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The Sunday Salon - Reading Challenges 2009

The Sunday Salon.comI stuck my toe in the reading challenge waters this year with the Orange Prize and Booker Prize challenges. These are open-ended challenges (no end date) which appealed to me for several reasons. But now that I'm retired (I say that so much now, I probably won't have time to do anything extra!) I've decided to take on two more challenges for 2009. One of the main reasons is that I already have many of the qualifying books on my TBR shelves, which is not a minor consideration! A couple of them are reads for my book group, too, so I'm already there.

The Challenges:

What's In a Name?
caught my fancy last year. This one comes with a list of categories that you match with a title and read one book from each. For this year the six categories are:

1. A book with a profession in its title.
I'm considering: The Translator; Dr. Zhivago; The Bonesetter's Daughter; The Beekeeper's Apprentice; The Bookseller of Kabul

2. A book with a time of day in its title.
I'll choose from: The Dazzle of Day; Midnight’s Children; Night; On a Day Like This; The Night Watch

3. A book with a relative in its title.
My choices might be: The Bonesetter’s Daughter; Wives and Daughters; The Aguero Sisters; The Rice Mother; Midnight’s Children (we're not permitted to double up in categories though)

4. A book with a body part in its title
I can choose from: The Bone People; Heart Songs and Other Stories; The Bonesetter's Daughter (I'll be reading this one for sure!); Autobiography of a Face; The Good Body; Fall on Your Knees

5. A book with a building in its title.
Several choices here: Palace Walk; The Palace of Desire; Open House; The Glass Castle; Bleak House; Sandcastle

6. A book with a medical condition in its title.
None of these are on my shelf but all are on my wishlist: Consumption; Ship Fever; The Great Influenza

Sounds like fun, eh? Which ones would you choose? Do you have more suggestions?

I also ran across The Decades challenge. The idea here is to read one title from each of the decades in the 20th century. I also have a lot of these on my shelves, and this is a good incentive to read some more classics. I can cross-post some of these with other challenges, so some of these titles repeat from above:


  • 1900s – A Room With a View
  • 1910s – O Pioneers; Winesburg Ohio; Of Human Bondage
  • 1920s-- Kristin Lavransdatter
  • 1930s—The Good Earth; Tortilla Flat; How Green was My Valley; The Big Sleep
  • 1940s—Cry the Beloved Country; The Screwtape Letters; The Razor’s Edge; A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; 1984
  • 1950s - The Martian Chronicles; The Catcher in the Rye; East of Eden; Fahrenheit 451; The Cairo Trilogy; Doctor Zhivago; Night
  • 1960s - Franny and Zooey; Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse-Five
  • 1970s - Princess Bride
  • 1980s -- Midnight’s Children; Life & Times of Michael K; The Bone People; Oscar and Lucinda
  • 1990s – The English Patient; Fall on Your Knees; Queen of the Tambourine; Regeneration; Ship Fever; The Translator

What would you pick from these? Do you have suggestions for the 1970s?

Of course, I'm continuing with the Orange and Booker prize challenges (some of which are on these lists too) and my 100 books/year - which I may bump up to 125, now that I'm retired!

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Be sure to check out the book giveaway in honor of my 200th blog post! Deadline to enter is Friday.

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15 comments:

Anni said...

wow, exciting challenges, especially, "the decades challenge"
happy reading!

Anni

frumiousb said...

Hm. For the 1970s, perhaps Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow, or one of the classics by Stephen King-- that's when he really came into his own. Maybe also Watership Down by Richard Adams, if you haven't read it already. On the more serious side, maybe The Conservationist. by Nadine Gorimer? (that was a Booker prize winner too, I think.)

From the 1930s, I'd definitely recommend The Big Sleep. It's a wonderful book.

Laura said...

Sucked into the challenge vortex, eh? You go girl! I've been giving thought to my 2009 challenges too, but am not yet ready to commit. Like you I'm sticking with my perpetual challenges. The others I'm interested in are year-long and fairly flexible -- I'm not up for the deadlines, either.

Marie said...

So many good books- I'm swooning a little at your list. Off the top of my head, Night Watch (if it's the Russian vampire book) was excellent. Fall on Your Knees is a page-turner with a great twist ending... and on and on. You have a great time ahead of you whatever you choose! :-)

katrina said...

