In the 2015 Reading Challenge — complete at least fifty-two books from 52 categories — I find by the end of April that I’ve fallen a little behind. And it gets worse: I’ve resorted to a bit of cheating.
Yes, I know, “cheat, and you cheat yourself”. When I was a classroom teacher I couldn’t understand the classroom cheater — why would anyone want to pretend to be brainier than they were, especially when they would almost always be caught out? And video game ‘cheats’, which allow you to progress to higher levels without the graft, they’re not only accepted but have for many years been built into games, a kind of institutionalised acceptance that cheating’s OK. What about those ‘Get more followers!’ invitations, encouraging you to pretend that you are really popular on social media by buying up votes, just like corrupt politicians?
So, yes, I’m cheating, and I’m cheating myself. Am I also kidding myself by saying that this is just a fun personal challenge, and that nobody else gets hurt?
Here’s the extent of my wickedness: you be the judge.
One of the edicts is to ‘Read a book based on a true story‘. Now I think I’m right in saying that the intent behind this is for the reader to pick a novelised version of true events. So is it OK to nominate the non-fiction study The Alice Behind Wonderland? I think it may well be bending the rules but, hey, I’m going for it. I hold up my hand — I’m a cheat.
At least the other titles don’t — I think — court controversy. The book I finished in a day? Neil Gaiman’s Odd and the Frost Giants, a bedtime read that I completed the next morning. Kiki Hamilton’s The Faerie Ring was a book by an author I’ve never read before. But how to fit Contested Will: who wrote Shakespeare? into one of the categories? Try as I might I couldn’t find a challenge remaining after the ones I’ve already used that I can shoehorn Shapiro’s investigation into. I couldn’t even cheat!
But then I remembered: this is supposed to be a fun personal challenge, not a test or an occupational questionnaire or an interview form, nor even a bucket list. I don’t have to restrict myself to fifty-two books, or to the categories listed, I don’t even have to complete the challenge! So, no need to cheat! All I have to do is remember the words a wise playwright once wrote:
“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”