Reading Challenge: 16 Books to Trace My Steps

It has been 3 weeks since my last day of work. In these twenty-one days I’ve experienced a wide spectrum of feeling from restlessness to excitement, I’ve been energized and completely exhausted, hopeful to painfully uncertain. As I’ve made my way through this health hibernation, I’ve bumped into a nagging sense of disorientation, almost as if I’ve misplaced something and can’t quite figure out how to find the missing answer.

Due to the almost daunting amount of solo time, there has been a lot of space filled with contemplation, reflection, and (unhelpful) conversations with myself. I began wondering what would I do right now with this free time if I wasn’t sick, if I had energy, if there were no limiting factors.

I am in this incredible, wide open space. I’m in a pause and can re-calibrate my life to the one I truly want. Yet, despite my best efforts to meditate, read my palms following Google Images, and analyze the coffee grinds in my mug, the answers have not made themselves readily available to me. It’s been frustrating and has fueled a burning impatience I have for myself.

The thing is, I remember there being a time when I was full of creativity, excitement, imagination, and readiness to explore. I was open, free minded, and knew what brought me joy. So why is it, that within all this open space, I can’t seem to pick a direction?

When we lose something, we retrace our steps to find misplaced items. I am going to attempt to replicate this practice in hopes of finding that part of me that has gone dormant through the course of my adulthood. And I have identified the exact thread and pathway that will lead me to where I want to go.

For the next two months, I will be re-reading the 16 books that have most touched, impacted, and influenced my life; going in order of most recently read, to most distantly.

There is no other factor, no other piece of my life that has more defined and shaped me than my love of books. They have guided me, taught me, healed loneliness, inspired motivation, and provided light when the distance ahead or the time behind has felt daunting or painful. I can still feel and remember the utter exhilaration I enjoyed when I first learned to read. Words suddenly left their state of inertia and sprang into life. It was the closest experience to magic I have ever encountered. I intend to recreate that feeling and see the directions that light may reveal.

Despite the fact that I was put in the lowest reading group in first grade, by the third grade I was reading ravenously and could not find enough books to satiate my infatuation. Within the pages of books I have traveled to dozens of worlds, seen the rise of heros and the descent of villains, watched the disparity of wars transform into peace, witnessed the unlikeliest of friendships to be born, experienced the victories of courage and the despair of fear, and have been on more adventures than I could ever have in my own life.

And while I’ve remained an avid reader, in the last decade I’ve found myself lost in what sparks interest and have found that old zing and zest to be deeply subdued. I’ve been tired, restless, and aimless, hoping that I’ll somehow stumble upon the career or the life that I want. So far that tactic has been fruitless and my most ardent affirmation has become: “I don’t know”.

Yet, somewhere within me, I suspect that I do know.

So, beginning today, I will read my way back to myself and back to the young girl still excited and open to possibilities. My hope is that I knock over some of the walls I’ve built up and rediscover parts that have been living latent beneath those structures. If nothing else comes to be, this will at the very least reconnect me to my deep love of books, and bring a lightness to the deep weight of my restlessness.

Below are the books that I will be reading and the order I’ll be reading them in:

February 5: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – originally read at age 25
February 10: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – originally read at age 20
February 14: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – originally read at age 20
February 17: Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver – originally read at age 18
February 21: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley – originally read at age 17
February 24: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling – originally read at age 16
February 27: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – originally read at age 15
March 4: The Odyssey by Homer – originally read at age 14
March 11: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – originally read at age 13
March 14: A Time for Dancing by Davida Wills Hurwin – originally read at around age 11/12
March 17: Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip – originally read at around age 11/12
March 20: The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – originally read at around age 10/11
March 23: Squire by Tamora Pierce – originally read at around age 10
March 25: Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine – originally read at around age 10
March 27: Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne – originally read at around age 8
March 29: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen – read to me at around age 5/6

On the dates above, I’ll share my recollection of the initial impact these books had on me when I first read them as well as my reflection of their impact today at age 27. I may have been a bit ambitious with a few of these and some of the dates may change, but I am a fast reader and hope I can get through these at the pace I’ve tracked.

As I’ve pulled these books out of my bookshelf and ordered them from Barnes and Noble, I’ve already begun to feel a zing of excitement and anticipation. I haven’t looked at or thought of some of these stories in over a decade and it almost feels like a family reunion. I’m excited to get started.

In these three weeks I have felt the urgency of needing to figure out my next steps, to get my health into gear, and orient myself towards my future employment. But I also see that in many ways, I have not changed my behaviors from the ones that triggered my health crash back in October. I am still pushing, shoving, and beating myself up for not having it all together.

For while I have built a daily meditation practice, have established an exercise regimen, attend career counseling, and attempt to eat healthier, there is something undeniably missing from my Wellness Journey.

That missing piece is the space to rest, reflect, and absorb healing.

I suspect I’ll be able to find all of those things while on this reading journey.

11 Comments on “Reading Challenge: 16 Books to Trace My Steps

  1. I LOVE this post and think I’ll join you in reading some of these, I was literally just scrolling through my kindle trying to pick something …but this sounds like a fun, healthy idea. I too feel I’ve lost my creative spark lately …Book club to reignite the creative fire that health struggles often put out? 🤔🙌 💡

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 1: The Glass Castle – Wellness Apprentice

  3. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 2: Great Expectations – Wellness Apprentice

  4. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 4: Animal Dreams – Wellness Apprentice

  5. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 5: A Thousand Acres – Wellness Apprentice

  6. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 6: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Wellness Apprentice

  7. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 7: Ceremony – Wellness Apprentice

  8. Pingback: Reading Challenge Book 8: The Odyssey – Wellness Apprentice

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Abby Wambach

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