Create your own reading festival

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

Reading has been a huge part of my life, since, well, almost forever.  I loved being read to as a child and once I could read I enjoyed learning new things that came from understanding print.  Exploring different literary periods at university enhanced my insatiable need to consume the printed word.  A few years back I set myself a goal of reading fifty books in the year. I ended up reading many more than that.  It was a great experiment and afforded me the opportunity to explore different genres and forms of writing. Since then I have been reading anything that takes my fancy: I’ve read whole series, one-off books of interest, recommendations from friends, plays, novels, non-fiction etc.  At times I’ve struggled to select books and found myself hankering for a little guidance in my selections.

Now that the new year has begun and many of us are pondering the terrain ahead and how we can make it joyful, I’ve been inspired to consider focusing my reading choices and reading with purpose.

My son was the first point of inspiration.  He discovered a book reading challenge where you read a book every two weeks from a different category.  Categories include a book:

  • you read in school
  • from your childhood
  • published over 100 years ago
  • set in your hometown/region
  • with someone’s name in the title
  • with a number in the title
  • with a character with your first name
  • you can finish in a day
  • previously banned
  • with a one-word title
  • translated from another language
  • that’s a memoir or journal
  • set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year.

Sounds like fun. Check out this link for more ideas.

Then I read my friend Nicole Cody’s blog and she had an interesting take on a reading challenge and it sits very nicely with the idea of paying it forward and donating to charity.  Her idea is to read a book a month, put aside a small amount of money for each book read and then at then end of the year buy a book and donate it to charity for Christmas.  How neat is that?

Tim Ferriss, in his 5 bullet Friday, always has some interesting book recommendations – things I would not select myself.  He is a great source for reading inspiration, as is Pinterest, the weekend newspaper and Avid Reader bookshop.

Having been motivated by the two reading challenge ideas and having good sources for recommendations (although I do have enough unread books on my shelves and in my kindle that I probably don’t need to purchase a book this year) I am going to combine the two ideas and read at least a book a month from a different category, putting aside a few dollars for each book I read to purchase one for  someone in hospital, a nursing home or shelter at the end of the year.

Where will your reading take you this year?

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In training, with purpose and passion

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Purpose is the reason you journey, passion is the fire that lights your way.
Author unknown

I went for a walk yesterday.  No big deal, yet a few things surprised me about this.  You see, it was a pretty long walk. I’d decided to head off for a 23 k stroll and, as Mother Nature would have it, it was blowing a gale with winter westerly winds reaching 41 kilometres throughout the day (pretty wild and woolly for an urban area). The wind chill made the already low temperatures of about 7-10 feel at least a couple of degrees cooler, and that’s pretty low for this normally tropical neck of the woods.

I concede,  these temps  and wind speeds  are pretty moderate, almost nothing in comparison to other places in the world. When I consider my husband sat atop Mt Cook in 169 km winds, I’m almost embarrassed.  Anyway, why am I proud of myself in light of this information? Well, to walk twenty-three kilometres  in a day is a serious undertaking for me and I usually balk at roaming about in weather, preferring instead to rug up, sip tea and read in a quiet, sheltered nook inside.  I can usually find, without much trouble, any small excuse to delay such an undertaking.

But yesterday was different. I was excited about heading off on this walk. I was focused on it and  determined. I’d packed, I had decided what to wear to minimise bulk and excess (should it warm up) yet stay warm. I had  transportable food for lunch, water for hydration. I was set. Not even the remote possibility of a coffee and a chat with my son, who was visiting, stopped me from stepping out the door and heading off into the wild blue morning.

So what was different about yesterday?  (I questioned this myself as I was on my home stretch.)

I had purpose and I had passion.  Two key ingredients to making anything possible.

Since returning from a life changing trip to Nepal I’ve had a hunger. A gnawing need to do something of value and I’ve had an itch to challenge myself physically, in ways I’ve not yet explored ( a crazy thing for someone who hasn’t been a sporting type and nearing, okay, past but just past, middle age). I am temporarily satisfying these burning desires by supporting research for Mitochondrial Disease by joining The Bloody Long Walk.  It’s a  35 kilometre one day walk across my fair city. I’m walking on my own, though I won’t be alone by any means and while I haven’t found anyone willing to join me for the outing I have had many wonderful people support my quest with donations and playful promises to cheer me on from their armchairs while sipping tea. I am heartily warmed by their faith in me, their goodwill and their kindness in donating to this great cause.

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So, I stepped outside, into a blustery day, to continue my training for this event. During a few days at the beach last week I extended my usual five kilometre walk to a few 12 and 14 k efforts before breakfast. It’s not to hard when you get to see the sun come up over the ocean. Look, I know it’s only a walk, it’s not like I’m running a marathon or doing a triathlon but 35 kilometres in a day takes some planning. With a 5 am shuttle bus ride to the starting line and a 7 o’clock kick off I wanted to get a sense of how long it might take me. Yesterday was a good gauge. I had some questions answered about equipment, supplies etc, which was handy. But most of all I really enjoyed myself. I packed my iPod, something I rarely use, thinking I might get bored. It stayed in the bottom of my pack.  Instead, I simply enjoyed just being. I was in the moment. There were no thoughts of what else had to be done, where else I could be. I was purposefully engaged and I was enlivened by it, as well as by the wind and the crisp air.

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Having this small challenge ahead of me is providing a focus and a purpose that is shaping my thoughts and actions in ways I am quietly amazed by. There is a saying that ‘the purpose of life is a life with purpose’ and boy does it make a difference.

What is driving you forward at the moment?

If you are interested in finding out more about Mitochondrial Disease and how you too can help, click here.

Shannyn