Sunday, January 15, 2012

Essay Reading Challenge - 2012

For someone who proclaims to love essays, I sure don't read many (any). In fact, a year ago this month I wrote:
I want to read more essays. I have many books of them, and they sit unread year after year.

So what better way to encourage myself than to join an essay challenge.

If you’re an avid essay reader, or just want to expand your reading horizons a bit, this is the challenge for you. If you’re thinking, “What would I read?” – stay tuned: I’ll have a post up with suggestions later in the week.

~ This challenge runs from January 1, 2012 through November 30, 2012.

~ If you read a book of essays, that book can also apply to any other challenges you are working on.

~ Choose a goal of reading 10, 20, or 30 essays...

~You don’t have to list your essays ahead of time – just have fun reading throughout the year.

Addendum~ Everyone who completes the challenge and writes at least one review will be eligible for the giveaway prize: A copy of Best American Essays 2012.

I'm excited about this. My goal is a small one, 10 essays, but if I read that many, I'll be 10 ahead of any other year.

How Should One Read A Book? by Virginia Woolf - read January 25.
Out The Window by Donald Hall - read in January and wrote about in May.


  1. Hi there Nan. Thanks for dropping by my blog today and just so you know, yes that was water in that image on my blog.:)
    I have to say that the 'essay' has been a writing form that I have so often associated with school. And therefore the essay has unfortunately always conjured up a somewhat negative image in my mind. I recall writing essay upon essay based solely on my understanding of what the teacher wanted to hear/read. As a writing form it seemed so restrictive to me. It imposed all these set rules and basic structures and features of a text that I felt coerced to write something that was dry and boring.
    Anyway, please excuse the rant on essays as I am speaking solely from the perspective of a writer.

    However, I may just need to re-visit this form as a reader and see how it can be done in a creative and appealing manner. Thanks Nan for getting me thinking about this.

  2. Anglo, if you go here:

    she addresses this very feeling about essays! Maybe it will encourage you to join. There are so many interesting essays out there on any imaginable topic.

  3. I'll join in and am placing a hold at my library for "Best American Essays 2010". This is a resource some other participants may want to use; our library system has back copies, so I may look at them also. Annie

  4. Annie Joy, I own the 2009 version edited by Mary Oliver. I've had it since it came out and never opened it. Hence, this challenge! That's great that you're going to join. I think it will be fun to be amongst essay readers.

    Thanks for coming back, Anglo.

  5. Welcome to the challenge! I thought I'd let your commenters know that if they join, and complete their challenge goal, they have a chance to win a copy of Best American Essays 2012.

  6. I read several books of essays last year. Clive James, Susan Hill's book on reading, and I Can't Stay Long by Laurie Lee which was *magical*... highly recommend it. Good luck with this one, Nan.

  7. Nan, my reading list is so long, and I am such a slow reader, that I think I will pass on this challenge. But my favorite essayist is Nancy Mairs. I would recommend her Plain Text to you for a truly fresh perspective of living with a chronic illness (MS). She has written sentences that have stopped me in mid-read just to read their complexity over and over again.

    Also, there is the humor of David Sedaris. Oh, I know what you're thinking... but the Brits have nothing on us. LOL

  8. This sounds like it might be fun. I wasn't going to join a lot of challenges this year, but you've picked some that are appealing to me. We'll see how organized I get! :)

  9. Perhaps educational essays should be given a different name - they are certainly very different to those produced by writers, who create work in this format that is rarely dry and boring, and is never conscripted by rules. With many of them the authorial voice shines through in a way that is not always possible in a novel or short story -I suppose they are more akin to pieces written by magazine and newspaper columnists.

  10. Carrie, thanks for noting that. I'll go into the blog entry and add it.

    Oh, Cath, that poem by Clive James I posted a while back was so good that I'd love to read more by him.

    I don't think of Howards End on the Landing as essays, but of course they really are. Oh, how I love that book. And I simply must start reading Laurie Lee. I have two of his books.

    Webster, thank you for the recommendation. I just visited her website, and I am very interested.
    I'm not such a Sedaris fan, though I shouldn't say that without reading him, right?!

    Les, I'm not sure I am that organized, but I do want to read from all these challenges.

  11. Crisscross, thank you. I hope that anglo comes back to read this. All the essays I've ever read make for great reading. I'm thinking of E.B. White and Noel Perrin in particular, but there are so, so many wonderful writers of essays.

  12. I think this is a good use of a challenge. I should probably join this too as I love to read essays. I really like reading food essays, and humor, as some one already mentioned, David Sedaris. I look forward to your suggestions later in the week.

  13. Nan,

    I don't think I have read a single essay since leaving university. I'm keen to give the challenge a go - I look forward to some suggestions of where to get started with the reading!


  14. I love essays. I write essays on my blog and, in fact, my single "page" on my blog is an essay about the essay form, and why I've undertaken to write them!

    I'm so glad to know about this challenge. Trying to figure out how to fit everything into the year is turning out to be quite a challenge on its own, but I might have to take this reading challenge on. Thanks for bringing our attention to it!

  15. Read my latest blog for a wonderful book of essays

  16. As a reader and writer of essays, I have to confess that I enjoy essays and memoirs much more than fiction these days. I will be eager to follow along with you as you take this challenge, Nan! :)

  17. Margot, that's what I thought. Ten doesn't sound like too many, but it will get me going on the road to reading more, I think.

    One Hungry Hen, if you go here, there are suggestions.

    Shoreacres, I haven't thought about it before but yes, many blog writers are writing little essays about all kinds of things. So, I guess I have been reading essays!

    Cait, I did, and it looks great!

    Aisling, I think it will be fun.

  18. I'm not officially entering challenges these days, but this sounds like a great one! I read at least a few collections a year, and I love it. Yay for essays! :)

  19. Rebecca, I think it will be fun, and a great encouragement to me.


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