Since my last post, each time I made my way back towards this blog, Life would stick out a long leg and trip me up. I bet that’s the first time you heard that excuse! Or how about this one: The cat sat on my laptop’s keyboard and refused to budge.
I proffer the first excuse, for the sake of honesty. I don’t have a cat. However, I do feel a teensy bit dishonest using the Life excuse anyway, since, well…that’s what Life does. We just gotta get with the program and not let anything – Life or Death – keep us from doing things we love. In my case, that would be reading and writing about reading. So here I am, shuffling forward in a contrite way with a sheepish smile on my face. There’s uncertainty in my eyes, even as I widen my smile: will my readers, left in the lurch for over a year, take me back?
I hope you do.
I’m 30 years old.THREE-OH. That felt a like a lot when I was 25, but now I’m all like whatever. I feel like I’ve taken the ‘turning older’ part of life in my stride and I’m getting comfortable enough in my skin to say that I actually love being 30. I’ve left the hectic, unhealthy life of my 20s behind and I look forward to a healthier middle age. Books shall, of course, form a huge part of the program that I have chalked out to keep me healthy…and sane.
A confession: I read about 57 books in 2014. Now before you go fainting in your shoes, let me point out that a third of those books were Agatha Christies. And before you get that sneer fixed on your face as you look at me, let me also add that I have been having a bad few years in terms of reading. I’ve simply not been able to read beyond a couple of pages everyday. My stamina is shot and my concentration is fragmented. Life, in short, has more or less been like what it presumably is in Hades.
So the Agatha Christies, for which I have professed my love before, were simply helping me get back on my feet. So yeah, I even suffered through Postern of Fate, before I realized that I was well now and that I didn’t need that wheelchair. However, I still need a crutch, it seems, so I’m putting myself through a few challenges to make sure I do some varied reading. As recommended by nutritionists, I need to fill half my plate with heavy literary fiction, about a fourth with some invigorating non-fiction and the remaining fourth with some graphic novels and how-tos. I shall snack – lightly – on whodunits. On my cheat days, I shall consume Wodehouse books, about 95 per cent of which I have already read, so reading them doesn’t really count as ‘reading’ according to the terms of my challenges.
Now, having got all of the above off my chest, I shall present the challenges. Kindly note that the books assigned for the various challenges might overlap with one another, but the overall goal remains the same: I want to have read at least 60 books in 2015.
Challenge No. 1 – The Mount TBR Challenge
TBR is the term we book nerds use to talk about our piles of unread books – To Be Read. Some people have tiny TBR stacks, some have piles and many have mountains. Since I fit in the last category, I shall be taking the Mount TBR Challenge being hosted by My Reader’s Block. The challenge has various levels, depending on how many books you want to tick off your TBR list. For 2015, I’m taking on the Mt Vancouver level, which means that I need to read at least 36 books from my TBR pile. Listing the books is optional, but I’m going to do it anyway, since making lists is so much fun!
- The Rules of Attraction – Brett Easton Ellis
- This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Collected Stories of John Cheever
- The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction II
- Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
- The Dain Curse – Dashiell Hammett
- Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami
- The Conservationist – Nadine Gordimer
- The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee
- Artemis Fowl & The Time Paradox – Eoin Colfer
- The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
- A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
- Songs of Kabir – Translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
- The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
- Raag Darbari – Shrilal Shukla
- The Story of O – Pauline Reage
- The Red and The Black – Stendhal
- The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
- Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
- The Golden Gate – Vikram Seth
- Lost Loves: Exploring Rama’s Anguish – Arshia Sattar
- When I was a Child I Read Books – Marilynne Robinson
- On Photography – Susan Sontag
- The Naive & Sentimental Novelist – Orhan Pamuk
- On Writing – Eudora Welty
- Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
- The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson
- Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
- The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
- Serious Men – Manu Joesph
- Love & Longing in Bombay – Vikram Chandra
- The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
- The Legends of Khasak – O.V. Vijayan
- Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
- The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt
- The Writer’s Diet – Julia Cameron
- Black Swan Green – David Mitchell
- Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
- The Man Who Ate the World – Jay Rayner
- The Hungry Tide – Amitav Ghosh
Challenge No. 2 – Jazz Age January
This is basically just a reason to read literature from the Roaring Twenties, one of my favourite periods in history. I’ve written about it before, when I reviewed Evelyn Waugh’s bitingly hilarious send-up of the Jazz Age, Vile Bodies.
The challenge is hosted by Books Speak Volumes. I will begin 2015 by reading any two of the three books listed below:
- Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
- The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
- This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Challenge No. 3 – The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge
Now this is where it gets really fun. Book Riot is hosting a brilliant challenge where the idea is to expand your reading horizons as far as possible. After a year in which I read over 20 Agatha Christies, I really need this one.
There are 24 tasks in this challenge, which means about 2 per month. From what I gather, one tackle the tasks in any order and obviously, can choose to completely as many tasks per month, provided all 24 are done and dealt with before December 31, 2015. Do read through the recommendations that have been linked to on the sign-up page of the challenge.
- A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 – The Rules of Attraction by Brett Easton Ellis
- A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 – Dear Life by Alice Munro
- A collection of short stories – The Collected Stories of John Cheever
- A book published by an indie press – The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction or Out! Stories from the New Queer India
- A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ – Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
- A book by a person whose gender is different from your own – The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett
- A book set in Asia – Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami or Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
- A book by an author from Africa – The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer or Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture – The Land of Naked People by Madhusree Mukherjee
- A microhistory – The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
- A YA novel – Artemis Fowl & the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
- A sci-fi novel – Foundation & Empire by Isaac Asimov or Dune by Frank Herbert or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
- A romance novel – The Time-Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
- A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade – A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan or Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
- A book that is a retelling of a classic story – The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
- An audiobook – Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- A collection of poetry – Songs of Kabir trans. by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
- A book that someone else has recommended to you – The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
- A book that was originally published in some other language – Raag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla
- A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind – Maus by Art Speigelman
- A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure – The Story of O by Pauline Reage
- A book published before 1850 – The Red and the Black by Stendhal
- A book published in 2014 – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- A self-improvement book – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
A happy year of reading lies ahead!