Every book in the house challenge

Jennie Josephson
Every book in the house
6 min readJan 4, 2017


My husband Matt and I love books. Real paper books. But we are on the border of becoming book fetishists, because while we love reading about books, and getting books as presents, we have a bad track record of reading books these last few years. Something about being busy at work. Or peak TV. Or podcasts. And so the books we desperately want to read pile up in bookshelves, taunting us and challenging our identities as people who actually read books.

So this year we’re challenging ourselves to read every book in the house that we haven’t already read. If we really don’t want to read it, the book gets donated, so it can find a new home, and we have room for more books. I’m tempted to say that we can’t actually buy any new books until the challenge is complete, but that seems self-defeating and also publishing industry-defeating. We all need to buy books, or else, no more books. So we’ll have to think of some other reward/punishment scenario. Please add your suggestions below!

WEEK 1: January 1–7

We got each other books for Christmas. Lots of books.

There was an $800 version of this book with all the scripts, signed by Matthew Weiner. I did not buy it.

I bought Matt a gigantic book about Mad Men from Taschen, makers of heavy books you never get around to reading. I received just about every book in the new Star Wars canon. Seriously, by the end of present opening, our guests were like, “Let me guess, it’s ANOTHER STAR WARS BOOK.”

I also got a Playstation VR kit, which I can tell you right now, is not good for the #EBITH challenge.

Jan 1 & 2 were all about the PSVR. Right up until the point where we got food poisoning, or norovirus. (You say potato, I say potahto, let’s throw the whole thing up.)

Anyway, we learned pretty quickly you can’t use the PSVR while your stomach is in roiling knots of agony.

So in between bouts of UGH YUCK on Jan 3, we read. And I kicked off the year of treasuring physical paper books by…

…purchasing an Amazon Kindle copy of Ready Player One.

I dread/cannot wait for this movie.

Insert irony here.

But to be fair, we had already purchased a copy of Ready Player One, devoured it more than once, and then lent it out, never to be seen again.

Do you have our beloved dog-eared copy of Ready Player One? If so, please leave it on our doorstep. We won’t yell.

I had the urge to re-read Ernest Cline’s book because of the PSVR. I wanted to see just how far away from the high-end all-consuming Oasis we really are. I re-read it in about four hours, with a little help from a friend. Just because a book is digital doesn’t mean it can’t be dog-eared.

I’ll show myself out.

Guess who does not like it when you appropriate his lap for a laptop.

Ready Player One re-read review (Jan 3) This book is damned good. Still. It’s mind crack, and reading about the VR of our possible future after playing the consumer VR of our present made me appreciate just how far we still have to go to gyroscopic four axis chairs and haptic feedback suits that makes it worth chemically removing your eyebrows in a futuristic shower. If you haven’t read it, do so now, so you can be elated/disappointed/nerdishly superior when the movie comes out. Also on my third read I was able to focus on and appreciate the strong female characters in the book, and even more so after blasting through the next book I was most excited to read.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, who my husband insists on calling Barty Crouch, Head of Magical Law Enforcement. This was the one non-Star Wars book I got at Christmas, and I was SUPER excited to read it.

Dark Matter review (Jan 3) Another mind-crack book about a man named Jason Dessen and his experience with alternate realities. I stayed up late, unable to put this book down until I finished, and then unable to sleep for an hour after. It’s a mind-bender for sure. My only gripe? The lady characters are pretty thinly written. Mild spoiler here so don’t read if blah blah blah: One of the lead female characters, who is often responsible for saving the arse of the male lead, literally vanishes mid-book and is never heard from again. Mostly because it is convenient plot wise for her to do so. The other main female character is the prime emotional motivator of the entire book, and gets more page time, but her perspective is only flirted with and then abandoned in service of the moving the rip-roaring plot forward.

Now this lack of female gaze by male authors isn’t something I’m going to harp on in all the books I’ve read, but after you’ve read Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books, it’s hard not to notice when it’s missing or subverted. You know, like when you read a book called The Fireman but it’s actually all about a great female hero, but they still named the book after the one guy with kind of a small part, because marketing, I guess?

Lost Stars by Claudia Gray (Jan 5): The full title of this book is Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Lost Stars but COME ON NOW. Noted Star Wars expert Tom Merritt has been after me to read this book for a year now, and I finally did and it was AMAZING. It’s two people who experience the events of Star Wars from pre-Rogue One all the way to Jakku before The Force Awakens. They both start out as pilots for The Empire, but take different paths to the end of this 500 page opus. It’s technically a YA book, but not in an annoying sort of way.

Matt is currently reading: Golden Son by Pierce Brown. It’s about Mars and digging, I think? He liked the first one and wants me to read it next.

Anyway, that’s two books down, several hundred to go. Here are the official contest rules, which we will feel free to break.

  1. Collectively read every book in the house before the end of Dec 31, 2017. This is a team challenge, so if I read a book, Matt is not also obligated to read it this year, and vice versa.
  2. Add it to the EBITH spreadsheet. If it’s not on the spreadsheet, it doesn’t count.
  3. Re-reads not required, unless we are unable to collectively remember the basic plot or ending of the book. Then one of us has to read the book again.
  4. Books read for work don’t count. Because they are not in the house. See how this works?
  5. What’s the penalty/what’s the prize? I’m not sure what the penalty is yet. But it should be terrifying. I’m thinking the prize will be, we get to purchase gorgeous new bookshelves for our home office to replace the leaning towers of Ikea. But I’m open to more exotic suggestions. A trip to Portland, just to go to Powell’s? A trip to Paris, to go to the only remaining Shakespeare and Company?
  6. What about the books in the garage? GOOD QUESTION. What do you think?

Jennie Josephson produces radio and podcasts. Matt Flanagan writes comedy. In the apocalypse, they will rescue books and protect them from ravagers looking for easy sources of fuel. They will also have lots of soy sauce packets and those red, yellow and white RCA cables. Reserve now!