You have 2 of my fav books in there - Midnight's Children and The Bone People. For the Decades challenge I struggled with 1910, for the 1970s I've got The Sea, The Sea, Murdoch or In A Free State, Naipaul as my potential reads

Amanda said...

I'm looking at your titles for #1 profession: IMO, Dr. Zhivago is one of the most frustratingly boring books i've ever read, and I normally LOVE classics. Classics are my favorite, but I just couldn't get into this one. My book club read it in August and I dont' think there was a single person who liked it. It's a classics book club, so all of us are used to classics.

On the other hand, The Bookseller of Kabul was one of the worst books I've ever read. I thought I might learn something about Afghan culture, and instead it was written from the point of view of "everything in the west is good, everything in the middle east is bad." Most of it was showy, perverted, and attention seeking. I felt like the author manipulated everything she saw and used her subjects to create an instant bestseller based on fear. I don't know that I've ever been more angry with an author.

Regarding some of your other choices--good luck with Palace Walk. It's supposed to be wonderful, but I couldn't get past the first few pages. At the time,t hough, I'd just finished Zhivago, so I needed something a little more lively at that time. My rejection of it probably had more to do with my mood than anything else. I love your decades choices. So many to recommend! Quite a few of those, we're reading in my book club next year, too. I love the decades challenge because it forces classics on readers, and that's where I'm most comfortable, anyway, so I have no problem completing them.

debnance said...

I, too, like the flexibility of perpetual challenges. I finished the Newbery Challenge this year, but it will probably be the only challenge I'll finish.

I am working on the Around the World in 80 Books Challenge and I'm stuck. I read lots of books set in other countries, but I never realized until I started the challenge that most books are set in about ten different countries, including India, China, England, and the US. I may never make it to 80 countries.

Good luck with your challenges.

Laza said...

I read Fall on Your Knees several years ago and I loved it. I really want to reread it at some point too. I definitely recommend reading that for the What's in a Name Challenge.

Anna van Gelderen said...

If you want to read something really really 1970s you ought to try Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. I liked it a great deal at the time.

Of the other books you mentioned I loved Wives and Daughters (a good old-fashioned Victorian read), Bleak House (my favourite Dickens), A Room With a View, Of Human Bondage and Oscar and Lucinda (one of my all time favourites).

Irish said...

I've seen the name challenge around too...maybe I'll take a crack at it for next year too. I highly recommend the Translator for your profession category. It was a book most excellent. =) I don't recommend Fall on Your Knees. I thought it was horrible. Thankfully I had a friend who spoke/read arabic which helped with some of the text but didn't help the story at all.

I also think that now that you are retired you should really push the limits...maybe go for 150 instead of 125.

Oh and for books in the 1970s...wikipedia has a whole article about it so you can get some ideas from there.

gwenlyn said...

ROOTS by Alex Haley was published in 1976 and SHIP FEVER is one of my favorite reads of late.

stacey @ bookthirty said...

Hello - I found you via Sunday Salon. I'm still considering the reality of book challenges for me (I've got five young kids, and reading *period* is often a challenge!). :) I see you are in Portland - could you send some love to that Oregon sky for me? I lived there for 16 years before moving with my family to Houston, TX last year. Oh, how I miss the Pacific Northwest!!

beastmomma said...

I am going to work on my challenge decision making after I get through exams.

Terri said...

Isn't it interesting the different responses to books? Amanda, I've had several people tell me that Dr. Z was one of their favorites! Good to hear your feedback on the Bookseller; that would definitely not sit well with me.

Irish, you and laza completely disagree about Fall on Your Knees. So I guess I'll have to find out for myself!

Thanks everyone for your recommendations. I also remembered that Sometimes a Great Notion was written in the 70s (I think) and that's one I've been hankering to read.

Stacey, my sister moved from Portland to Houston years ago and still misses the Northwest.

Marie -- The Night Watch is the Sarah Waters book set during WWII, not the Russian vampire book of the same name!

Anna, I'll be reading Oscar and Lucinda next month for my book group, can't wait!

Gwenlyn, do you have Ship Fever? I've been looking for it in my 2nd hand book quests.

beastmomma, smart idea. You don't need more stress right now!

joyfullyretired said...

I, too, am going to join the Decades Challenge. You and I have several things in common besides being retired. My time period also starts in 1900 and the '70s is the period I'm struggling with. Previous commenter had excellent suggestions. There are two on your list I've decided on: O Pioneers and The Good Earth. Good luck with your challenges.

Margot at Joyfully Retired