Assuming the #1 highlight of The Challenge will be finishing, topped off with my celebratory pie party, I give you the other 9 in all their glory:
#10. Finishing Tristram Shandy. No, Clarissa. No, Proust. There were many challenges within The Challenge, but some were more challenging than others.
#9. Working with Punchnel’s to publish a series of classic reviews adapted from this blog—not to mention my first-ever byline, 10 Reasons You Should Be Reading the Classics. (Yes, I cringe whenever I see this article and would rewrite every word if I could.) (Not to sound ungrateful, or anything.) (At least all the cringing means my writing has improved?) (Hopefully?)
#8. Learning to embrace book polygamy. Pre-Challenge, I was unable to avoid reading books simultaneously, but loudly and openly begrudged it. Now it’s unusual for me to read fewer than four books at once. I’ll probably scale back a little now that I’m reading mostly for “fun,” but I doubt I could ever be faithful to just one book again. It’s a two-book minimum for me from here on out, and my bookshelf doesn’t have any choice but to forgive.
#7. The many milestones along the way that served as motivation boosters: 50 books, 75 books, 80 books, and, especially, 90 books. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them beckoning me forward and cheering me on, except simmer in a stew of self-pity and resentment.
#6. Finally having my say, after years of silent frustration, on sexism in classic literature. Calling bullshit on this bullshit was more than satisfying. Just a few months later, I recorded a mini-podcast with SpareMin on bookish sexism and bookish feminism, because I hadn’t quite wrapped up my assault on the patriarchy.
Needless to say, I still have plenty of ammo left.
#5. Connecting with my fellow book bloggers, and trading views on everything from literary villains to logolepsy. Keep it up, blogosphere! I’m rooting for you.
#4. 2014. In 2014, I read Anna Karenina, Invisible Man, The Call of the Wild, Dangerous Liaisons, and One Hundred Years of Solitude, all of which ranked immediately among my most favoritest classics. Every time I came across a Lawrence, or a Faulkner, or a Steinbeck on The List, I just had to remind myself that a Tolstoy, or a London, or a Márquez waited right around the corner. Discovering authors like these served as compensation for the suffering I endured at the low points of The Challenge.
#3. Finding excuses to support indie bookstores like The Strand, McNally Jackson, Astoria Bookshop, Indy Reads, Trident Booksellers & Cafe, Sherman’s, and Le port de tête. Bookstores are, by now, more of an addiction than a hobby. But I have no regrets.
#2. Starting the Quick Reviews series in an attempt to spread myself a little thicker. This may have literally saved my life, assuming a blog can kill you. (At one point, I was convinced it could, and very well might.)
#1. See above.
The Challenge has had its ups and downs, most of which I’ve documented painstakingly over four years of blogging. YOU’RE WELCOME, INTERNET. And while I wouldn’t wish my bookshelf on anyone, we’ve been through so much together that friendship and affection were inevitable.
Just don’t tell it I said so.