I tend to be disappointed when I fail to meet a challenge, with the emphasis on FAIL.
So instead, I like looking at challenges as options, with me free to complete as much or as little of them as I please. In this spirit, I am choosing two reading challenges for the coming year, and will just see where they take me:
Let's run my 2015 reading against the POPSUGAR reading challenge list. My recollection might not be perfect, but let's see how I fared. I am going to move all the no's to the bottom of the list, change the list to be numbered, and viola:
A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with: "His Majesty's Dragons", about the navy and aviators in the 18th century. And dragons.
A book that's guaranteed to bring you joy: I knew I would love "The Racer"
A National Book Award winner: nope
A YA bestseller: nope
A book that's becoming a movie this year: not that I know
A book recommended by someone you just met: don't think so
A political memoir: nope
A book that's more than 600 pages: not even close
A book from Oprah's Book Club: nope
A book recommended by a family member: nope
A graphic novel: nope
A book with a protagonist who has your occupation: nope. This is probably the hardest category.
A dystopian novel: I don't think so.
A book of poetry: nope
The first book you see in a bookstore: possibly
A classic from the 20th century: nope
A book from the library: nope
A book about a road trip: no
A satirical book: no
A book that takes place on an island: no
Not too bad! Considering that most of my reading was murder mysteries and science fiction, and 14 of the 30 books I read were all from the same detective series with the same setting and characters. And still I met more than half of the categories. With a little planning ahead, these forty bits should be fairly easy to check off.
A Song Of Ice And Fire Series (I read the first and part of the second, but not the whole series yet. Am mightily looking forward to the second season of Game of Thrones on HBO)
Fahrenheit 451 (I've probably read everything by Ray Bradbury)
The Foundation Trilogy (I've probably also read everything by Isaac Asimov)
Brave New World
American Gods (I *think* I've read this.)
The Princess Bride
Neuromancer (and Mona Lisa Overdrive and Count Zero, and almost all his other novels)
Stranger In A Strange Land
Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
The Handmaid's Tale
2001: A Space Odyssey
The Martian Chronicles
The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress
The Time Machine
20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (probably also read everything by Jules Verne when I was a teenager)
Flowers For Algernon
The War Of The Worlds
The Mists Of Avalon
The Left Hand Of Darkness
I Am Legend
The Time Traveler's Wife
Journey To The Center Of The Earth
Something Wicked This Way Comes
The Eyre Affair
The Illustrated Man
Seen the movie, haven't read the book:
A Clockwork Orange
Starship Troopers (for the record, I think it's a really good movie)
The Road (I keep trying and failing to read Cormac McCarthy. It's not that I don't like him, but there's so. Much. STUFF. in there that I can't slow down enough in order to really get it. It's just too dense.)
Of all of the listed books, my personal favorites are (in no particular order):
Oh hai. There you are. Long time no see. Who, me, what I've been up to? Mostly work, which means that, even though I love my job (I work for that fruit company), I don't really want to go near my computer by the time I get home. Also, a fair amount of cooking and baking - we celebrated Rouladenfest a couple of weeks ago, and I baked a Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie and a loaf of bread today, for a friend's birthday. Furthermore, some automated gardening, which is my fancy way of saying that I pick the stuff that's been growing: lemons and arnges, and some of the mizunas and arugulas that are threatening to turn the back yard into a jungle.
And I've been reading regularly, in bed at night, almost every night. Surprisingly, mostly on my iPhone (yes, I know the iPhone is a computer too). My friend Jason really likes his Kindle, and recommended the free Kindle iPhone app, and mentioned that there are a lot of books to be had for free. I think this includes anything that is in the public domain, which is good news for anyone who likes "older" writers. I've read some Jane Austen, am on Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence right now, and have Anthony Trollope's Palliser series queued up. It's much more pleasant to read on the iPhone's smallish screen than I expected. Even my cat Willow approves. She insists on sitting on top of my sternum when I lie in bed reading, and she is much less bothered by the iPhone than by a comparatively large book that would need both of my hands to hold.
Here's what I've already finished, some on iPhone Kindle, and some on paper:
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility
Michael Pollan, Food Rules
Robert Crais, Demolition Angel (a paperback re-read)
So Juliet, Naked was a winner. And then the next book I read, Await Your Reply, was I think the best novel I read all year. Didn't hurt that I read it on a weekend retreat in Santa Cruz, leisurely, in the sunshine, in view of the Pacific Ocean.
The story starts off with a bang - a man rushes his son to a hospital, in the middle of the night, somewhere in the Midwest (Michigan? I think). The son's severed hand is in a cooler in the backseat.
Then, before you find out what exactly is going on here (how did the hand get severed, fer Chrissakes?), the next chapter follows a young girl in Ohio, who is leaving her small town with her lover, the man who was her history teacher in the past year.
In chapter three, we are driving north through Canada with Miles, who is trying to find his long-lost twin brother.
And then we're thrown back into the life of the son from chapter one, but there's no mention of severed hands, so we must assume this is earlier in the timeline.
I really liked how I got set down in the middle of the story, catching glimpses here and there, without fully knowing what was going on. Slowly, the three strands of narrative come together, but it took me all the way to the end of the book to really get it - which was perfect. GREAT payoff. I think I must read it a second time, now that I've seen the tale unfold all the way to the end.
I ordered three novels from amazon.com recently, and the two I've read so far are total winners. Nick Hornby's latest, Juliet, Naked, the one I picked up first, was right up my alley. It's about a nerd who runs a web site devoted to a musician who used to be famous in the Eighties, but hasn't published anything in twenty years. It's about the nerd's girlfriend and their breakup. And it's about the musician and his life. And then these stories connect.
I liked this a lot. I figured I would, because I've liked all of Hornby's previous novels, but it was still a pleasant surprise to dive in and be completely engrossed.
The novel's info page on amazon.com links to an interview with Nick Hornby. He has loads of interesting things to say about the topics he writes about - well, interesting to me, anyway.
Meanwhile, I am casting the movie in my head. Oh, and speaking of movies, when I saw An Education recently, I did not realize that Hornby had written the screenplay.