Tag Archives: Challenges

2018 TBR Pile Challenge

This appears to be the year that — following a few years’ hiatus — I jump back into the crazy world of reading challenges. Like many avid readers, my TBR (to be read) pile of books is out of control. Goodreads shows that I currently own 641 books, but I know it’s more than that because a) I’m not very diligent about adding my ARCs (advanced reader’s copies) or Kindle books and b) I’ve never done a complete inventory of all my books.

Clearly, a TBR challenge is in order. Fortunately, Roof Beam Reader has brought back The Official TBR Pile Challenge after a two year hiatus. There are several other TBR-related challenges but what most appeals to me about this one is that you’re not limited to reading only your own books for a certain period of time. That’s not feasible for me. I like that this is spread out over the course of a year.

Today’s the last day to sign up with a list of 12 books (plus two alternates) from your TBR that you intend to read in 2018. Each of these books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2017 or later.

In addition to the challenge’s criteria, I tried to select books that I’ve been “saving to read for a rainy day” because given the state of the world, it would probably behoove me to get to them sooner rather than later. I also wanted mostly women writers. Finally, I wanted some overlap with The Classics Challenge.

Without further ado, here are my dozen (plus two) for the Official 2018 Challenge:

  1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007)
  2. The Answer to Your Question by Paulette Bates Alden (2013)
  3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
  4. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (2009)
  5. A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin (1993)
  6. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989)
  7. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr (1995)
  8. Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter by Beth Kephart (2000)
  9. Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings and the Unearthing of Self by Beth Kephart (2005)
  10. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)
  11. Above Us Only Sky: Essays by Marion Winik (2005)
  12. Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)

Alternates:
In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller
Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories by Ursula Hegi

There are also mini-challenges and periodic Checkpoints. The first one is today and asks which of these books have been on our TBR shelves the longest. I’m honestly not sure but I do know that four of these were purchased at a book sale in 2011 (as documented here) that boasted having 50,000 books available for sale.

I’ll update this post as I (hopefully) read and review all of these. In the meantime, check out what others are reading for the Official 2018 TBR Challenge here.

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Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge

Those of us in book blogging land know that this is The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for reading challenges. What could be better than the prospect of an entire year of literary possibilities? There is a reading challenge out there for every possible interest and genre. (Check out A Novel Challenge to see what I’m talking about.)

At one point early in my blogging life, I was a certified reading challenge junkie, participating in 18 such events. I had a spreadsheet to keep track of what I was reading and the criteria. It was kind of elaborate. And fun. And, yes, a little crazy. The Husband called it “the Fantasy Football of the literary world.” (He may not have used the term literary world. Maybe book nerd or book geek was more likely.)

Participating in 18 challenges left me a little burnt out. But this year, I found myself kind of missing the camaraderie around them. Reading challenges help bring you closer to other bloggers and literary enthusiasts. They help you discover new books and authors. It builds community, and God knows we need as much of that as possible these days. Books are the perfect bridge builder.

For 2018, I decided to test the waters and try a challenge or two. I’m intrigued by Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, now in its 4th year. It has the right amount of “challenge” to it without seeming impossible. I’m going to do my best to attempt this. We’ll see how it goes and I’ll keep track of my progress here. If this post is incomplete by December 31, 2018, so be it. It’s all in the name of fun and discovering great books.

If you want to play along, here’s the criteria. We’re to read a book fitting each of these descriptions. More information about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge can be found here.

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2018

A book published posthumously
A book of true crime
A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
A comic written and illustrated by the same person
A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
A book about nature
A western
A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
A romance novel by or about a person of color
A children’s classic published before 1980
A celebrity memoir
An Oprah Book Club selection
A book of social science
A one-sitting book
The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
A book of genre fiction in translation
A book with a cover you hate
A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
An essay anthology
A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

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classics club spin #16

While catching up on some blog reading the other day, I was inspired by my friend JoAnn at Lakeside Musings who wrote about completing The Classics Club challenge and decided to check in on my own progress.

It’s … not that great.

No surprise there.

The Classics Club is a book challenge that started in March 2012 with the goal of reading at least 50 classic books within five years. Short stories, novellas and poetry all count. Re-reads are allowed too, so even if you know you read something in high school but you don’t remember anything about it, that’s fair game. You can join the club anytime. And it is somewhat flexible. I don’t do well with challenges or reading games where one needs to adhere to a list that’s set in stone until the end of time since preferences change and, as we know, I have zero qualms about abandoning books as soon as they aren’t working for me.

