Le défi


I have barely been posting over the past year largely because I have been working on a certificate in educational leadership through Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. It’s almost done now (woo hoo!), so I am planning to post more regularly again.

Another reason why I have been posting less is because I wanted to read more. When I did my annual clear-out last August, I gathered twelve books from various parts of my home – in storage, in various bookcases – and placed them in the bookcase part of my bedside table. I gave myself un défi (uhn day-fee), or a challenge, to read one book a month and told myself that what I didn’t finish by the end of the year would have to go. I read for hours each day as a child, but as an adult, most of my reading has been to learn, rather than strictly for pleasure. I wanted to recapture reading for pleasure as part of my life.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying guru, gave me the idea. She pointed out that keeping books that we don’t read for years and years is a socially acceptable form of hoarding. I had owned some of the books that I gathered for my one-year défi for over a decade and had boxed them up and moved them twice.

I knew that I had to feel successful with my project early on, so I chose to read the books from the shortest to longest. This plan worked pretty well, but I did begin to get worried as the year went on and some of the books took more than a month for me to finish. Fortunately, the last two books were really engaging and helped me finish well ahead of schedule! I even included an extra book that I received as a Chrstmas gift, for a baker’s dozen.

If you follow me on Instagram (@onequalitythefinest), I posted pictures of what I was reading throughout the year. It was fun engaging with others about titles that they had also enjoyed. As I finished each book, I either donated it to my public library or sold it on Amazon. Having the visual cue that I was being successful as my bookshelf emptied was very motivating.

Somebooks were in French (Anne La Maison aux pignons verts), by French authors (Eric Emmanuel Schmitt), about French culture (The French, by Theodore Zeldin, An Immovable Feast, by John Baxter), or French history (Royal Romances, by Leslie Carroll). And of course, I liked some of them better than others. I think my two favorites were Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Songs in Ordinary Time, by Mary McGarry Morris.

I liked my défi so much that I have already picked out my next twelve books and added them to my bedside bookcase. This time, I’ll read hardcovers first so that I finish up next summer with slim volumes to slip in my suitcase instead of the brick-sized tome that I brought to France this summer. I have quite a mix again – fiction, history, French, and English. If you’d like to follow along, I’ll post pictures on Instagram.

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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5 Responses to Le défi

  1. Nemorino says:

    I know the feeling, since I have some books (including some in French) that I bought decades ago and still haven’t read.

    • I put a moratorium on new buying new books until I read the ones I have, but it’s HARD not to buy more books!

      • Nemorino says:

        I find it especially hard not to buy books in France, because we no longer have a French bookshop here in Frankfurt, and ordering French books online often means the postage will cost more than the book.

  2. I totally know this feeling. I used to read for hours as a child too and have let it fall to the wayside. I made myself a new years resolution to read twelve books (one to represent each month). I am behind by one book but should be getting caught up here shortly. So glad you’re getting back into the joy of reading!

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