Okay, I admit it. I said MY reading challenge. It is…and it isn’t.
Three years ago, I created a private group on FB and invited only friends to join, if they wanted to do so. I had seen a bunch of online challenges where people read different types of books, some used Bingo cards, some used the alphabet, some only read certain genres, and others were over-the-top complicated or underwhelmingly self-promotion where all the books were by the same publisher. Yawn.
Enter the PolyWogg Reading Challenge. MINE would be different! I’d pull from the best, discard the rest; I’d find some hooks, we’d embrace the same books! Okay, so poetry wasn’t on the list.
Annnnd I made it too complicated. I tried creating a Bingo Card-style exercise, and while it was okay, it wasn’t really creating a “sharing” atmosphere. We were all reading different things at different times. More like people travelling at the same time but to different destinations and with different modes of transport. The only thing we had in common was that we were reading.
Year 2, 2020, I tweaked the setup. I asked for feedback from the handful of people subscribed, we chose some themes/categories, and I added simple badges. It worked, generally, and I tweaked it a bit more for Year 3.
In January, I set the themes for each month of the year, and based on the input from people, I generally have three types of books to read:
a. Reader’s choice — anything they want can fit in here, no one has to listen to me and my choices, they can be REBEL READERS! Embrace their anarchy!
b. Thematic choice — I give a bit of guidance for the theme / category but usually there is a fair bit of room for choice (as people requested); and,
c. Challenge books — these are often a bit denser, and while I sometimes give wide choice, sometimes I pick 2 or 3 books that I want to read and thus putting them on the list helps encourage me to read at least one of them!
Over the last two years, some members have added a few more people, and we have just over 20 or so subscribers. But in any given month, probably only 8 or 9 active posters.
I suspected that we could potentially morph into a traditional book club where in any given month, we might all be reading the same thing. That absolutely hasn’t happened. But what I really like is the sharing and interaction between members. One person will read a book, and recommend it, and then next month or the month after that, the same title shows up on other people’s list for the month, based on the earlier review. People have shared books in physical form too.
But what I love about all of this is that not all of them know each other. They mostly all know me, although a couple are 2 degrees of separation away through another member. And while some of them know each other more than that, most of them primarily interact in the forum. That’s their connection.
Which I didn’t exactly expect, but I should have, probably. When I ran my trivia game by email back in the late 90s, some of the people met through my game and asked to connect to other players who they were competing with regularly. The other person agreed to “match” emails, so they connected. And started talking. Plus I am still friends with someone on FB that I met through that trivia game, a friend of a friend of a friend of someone I barely knew.
I really enjoy reading people’s feedback on the books they are reading, as well as seeing the interactions between people who mainly only know each other through the group. It’s small, it’s intimate, and I would be open to it growing a bit larger, but I would never want it to get above 20-30 active people I don’t think. I like the 2 degrees of separation feel to it.
And interacting with people about books, instead of memes or the news? That always brings me joy.