To participate, all one needs to do is post a list of at least 50 classics that you plan to read within the next five years, which I did in this post (“dustin’ off that English degree, joining the classics club”) here.   In my typical over-committing style, my original list included more than 100 books.

That was in April 2015. Two and a half years later, I’ve added to that list since then but haven’t made much of a dent in it. I’ve read three:

The Complete Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
A Moveable Feast, also by Hemingway
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

And three additional books were DNFs:
The Cricket on the Hearth by Charles Dickens
The Very Best of O. Henry by O. Henry
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allen Poe.

The Classics Spin #16 

Coincidentally, it’s time for another Classics Club “spin.” This is a fun part of the challenge where, every so often, the organizers do a “spin” where participants list on your blog (or wherever) 20 classics from your list that are still unread. The organizers select a random number and whatever book corresponds to that number is the book you need to read by a certain date. They’ll select a number on Friday.

Clearly, this is fate that I need to do this, right? Here’s my list of 20 books:

  1. Allison, Dorothy: Bastard Out of Carolina
  2. Atwood, Margaret: The Blind Assassin
  3. Baldwin, James: The Fire Next Time
  4. Baldwin, James: Giovanni’s Room
  5. Calvino, Italo: If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler
  6. Dickens, Charles: The Mystery of Edwin Drood
  7. Du Maurier, Daphne: Rebecca
  8. Fitzgerald, Zelda: Save Me the Waltz
  9. Irving, John: A Prayer for Owen Meany
  10. Kundera, Milan: The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  11. McCullers, Carson: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  12. O’Connor, Flannery: A Good Man is Hard to Find
  13. O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood
  14. Orwell, George: 1984
  15. Plath, Sylvia: Ariel
  16. Wharton, Edith: The Age of Innocence
  17. Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  18. Woolf, Virginia: The Complete Shorter Fiction
  19. Woolf, Virginia: A Room of One’s Own
  20. Woolf, Virginia: Orlando

Update 11/17/2017:  And the lucky number is … 4!  Which means I’ll be reading Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin.  This has been on my TBR for awhile so I’m glad to finally get to it.

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sunday salon/currently …70/99

Sunday Salon 4

With less than a month until Labor Day — not to mention two weeks (!!!) before school starts — summer definitely is winding down. The breeze on the deck is starting to feel a little different, in the same way that the light looks with the shortening of days.

Summer’s impending farewell means that my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project now enters the home stretch. This is post #70 and I will confess to you that while I’m glad I embarked on this (and I have all full intentions to continue for the next 29 days), part of me will be glad to say goodbye — to this particular project that is, not the blog itself!   Although 70 days is about 69 days longer than I anticipated lasting, I’m ready to switch my attentions elsewhere — to an exciting writing project I’ve been making plans for and certainly more time to read, which I’ve really been missing. Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon just reading while The Girl was at an all-day Teen Comic-Con event yesterday at the library — and it felt so decadent.

Reliance, IllinoisReading // Yes, I’m still reading Reliance, Illinois.  At the rate I’m going, you’d think this book was a thousand pages long rather than 368.  (It just misses qualifying for the Big Book Summer Challenge being hosted by Sue at Book by Book…which, speaking of, I need to get moving on if I have any hopes of finishing a 400+ page book by Labor Day. I have my doubts, though. Fortunately I have a few books in my pile that will easily meet that requirement — and if I supplement it with the audiobook version, this might actually be doable.

The Literary Others - An LGBT Reading Event Oct 2016Speaking of reading challenges, this week Adam from Roof Beam Reader announced The Literary Others, An LGBT Reading Event that he’s hosting from October 1-31, 2016. I will definitely be participating in this one and will likely do a longer post with some recommendations of excellent books to consider.

Watching // Rather, what I’m not watching: the Olympics.  It sounds terrible, I know, but I really have no interest. And everyone who is watching seems to be complaining that it’s more commercials than Olympics, so it doesn’t sound like I’m missing much.

Cooking // Made overnight oats (a.k.a., refrigerator oats) for the first time this weekend.  I checked out a bunch of new cookbooks yesterday from the library in my elusive hope of finding some new dinner possibilities. I created what I thought was a healthy dinner tonight — “steak” fajitas (peppers, portabella mushrooms) over brown rice — and it turned out pretty lousy.

