Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Reading Challenge or Two

Maybe what we all need is a reading challenge. On Lotus Reads' blog I came across the 2007 Winter Classics Challenge which she picked up from booklogged's blog. The challenge is to read five classics during the months of January and February.

What kind of books might be considered classics I guess opens up a whole can of worms. One I would like to open another day, actually. But I guess most useful criteria is whether a book has withstood the test of time.

(The thought of sitting snug and warm by the fireside reading big thick books from a bygone era makes me feel nostalgic for Britain!)

I then bloghopped and bloghopped to find the source of another very nice reading meme. The 2007 To Be Read Challenge asks you to:
Pick 12 books - one for each month of 2007 - that you've been wanting to read (have been on your "To Be Read" list) for 6 months or longer, but haven't gotten around to.

Then, starting January 1, 2007, read one of these books from your list each month, ending December 31, 2007.
Now this one suits me just fine. I have so many unread books I feel guilty about not getting round to and they all sit glaring at me on my shelves. I actually walked around with a pen and paper making my list last night and ended up with these titles of books I want to read, intend to read:

Martin Amis - Money
Barry Unsworth - Pascali's Island (I love Unsworth and have read almost all his others.)
Ian Mc Ewan - Atonement (Was halfway through and then had to stop and read a ton of other have-to stuff ... and then forgot about it.)
J.G. Ballard - Empire of the Sun. (Need to give this author another chance, and loved the Spielberg film.)
James Kelman - How Late it was How Late
Donna Tartt - The Little Friend (Read the first chapter and loved it ... But again, the have-to reads crept in.)

So yes, I will do this challenge.

The great thing about such challenges is that they make you read the stuff you've been neglecting. And that happens far too often these days as new books get hyped and you feel you're being left behind by the floods of highly acclaimed new stuff on the award lists, best-seller lists, best-books-of-the-year lists and piled high and temptingly in the bookshops. You feel you're not part of the conversation if you're reading something even a little older.

But these challenges has got me thinking ... there could be other challenges that would be fun to do. What is the last book you read in translation? For a lot of you, I know it will be something by Murakami or maybe Orhan Pamuk ... for me it's that Etgar Keret book which I read back in January, for heaven's sake! (More book guilt!)

(Speaking of books in translation, by the way, Words Without Borders is asking for nominations for the best translated book of the year. Why not go add your suggestions?)

Maybe you could suggest some other reading challenges. And maybe, just maybe, we could set up our own challenge?


I'm a dummy. Why don't we have a banned book reading challenge?


I can't count, can I? I was supposed to list 12 books and I only listed 6. Duh!

Well, here are six more:

Garrison Keiler Lake Woebegon Days (Sitting there since forever.)
Sebastian Barry - A Long Long Way
Gail Jones - Sixty Lights
Manuel Puig - Kiss of the Spider Woman
William Boyd - Brazzaville Beach
Dan Koeppel - To See Every Bird of Earth ( A last year's birthday book and still not read.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Sharon - sounds like a do-able challenge, to read one book per month. Thanks for highlighting it. Eliza

Sufian said...

My List (all from recent big bookhouse sale):

1. The Half Brother - Lars Saabye Christensen
2. The Paper House - Carlos Maria Dominguez
3. The Contortionist's Handbook - Craig Clevenger
4. Auto da Fe - Elias Canetti
5. Suite Francaise - Irene Nemirovsky

Non Fiction
1. Secrets of the Soul - Eli Zaretsky
2. Travelling with Che Guevara - Alberto Granada
3. Tete a tete - Hazel Rowley
4. The Glass Warrior - Duncan Anderson
5. K - Roberto Calasso

MizB said...

Thanks for joining in on my challenge!... and for spreading the word! ;o)

<>< Mizbooks

KayKay said...

My challenge for 2007:

Read the big-ass tomes on my shelf at the rate of one a month:
1. Shantaram(900 pages)-The added thrill would be that this door-stopper is currently banned!(Gregory Roberts)
2.Sarum(900+pages)(Edward Rutherford)
3.London(1000+pages)-this one's a hand-me-down from you girl.(Edward Rutherford)
4.Centennial(1000 pages)(James A. Michener)
5.Johnathan Strange & Mr.Norrell(1000+ pages)(Susanna Clark)
6. The Winds Of War(900+pages)(Herman Wouk)
7. The First Man In Rome(1000 pages)(Colleen McCullough)
8. Shogun (1000 pages)-James Clavell

Your idea of reading banned books is excellent! Howz about the book-club doing an inventory of all the banned books in our possession, bring it for one of our gatherings,each one selects a book from the pile, reads it and at one of the meets later in the year we meet up and everyone gives a mini-review of their "hot pick"? We'll call it Fiction&Friends:The Banned Sessions.

The Eternal Wanderer said...

I've not yet made a decision on which books that I want to read, but for 2007, I'm planning to put up a list of 30 "to be read" books and write a short review in the same style as Eyeris' as proof that I've read the books as well as writing short notes and little thoughts about the books.

Besides that, one of my New Year resolutions is to make an attempt to attend the Seksan readings and organise a couple of writing meets!!

Anonymous said...

Don't know how you guys have the time.. I've only managed to finish one book since the Times book fair, and now I'm still stuck in Rob Roy. But then again it's a great book. That's what's good about the classics, they're very layered. They make lots of references to lots of other stuff, it's fun to re-read it, you pick up references you didn't notice before. Anyway I have definitely got to start the blog.

Subashini said...

i enjoyed the little friend a lot, sharon, and was even considering a reread this year (too late!) but i enjoyed her first book even more; it's called the secret history and i suppose it ranks as one of my all-time favourite books.

i read money recently and it was thoroughly disturbing and amusing, a very discomfiting mix, but then that seems to be the amis style.

