Pushing Forth: Reading Challenges for 2015

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 inย  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!

  1. The Rules of Attraction – Brett Easton Ellis
  2. This Side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. The Collected Stories of John Cheever
  4. The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction II
  5. Giovanni’s Room – James Baldwin
  6. The Dain Curse – Dashiell Hammett
  7. Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – Haruki Murakami
  8. The Conservationist – Nadine Gordimer
  9. The Emperor of All Maladies – Siddhartha Mukherjee
  10. Artemis Fowl & The Time Paradox – Eoin Colfer
  11. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  12. A Visit from the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan
  13. Songs of Kabir – Translated by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
  14. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
  15. Raag Darbari – Shrilal Shukla
  16. The Story of O – Pauline Reage
  17. The Red and The Black – Stendhal
  18. The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
  19. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
  20. The Golden Gate – Vikram Seth
  21. Lost Loves: Exploring Rama’s Anguish – Arshia Sattar
  22. When I was a Child I Read Books – Marilynne Robinson
  23. On Photography – Susan Sontag
  24. The Naive & Sentimental Novelist – Orhan Pamuk
  25. On Writing – Eudora Welty
  26. Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  27. The Rum Diary – Hunter S. Thompson
  28. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  29. The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters
  30. Serious Men – Manu Joesph
  31. Love & Longing in Bombay – Vikram Chandra
  32. The Moor’s Last Sigh – Salman Rushdie
  33. The Legends of Khasak – O.V. Vijayan
  34. Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys
  35. The City of Falling Angels – John Berendt
  36. The Writer’s Diet – Julia Cameron

Back-up books

  1. Black Swan Green – David Mitchell
  2. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
  3. The Man Who Ate the World – Jay Rayner
  4. 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:

  1. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  2. The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
  3. 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.

  1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 – The Rules of Attraction by Brett Easton Ellis
  2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 – Dear Life by Alice Munro
  3. A collection of short stories – The Collected Stories of John Cheever
  4. A book published by an indie press – The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction or Out! Stories from the New Queer India
  5. A book by or about someone who identifies as LGBTQ – Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
  6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own – The Dain Curse by Dashiell Hammett
  7. A book set in Asia – Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami or Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
  8. A book by an author from Africa – The Conservationist by Nadine Gordimer or Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture – The Land of Naked People by Madhusree Mukherjee
  10. A microhistory – The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  11. A YA novel – Artemis Fowl & the Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer
  12. A sci-fi novel – Foundation & Empire by Isaac Asimov or Dune by Frank Herbert or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  13. A romance novel – The Time-Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  14. 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
  15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story – The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter or Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
  16. An audiobook – Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  17. A collection of poetry – Songs of Kabir trans. by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra
  18. A book that someone else has recommended to you – The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis
  19. A book that was originally published in some other language – Raag Darbari by Shrilal Shukla
  20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind – Maus by Art Speigelman
  21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure – The Story of O by Pauline Reage
  22. A book published before 1850 – The Red and the Black by Stendhal
  23. A book published in 2014 – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  24. A self-improvement book – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

A happy year of reading lies ahead!

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