally dislike books with dragons (and maps with endpapers), but because I have been forced over the past two years to read outside my comfort zone, I have found SOME that I enjoy.
I might… just might…. try some truly high fantasy this year, picking up The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings during my committee downtime.
Really, high fantasy and westerns are about the only genres I find myself avoiding. I love to read, and I will read just about anything if I am desperate enough.
This was a great post, and it’s a topic that I think is important for teachers to share with kids. Just as we have our own reading gaps, so do they have theirs. By encouraging students to fill those gaps, we just might help them find a genre they didn’t know they would like!
I recommend the Hobbit as a starter. I’ve tried to read Lord of the Rings a number of times and failed miserably, but the Hobbit was a delight to read
I am a 4th grade teacher too but will be sponsoring our middle school’s book club this spring. My gap is middle school titles (like Divergent and Matched). I need a suggested list– and fast!
I would start with the Nerdies lists from the past two years. Add Rot and Ruin and Chaos Walking if your are ready for two amazing, but harsh YA science fiction series.
We have the same job title, 4th grade teacher and middle school book club. We started our book club last spring. Don’t underestimate the popular with movie tie-in. We read Hunger Games last spring and finished in time to see the movie together on opening day. We did the same this fall with The Hobbit. I’m looking into Ender’s Game for next fall.
Glad to know I am not the only person who doesn’t read series all the way through. I do think, though, that I am probably the only person who has read the first 4 Harry Potter books but has never finished the series. It is my goal to finish Harry when I retire. I already have book number 5….
I agree that we all have book gaps and I work hard to listen when others suggest books that I am not likely to find on my own. Science fiction is one of my gaps, and graphica. Most of the time, I try to balance the rest…nonfiction, middle grade, young adult, poetry and illustrated books. There never seem enough hours in the day, week, month or year to read what has been recommended, what appeals and what is just around the corner. This is a thought provoking post, Donalyn and it gives me pause as I consider what to read next. My TBR shelves hold so many books that I just cannot bear to part with, despite constant culling to get to the ‘heart’ of them. I swear I can hear some calling my name in the middle of the night, as happened last night with THE KNEEBONE BOY…sleep ended at 5 am and wondrous reading began! Thanks so much for this thoughtful post.
Maud Casey once said, “I was born with a reading list I will never finish.” I think we both can relate, Sally! Happy reading year.
I have already told my students I pledge to read at least 50 NF books in 2013. It’s my biggest book gap for sure. Hoping to find a lot of great biographies, autobiographies and NF picture books. 🙂 Great post!
The Nerdy lists, Sibert medal lists, Orbis Pictus lists, and the YALSA NF lists provide an entry point for great NF titles. Good luck with your goal! A few years on book committees improved my NF chops, and I know you will enjoy reading the great titles available!
Embarrassed to admit I didn’t read To Kill a Mockingbird until this summer! More embarrassed to admit this: when I first started teaching I was up on all the classics but also the current popular children’s books. I don’t know why, but somehow I stopped keeping as current as I was then. I also tend to have my favorite genres, and avoid certain genres such as fantasy. But if I am asking my students to expand their horizons, I need to do the same. Also, how can I recommend books to readers if my own choices are so limited? Out of respect to, and because of the badgering by, one of my students this year I will be reading the Percy Jackson series. Also, because of seeing such great recommendations thru my Twitter community, I’ve picked up the Origami Yoda book and will read all in that series. I’m actually looking forward to more reading, and believer me, I have had worse problems than too many books, too little time! Happy reading all, and let’s keep each other posted on our new discoveries!
Your comment made me smile. I also teach 4th grade and I have read Origami Yoda and liked it a lot. I did not realized at the time that it would be a series. and I have not read the others. I also recently read the first two in The Lightning Thief series and don’t plan to finish it. I REALLY liked them, but I needed to move on. Happy reading to you!
Thanks, Gigi! Looking forward to catching up on some reading over Winter Break. Finished my Christmas shopping today at my local bookstore and really had to restrain myself from buying even more books: looked at and thought about Lunch Lady series, Babymouse & Squish, forced myself to wait. Did treat myself to The Fault in Our Stars- not for my 3rd graders, just for myself- because have heard so much about it.
I agree that we need to challenge ourselves, so that we can promote books to as many kids as possible. By our example, we encourage children to challenge themselves, too.
Last year I felt I needed to read more Fantasy/Science Fiction and thanks to my Batty about Books partner, I did. I also found I don’t love those genres as much as I thought I did! When looking at the Nerdies 2012 Nominees, I realized I don’t read enough poetry or picture book nonfiction. I also want to read more adult books.