Greenbottle said...


kalooki nights
ali and nino

non fiction

stuart- a life backward

Giant Sotong said...

I'll see if I can finish Ashok K. Banker's version of the Ramayana. Of course I know the whole story, but what the heck... .

Lotus Reads said...

Sharon, I'm overjoyed you're going to be doing Miz Book's TBR 2007 Challenge. I am doing it, too, but I haven't got my list up yet! We're challege buddies now, yeay! :)))

Chet said...

One book that has been on my "must read" list forever is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

I think it'll be my book challenge for 2007. For sure I can't finish it in a month, so maybe a Middlemarch chapter a month every month of 2007?

Anonymous said...

Wow. For the first time, you have a book listed that I actually have read. Brazzaville Beach. I read it more than ten years ago but a few parts of the story and one character still sticks. Impactful, then, although I didn't realise it at the time. :-) Zarina

bibliobibuli said...

great, eliza. we will keep each other company

sufian - impressive list. which would you nominate as the best? (and are you going to post your suggestions on the world without borders website?

mizb - and thank you for the excellent suggestion!

kaykay - how did you manage to accumulate such big big books? the banned books for the book club is a good idea!

ew - good luck with your thirty books. this sounds a very nice idea

anonymous - glad you're happy with rob roy. please do start the blog and let us know. i find the time to read over lunch and during coffee breaks. i'm unsociable ...

subashini - yes, i want to read both books but i'll start with the second because i have such a pretty hardback copy of it.

greenbottle - that you're going to read or that you recommend?

giant sotong - haven't heard about this version, do tell more

lotus reads - yes, we're challenge buddies. but i expect this to be a breeze ... the only real problem is going to come if i have to read too many other novels because of authors coming out and articles (this will happen end march i think when the litfest happens)

i've tried to start middlemarch several times chet. i think i would like to see a dvd of it first and then read it. for this i'll take the sluggard's way out

zarina - i've been meaning to read this book for yonks. i'm sure i will enjoy it.

if i have time i will try to read other bonus tbr books. i dare not tell you how many i have or how the number is growing.

joshua said...


heard about this reading challenge thing from Fei. well it sounds interesting and i certainly have dozens of must-read-but-havent-read books on my shelves!

let me compile my list this weekend.

Manuel Puig's Kiss of the Spider Woman is a brilliant story. I bought it from a 2nd-hand bookshop in bangkok and couldnt get it out of my hand during the trip! hope you enjoy it too :)

Fei said...

Hi, Sharon,

I posted the TBR challenge on my blog, for my chinese language friends.
though my list of books are all in English:

Where I was From > Joan Didion
Beyond Black > Hilary Mantel
26a > Diana Evans
The Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard > Kiran Desai
The White Teeth > Zadie Smith
Remains of the Days > Kazuo Ishiguro
Vertigo > W.G. Sebald
The Known World > Edward P. Jones
Kandahar Cockney > James Ferguson
Name All the Animals > Alison Smith
In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs > Christopher de Bellaigue
Mediterranean Winter > Robert D. Kaplan

Chet said...

Do ebooks count?

Giant Sotong said...

It's... the Ramayana. The version I'm reading now comes in six volumes and is available in most major bookstores under their SciFi/Fantasy sections. The author's retired blog is here.

The re-telling looks more modern to my untrained eyes. I think he's trying a bit too hard (but not as much as L.E Modesitt when explaining his Recluce theories).

bibliobibuli said...

thanks joshua - yes, i picked up "kiss of the spider woman" in raman's shop and thought it looked very interesting ... and i remembered there had been a critically acclaimed film. your recommendation makes me feel i made a good choice.

fei - i like your list. the books we have in common make me think that maybe we have similar tastes and the others intrigue me (waht am i missing)

it would be great if your chinese-reading friends take up the challenge ... honestly i'd love to know what they are reading! i am so frustrated when i see people reading in chinese 'cos i can't be nosy about the title! (the only phrase i've ever managed to read in chinese characters was a sign saying "frog porridge"!)

chet - why not? jump in

giant sotong - it sounds really interesting ... but a mammoth undertaking

Sufian said...

Sharon, I have to say the best translated book I read this year is The Black Book (the new translation, almost 30% off the cover price in MPH)... (2nd would probably be Keret)

Fei said...

Hi, Sharon,

I wonder which book we have in common.

My fren Joshua was sugesting we should accept the Banned book challenge too. I was telling him the banned book i had is Salman Rushdie's Salimar the Clown.

We plan to start our reading club next year, hopefully we can attract some of our chinese-reading friends to join us.

Speaking of what chinese-reading frens read, we read chinese writer's work, and also chinese translated fiction and non-fiction imported from Taiwan and China.

bibliobibuli said...

sufian - thanks. think i have to read more by keret now.

fei - we have in common:

Beyond Black > Hilary Mantel
26a > Diana Evans
The Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard > Kiran Desai
The White Teeth > Zadie Smith
Remains of the Days > Kazuo Ishiguro

yes, i think it looks like the banned books reading challenge is one we should get off the ground!

and fei, let us know about chinese novels you come across that are especially good, partic. if translated into english!

fei said...


I sure will let you know if i come across any good chinese novel, but as far as I know, not many of them are translate into english...

hmm...we might have the similar taste...I like Ishiguro's never let me go, but a friend told me, remains of the day is his best work so far...I knew I'll enjoy it.

Literary Feline said...

Great list, Sharon! I look forward to reading your thoughts on the books you read for the challenge. Good luck to you!