Literally challenged: update

typewriter

It’s some time since I posted an update on that infamous Reading Challenge that I set myself. How have I got on since the end of May?

First off I managed to fit in a memoir with Terry Pratchett’s A Slip of the Keyboard. Here, if you remember, he ranges widely across his life, not just in literature but in sickness and in health, travelling around the world and in his own imagination. If that doesn’t count as a memoir I don’t know what does.

Identifying the mystery or thriller was a piece of cake: this was Ellis Peters’ City of Gold and Shadows, a novel set in the Welsh Marches with red herrings, blue murder and plenty of local colour. I enjoyed this enough to consider delving into more of her oeuvre at some future stage.

Now, the Reading Challenge was issued (and accepted by me) last year, so I feel totally justified in nominating Garth Nix’s long-awaited fantasy prequel Clariel, published in 2014, as a book published this year. Though I wasn’t totally bowled over by it I’m glad I gave it a go. In contrast, Mansfield Park: what else is this but a classic romance? I’m looking forward to her last two novels, perhaps to read in their bicentenary years (Emma next year and Persuasion in 2018) with some of her juvenilia to fill in the time in between.

A popular author’s first novel? That’s easy, that’ll be Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Prince of Mists. Though I was castigated by one reader for not rating this highly — even for putting potential readers off — a close reading of my review would have shown that I didn’t dismiss this author out of hand; in fact, I still have another title of his on my shelves which at a pinch could count as a book at the bottom of my to-read list.

The recently-reviewed The Magic World by Edith Nesbit fits the category of a book more than a hundred years old as it was first published in 1912. Another recently-completed children’s book (which I’ve yet to review) is Joan Aiken’s classic Midnight is a Place which celebrated its fortieth anniversary last year. This counts as a book based on or turned into a TV show as it was broadcast in thirteen episodes on British TV between 1977 and 1978.

So, what’s the number displayed by my virtual reading counter*? Twenty-six so far; that’s still three behind where I’d ideally like to be at this stage** but I’m mindful that — as I may have mentioned before — I’m often ploughing through three books simultaneously. Granted, two of the current crop are non-fiction, and goodness knows how they’ll fit into the challenge categories; but I also have a couple of shorter titles waiting in the wings which won’t take more than a day or two to read and review, bringing me much closer to schedule.

* For the incurably curious that virtual reading counter, with an updated list of books read in 2015, appears on So many books

** Incompetent me miscounted the categories — there are fifty, not fifty-two — so I’m actually closer to target than I thought. Thanks to Colonialist for pointing out my mistake …

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17 thoughts on “Literally challenged: update

    1. Thanks so much for your appreciative comments, Gill — I try hard with such updates to entertain because catalogues are not everyone’s cup of tea. (Having said which, I quite like catalogues raisonées where the commentaries can be little art forms in themselves, if well done.)

      The phot is from a cafe-cum-eaterie in Abergavenny which aims, largely successfully, to recreate a comfortable retro atmosphere. I learnt as a teenager to touchtype on a beast not too dissimilar to this, and used a portable up to the 90s — when it eventually threatened RSI, luckily just as PCs started appearing at an affordable price. But I’m sure this experience was duplicated elsewhere …

  1. Looks like good list. My wife wasn’t so keen on Mansfield Park but I loved it (twice). The others too are great. Btw RSI can be achieved on computer keyboards too and I wish I wasn’t in a position to say that!

    1. I’m sorry you get RSI with your computer, Alastair — since I changed to a laptop the action has been so much less stressy, and certainly has led to little or no pounding.

      Glad you approve of my book choices! The majority of them were titles accumulated and squirrelled away over the years, with just such a Challenge to encourage me to read them!

    1. Thanks, Sue! I like reading other people’s reviews, both for their own instrinsic worth as well as for helping me decide whether to sample the books themselves, so don’t feel any compunction to get any of them yourself!

  2. You are doing amazingly. Counting all you have read, and not being too strict about the categories, I make it that you are ahead of the game.
    It seems every time I want to go on a reading binge into both fresh and familiar territory, another edit comes up – but at least I still get to read a lot of new stuff that way!

    1. Well thank you, Col — I suppose what matters is to keep one’s mind alert and interested, and whether that’s through published books or somebody else’s in vitro literary efforts probably does the trick!

      And now you mention it, my ability to count accurately has certainly diminished since my teens — there are indeed only fifty categories on the list, not fifty-two, so I am pretty much virtually up to date. Still, I shall endeavour to keep to my initial tally of one a weak: I shall have to make up two more categories!

  3. Yes, 50 categories, but “trilogy” is one of them, so that might actually bring the count back up to 52. Depends on what kind of math you prefer.
    My daughter’s a huge fan of Nix’s Old Kingdom series, so I’ll have to locate Clariel for her.
    I’ll be posting soon about some Elizabeth Gaskell books — I’ve found 3 to fit the categories, and the more I read, the more I like.

    1. A trilogy as three books? A novel idea! Perhaps I’ll have to read the last of Grossman’s Magicians books sooner rather than later …

      Gaskell I’ve yet to read, Lizzie; perhaps I’ll do a splurge on 19C authors next year, maybe an alphabetical challenge with Gaskell as G and Zola (another author I’ve not yet made the acquaintance of) as Z. Look forward to your post(s) on her!

  4. I went through a spell of reading a lot of Ellis Peters. She’s very entertaining, though I’m guessing not highly regarded by many critics. Cadfael is possibly one of the most appealing characters I’ve ever come across – down to earth, sensible, empathetic. Not necessarily a realistic man of his times, but I would’ve loved him as an uncle 🙂

    1. Yet to try any of the Cadfael novels, Lynn, only have an impression of Derek Jacobi from TV trailers. Of course, Cadfael is a Welsh name (Battle-soldier or Warrior, I think, perhaps indicating that he’s a crime fighter?!) so I’m assuming the series reflects a setting on the Welsh Marches.

      1. Ah, had no idea about the meaning of his name – he was a soldier before he became a monk, so very appropriate. Derek Jacobi was always more refined than I imagined Cadfael, though didn’t do a terrible job. The books are set in and around Shrewsbury during the Matilda / King Stephen conflict, so lots of opportunity for violence!

          1. The first book – A Morbid Taste for Bones – is a great place to start. As I recall, it begins with the abbey trying to get its hands on the bones of a Welsh virgin martyr to boost its standing. I remember The Virgin in the Ice being very atmospheric too, though Peters was always good at that – cloisters, medieval towns, Cadfael’s workshop where he stores bunches of drying herbs and bottles of sticky syrups that can cure or kill in the right doses. As a history lover, that was why I enjoyed the books so much – I just wanted to be there 🙂

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