I too have Bitterblue, Froi, Island of Silence, Drowned Cities, and Son sitting on my shelves waiting. I blame the time of the release. I will get to them. I will.
Add Drowned Cities and Son to my pile, too! I read more poetry and NF now because I am on a book committee, but these were both weak areas in the past.
This is just a great article about a problem that all book lovers face. Excellent!
The Nerdy Book Club nominees glared at me as book gaps – I read very few non-fiction and poetry books. I would also like to read a more adult titles and professional literature. Read more about my book gap challenge here http://papertwoways.blogspot.com/2012/12/book-gap-challenge.html if you would like.
Thanks for the great post, Donalyn! 🙂
I’m pretty current- a 15 year death march through my entire middle school library made sure of that, but lately Ihaven’t felt like reading all of the new books I need to! I guess I have a slump rather than a gap. Once I made my way through The Silmarillion, I knew I could get through anything!
When I am in a slump, I often retread an old favorite. It helps!
Interesting post! I’m personally kind of tired of series. So many novels feel unfinished to me. It’s like writers have forgotten how to write a complete story arc within a single book. It used to be that a writer wrote a book, and if it sold well and was embraced by readers, the writer would write a sequel. Now, publishers buy so many trilogies and series up-front that there doesn’t seem to be enough energy invested in creating ONE great, solid, stand-alone book. I end up reading first books but being disappointed and feeling cheated and not feeling invested enough that I feel like I HAVE to read that next one. (Boy, do I sound grumpy.)
Your post really made me think. I struggle to balance books I want to read because 1) they sound great;2) I want to be part of the larger kidlit discussion; 3) they’re in the forms/genres I write in and I need to stay on top of those; 4) they’re written by people I know; or 5) they’re written by people whose books I’ve liked before, even though the new book might not sound quite as great to me. And there are probably other categories, too! Suffice it to say, I’m always behind.
My gap that I’m going to work on is in beginning readers and chapter books. I’m going to try to close that gap right up in 2013:>) Thanks for this post–helped me clarify my thoughts a little to reply to it!
I appreciate a great stand alone novel and agree with you about the glut of unnecessary, prolonged series.
All those books that have been sitting around for months or years? I’m idealistic enough (or delusional enough) to think that I’ll eventually get to them.
This creates some living space issues–no doubt about it.
Thanks for this fun piece!
I joked on Twitter this week that the book Christmas trees popping up on Pinterest and Facebook were actually repurposed to-read piles. Maybe, we can find a creative use for our piles, Gary!
Tony and I are in–Tony reading romance and I am trying an adventure….http://readingyear.blogspot.com/2012/12/bookgapchallenge.html
I loved HIVE and Shiver. So I am interested in your challenge!
My goal for next year sounds a little strange: I am choosing not to share everything I read with the general public. As much as I love posting what I’ve read on Goodreads and keeping a “currently reading” list on my blog, I’m longing for a bit of privacy as far as book choice goes. I’ll continue to discuss some titles, but will keep my complete reading list to myself.
I look forward to reading what I feel like when I want and not answering to anyone (real or imagined!) for it. This year I’m reclaiming and nurturing my love of reading by letting myself go wild in any way I choose. It will be magical, I already know it.
I understand your need to keep your reading life private. I hope you enjoy a marvelous year of wild reading.
Aagggh. .. I’ve got a whole shelf of nonfiction that ONCE looked so appetizing. Do I HAFTA!!!?? I turn tail and run right back to YA, MG and adult fiction every time. OK, Mrs. Miller, You’ve convinced me. At least one hairy, adult NF a month for 2013. I promise!
Have you read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand? It was amazing!
My book gap right now is books for middle grade readers. After years of teaching primary, I moved to fifth grade this year. I have been reading like crazy for the last six months, but feel like I have a lot to go to catch up. I need to balance my reading of new titles with older ones, as well as fiction with nonfiction. I had done pretty well with the middle grade fiction short list, but not so well with the nonfiction. Starting to rectify that over break – I am in the middle of BOMB, and have others from the Nerdy short list checked out of the library.
Becky, I moved from 6th to 4th grade this year. Like you, I feel like I need to catch up on so many books for my students. I’m sure this is one of the reasons I am behind on YA and upper grade series. I’m trying to improve my 4th grade chops!
My book gap is poetry, by a long shot. The only poetry book I read this year was Step Gently Out, and that hardly counts since it was also a picture book.
I’m lucky (or cursed) because I love all genres, as long as the book is good. So there’s always plenty to read. Too much to read. But I will try to get a few more poetry books in. I promise.
