54 Wonderful Projects

I love projects: reading projects, relationship projects, educational projects, travel projects, daily projects, weekly projects, goofy projects, serious projects, all kinds of projects. There’s something about the discipline and the long term commitment to a project that intrigues me, even though I’m much better myself at beginning projects and reading about them than I am at actually completing them.

Here are a few of the projects that I have been working on, or I wish I could do, or I wish I’d thought of, or I plan to try someday, or I at least want to read about:

1. Wave at the Bus. This dad dressed up in a different costume every day for an entire school year to wave at his high school son’s school bus as it passed by the house.

2. The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma. Alice (actually Kristin Brozina) and her dad Jim read together every night for at least ten minutes, usually longer, for 3218 consecutive nights, or nine years. Wow! A review of the book by Sam Sattler at Book Chase.

3. The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else by Christopher Beha. New York TImes Book Review.

4. Praying for Strangers by River Jordan. Ms. Jordan not only prays for a stranger each day, but she also often feels led to tell the person that she will be praying and asks for prayer requests. That’s a little intimidating. See, I’m really rather shy and reserved. The idea of going up to a complete stranger and telling them that I’ll be praying for them is, well, actually terrifying. I did try doing this, but I can’t make myself go up and talk to people I don’t know. So I’ve been sort of praying covertly.

5. Use a plan to read through the entire Bible in a year. I have done this project and plan to continue doing it each year. THis book looks good (reviewed by Becky): Read Your Bible One Book At A Time: A Refreshing Way To Read God’s Word with New Insight and Meaning by Woodrow Kroll. And here’s a Semicolon post with more ideas for Bible study and Bible reading projects.

6. Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard. Adam Shepard went to Charleston, South Carolina with $25, a sleeping bag, and the clothes on his back. His goal was, by the end of a year, to have a car, a furnished apartment, and $2500 in the bank.

7. A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. I read this book when I was in high school, I think, and it may be the book that inspired my fascination with people who take on Big Projects. The second half of Mr. Jenkins’ walk across the United States is chronicled in The Walk West.
I also read this nonfiction book about two women at the turn of the nineteenth to the twentieth century who walked across the country: Bold Spirit by Linda Lawrence Hunt. Two fictional accounts of this mother/daughter walk are The Daughter’s Walk by Jane Kirkpatrick and The Year We Were Famous by Carol Estby Dagg.

8. A family I know had a project of visiting and taking a picture of every county courthouse in Texas. That’s 254 pictures of 254 county seat courthouses. What a great idea for learning and family bonding.

9. From The Bard Blog: “One big undertaking in 2010 was my Summer Shakespeare extravaganza. I made sure to see as many productions of the Bard as I could within a 2 month period.” Or for more Shakespeare madness, one could try out this project: reading Shakespeare’s 38 plays in 38 days, one each day.

10. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovich. Sankovitch vowed to read one book a day for an entire year and blog about it as a way of coping and working through her grief over the death of her sister.

11. In A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanAuken, the author relives his courtship and marriage with his beloved wife Davy, who died of cancer. He celebrates their life together by consuming the music, the books, old letters, notes, diaries, and other artifacts of their marital life. He calls it The Illumination of the Past. It seems to me to be an almost obsessive way to mourn, but the way Mr. Van Auken writes about his journey makes it a healing process.

“I travelled through the past at the rate of a month or two a day. I could not go much faster and still listen to the music–often whole symphonies–and read the poems. The books, novels, and the like, I read at night, after I had written to her.”

12. No-Man’s Lands: One Man’s Odyssey Through The Odyssey by Scott Huler. The author retraces the route of Odysseus from Troy to Ithaca. I haven’t read the book, but I’d like to someday.

13. The Year of Living like Jesus: My Journey of Discovering What Jesus Would Really Do by Ed Dobson. The fact that this book is recommended by Rob Bell, who annoys me, is something of a letdown. But it still sounds intriguing.

14. The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A.J. Jacobs. Mr. Dobson was inspired to do his Jesus project by his reading of Mr. Jacobs’ book. Mr. Jacobs was (is) a nonobservant Jewish man who took a year to endeavor to live a strictly Biblical, law-abiding life.

15. The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A.J. Jacobs. Before he “got religion”, Mr. Jacobs chronicled his journey as he read through the entire Encyclopedia Brittanica in a year.

16. Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages by Ammon Shea. If one man can read an entire encyclopedia in a year, why can’t another read the twenty volume Oxford English Dictionary in a year? And then write a book about it.

17. Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses by Bruce Feiler. Mr. Feiler. an American Jew, made a 10,000-mile journey from Mount Ararat to Mount Nebo, following in the footsteps of the patriarchs.

18. Howards End Is on the Landing: A Year of Reading from Home by Susan Hill. “In pursuit of a book on her shelves, Susan Hill encountered dozens of others that she had never read, forgotten she owned, or wanted to read for a second time. The discovery inspired her to embark on a year-long voyage through her books in order to get to know her own collection again.”

19. Prayer Walking: A Journey of Faith by Dan Crawford and Calvin Miller. Recommended by Joe McKeever. This prayer project seems to me just as intriguing as the praying for strangers book (#4). But how does one develop the self-discipline to be consistent in prayer?

20. Racing Odysseus by Roger H. Martin. Recommended at Seasonal Soundings. “Roger H. Martin, president (at the time) of Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia goes back to school as a freshman at the age of 61. Martin’s sabbatical takes him to St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland.”

21. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. This project is one that I would not dare to undertake even if it were possible in this day and age. Nevertheless, it would be worth reading about. Recommended by Lars Walker at Brandywine Books.

22. A memory project: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. Absolutely fascinating.

23. My 20th Century history project.

24. I’ve mentioned this Blank Bible Project before, and I still think it’s a great idea. I’m not doing this project, but I have been writing notes in my Bible for several years with the intention of giving the Bible to one of my children someday.

25. My Newbery project. The plan is to eventually read all of the Newbery Medal books and all of the honor books, too.

26. My Reading Through Africa project.

27. 100 Movies of Summer. I started this project last year, and of course, we didn’t finish. But we did watch several old movies (actually, nine) that I either hadn’t seen or hadn’t shared with the urchins. I think we’ll try again this summer to watch some more—maybe we’ll finish all 100.

28. Make some art, maybe a photograph or a painting or a drawing. Put the art in a nice frame, one that isn’t brand new. Then, hang your framed art in a place you aren’t supposed to, but where people will assume it is supposed to be, like the lobby of your apartment building, in the hallway at your office, on the smallest wall in a motel room, in the quiet corner of a library, outside the downstair’s restroom at a restaurant or bar, the back room of a club, in the bathroom of a museum. From the website 52 projects.

29. List the years that you have been alive. Then, in a word, sentence or short paragraph, write down a significant memory from each year. From the website 52 projects. It sounds like a great birthday project, doesn’t it?

30. 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp Anne Voskamp started a list of 1000 reasons to be grateful to God. She ended up with a life full of gratitude and blessing, even in the hard times.

31. In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim. “When a murder-suicide occurred in his community, a suburb of Rochester, NY, Lovenheim, a journalist and author who teaches writing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, set out to get to know his neighbors and create a sense of community that is lacking in contemporary America by asking if he could spend the night at their houses.”

32. The Film Club: A True Story of a Father and Son by David Gilmour. I have a feeling from reading the reviews that this book might be a little too male for my taste, but I’d like try it. Father David Gilmour allows his sixteen year old son, Jesse, to drop out of high school with two conditions: he couldn’t do drugs, and he had to watch three movies a week with dad. The book is about their movie-led “homeschooling” experiment.

33. 1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz. If I had the money, I’d do it –or write my own list. No doubt.

34. 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die: A Comprehensive Reference Source, Chronicling the History of the Novel. Preface by Peter Ackroyd. General Editor: Peter Boxall. Arukiyomi has a spreadsheet for keeping track of the book you’ve read from the 1001. Of the books on the 2008 list, I’ve read 126. I think it’s skewed toward the last hundred and eleven years, and I’ve read many more nineteenth century novels than twentieth century and beyond. Nevertheless, it’s a fun project.

35. One Red Paperclip. I remember hearing about this project: this guy traded his red paper clip for something a little better. Then he traded again. And again. “I’m going to make a continuous chain of ‘up trades’ until I get a house. Or an Island. Or a house on an island. You get the idea.”

36. England’s Thousand Best Churches by Simon Jenkins and Paul Barker. Now wouldn’t visiting all of these churches be a project to remember!

37. In 2008 Stephanie Dean made a New Year’s resolution to use her slow cooker every single day for the entire year. Here’s a list of the recipes she used.

38. While we’re on the subject of cooking projects, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell was the inspiration for the movie Julie and Julia (which I haven’t seen). Ms. Powell’s project was to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume I in a year.

