Community Voices: It’s time to challenge yourself to read more

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies. From making bookstore purchases and browsing library shelves to swapping books at the used book store or with friends, I was surrounded by stories during my childhood. I’ve remained an avid reader, and while I don’t always get to read the number of books that I’d like, I do keep a list of must reads.

For other readers who have long book lists, here’s a chance to reignite that passion.

Written magazine, in coordination with the Hammonds House Museum in the West End, is sponsoring a 30-Books-in-90-Days challenge. Scheduled to begin in June with the Summer Soiree kickoff event at the museum, the reading challenge is free and open to the public.

Michelle Gipson, founder and publisher of Written magazine, created the initiative a way to “encourage people to take a moment away from the hustle and bustle of summer.”

Now in its fifth year, the idea for the challenge came from the abundance of summer reading challenges for children and the chance to let adults to join in the fun. “There’s an escapism that comes with fiction,” Gipson said. “And there’s no better time to do that than in the summer.”

This year, the challenge will feature a scavenger hunt as a fun motivator to get folks reading outside of their regular genre and to inject some variety, which could include reading a book that is 20 years old or older, or reading a book by an author you’ve never read before. Participants share their titles and get introduced to new authors.

“And kids watching their parents reading may encourage them to pick up a book,” Gipson said.

While there are book suggestions, participants are free to structure their reading lists as they please. The only requirement is that it is a chapter book. “In past years, people have shared their personal challenges, like reading books of the Bible or classics from their youth,” Gipson said. There is no restriction on book form, as participants read paper books, e-books and audio books.

Gipson’s own book list includes, “Loving Donovan,” a novel by Bernice L. McFadden and “Shirley, I Jest!,” the new memoir by actress Cindy Williams of Laverne & Shirley TV fame.

Over the years, the challenge has reached over 400 people, with participants from as far away as California and Australia. Groups of strangers come together online for the challenge, but Gipson stresses that it is not a competition but a community. “The camaraderie is amazing and we never want that to change.”

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