Reading Challenge

When Frank and I first met, I invited him to my book club. After grad school, a friend and I started a monthly book club called Books and Beer. We met at bars, and one of the goals of the club was to meet intelligent guys. He started coming, and we got to know each other through lively discussions for a few months before he asked me out. (Once we got engaged, he stopped coming….) An important criteria had already been met, before we even started dating: He loved books and learning.

We have fairly similar tastes in books: We both love nonfiction, biographies, and history. The subject matter tends to differ – I am drawn to stories, spirituality, social justice, women’s rights, and food matters. Frank enjoys adventure, Roosevelt, running biographies, and inspirational speakers. Over the years, we have exchanged some old favorites, but not many. In December, I did read Coming Out of the Ice, one of Frank’s all-time favorites. While it wasn’t one of my favorites, I did appreciate finally reading it. Many connections that came up in our discussions finally made sense, and it was nice to talk with him about a book that has deeply impacted him.

I mentioned before that last year was a record year for me, in terms of reading. I ended the year with 41 books read. Last year was also a record year for Frank, but at the opposite end of the spectrum: He only finished 3 books. For a lover of quiet time and new information, this was discouraging for him. Work has been nonstop and he wants to spend as much time with Bea as possible, so reading has taken a backseat in his priorities.

Last week, Sarah Bessey shared a reading challenge: In an effort to cross the borders of differing genre and theme, she and her husband will each read a book per month that the other has chosen. I loved the idea of choosing books ahead of time; of sharing with each other books that have challenged us or changed us or captured our imagination. Because of tax season, being parents to an active toddler, and my various book club commitments, we decided to tweak our challenge: We each chose 6 books for the other to read, giving us 2 months to read each book. We also chose one new book to read together.

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My books for Frank:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright
The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Frank’s books for me:
Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
We the Living by Ayn Rand
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Together, we’ll read The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis.

I love that our lists tell so much about us. If you don’t know us, the books we chose for each other will give a glimpse into our personalities; If you do know us, they should make perfect sense. Frank has already started the Omnivore’s Dilemma and I just began The Millionaire Next Door. Even if we don’t give 5-star ratings to these books, I love that we are honoring each other and learning more about our views and values.

If you could do a reading challenge with someone, who would it be? What top books would you include?

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19 thoughts on “Reading Challenge

  1. What a wonderful way to get greater insight into each other. Not sure what I would pick for Pat. He is not a huge reader.

  2. This is such a great idea! I’m going to suggest it to Michael. Your list is great, and has a few I would also have on my list as well (half the sky, p&p…). We’ll see if we can make time with a new baby!

    1. How old is your baby? I think I read the most after the fog of sleepless nights and before true mobility…. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I think Half the Sky should be read by everyone, but men especially. Can’t wait to discuss it with Frank!

  3. I’m actually doing Jon Acuff’s “Empty Shelf Challenge” on Pinterest. You empty a shelf in your home and the challenge is to read and fill up that empty shelf throughout the year. In looking at other’s boards, I get ideas for books I might want to read.

    If I could exchange with someone and pick 5 books for them to read, they would be:

    Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
    Unchained by Mac Gober
    American on Purpose by Craig Ferguson
    The Fear of the Lord by John Bevere
    Sophie’s Heart by Lori Wick

  4. I love this idea! And … I believe I have your copy of Surprised by Hope. ๐Ÿ™‚ I will bring it next time we do dinner!

  5. The Brothers Karamazov? Wow! Iain began to read this when we were engaged, and only finished it a couple of months ago. And he is a good and fast reader! I have to say he read other things at the same time and did finish other books while he was still reading it, but 2 months to read it in is setting the bar high!

    We read a book together out loud most nights, and recently finished The Meaning of Marriage by Tim and Kathy Keller. A fantastic book, but again, it took us ages to finish! We’re thinking of something with shorter sentences next.

    I hate being under pressure to read and don’t get on well with challenges as a result. It must be the rebel in me, but I end up reading less when I set goals (even for myself!!) in this department! But To Kill A Mockingbird would be on my list for anyone! That, and The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn immediately came to mind. You’ll have to let me know what you think of Out of the Silent Planet – I have often planned on reading it, but never got round to it!

    1. Well, after only 3 books last year, he needs a challenge! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love that you guys read out loud. Frank read to the baby while I was pregnant and I loved that time. He read mostly kids chapter books – the Chronicles of Narnia, etc. I love challenges, but I think that’s the list-maker in me: Something to “check!” off.

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