Nov 9, 2007

2008 in Challenges (and a Few Other Things)

I am back to blogland after a short absence. This week was Reading Week for the English Department, so I didn’t have any classes. I did quite a bit of reading, but I also took some time off and visited friends in Manchester and saw some bands live. In the last couple of days I saw bands like The Arcade Fire, The Shins, Okkervil River and St. Vincent, just to name a few All were amazing, and I’m particularly happy I got to see them while I’m here because they’re not bands I would catch in my little corner of the world.

I also got to visit the Manchester Art Gallery, which has a major collection of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. They were amazing. I particularly loved “Ophelia” by Arthur Hughes, which can be seen here but is much more impressive live, “The Bower Meadow” by Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and “Hylas and the Nymphs” by John William Waterhourse.

But anyway. I finally caved in and decided to join some challenges for 2008. The first is the Themed Reading Challenge, hosted by Wendy at caribousmom. It is a wonderfully flexible challenge. All you have to do is pick at least 4 books that fall under whatever theme you want, and read them between January 1 and June 30. I decided to pick WW2 as my theme. Why such a bleak, depressing theme, you ask? I have quite a fascination with WW2 literature, and it’s not because I enjoy reading about violence, misery and death, because I don’t. It’s just that I think that extreme situations, of which WW2 is a prime example, work like a microscope for human thoughts and emotions and actions. Everything gets amplified, and you get to see people at their very worst, but also at their very best. There are stories of death and violence and complete and utter despair, but also stories of hope and courage and survival. And of course, I also think it is important to remember these things. The books I’ll be reading for this challenge are:
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • If This is a Man by Primo Levi

The second is the What’s in a Name? Challenge, hosted by the wonderful Annie. This challenge lasts the whole year, and you only have to read 6 books. I thought that coming up with a list would be hard, but it was actually easy (and fun!), and I managed to fit in books I’ve been meaning to read for a long time:

1. A book with a color in its title.
The Green Man edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (about time I read this one!)

2. A book with an animal in its title.
King Rat by China Mieville (I’ve been meaning to read Mieville for quite some time)

3. A book with a first name in its title.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (For the first time, yes. But better late than never!)

4. A book with a place in its title.
The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia (this one sounds too good to pass)

5. A book with a weather event in its title.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare (Another one I’ve been meaning to get to for ages)

6. A book with a plant in its title.
Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman & Dave Mckean (thanks for the idea, Chris!)

The third is the Young Adult Challenge, hosted by Joy at Thoughts of Joy. Joy always comes up with such great challenges! I really love YA literature, and this one also lasts the whole year, so I couldn’t resist. Plus, a lot of my favourite authors write YA, so this is a perfect excuse to read books of theirs I haven’t read yet. Here’s my list:
  1. Archer's Goon by Diana Wynne Jones
  2. Across the Wall by Garth Nix
  3. The Ruby in the Smoke by Phillip Pullman
  4. Voices by Ursula Le Guin
  5. One for Sorrow by Christopher Barzak
  6. Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper
  7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelaine L'Engle
  8. Pay the Piper by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
  9. Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  10. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer
  11. The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
  12. The Bromeliad Trilogy by Terry Pratchett
And the last one is a different kind of challenge. My blogger friend Rhinoa and I decided that in 2008 we’re going to read 5 books the other loves and that we haven’t read yet. We have similar taste in books, so I really think I will enjoy the books she picked for me:
  • The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop
  • Waifs and Strays by Charles de Lint
  • The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory
  • Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
  • Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov
You can see what the five I picked for her are in this post. Also, like she said, it’d be fun if other bloggers decided to pair up and do the same!


  1. I'm so jealous that you saw the Shins! I'm in love with their new album. I've always been a fan of them, but Wincing the Night Away is just incredible from start to finish.

    Awesome picks for your challenges! The Tempest is my favorite Shakespeare and it's where the name of my blog comes from! It's a great play. I've been meaning to read Jane Eyre're not alone in never having read that ;) And I should really get to my copy of The Green Man too. It's been sitting on my shelf for far too long.

