Thursday, April 10, 2008

Book challenge

I haven't taken on a book challenge before for several reasons. As one would expect, I tend to be easily distracted in my reading habits, as in other areas of life. There is very little planning in my book purchasing, I read a review on a blog or in the newspaper, I see an attractive cover in a shop, catch a glimpse of someone's choice on a train or follow a friend's recommendation and the piles of books waiting to be read grow.

Another reason for resisting is that I hate to fail at anything. How awful to be the first person to be drummed out of the book challenge community! Imagine if RD had to carry a badge of shame!

It is with some trepidation, therefore, that I am here, publicly declaring my intention to commit myself to joining the ORBIS TERRARUM (whole world) Book Challenge. I saw the details on logophile's blog and decided that it didn't look as restrictive as some of the other book challenges around. Just choose 9 books, written by 9 authors from 9 different countries and read them in 9 months. I discovered that I could take on the challenge with books I already have in my TBR pile, a great incentive in itself. So here is my initial choice, although the very kind hosts of the challenge allow one to change the books during the course of the year.
I have been intending to read more of Irene Nemirovsky's work since finishing Suite Francaise so I'm looking forward to taking David Golder off the shelf. I suppose I could count that as Russia or France, since Irene was born in Kiev but fled to Paris during the Revolution. France claims her as their own.

Next I'm off to Portugal to read Jose Saramago's Blindness, which has been on my shelf for a couple of years waiting for me to pluck up the courage to dive into a book with 'a studied absence of punctuation and ... inconsistency of tenses'.

I shall probably need something a little lighter after that so I'll go to Australia to re-read (I hope that is allowed!) My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. Then, in no particular order, to Africa for Sade Adeniran's Imagine This; to Afghanistan with A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and to South America with some short stories from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this copy of Innocent Erendira has been lurking on the shelf for a very long time.

A Lost Lady by American writer Willa Cather is on my bedside table at the moment. I can't understand how I have missed this as I have read most of her books and this is described as her finest. I don't normally comment on my 'serious' reading but I might be pushed for time towards the end of the challenge and a little trip to Ancient Rome could save the day so I'll keep Seneca's On the shortness of life handy.

My final choice was to have been Dava Sobel's The Planets because a look up at the night sky seemed to be a good way to end a literary trip around the world. However, Dava Sobel is another American writer, so I have to make a change before I even begin. I have gone for another one of those books that has been sitting on the shelf for a very long time and deserves to be read at last. To India, then, with Anita Desai's In Custody.

I'm going to hit the 'publish post' button quickly, before I lose my nerve about the challenge!


  1. You go girl! I'm afraid I've always felt I'm the kind of person who would start rebelling against a book challenge after a while and find it too constraining. Also, my work is very heavily deadline-orientated and I read to escape from all that, so setting targets and deadlines for reading seems an unnecessarily stressful way of going about it.

    Merging books already in the TBR pile into a suitable challenge sounds like a great idea, though, and would avoid that kind of problem. Who knows, I might one day be persuaded to join a reading challenge. But ... just not today!

    Let us know how you're getting on from time to time, won't you?

  2. Hurrah! I'm so glad you're doing this, as it means I can read about the wonderful books you've chosen and supplement my own round the world travels! And thanks for reminding me that I really need to read Dava Sobel's Planets soon. Galileo's Daughter is one of my favourite popular history books.

  3. Juliet - I know exactly how you feel about reading to escape deadlines and other pressures. I have to read a lot of pretty heavy stuff for my studies, so fiction tends to be my relaxation. I'll let you know how it goes.

    Logophile - you got me into this, so you could find me knocking on your door asking for a little encouragement later on.

  4. Yay! Welcome! I am so glad you decided to do this...I know I felt the same way about challenges...and honesly still to some degree I do. Immediately after I put a book on a challenge list it makes me not want to read it. That is the reason I said we can change our books at any time...then I can trick myself into reading tons of good international books, that may or may not be on my Orbis Terrarum list!!! I really hope you enjoy your journey, I can't wait to see your reviews of those amazing books.
    Oh, and I am curious about Suite Francaise!! I am very interested in that book!!!

    Anyway, welcome...and I hope you will not be nervous...there really is no shunning that will go on at all, just encouragement! happy Thursday to you!

  5. Thank you, Bethany. I felt you were a kind and undemanding host and I was obviously right!

    I don't do in-depth book reviews, after studying and teaching Eng Lit Crit for many years, I now just like to read for pleasure and share a few thoughts and impressions. I loved 'Suite Francaise' and recommend it very highly.

  6. Well, you've certainly chosen some interesting books and I look forward to reading about them.

    Re: challenges. Don't be scared. No one runs after you with a meat cleaver if you don't complete one. To me they're just an excellent way to get a few books off your tbr pile read. Plus, it's quite nice seeing what others have chosen for the same challenge. Good luck!

  7. Thanks, Cath. I have seen how many books you get through for your challenges and I don't think I read quickly enough. However, this one gives lots of time.

  8. Happy to provide encouragement whenever necessary (expect I shall need the same from you!) :-)

  9. A bit belated in posting this, M, but having had a few days away from blogging and blog-reading, am catching up. Thinking of the various piles of books of unread books around the house, I could take this on - and it wouldn't be hard as so many of the authors I enjoy reading (and actively seek out) are from, well, elsewhere. I love difference and the unknown . . .

    The trouble is I've just recently, and very late in the day, discovered Isaac Bashevis Singer (as you know) and now I want to immerse myself in everything he's written.

    I now realise that this has been a lifelong pattern, a series of literary love affairs, if you like, all of which, in time, have run their course. And at most of which I can look back with great fondness; first there was Turgenev, then Thomas Hardy but I almost drowned in the headiness of Lawrence Durrell. And so it went on. Is this normal or do you think I need help?

  10. Hi D, I hope all is well.

    If you think your reading habits might be abnormal then I reckon most of us need help! I like to read as much of an author as possible until I feel the urgent need of a change. That was one of my reasons for resisting taking on a book challenge. It will be interesting to see if I can be sufficiently self-disciplined to complete this commitment. I'm already fighting the inclination to re-read 'My Antonia' and then 'The Pioneers'.
    Go on, go for it!


I love to read your comments and promise that I will reply as soon as I can leave my garden, sewing room or kitchen!