A Reading Challenge for Spring
While the concept of a temporally-bound reading challenge is one I find very alluring, actually finishing one is a success I’ve never personally experienced. This year, in an effort to prioritize both reading and sustainable self-care, I’m working on setting myself some more manageable, bite-sized challenges.
If you’re interested in joining me, here’s what I propose: a three-book seasonal reading challenge to usher in the spring. The more I think about it, the more I’m not only excited about the selections I’ve made, but also about the real possibility that this is a challenge I can and will finish. I want to imbue these next few months and reads with as much meaning and springtime symbolism as I can, and I’ve devised these challenge parameters with that goal in mind. Follow along for the three challenges (one per month of spring) I’ve set for myself and the books I’m thinking about reading to fulfill them.
For many people and many traditions, the arrival of spring functions as a much more relevant start to the new year than January does. Personally, the more attuned I’ve become with my own mental health—and the more I’ve oriented my life around a non-school conceptualization of the seasons—the more I’ve recognized the logic and sometimes necessity of this practice.
To really establish the spring as the beginning of my year, I’m going to start by reading one of the books that’s been an untouched entry in my ongoing TBR list for years now. For me, that means one of the many graphic novels I’ve set my sights on but never made time for, specifically Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. Knowing our community, I’m sure many of you don’t struggle with committing to graphic novels the way I do. But nevertheless, the premise remains the same: To jumpstart the challenge, let’s pick something that’s definitely manageable—perhaps a poetry or essay collection if you’re all caught up on your graphic novels. And remember to choose something you’ve been meaning to read for ages. Spring is the perfect time for a reset, the perfect time to check one of those long-time TBR titles off your list.
One of the consistencies you’ll find with spring-related celebrations is a focus on the power of the Earth as a never-ending force of life and rebirth. However, there are many reasons why that perspective needs to be shaken up; we need to confront the reality that the Earth is not nearly as indestructible as we’ve imagined it to be. Here’s an excerpt from the review of N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season that convinced me of its appropriateness for this theme:
“In this world, social oppression is an irresistible and natural force, but nature isn’t seen through a green-colored wash of sentiment. Nature is trying to kill you and every other living thing, is going to kill you, now or in a century or in a thousand years. Yet there is no message of hopelessness here. In Jemisin’s work, nature is not unchangeable or inevitable.”
There’s a lot I like in this analysis of Jemisin’s story. I like the implication that, in this world, the Earth is a force to be reckoned with and is perceived as such. In our own world, we would do well to foster a little more of that kind of reverence. It’s something I often think about during the spring, and adding The Fifth Season to the lineup seems an appropriate way to take the concept into even more dedicated consideration. So, to sum it up, the second part of our springtime reading challenge can be fulfilled by any book that deals with the Earth or nature as a primary element of the story. I personally like the idea of sticking to fiction, but a nonfiction classic like Silent Spring by conservationist Rachel Carson might also be a poignant choice.
Something I’ve been working on lately that seems particularly relevant to this challenge is finding ways to fit reading into my life versus rearranging my life to fit in reading. While I hope to steadily prioritize recreational reading in my adult life more and more, setting lofty one-hour-every-day-type goals has never been effective for me. Instead, I’ve been thinking about how to merge reading with other parts of my life I can’t or am unwilling to shift aside. For me, that includes everything from everyday drudgery, like commuting to work and cleaning, to activities I actually enjoy, like cooking and walking and taking baths. I am very attracted to the idea of adding an extra layer of intentionality to these moments this season to pay a little tribute to the idea of balance that seems to permeate most spring rituals.
There are certain types of books I like to listen to instead of read, and those are the genres I’ll probably pick from. Generally speaking, they’re books I want for the story more than the details. For example, I like to listen to books I read a long time ago and want to experience again in a new way. I also like to listen to fantasy or science fiction books I’d like to have read, but don’t necessarily care quite enough about to merit replacing more pressing reads with them. Something like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley might be nice in that sense. Reading nonfiction via audiobooks is also really great for those of us who are so drawn to fiction that all of the true-but-still-amazing stories that exist in the world end up falling through the cracks. I think that will be the route I take with this one, as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird is a title I’ve been theoretically itching to get my hands on for a while now, but have yet to commit to. Listening to this book will allow me to easily take what’s helpful or inspiring and leave what’s not, while also getting something else done. It’ll be a good initial step to establishing a more lasting Reading life/Life life balance.
While working on this post, I did a bit of research about the history of Celtic and Germanic springtime traditions in order to spark inspiration for pertinent reads. So, in conclusion, I’ll leave you with some of my finds. As I mentioned, most ubiquitously, spring is a time of renewal. However, it’s also a time to celebrate youthful perspectives and energies, which made me think of all of the childhood favorites I’ve been meaning to take another look at. Maybe obviously, spring is also the time many people cleanse and organize their spaces and lives in preparation for the rest of the year. Combining that idea with reading made me think about this video of Rosianna Halse Rojas and generally the concept of giving beloved books away to friends and family. Finally, the spring represents the concept of the feminine generally. Goddess-based traditions surrounding spring naturally hold a lot of reference to the concept of the feminine spirit. And while this idea definitely has its problematic elements, the prospect of reclaiming this time to shore up on my feminist reading is definitely in the cards.
It’s my hope that something here catches your attention and inspires you to think about reading as less of the thing we’ve all drifted a bit away from. Instead, maybe we can think of it as something that happens in cycles, like the seasons themselves, and let this be a season of reading.