    I'm reading Across the Wall and Inkheart for the YA Challenge too. I'm excited about Across the Wall. It'll be nice to have a couple of Old Kingdom stories and the other stories in the book sound great too. That one's been on my shelf for a long time as well.

    You're not near as bad as me yet for challenges for next year. I've committed myself to over 50 books already! :/

  2. Looks like a great few lists. I have Inkheart and Across the Wall to read soon as well. I am thinking about doing the What's in a Name challenge as well and may pinch a couple of yours. I have The Green Man and King Rat at home as well. My husband is a big fan of China Mieville and I am sure you will love him.

  3. Chris: I completely agree with you. I like their other albums, but Wincing the Night Away is perfect from start to finish! The show was amazing. They played most of it, plus some old classics like New Slang, Caring is Creepy, Know Your Onion, Saint Simon and So Says I. And at the end I got the setlist from the guitar player. I hope you get a chance to see them sometime!

    50 books, eh? Now I don't feel as bad about my 20+ :P I've been resisting a lot of challenges because I do want to have time for just random/whim reading next year, but these were too cool to resist. At least they all have long deadlines!

    Rhinoa: I really think I will love him. So many people have recommended him to me! I picked King Rat because it fit the challenge, but my local library has "Un Lun Dun", so I might read that as my first Mieville before the end of the year.

  4. Wonderful to see you'll be participating in the themed challenge :)

    The Book Thief is GREAT - it is definitely in my list of top ten books EVER! I'm looking forward to reading your review :)

  5. Welcome to the YA Challenge! You've got a great list there with many that I've never heard of, so now I have more to explore. :) I'm looking forward to your reviews and diving into my own list.

  6. Great choices! I picked WW2 as my theme for Wendy's Challenge too since I love reading about that time for exactly the same reasons you listed.

    I have read "Number the Stars" and "Night" this year and thought they were very good. I will be looking forward to your reviews!

  7. Sounds like you had a perfectly wonderful week!

    Thanks so much for joining Annie's challenge! She gets so excited whenever anyone signs up, but she was especially happy having you and Chris join in!

    I suspect I'm going to end up with a bunch more books added to my wish list once you put up all your reviews! I absolutely adored Inkheart!

    Oh, and Annie just read The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. To say she loved it would be the understatement of the month! I had a hard time getting her to finish her schoolwork the day she read it...she just couldn't leave the book alone! Hopefully she'll get her review up in the next day or two. Anyway, thank you so much for the recommendation! (I ordered her the first three in the witch series for Christmas.)

  8. You made me want to join the What's in a name challenge now!But I'll join later on, I want to think about it carefully.
    I'm going to read Inkheart for the something about me challenge, as soon as I find it.It's been hard to get hold of it,must check the library.

    "If this is man" is shocking but necessary. It's a compulsory read in most Italian secondary schools.

    I forgot to add the "Book thief" to my YA challenge list!

    I love your list by the way. Can't wait to see what you think of The ruby in the smoke. I lovelovelove Sally Lockhart as a character but my favourite book of the series is The Tiger in the well.
    and finally....I can't believe you haven't read Jane Eyre yet!!:D

    BTW, it seems like you're really enjoying your time in Britain,you made me a bit jealous, I'm missing my student years now!!
    I love pre-raphaelite artists, itmust have been great to see them live.

    ...can I ask you where exactly is your little corner of the world where you're from?

    (end of long comment)

  9. What a great post! I love hearing about your different challenges. You're inspiring me! You're going to have so much fun with Rhinoa, and I'm going to enjoy reading posts from both of you on those books. Happy reading!

  10. Oh, just dropping a note that I picked up St. Vincent's CD yesterday (Saturday) and I am now envious that you saw her live.

    I love the Pre-Raphaelite too - your time is definitely quality time spent.

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  12. I like your list. I read a handful of them already and I'm sure you'll enjoy them as much as I did. Some are also in my stacks of books waiting to be picked up. Maybe one of these days I'll trip over them in hopes of noticing their titles. Hahaha!