39. Then, of course, there are the “40 days” spiritual projects (based on the 40 days of Lent?):
Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Life,
Get out of That Pit: A 40-Day Devotional Journal by Beth Moore,
40 Days Living the Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight.

40. Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King is one of the best Christian “project books” that I’ve ever read. Mr. Blackaby walks you through the steps to knowing God through Christ and then knowing and doing His will in your life. I need to repeat this project.

41. Do you believe this one? Organizing Magic: 40 Days to a Well-Ordered Home and Life by Sandra Felton. I tried Flylady, and I crashed. I’ve read other organizing books, and the authors obviously didn’t have eight children and a husband who wants to store everything in the attic until he can get around to using it or fixing it.

42. The Six Hundred Club was a project for memorizing some of the most famous and inspirational 600 lines of poetry or 600 lines from Shakespeare’s plays, a brainchild of my English professor, Dr. Huff. Dr. Huff invented The Six Hundred Club, and I am a proud member. You can read more about it here, and if you would like to embark upon this particular project, email me. I’ll be happy to send you the lines from Shakespeare or the particular poems to be memorized.

43. A poem-writing project: Where I Am From. Here are some instructions for writing your own “where I am from” poem. If you write one, please come back and share it with the rest of us.

44. The U.S. Presidents Reading Project has a list of all of the U.S. presidents and suggested reading selections (non-fiction) for each one. The challenge is to read one biography of each one. A couple of years ago I read biographies of George Washington, John Adams, James and Dollie Madison, and Alexander Hamilton (I know, not a president, but closely related). Last year I read about John Quincy Adams and his wife Catherine and about my favorite president, TR, “Teddy” Roosevelt. I have American Lion by Jon Meacham on my shelf awaiting me, and I also have two presidential books in my library basket, 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft and Debs–The Election That Changed the Country by James Chase and Florence Harding: The First Lady, the Jazz Age, and the Death of America’s Most Scandalous President by Carl Serrazza Anthony.

45. Texas Tuesday Project. I also plan to go back to posting about books set in or published in or related to Texas on Tuesdays. Or at least on most Tuesdays. Some Tuesdays?

46. My Madeleine L’Engle reading project, with a goal of reading or re-reading her complete oeuvre, is ongoing. It started out as a project for January 2007, but I quickly saw that I’d need more time to read all of the books. Here’s a link to my annotated bibliography of Madeleine L’Engle’s books.

47. The Happiness Project: Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin. Reviewed by Amy at Hope Is the Word.

48. I forgot all about Carrie’s Reading My Library Challenge. She and her children are reading all of the children’s picture books in her library. And BekahCubed plans to read Every Single Book in her local branch library in Lincoln, Nebraska. Maybe the two of them should write a book together.

49.Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder. Back in the 1980’s author Tracy Kidder spent a year in a fifth grade classroom—and lived to write about it. I remember it as an excellent and insightful look into the life of a teacher and her students. Kidder also wrote House about the trial and joys of having your own house built. Now that’s a project!

50. Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. Mr. Foer spent a year developing his memory so that he could compete in the U.S. Memory Championships. Reviewed by Alice at Supratentorial.





Can you suggest more projects or project books to fill out the list? Why 54? Stay tuned to find out . . . next week.

7 thoughts on “54 Wonderful Projects

  1. You won’t believe this, but I picked up The Reading Promise at the library just this afternoon! Now to find time to read it!

    Love your list. I’ll have to think on it.

  2. Howard’s End Is on the Landing is excellent! One of my favorites, and I hope to review it soon on my blog. I hope you read it soon and share what you think of it!

  3. What about Carrie’s Reading My Library challenge? http://www.readingmylibrary.com/

    Also, Bekahcubed is doing something similar–> http://bekahcubed.menterz.com/goals/everybook.htm

    I have (had?–haven’t worked on it in a while) a modest goal, inspired by Carrie’s, to read through the alphabet by author’s last name in the JF and/or YA sections of my library(-ies): http://www.hopeisthewordblog.com/category/books/reading-my-library-challenges-memes-and-carnivals/
    I’m currently stuck at F, but I hope to get back to it.

  4. If you are interested in more Kidder, I read The Soul of a New Machine back in the 80s when it was required reading for everyone working in Organization Development (said my Director).

    A fascinating account of the true story of Kidder going underground in the research department of Data General, a computer manufacturer in the 80s.

    Although the story is dated, it is still an interesting account of corporate greed and how it affects the engineers and technical people.

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