Two challenges….In which I throw the gauntlet at myself

ouch! those gauntlets hurt!

At this moment my husband is watching his team (the Bears) play in the superbowl, so I’m hiding in the office and blogging. I have nothing against the superbowl, but, as I’m from Wisconsin (where you are practically made into a cheesehead/Packer fan in utero) seeing my team’s arch-rivals in the game is a bit of a downer. Being married to a rabid fan of said team is even tougher. (The only football news I care about from this week is that Brett Favre will be returning next season–now if we could just get a team together to back him up).

But I digress….

I missed out on joining the Chunkster Challenge, so I’ve decided to dive in and tackle two others. I like the idea of having a set list (or two) to choose from, as I tend to run around like a chicken with my head cut off looking for my next book to read. Invariably this means that I completely ignore the unread books already on my shelves and head out to the library or bookstore for something new. Between these two challenges I’ll be able to rest easy in the knowledge that I have actually taken some of the books that I already own and finally read them. And when I do set out to find some at the bookstore or library, I’ll have more direction (which won’t stop me from picking COMPLETELY random books up and lugging them home as well). The gauntlet has been thrown….

The first challenge is the NYT Notable Fiction Books of 2006 challenge, found here. I’ve parsed the list down to 14 (ok, now it’s 15–see? it never ends with me!) that I REALLY want to try for. I tend to lean towards non-fiction, so this is a great way for me to try to get more fiction in my literary diet. Here are my initial selections (in no particular order–ok, it’s alphabetical by title; I was trying not to look too obsessive-compulsive, but I failed): Update: I have decided to throw a few more books into the ring for a total of 20 (because i can’t stop myself)–the new additions are listed in red:

  1. “Absurdistan” by Gary Shteyngart
  2. “Against the Day” by Thomas Pynchon
  3. “Apex Hides the Hurt” by Colson Whitehead
  4. “Arthur and George” by Julian Barnes
  5. “Beasts of No Nation” by Uzodinma Iweala
  6. “Brookland” by Emily Barton
  7. “The Dream Life of Sukhanov” by Olga Grushin
  8. “The Emperor’s Children” by Claire Messud
  9. “Forgetfulness” by Ward Just
  10. “Golden Country” by Jennifer Gilmore
  11. “Half of a Yellow Sun” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  12. “The Keep” by Jennifer Egan
  13. “The Inhabited World” by David Long
  14. “The Inheritance of Loss” by Kiran Desai
  15. “Old Filth” by Jane Gardam
  16. “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy
  17. “Skinner’s Drift” by Lisa Fugard
  18. “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl
  19. “Suite Française” by Irène Némirovsky
  20. “A Woman in Jerusalem” by A.B. Yehoshua

The second challenge is more up my alley (as far as my usual reading habits go). It’s the Non-fiction 5 Challenge found here. The goal is to read five non-fiction books from May to September. Joy, of “Thoughts of Joy” is sponsoring it:

  1. “The Girl with the Gallery” by Lindsay Pollock (biography of Edith Gregor Halpert and her influence on modern art in America)
  2. “Dark Sun” by Richard Rhodes (making of the hydrogen bomb–I LOVED his book on the atom bomb–anybody who can interest me in nuclear physics is a special kind of writer in my book)
  3. “Tolstoy” by A.N. Wilson (biography of the author of so many “loose baggy monsters”)
  4. “Gulag” by Anne Applebaum (award-winning history of the gulags)
  5. “Guns of August” (a book that I should have read LONG ago on the beginning of WWI)–I seem to have a strange fascination for war

In case those don’t pan out (or my notoriously capricious nature wins out and I change my mind AGAIN), I’ve put a list of initial alternate books together:

  1. “A Life in Secrets” by Sarah Helm (the biography of Vera Atkins and espionage in WW2)
  2. “Inside the Victorian Home” by Judith Flanders (a look into domestic life in Victorian England)
  3. “Postwar” by Tony Judt (Europe after WW2)
  4. “Five Germanies I Have Known” by Fritz Stern (autobiography/memoir about the different faces of Germany throughout the 20th century)
  5. “James Tiptree Jr.” by Julie Phillips (the biography of the writer Alice B. Sheldon)
  6. “The Judgment of Paris” by Ross King (about the birth of Impressionism)

Ok, ok, I hear clapping and cheering from the other room and I can’t stay here forever (mainly because the heat in this old house we rent doesn’t come into the office and my fingers are turning blue), so I’m off to watch the superbowl, play the supportive spouse, and try to avoid muttering too much trash talk (although how can one resist?).

Note: if anyone is interested in looking at some science writing for the Non-Fiction five challenge, my husband has started to collect a number of titles from his colleagues on his blog. He keeps a running tally on the sidebar with links to the book. They are listed under “The Great Science Book Challenge.” Give it a look-see!


11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Wendy on February 4, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Yay! Glad to see you are going to join me in this challenge! You’ve picked some great books from the list. I can personally attest that Half of a Yellow Sun is a tremendous book! I am also doing the Non-fiction challenge 🙂


  2. Posted by kookiejar on February 4, 2007 at 10:04 pm

    I’m in on both this challenge and Joy’s Non-fiction Five, may I suggest that you try Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ for one of your NYT books? I just loved it so much and it pretty much topped everyone’s list of best books of the year, I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about it. It’s no loose baggy monster, but it is a heck of a good read!


  3. Posted by Clair on February 5, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Wait, didn’t you try to read Gulag a few years ago? It should be on your shelves somewhere. And, having read Suite Francais, I can tell you to skip it. Not too great and seriously needed an editor. Happy reading!


  4. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on February 5, 2007 at 11:58 am

    I was supposed to have read “Gulag” years ago, but like so many other books I didn’t. However, I’m still formulating my non-fiction list. The challenge is to push the bounds of what we would normally read, so I want to bring in a few more science books. I’m thinking “Elegant Universe,” “Death by Black Hole,” and/or “Warped Passages” as some of the possibilities.


  5. Posted by Eileen on February 5, 2007 at 9:47 pm

    Hi from a die-hard Packer fan (born in WI so yes, a fan made in utero as you say LOL)! I’m doing the non-fiction challenge too.


  6. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on February 5, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Eileen–Glad to see another Packer fan!


  7. Posted by Joy on February 6, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Hi there! I stopped by to welcome you to the NFF Challenge. Glad you will be joining in on the fun. 🙂


  8. Posted by Pour of Tor on February 6, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    You know what I love about the NYT Notable Book Challenge? That (because we all choose from a fairly limited “reading list”) there will be so much more overlap in the books we are all reading. I can’t wait to hear what you think of some of these books!

    And I have to step up to defend “Suite Francaise,” which I loved. I thought it was remarkably polished and carefully crafted for a book that remained unfinished (not even halfway done, in fact) at the time of the author’s death. [The appendices trace the author’s plans for the work as a whole.] In fact, it feels strangely complete despite being only the first two parts of a (projected) five part work. Also, it is strikingly lucid for a book that was written as the historical events it recounts were taking place.


  9. Posted by Loose Baggy Monster on February 6, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    I agree about the overlap. It’s a double dose of goodness for me because the list provides me with some sense of direction AND I get to hear what other people think (as I’ve said before, I love to read book reviews). I’m really looking forward to it. And I’m excited to read “Suite Française”–in reading some of the letters at the end of the book it was heartbreaking to see how easily a life can be wiped out and “forgotten” but also reassuring that Némirovsky has been, in a literary sense, revived.


  10. Posted by Harleyman on February 8, 2007 at 7:59 am

    You know, to could include a few books with some social redeeming value such as Zen and the Art of Motoercycle Repair or Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter….


  11. Posted by Maggie on February 18, 2007 at 11:36 am

    Tiptree looks like the book everyone is reading! Great lists! 🙂


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