It’s been a busy week or so for me, what with rehearsals for concerts and music examinations, homework for writing class, and the usual everyday stuff that throws up extras that you weren’t quite expecting. As a result, a couple of reviews in preparation have had to stay in that state as Life takes charge. So, I offer instead a return to a Goodwill Librarian‘s 2016 Reading Challenge I encountered earlier in the year on Facebook, a challenge that I’m happy to say I’ve virtually completed. Twelve specific categories were listed — a far cry from the 50-plus I attempted in 2015 — and I think I’ve covered them all bar one …
1. A book published this year? The closest I’ve got is 2015, with Tolkien’s The Story of Kullervo given its first mass market publication then, and Julia Rochester’s The House at the Edge of the World also first published then, though the paperback edition did make it into 2016.
2. A book I finished in a day? Mark Forsyth’s The Unknown Unknown — a slim volume it’s true, more of a booklet, but it had an ISBN so that makes it a book in my eyes!
3. Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell qualifies as a book I’ve been meaning to read ever since I watched the TV adaptation.
4. Though I wouldn’t say that Mark Cocker’s Crow Country was exactly recommended by my local bookseller, it was displayed prominently in the entrance to the shop, so that’s good enough for me.
5. I’ve started Xenophon’s The Persian Expedition but mayn’t necessarily finish it before the end of the year. This was a set text I was supposed to have studied at school when I was doing O-level Ancient Greek (a long story which I’ll save for later) but as we only looked at selected passages of the Anabasis I can’t say that I had a good overview of what exactly went on during it. Hopefully I’ll do it justice now.
6. I’m finding it difficult to identify a book chosen by a member of my family, so I’m going to cheat a bit here and go with an author that my spouse recommended. She enjoyed Doris Lessing — though not her more SF-oriented novels — so I’m opting for that author’s The Fifth Child.
7. Meanwhile, a book published before I was born is easy: that’ll be Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor which first appeared in the early 19th century.
8. I’m going to pass on a book banned at some point — this feels to me like a category that is especially favoured in the States, where books are banned from school and public libraries on a regular basis by interfering do-gooders on a daily basis, from Harry Potter to more challenging titles. I suppose though I could have gone with an Enid Blyton book as the author went out of favour in UK school libraries for a time though never actually banned as such.
9. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes definitely counts as a book I’d previously abandoned; I’m glad I did because I wasn’t then able to appreciate it in the way I subsequently did.
10. Robert Carse’s The Castaways comes out as a book I owned but never read, apart from the odd passage from a couple of chapters, finally completing it several decades after I first acquired it!
11. There’s no doubt that E R Eddison’s The Worm Ouroboros was a book that intimidated me in the early seventies even when got round to acquiring a copy of it. Having discarded it many years later (the cheap paperback was falling apart from disuse) I was pleased this year to have overcome my trepidation by reading a library copy of a new edition.
12. Finally, a book I’ve read at least once. Well, that was easy: any of the three titles I’ve reread so far this year in Joan Aiken’s Wolves Chronicle (The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Black Hearts in Battersea and Night Birds on Nantucket).
In fact, this challenge was a pretty painless one for me to complete, especially as the more convoluted ones I’d set myself (detailed in a orevious post) covered most of the bases. I must see what new one has now been set for 2017, hopefully equally short but thought provoking and varied as well.