Sailor Smart

Some people will not be educated, no matter how hard we try.

When I attended high school, each year’s English class required that all students read six non-curriculum books.  You could pick them.  They could be about anything, but to prove that you had read them, you were required to submit a Book Report on each one – remember those? – fondly??

To prevent nerds like me from submitting them all in September, rules stated that they had to be spaced out.  A lad a year older than me, from landlocked Ontario, Canada, decided that he wanted to join the Navy, so he didn’t need to read no stinkin’ books.  Nearing the end of the year, he had managed to submit only five; although I think that a couple of them were based on Classics Illustrated comic books (Remember those, too?) – so he invented one.

Possibly using a reference to Herman Melville’s book, Billy Budd – Sailor, he gave it the title Sailor Smart, supposedly printed by a known school-text publishing house – number of pages and a plot précis – the story of a landlocked, Midwest boy who wanted desperately to join the Navy.  I’d have been tempted to let him away with his ruse, just for demonstrating such creativity and inventiveness.  The tough old schoolmarm, who made Archie’s Miss Grundy look like a kindly nun, spent most of an instruction period excoriating him, and demanded a real book be read and report filed.

He must have succeeded.  He graduated Grade 12, moved to Halifax, joined the Navy, and was never seen again.  Reading for enjoyment seems to be a Yes or No proposition.  My Mother read!  My Father didn’t!  I’ve known many intelligent, successful people who won’t read a novel, even when they could spare the time.  I just can’t imagine me without a book…. Or three.

I have seen many reading challenge posts.  I recently ran into this one.

In 2021, choose 6 books that have titles that contain a:

  • One/1 (ex. One Second AfterThe 100)
  • Doubled word (ex. In a Dark, Dark WoodWolf by Wolf)
  • Reference to outer space (ex. The Fault in Our Stars)
  • Possessive noun (ex. The Zookeeper’s Wife)
  • Botanical word (ex. The Language of FlowersThe Sandalwood Tree)
  • Article of clothing (ex. Bossypants)

The writer had read 12 books in a year, for a Goodreads challenge, but had read them all in the month of January, and then added 30 more by the end of the year.  I don’t understand the point of such challenges.  It can’t be to get people to read, because those who accept, already read – usually, a lot.  It doesn’t seem to be to get readers to read outside their preferred genre sphere, because you could pick books to satisfy all these requirements – in Romance, Sci-Fi, action/adventure, murder mystery, religion or political science.

In 2020 I read almost 40 books, from all the above varieties except Romance.  I checked them against this artificially concocted list, and found that I only had a match in (Maybe) three of the six categories.  No ‘ones’ or 1’s.  No doubled words.  Outer space came with Space Vikings, Star Rangers, Star Soldiers, and When The Star Kings Die – although both of The Expanse series, Babylon’s Ashes and Nemesis Games occur in outer space, but their titles don’t indicate that.

Possessive nouns returned with Babylon’s Ashes in hand.  The mystery Kevin: Murder Beneath the Pines provided the only botanical reference.  The requirement for an article of clothing might be satisfied, if you consider a gold watch to be clothing.

I refuse to obtain books just to satisfy some synthetic list.  I read what I find, that interests me, and Damn the Book Titles!  Full speed ahead!  How about you?  Would you buy/read just to check off some list??!

14 thoughts on “Sailor Smart

  1. trishsplace says:

    No. I have seen challenges like this in my local bookshop, over a range of genres, showing how their staff are going.
    Which would perhaps encourage reading across genres, out of your comfort zone, or maybe you’re not sure what to read right now. Your favourite author suave have anything new.
    Also, it tells us that their staff read, which is why you’re in this shop. Not at Kmart or Target!
    I do enter the Goodreads ‘set a number of books challenge’ to brag 😁 and to see if I can beat last year.
    But I read what I want.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Newbloggycat says:

    Yup, I read what interests me too. I’ve read most of Paulo Coelho’s books but I just realized that I had missed one of his books. How could I have missed this one when the title itself is so titillating – ‘Adultery’😜 I found a pdf copy online. Hmm it’s very interesting! 😎😂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rivergirl says:

    I read constantly. Voraciously. And unfortunately for my wallet, quickly. Bookless is my idea of hell and if I don’t have at least a dozen stacked and waiting to go…. I get twitchy. My husband on the other hand doesn’t read, at all. How this wasn’t a marriage deal breaker I still don’t understand.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. 1jaded1 says:

    No way. I worked at a bookstore and it wasn’t even work. There is nothing like turning a page. We had a coworker who loved the Oprah books. Most of them weren’t for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Archon's Den says:

      I returned a book to the library, and picked up another that I had requested. The front desk were offering 8 or 9 pre-release books for free. I carefully looked them over, but didn’t feel that any of the three people in this house would be interested, so I passed up free books – and free is my favorite flavor. 😉 😳

      Liked by 2 people

  5. No, I would not read just for a list. For a few years I kept a list of books I had read but gave it up.. I read what interests me whether it is the latest or not. As long as I have another book to read when one is finished.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I would only read for a list if the book list interested me. I am on Goodreads and do the challenge, mainly to motivate myself to make time for reading, which is always my problem. I do love reading, I just get distracted easily. (Squirrel!) I set my challenge to 12 books a year, which is easier this year since I joined a book group at my church, and we read one book a month. But I joined during the year so I still won’t make the challenge this year, probably. Unless I can somehow get six books read by the end of the year in addition to the two I expect to finish. Oh well, there’s always next year.


  7. I listen to one chapter of an audiobook each day of the week. It’s easier on my eyes, and I can sit quietly while visualizing the scenarios.


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