Like you, I will read anything. It’s fun to step back and challenge ourselves in new ways, though!
I am new to the blog after attending the GWRC conference where Donalynn spoke. I am now a twetter. My kids are laughing!!!! I would add The List and Thirteen Reasons Why to the pile. Bullying is such a problem and the more we can use books as bibliotherapy to open discussions, the better we will know our students’ needs. Donalynn thanks for agreat conference.
I am so bad about starting series and never finishing them too!!! I think my Kindle is full of books that I have to finish the series, but need to reread the others first because it’s been so long. To name a few- Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, Soul Screamers by Rachel Vincent, Significance by Shelley Crane, Warriors of Anhk by Samantha Young, and Fire Spirits by Samantha Young. I’m sure there are more. Perhaps this summer (once school is out), I’ll have time to sit down, reread and finish these wonderful series.
I have got to read more classic lit and non-fiction! http://chickadeejubilee.blogspot.com/2012/12/2012-book-review.html
Have to read more fantasy/sci fi/dystopian stuff so I have books to recommend to middle school readers. And mostly I hate it. Never got beyond book two of Harry Potter!
Scifi and nonfiction are my main gaps, but fantasy is patchy too. I think I rely too much on the fact that I know lots of books, but there are always so many more waiting. I just finished Kateessner’s Eye of the Storm and really enjoyed it, so onward and upward!
My tastes in books is similar to my taste in music. I read everything but romance and listen to everything except country. Although, I am a polite person so if another person is listening to country I don’t make them change the music, but I don’t have to read any romance novels. I am constantly pushing myself to read a variety so that I have vast knowledge and don’t get stuck in a rut. I will think about reading a romance novel but no guarantees. I do have some books that I have had for a few years that I haven’t read yet, but they are stuck back in storage while I am overseas so they are just going to have to wait until I return someday as I don’t want to buy them again. I do try and check them out on my Kindle through the library back home if I can though.
Where do I begin? Non-fiction is definitely a big gap for me, and one that needs to be filled, especially with our school’s emphasis on it (thank you common core). But, so are many of the classics lost in that gap, having grown up in a high school with “progressive” teachers who thought studying song lyrics and current event stories was more important than reading classics. I started reading some in my mid to late 20s, and LOVED them, but time is always an issue, so although I read the first Anne of Green Gables, I never read others, and although I’ve read Jane Eyre several times and Wuthering Heights and Tale of Two Cities, other great classics have ben missed. I have read 355 books so far this year, but many of those have been picture books, so my challenge too is to increase the number of chapter books to outnumber the picture books. My total may not be as high at the end of 2013, but I’ll have read just as much.
This post is so timely! We have a new member in my adult book club and at her first meeting with us, Michelle confessed “I never read fiction. I only read nonfiction.” I looked around in panic … because I rarely read nonfiction. So there is my Book Gap Challenge! Thank you, Donalyn for reminding us that you’re never too experienced of a reader to try something new.
Great post! Love it. I try to encourage my students to read widely in my classroom and have been trying to read along with them. My Book Gap would be poetry (both for myself and for my 8th grade classroom).
My biggest gap would be realistic fiction. Since I also teach science and formerly social studies, I tend to read a lot of NF. I love fantasy and sci fi. Realistic fiction usually gets left off the list.
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I’ve reviewed my reading and made my Gap Challenge Goals on my blog! http://www.hollymueller.blogspot.com. Thanks for the thoughtful post!
I too would like to focus on reading more non fiction in this coming year. That’s my #1 gap. I also find myself getting caught up in the new releases and would like to devote more time to books that have already started collecting dust on my to-read pile waiting on my nightstand.
Thank you for this insightful post, Donalyn!
Happy New Years Nerds!!!
Nonfiction & poetry are definitely the bulk of my book gap. I plan to peruse all the Nerdy lists and get started ASAP!
Well, I have numerous book gaps, large and looming! A bookcase of unread books! However, talking to my partner, I realized I have one book gap so large I didn’t even recognize it: I’ve never read and don’t even think about reading Dean Koontz or Clive Cussler or Sue Grafton, etc. High school kids read these; their parents read these; other important people in my life read these. And I didn’t even see the gap! So, that’s the one I’ll aim to close next year. I’ll keep trying to plug away at the others, but it’s time to face this glaring blind spot.
I’m glad to be a reader-with-gaps in such great company. 🙂
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When do you plan, sleep,…? I am new to fourth grade this year, after spending 13 years in second grade, and I am struggling to find time to brush my teeth let alone read over 600 books. I would love to do this at some point, any tips?
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