    I was hoping to get King Rat before I start with Perdido Street Station. Mieville is a good read, I have his collection of short stories which really brightens up my shelf. I'll be looking forward on your thoughts on King Rat next year then. Hahaha!

    Maus is a great choice. I don't see a lot of people/bloggers reading it enough. It's really a must-read.

  13. I'm so excited you're reading Maus! I'm thinking of hosting a graphic novels challenge, and I'd reread Maus and Maus II for that.

    I'm working on a huge all-my-2008-challenges post, too, for January, though. Maybe it's a good idea to post it now, like you did, so it seems FINISHED and I'm not tempted to add any more.

  14. Wendy: A lot of people list it among their favourites ever... I REALLY look forward to reading it! Thanks again for hosting this great challenge :)

    Joy: I'm looking forward to getting started too :)

    Amy: I remember your reviews. It was through you that I first heard of "Number the Stars", actually, and your review is the reason why I picked it for this challenge.

    Debi: yay! I'm so glad she loved it so much! I can't wait to see her review! The Witch books are great too. "Wyrd Sisters" is strongly inspired by MacBeth, which will be great since she read it this year!

    Valentina: Do join! It's going to be a fun challenge for sure! Yeah, that's how I think it will be... uncomfortable to read and shocking, but necessary. I have been meaning to read the Sally Lockhart series for ages! I plan on reading the rest of the series next year too, but I didn't put them on the challenge list because I wanted to include different authors. I can't believe it either, but I promise to make ammends :P
    I am really enjoying my time here, yes :) My original corner of the world is Portugal. I do like it there, but there's many things we don't have (not in my town anyway), namely good libraries and bookshops.

    Robin: Thanks :) I do think it will be a lot of fun.

    Dark Orpheus: Isn't the album great? The songs sounded very different live because she didn't have a band to back her up, but it was very good nonetheless. She has a great stage presence.

    Lightheaded: I really look forward to reading Mieville. I think he's an author I'll really like. And I'm anxious to finally get to Maus too. It's been on my TBR list for years!

    Dewey: You REALLY need to host that Graphic Novels challenge! I already have my list mentally made :P Maus is one of those books I've been meaning to get to for years. I'm glad I finally found an excuse to stop postponing it.

  15. I'm going to! I decided! I'm going to host a Man Booker challenge, a Printz award challenge, and a graphic novels challenge. And since I decided late an everyone is going to have a million challenges already, they'll all be easy -- 6 books in a year. I'm hoping some people can overlap. I just have to wait for my friend to make buttons and I'll post about it.

    By the way, I tried so hard to join Annie's challenge; I looked through the 68 books I'm committed to for challenges, and I could find all the categories except weather. I wonder if she'd accept "drears" or "fall" as weather. ;)

  16. I am a huge fan of pre-Raphaelite art. I'm very envious and happy for you.

  17. I too joined the Theemed Challenge but yet to decide on a theme. I am kind of confused what to choose.

    May be I will choose the P G Wodehouses I am yet to read or Agatha Christies.

  18. Sounds like you've been having a great time - I love The Shins!
    Lots of good challenges you are joining. I am still trying to decide which ones to join. Now I'm tempted by some of the ones you mentioned - especially the YA challenge. I used to not read YA books until about this year and I find that I really like them! Anyway good stuff.

  19. Dewey: A Man Booker challenge! I don't think I'll be able to resist that one either. But yeah, 6 books in a year really is easy - especially with graphic novels, because they are so fast to read. Hmm... I think "fall" could count as weather, yes :P

    Carl: Pre-Raphaelite art is great, isn't it? I got a few postcards of my favourite paintings and every now and then I just stare at them... so beautiful!

    gautami tripathy: I've never read Wodehouse nor Agatha Christie, but both are authors I want to try... whichever you pick, I look forward to your reviews!

    Iliana: I have been having a wonderful time :) I know how you feel... there are so many great challenges for the upcoming year! I had a hard time picking as well, and I had to resist some I would love to join.


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