2013 was the first year I joined in any online challenges and I am very pleased I did so. You sometimes need that extra little push or public commitment to go beyond the borders of your little world (or at least, I do).
I completed Kerrie’s Global Reading Challenge, which this year was still hosted on her Mysteries in Paradise website. Kerrie herself is a fantastic resource of information about crime fiction not just from Down Under, but worldwide, and I have learnt so much from the enthusiastic fellow participants in the challenge.
I completed the Medium Level of the Challenge, which meant two books from each of the six geographical continents, plus a seventh continent which could be a realm of fantasy or Antarctica or something you haven’t tried before. Here are the books I chose (quite different from the list I had originally planned, subject to availability and mood).
Deon Meyer: Thirteen Hours – South Africa
Michael Stanley: Death of the Mantis – Botswana
Ōsaka Gō: The Red Star of Cadiz – Japan and Spain
John Burdett: Bangkok Eight – Thailand
Arthur W. Upfield: Murder Down Under – Australia
John Enright: Pago Pago Tango – American Samoa
Jean-Claude Izzo: The Marseille Trilogy – Southern France
Stefan Slupetzky: Lemmings Zorn – Vienna, Austria
Louise Penny: Dead Cold – Quebec, Canada
M. J. McGrath: White Heat – Northern Territories, Canada
Julie Smith: Mean Woman Blues – New Orleans (because I felt guilty about ignoring the US)
Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza: The Silence of the Rain – Brazil
Leonardo Padura: Havana Gold – Cuba
Elizabeth Kostova: The Historian – paranormal, vampire, historical
Alan Bradley: I Am Half-Sick of Shadows – Flavia de Luce series, historical, YA
All in all, a fantastic challenge: it may sound cliché, but it really opened up a whole new world to me. I’ve always enjoyed travelling and reading about local atmosphere and customs in books, so these took me to places I may not have visited otherwise. There was only one book I really didn’t like (The Historian) and one which I found average (Mean Woman Blues). All of the others were good to excellent. I discovered writers that I am most certainly going to read more of (Louise Penny, John Burdett, Garcia-Roza, Michael Stanley).
My favourite discovery was the unparalleled king of the Mediterranean Noir: Jean-Claude Izzo, who completely transported me to the world of Marseille and got me listening to its music.
Until recently, I did not believe I had completed the Reading in Translation Challenge – or rather, I felt I had not reviewed enough books for it. Of course, I could have entered the same books for both challenges: Deon Meyer, Ōsaka Gō, Garcia-Roza and Padura would all have qualified. And I did read and review some other excellent works, such as The Mussel Feast, A Man in Love, A Crack in the Wall or Pietr the Latvian. So, in the end, I think I will consider that challenge complete too. Thank you, Curiosity Killed the Bookworm for enticing me to do it!
What challenges am I participating in for 2014? I would like to continue with both of the above challenges, but this time limit it to 1 book for each continent for the Global Reading Challenge and 6 books of translated literary fiction (rather than crime fiction, however much I love it). The reason I am being modest in this respect is because I am introducing two major challenges of my own:
1) The Clear My Physical and Virtual Bookshelves Challenge (CMPVBC – catchy title!) – as of today, I have 56 books on my Kindle, 21 on my shelves, and 8 on my laptop, all waiting for me. So that brings my target up to 85 before I have even taken a step.
2) The ‘My Favourite Countries’ Focus – I used to love reading books in German and Japanese, while Brazil is my favourite country. I want to reignite that passion and catch up with the best of contemporary writing from these countries. I have no upper target, but I would like to read at least 3 books from each of these countries). I already have a few on my shelves: Arjouni, Zweig, Bernhard Schlink, but am constantly coming up with great new suggestions from outstanding bloggers such as Tony Malone, Simon Savidge, Dolce Bellezza, Words and Peace and Jackie at Farm Lane Books, to name but a few who inspire me.
Wish me luck – I will let you know how I get on!