Reading Challenges Update

This is a bit early for a monthly reading update, but I seem to be currently stuck in three books which will take me through right to the end of January and beyond, so it is fair to say that the ten books below are the only ones I read through January.

My only New Year’s resolutions have been my reading challenges. I have signed up for three of them – how have I fared this month? Well, it’s a mixed picture, but I’m not quite ready to give up on my resolutions just yet.

2015global_reading_challengev21) Global Reading Challenge hosted by Kerrie over at Mysteries in Paradise: I’m making it easy on myself this year and opting for the Easy Level – one book from each of the 7 continents (Africa, Asia, Australasia/Oceania, Europe, North America, South America, plus a new continent – Antarctica or a new threshold you are willing to pass – paranormal, historical, space, sea). The reason I have pulled back a little is because I want to choose really brand-new settings/authors, rather than falling back on my usual French/German/Scandinavian/South African staples. So, although I read 3 French books, 1 Japanese book, 1 German book, 1 Irish and 1 Swedish book and 1 ‘vampirish’ novel this month. I am reluctant to put any of them down as my European component. Because none of that would be new to me. Mission not accomplished. Have to do better next month!

2) January in Japan Challenge hosted by Tony Malone at Tony’s Reading List. Not quite good enough. I only managed to finish one book: Kanae Minato’s Confessions and am still in the midst of reading Natsume Sōseki’s last, unfinished novel Light and Dark. As for my ambition to read the new(ish) translation of Tales of Genji (Royall Tyler version): well, this will have to wait, but will hopefully be my epic undertaking for the year.

tbr-dare-20143) TBR Double Dog Dare  hosted by James at James Reads Books. This is a last-ditch attempt to bring some order into the chaos which is my TBR pile – overflowing on shelves, on the floor and threatening to inundate my laptop and tablet as well. The aim is to not buy any new books until I have made a sizeable dent in my pile of ready and waiting books. With a little cheating. i.e. borrowing from libraries just before the holidays and last minute purchasing of books in 2014, I managed to do quite well with this challenge – victory!

The three library books I borrowed were all in French, so they don’t count, because it’s like work (improving my vocabulary, making the most of my current location etc. etc.) They were:

  • Patrick Modiano: L’Herbe des nuits

Given the blurb on the back, I was expecting more of a crime fiction type mystery, but it’s the usual Modiano fare about the reliability of memory, how well we really know people, trying to recapture the past and whether nostalgia really lives up to its name.

  • Jeanne Desaubry: Poubelle’s Girls

poubelles-girls-jeanne-desaubyA touching Thelma and Louise type story of two women living on the margins of French society and the unlikely friendship which arises between them. A depressingly realistic story of the poor and downtrodden, but also quite funny, with fascinating, well-rounded characters and juicy dialogue.

  • Daniel Pennac: Comme un roman

An essay about the joys of reading and how schools, parents, teachers and book snobs are in danger of killing off the joys of reading for young people. Contains the famous Ten Comandments of Reading (or the Rights of the Reader)

1. Le droit de ne pas lire. The right to not read.
2. Le droit de sauter des pages. The right to skip pages
3. Le droit de ne pas finir un livre. The right to not finish a book.
4. Le droit de relire. The right to reread.
5. Le droit de lire n’importe quoi. The right to read whatever you please.
6. Le droit au bovarysme (maladie textuellement transmissible). The right to Bovaryism (textually transmitted disease).
7. Le droit de lire n’importe où. The right to read wherever you please.
8. Le droit de grappiller. The right to dip into books.
9. Le droit de lire à haute voix. The right to read out loud.
10. Le droit de se taire. The right to shut up.

The other books have all been from my existing shelves and most of them have been reviewed elsewhere:

  • Tana French: The Likeness – bought second-hand last year . My first, but certainly not my last Tana French book. Although the plot did seem implausible in places, I really enjoyed the engaging writing, poetic at times, and the genuine sadness of the failure of any idealistic community.
  • Lynn Shepherd: The Pierced Heart  – ebook sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review (having reviewed a previous book of hers). The vampire story for those who do not like vampire stories (which I don’t).
  • Jonas Karlsson: The Room  – Netgalley ebook sent by publisher way back in November. A perfect modern fable about corporate life and the death of the imagination.
  • Paula Hawkins: The Girl on the Train – downloaded from Netgalley several months ago. The life of others always seems more attractive when we are making a mess of our own… and when we see them from a distance. A psychological thriller full of unreliable narrators and domestic claustrophobia.
  • girlwhowasntFerdinand von Schirach: The Girl Who Wasn’t There – copy sent by publisher for review on CFL. Not really a crime novel, more of a ‘coming of age’ story, plus a courtroom drama debating issues of justice, art, trial by media and much more – beautifully written.

The final book I read this month was Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, which I bought in the last few weeks of 2014 following the review by Jacqui. I had previously read the reviews by Tony and Bibliobio, but kept putting it off as far too depressing a subject. Then Jacqui gave me the final nudge. A very emotional read, engaging all your senses – abandon all rationality ye who enter this maelstrom! Will review in more depth shortly.   



30 thoughts on “Reading Challenges Update”

  1. I know what you mean about Fr books …they are ‘work ‘ foe me too ! Read Mersault, contre-enquete which is amazing and thought provoking ….and now working my way through Soumission ! I am such a slow reader in Fr !!!

    1. Hey, you’re right! I didn’t think of that: 6 out of 10 books were in translation (or a foreing language). That must be a record for myself too! And two isn’t bad at all – that’s more than some people read in a year.

  2. Like you, curious about Ferrante having been inspired by @JacquiWine … definitely on my list of authors to explore this year.

    1. Funnily enough, I’ve actually recommended Ferante to a friend of mine, before ever reading her: simply because my friend is of Italian descent, writes ‘women’s fiction’ (whatever that might be, because I disagree with the term, but she has had it called that) and she appreciates good style.

  3. Well done with your TBR challenge! I’m in the midst of my own efforts to read from the piles of books I already have in the house rather than rushing off to buy any more. It’s quite liberating in a way, and I’m enjoying the focus on valuing the things I already own.

    Thanks for the kind mention and I’m looking forward to reading your review of the Ferrante – it’s quite a book!

  4. Good luck with all of your challenges! I also wasn’t very satisfied with how my reading for January progressed, but let’s hope we’ll do better next month 🙂

    You’ve read some lovely books this month! I have been meaning to read ‘The Tale of Genji’ ever since I bought it a couple of years ago, but I always seem to be too intimidated by it to start. Would you perhaps care to do a readalong with me? 🙂

    1. Tony Malone also keeps mentioning a readalong of Genji, as does Michelle Bailat-Jones. So perhaps we can get everyone together and learn from each other…

  5. Marina Sofia – I really admire how you’re doing on these challenges, even if you’re not going along quite as fast as you’d like. You’re doing lots better than I would!

    1. But you already have read nearly every crime book that has ever been written, Margot! Seriously, I’ve always been in awe of your encyclopedic knowledge of a variety of crime genres from so many countries.

  6. These are such thought-provoking and well-written posts. I’d never seen those commandments and they were great. The only French I didn’t know was that dipping word. I love revisiting that beautiful language. Wish I’d kept at it but it’s over 40 years now. Yikes.

    1. Well done on remembering your French! My Japanese is much more recent and I can barely remember anything… Nothing like practice, if you can squeeze it in.

  7. That’s an impressive list this month well done. Ilike idea of reading around the globe and will certainly be looking up some of your recommendations. Look forward to following how you get on.

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