Many of us want to read more books, right? But we don’t always do it. For some people, setting a challenge with specific guidelines and deadlines can be helpful. This is the story of how I decided to follow a Romanian Bookstagram (Instagram accounts focused on books) challenge.
I owe it all to my wife, who happens to be Romanian and an avid Bookstagrammer herself. She came across a challenge from a Romanian teacher with the hashtag #literaturaromanapepaine, which translates to “Romanian literature on bread,” and the idea refers to Romanian literature as a widely-available form of nourishment, just like bread. The challenge involves reading books in 25 different categories over the course of 2022. The categories are:
- Novel published in 2022
- Controversial novel
- Contemporary poetry
- Psychology/personal development
- Lesser-known book of popular author
- Novel written by a woman published before 1940
- Novel chosen for its cover
- Fictionalized memoir (roman à clef if you’re fancy)
- Novel by Liviu Rebreanu that wasn’t assigned in school
- Book that received a national literary award
- Book that contains a person’s name in the title
- Contemporary novel where action takes place in Communist times
- Psychological novel
- Book published 1920-1940 by non-canonic author
- Short story collection
- Popular novel published after 2010
- Anthology of poems
- Love story that was not studied in school
- Novel with more than one point of view
- Man protagonist
- Woman protagonist
- Subjective (where you get a character’s thoughts and feelings) novel published 1950-1990
- Objective (where you don’t get a character’s thoughts and feelings) novel published 1900-1950
- Scientific book
- Contemporary novel where action takes place in a rural area
While most of the categories are self-explanatory, I have provided links to explain terminology that might be unclear. Feel free to ask for further clarification in the comments.
The first obstacle is: I don’t read Romanian. So while my wife can read books for every category in their original language, I can’t.
The second obstacle: the amount of Romanian literature that’s been translated into English is, shall we say, limited, especially prior to 1989. And of the work that has been translated, a fair amount is out of print or otherwise difficult to find.
All that said, I think I can honor the spirit of this challenge while adapting the mechanics of it to my situation. It’s also a great opportunity to learn more about the country my wife grew up in.
While it might not be feasible for me to find Romanian authors for every category, I think I can make this into a fun challenge with a few tweaks. Here are the rules I’ve set for myself.
- At least 10 books must be by Romanian authors. The person who posted the challenge clearly wants to promote Romanian literature, and I want to respect that. While 25 categories might be out of reach for me, 10 should be doable.
- For the remaining books, the author cannot be a white person whose first language is English. I’d like to carry the theme of expanding my literary horizons throughout the entire challenge, and there’s no shortage of books by white American authors aimed at white American audiences. I’m not saying anything’s wrong with being white or American (I happen to be both!), but I am saying I think it’s worth the effort to look for different perspectives.
- One book, one category. While it’s likely that some books will fit multiple categories, I believe one goal of this challenge is to read more books overall. So no double dipping.
- No books that I’ve read to completion. Books that I started previously but didn’t finish are fine.
- One person cannot be a primary author of more than two books. For example, if I read two novels by one author, it’s OK if one short story in a larger collection is by that author, but not all of them. Anything in between will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
Now that I’ve laid out the categories and the rules, the only thing left is to start reading some books! I’m not going to commit to doing the categories in any particular order, but I will set up a page shortly where you can track my progress.
I’m also going to post updates here every Wednesday. Yes, we have more than 25 weeks left in the year. But some books will take more than a week for me to get through. And I have ideas about related material that I can post. So stay tuned every Wednesday for updates!
All that said, what is going to be the first book? Category 9 is “a novel by Liviu Rebreanu that wasn’t assigned in school.” Since I didn’t go to school in Romania, none of his novels were assigned to me, so any that I can find will work. And it looks like only one novel of his is both available in English and currently in print, so it looks like I’ll be reading that one.
The novel in question is Forest of the Hanged, which tells the story of a soldier whose job is to deal with deserters during World War I. Admittedly we’re starting on a bit of a downer. But disturbing source material can lead to great art. So I’ll see you next week with my summary and hopefully to announce the second book for the challenge.
Is there a particular category in the list that excites you? Are you doing a book challenge of your own this year? Post your feedback in the comments!