Our Reading Lives

How a Specific Reading Challenge Expanded My Horizons

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Antoinette Scully

Staff Writer

Master plate-spinner, Antoinette Scully is a bookish extrovert with an M.A. in Teaching who believes the world of education is bigger than any classroom. She uses her "free time" to read and blog about Black authors and indie books on her site blackandbookish.com. Born and raised in the not-so-mythical town of Eatonville, FL, Antoinette now lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids.

This is a guest post from Antoinette M. Scully. Antoinette is a content creator and all around lover of literature. She writes about race relations through the study of history, culture, and literary arts. She has a background in education, a passion for social justice activism, and a love of parallel construction. She runs the blog Black & Bookish which focuses on independent authors of the African Diaspora. Follow her on Twitter @amariescully.

After college, I had reader burnout. Freed from the mandatory class lists and constant papers to write, I put reading for pleasure on hold. Soon after that, I had kids, and time to read what I wanted became non-existent. These weren’t conscious decisions, but I no longer made reading a priority. I was still buying books, but would place them on my shelf with little intention to open them. By the end of 2015, I realized I was missing the written word and devised a plan to read more in 2016.

Inspired by Sunili Govinnage, I decided to read only books by black authors and created a blog to write about it. A few people were weary, but complaints were minor (ironically about a lack of diversity in reading “one type” of book). I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was confident this change would jumpstart my reading habits for at least the year and maybe I would learn a thing or two.

Reading Was Exciting Again

This reading challenge got me motivated to pick up a book. Unlike school or work, I was back to reading for me. Before I had a chance to feel the weight of my decision, I was on an adrenaline high from all the newness! I was unrestrained by subject or topic, ready to conquer the world. Reading was no longer a chore and of course, this gave me an excuse to add more to my home library. I had never blogged about books and that created a different way to interact with literature. Books were not just good or bad but opened up a connection between my life and the author’s. Reading and blogging changed the way I see books and their place in my life.

I Read New Genres and Authors

Where I had always been a sci-fi and non-fiction kind of girl, I found myself reading across the genres. I read more children’s picture books and young adult. I read various self-help titles and popular fiction. Placing boundaries in one place opened me up to so many books I would have ignored or brushed aside. My awesome liberal arts degree had left out an entire group of authors and that made everything I picked up new—even James Baldwin and Roxane Gay. I was discovering the greats of African-American literature in my early thirties and loving it. Plus I was now searching out these types of books for my family and friends. My book suggestions were more diverse and in turn, more helpful.

I Befriended Other Activists and Social Justice Readers

There is no way to read Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates without joining the larger discussion of race in America. As if out of nowhere, book clubs and reading lists dominated my social media. I found allies in places I didn’t know existed and appreciated that I was no longer alone on my journey. Blogging helped me meet people all over the world with similar interests. As with my own book recommendations, others saw that I was more open to different genres and it built greater friendships.

It didn’t take a year to realize I had expanded my reading options exponentially and would continue to seek out books that don’t just fall in my lap. Even though I had set a very specific parameter for my reading challenge, it ultimately changed my reading habits for the better. I feel much more connected to books, authors, and literature. I dare you to challenge yourself to a reading overhaul, and watch your burnout melt away.