Listening // Still on my political podcast binge.  Best of the week:

The Bob and Chez Show “The Yokel Whisperer” (8/4/2016) (I honestly cannot imagine this election season without listening to Bob and Chez. Love them.)

The Bob and Chez Show “The Evel Knievel of Racism” (8/2/2016) The opening to this episode had me laughing so hard on Tuesday’s afternoon commute home from work. Such great stuff.

Katie Couric has a brand new podcast (seriously, who doesn’t have a podcast these days?)  and  her 7/29/2016 show “Frank Luntz: Behind the Polls” includes an interview with the longtime political pollster.

And, just to prove that I still listen to other things besides political commentary:

Fresh Air: Novelist Jay McInerney (8/1/2016) Jay McInerney discusses getting fired from The New Yorker, dating Rielle Hunter, and his new book Bright Precious Days.

Linking // 
Paul Krugman’s op-ed “Worthy of Our Contempt” in the New York Times (8/1/2016)
“For rank-and-file Republicans, it’s presumably about feelings … . And indulging your feelings at a time like this amounts to your dereliction of duty as a citizen.”

From NPR yesterday: “Khizr Khan Says He Would Live This Week A ‘Hundred Million Times’ Over”

And to end on a humorous note, Nicholas Mirello’s piece for McSweeney’s on “Marie Kondo’s Election-Changing Magic to Saving the United States of America.”

Hope you had a great weekend!

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #70 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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Taking The Classics Club for Another Spin (8/99)

The Classics Club

As someone who considers herself an avid reader, I readily admit that my familiarity with classic literature is lacking. It just is.  There are classic novels that I feel I really should have read by now and authors who I haven’t read at all.

Mind you, I am firmly in the camp that life is too short and that reading should be enjoyable. If it feels like a chore or homework, I’m not about to waste my valuable reading time.

Still, the classics beckon.

Slightly over a year ago, I decided to jump into a popular online reading challenge called The Classics Club, created in March 2012 to “unite those of us who like to blog about classic literature, as well as to inspire people to make the classics an integral part of life.” The idea is to make a list of at least 50 classics you’d like to read and — within five years — read and blog about them.  My complete list can be found here.

Every so often, the organizers do a “spin” where you list on your blog 20 classics from your list that are still unread. The organizers select a random number; whatever book corresponds to that number is the book you need to read by a certain date.

I’ve participated in two previous spins (#9 and #11), but without much success.  (Actually, I haven’t had much success in the past year with this project; I’ve abandoned two classics and finished one.)

For Spin #13, I decided to choose books from my list that I actually own because the selection would also count for #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks:

  1. Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi: Half of a Yellow Sun
  2. Atwood, Margaret: The Blind Assassin
  3. Dickens, Charles: Tale of Two Cities
  4. Gilman, Charlotte Perkins: Herland
  5. Ibsen, Henrik: A Doll’s House
  6. Irving, Washington: The Complete Tales
  7. Jackson, Shirley: Just An Ordinary Day: The Uncollected Stories
  8. Kingsolver, Barbara: The Poisonwood Bible
  9. McCarthy, Cormac: The Road
  10. McCarthy, Mary: The Group
  11. McCullers, Carson: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  12. Morrison, Toni: Paradise
  13. Henry, O. : Collected Stories
  14. O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood
  15. Plath, Sylvia: Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams: Short Stories, Prose and Diary Excerpts
  16. Robinson, Marilynne: Housekeeping
  17. Salinger, J.D.: Nine Stories
  18. Wharton, Edith: Summer
  19. Woolf, Virginia: Orlando
  20. Woolf, Virginia: Three Guineas

And the lucky number is … 15!

Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams

Of Sylvia Plath’s work, I’ve only read The Bell Jar. I’m intrigued with this collection of 13 short stories, essays, prose and excerpts of journal entries.

99 Days of Summer Blogging

This is Post #8 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging Project. 

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The Sunday Salon: Bookin’ It Through Fall

The Sunday Salon

We’re kickin’ off the first official day of football season, which in this house is akin to a national holiday.  NFL GameDay Morning started us off promptly at 9 a.m., and we’re watching the Steelers-Browns with the sound muted while listening to the Eagles-Jaguars game on SiriusXM. I’m bedecked in my black and yellow; The Husband is in his Eagles’ jersey. Here in the ‘Burgh, it’s a gorgeous Sunday weather-wise and the start of football season also marks, for me, the unofficial beginning of fall. I love this season.

