So, 2015 has ended and I'm reporting in on my reading challenges. I reached my 50 book goal in late September which made me pause to give thought to why I'd missed it last year (by just 2 books). My final count was 69, with the last couple couple of weeks in the year being book-barren due to family visits and seasonal stuff.
I did read a real mix this year, some short and some very light. It's now clear that the palate cleanser/sorbet book plays a double role in achieving reading volume.
The Mumsnet 50 Book Challenge was excellent, very active and lively. I read some absolute corkers on their recommendations - most surprisingly, including Young Adult and science fiction / fantasy. I will definitely continue with this group; its good fun, there are lively, friendly disscussions when tastes differ, genuine pleasure and enthusiasm when tastes agree, and warm encouragement to those who are struggling to reach their reading goals for whatever reason - all what Mumsnet is rightly famed for. I tend to use Goodreads simply to track my reading and file reviews, even when those reviews are a link back to this blog. I've not been particular inspired by their recommendations.
The full challenge is listed below. For a review of those listed but read by the half-way point, see my previous blog post here.
1. A book you own but haven't read:
'Love's executioner & other tales of phychotherapy' by Irwin Yalom.
2. A book that was made into a movie: 'Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
I thought I knew this story, but I didn't really. Being told through Nick's eyes gives the story a humanity I didn't expect to find. I thought it would be all glitz and glitter, but it was nothing of the sort. Gatsby's obsessional love for Daisy causing him to build a life where he could be accepted as her consort was heart-breaking. The only time Daisy seemed to be real was when Gatsby wanted her to deny ever having had feelings for Tom. That honesty was the only time I felt a positive emotion for her character. The description of Nick's day with Tom and Myrtle (and their entourage) came over as one filled with grime and tawdryness, without it being trite or obvious. The pages from Gatsby's killing up to his funeral were so heavy with Nick's emotions. Sadness - obviously, but also disgust and disdain for those who'd been so quick to use Gatsby, his status and his wealth, so quick and careless to discard him later. Finally, the pathos of Gatsby's father's pride in "his Jimmy's" success was almost unbearable.
3. A book you pick solely because of the cover:
'Flight Behaviour' by Barbara Kingsolver.
4. A book your friend loves:
'The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August' by Claire North.
5. A book published this year:
'A Place called Winter' by Patrick Gale.
6. A book by an author you've never read before:
'Americanah' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
7. A book by an author you love:
'Casual Vacancy' by J K Rowling.
8. A book at the bottom of your to be read pile:
'1Q84 books 1, 2 & 3' by Haruki Murakami.
9. A book with a colour in the title:
'Olive Kitteridge: A novel in Stories' by Elizabeth Strout.
10. A book set somewhere you've always wanted to visit:
'The Cat's Table' by Michael Ondatje - for the parts based in Sri Lanka.
11. A book you started but never finished: 'Chronicles' by Bob Dylan. This is still a work in progress I'm afraid ...
12. A book with a lion, a witch or a wardrobe: 'Good Omens' by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. Briefly, the world is ending and the forces of good & evil are gathering, represented rather amusingly by a rare book collecting angel and a fast car loving demon, who are both rather comfortable with their lives on earth. The Antichrist also seems to have been misplaced by the satanic nuns put in charge of his birth. Review
13. A book with a female heroine:
'Monstrous Regiment' by Terry Pratchett.
14. A book set in the summer:
'The Summer Book' by Tove Jansson.
15. A book of poems: 'Another Night before Christmas' by Carol Ann Duffy. Not being a great lover of poetry, I read this (and other) christmas offerings by the Poet Laureate - five in all, each short and written for children. I found them utterly delightful.
16. A book you learned about because of this challenge: 'A Confederancy of Dunces' by John Kennedy Toole. I started off enjoying the horrific character that is Ignatius - his sloth, his self-absorbtion, his arrogance, his rudeness, his ridiculous dress-sense and his diatribes. But after a while, I began to find him wearing rather than humorous. The supporting characters are charicatures - amusing for a while, but swiftly sinking into the absurd. The writing and the language are absolutely wonderful though.
17. A book that will make you smarter: 'Sophie's World' by Jostein Gardner. This got as far as being downloaded to my Kindle. It will get read in 2016, but was another fail ...
18. A book with a blue cover:
'The Ocean at the end of the Lane' by Neil Gaiman.
19. A book you were supposed to read in school, but didn't: 'Canterbury Tales' by Geoffrey Chaucer. I acquired a copy in modern verse which has certainly made it more practical to read - rather than to study. Nevertheless, its also still a work in progress ...
20. A book "everyone" but you has read:
'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins.
21. A book with a great first line:
'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer.
22. A book with pictures: 'An Illustrated Anthology' by Khalil Gibran. This has been on my bookshelf for about a year and I'd put time aside - mentally - to flick through it during December. That plan failed ...
23. A book from a library: This really should've been an easy tick, but the number of books awaiting reading on my shelves and in my Kindle meant I never achieved it. Regular library visits appear high on my plans for 2016 ...
24. A book you loved - read it again: 'Banker' by Dick Francis. Francis is my father's favourite author and his books have long been my comfort reads. 'Banker' is solid Francis fare with our hero being heir to a merchant bank, who turns out to have talent and be made of the right stuff too - all based against the usual background of the horse racing world.
25. A book that is more than 10 years old:
'The Hog's Back Mystery' by Freeman Willis Crofts.
26. A book based on a true story: 'When a Crocodile eats the Sun' by Peter Godwin. The story of Godwin's visits back 'home' to Zimbabwe to visit his ageing parents whilst the country disintegrates around them. Review
Considering how many I'd already read by the half-way mark, the number of un-met challenges was high. Although I found the idea of my reading being randomly structured, in practice I received too many high quality recommendations elsewhere. If I attempt another (different) challenge, I know I will need to tick off more than half the list before I start my Booker read-a-thon, as that is enormously absorbing."
My highlight from the challenge was "discovering" F Scott Fitzgerald; long overdue, but I will certainly be reading many more of his works.
Have you found a specific reading challenge like this helpful, interesting, or did it turn out to be more of a negative?