Maybe it’s just me, but fall always seems to herald the best book events – both in-person and reading challenges in in the book blogging world. I swore off challenges almost three years ago now, but every once in awhile I can’t resist joining one or two … or three. Here are just a few bookish events, challenges, and readalongs that I hope you’ll join me in participating in:

The Man Booker Prize for Fiction 2014  shortlist will be announced this Tuesday, September 9 and I’m eagerly anticipating which of the 13 books move forward. I’d love to see History of the Rain by Niall Williams make it to this next round and win the whole thing, because I loved it so much. ‘Course, it’s the only one of the Booker longlist mentions that I’ve read, so that makes it my personal favorite.

Orfeo by Richard Powers is in my TBR pile beside the bed and I’d hoped to have gotten to that – and several others – by this point too, but that hasn’t happened. This longlist looks really good this year.

sparrow-Readalong

The Sparrow Readalong
Throughout September, Trish of Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting a readalong of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.  I’ve had this on my Goodreads “to-read” list forever and on my actual bookshelf for several years. I’m looking forward to participating in this.

RIP 2014

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX
If it’s September, it’s time for R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, one of the best reading challenges in the blogosphere. And I say that as someone who isn’t usually a devotee of the mystery, suspense, horror, thriller, gothic, dark fantasy, supernatural types of reads that R.I.P. focuses on. I love this challenge hosted by Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings (his introduction to this annual challenge, now in it’s 9th (!!!) year, is always a fun read in and of itself).

ripnineperilsecond

ripnineperilshort

There are several R.I.P. IX levels and I’m planning to participate at Peril the Second (Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories) and Peril of the Short Story (which is self-explanatory … to read short stories that fit the categories). 

A More Diverse Universe 2014

A More Diverse Universe
Between September 14-27, Aarti from BookLust is hosting A More Diverse Universe to encourage reading at least one book written by a person of color.  Aarti writes, “None of us lives in a monochromatic world, and yet the fact that terrifying hate crimes still occur makes it clear that we do not fully understand or trust each other.  And maybe part of the reason is because the media we consume does not accurately reflect the diversity of our society.  And books are such a massive part of the media we consume that we should demand and fight for those that do represent minorities and those that do present the world from a different perspective than the one we are used to.  So please – participate.  You may just discover a character or an author or a setting or a story that will completely change your life.”

This is not hard to do. Aarti makes this easy, giving links to book suggestions right on the #Diversiverse introductory sign-up post.

How about you? Are you looking forward to or participating in any of these events this September? If so, what are you reading?

 

 

 

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Flight Behavior Completes the Big Book Summer Challenge

Big Book Summer Reading Challenge

With tomorrow being the first day of school for my kids, this is the unofficial last day of summer in our house. It’s also a good time to give a wrap up report on my progress with the Big Book Summer Challenge, hosted by my friend Sue at Book by Book.

I like this challenge because it’s low-key and fairly easy, making it perfect for the summertime. Sue keeps things simple: read one book of 400 pages or more. Even if I only read one book – my average for this challenge – it gives me a nice sense of accomplishment.

(If you think you’ve got what it takes to tackle a chunkster or two this week, you still have time to join the challenge, as it doesn’t end until September 1.)

Flight BehaviorFlight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver was my choice this year. Originally I had selected The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert, but I couldn’t get into that one.

At the beginning of this story, Dellarobia Turnbow is a unhappily married wife and mother living in Appalachia – and contemplating cheating on her husband. While en route to meeting her lover, she turns back upon noticing that an entire field of her family’s mountain is aflame. It’s a sign of something bigger, she thinks, and indeed it is: rather than fire, the vision is thousands of monarch butterflies that have migrated north from their native habitat to rural Tennessee because of the effects of climate change.

The butterflies’ flight from the only home they’ve known serves as a symbol for much larger issues and themes in the novel, all of which Ms. Kingsolver handles with the skill of a writer that knows the science behind her facts and knows how to craft a gorgeous sentence to draw her reader into the drama.

I listened to Flight Behavior on audio (it’s 17 hours long) and while I enjoyed the novel, I think I would have liked it more had I read it exclusively in print.  (I also have a copy on my Kindle, and that’s 610 pages.). Barbara Kingsolver’s narration was fine, but one of my pet peeves as an audio book listener is female narrators “doing” male voices, especially those with an accent. That irks me to no end and that’s fairly prevalent throughout the audio version.

Recommended. 3.5 stars out of 5

 

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