This year, in addition to focusing my reading on blogging topics, I have chosen to embark upon Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge.
I am dedicating the month of September to posting about how I am carving up this challenge. The New Year will be here before we know it.
Many books I have read could count in multiple categories, but some I have hand chosen to fit criteria. I have had three dreaded categories: A book I never finished, A book at the bottom of my to-read (Modern Mrs. Darcy has a shorter challenge this year on her blog with the similar category of a book you have been meaning to read) and a book I should have read in high school but I didn’t. Somehow August ended up being the month to get my three dread books conquered. And September is my month to write about them!
A Book I Should Have Read in High School But Did Not: There is only one book I can recall ditching in high school. I never like to feel that a book has bested me so it has, like other books in this post, been haunting me guiltily from the margins when I am devouring another book that is more engrossing and far more loved. My excuse is that it was the last semester of a senior year in a class that also involved an in-depth feminist critique of The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. (Which I did complete but not after complaining to my high school librarian, whose opinion was instrumental in my choices when I could choose my reading assignment from a list that she lovingly created, that the book in effect “drags me around and beats me.” Ah, the struggle is real. I also wish I had appreciated her more while I had her.) While the non honors English kids were choosing their involved papers and doing them on things like camping. A friend in that class even has similarly confessed an uncharacteristic guilty ditch as well of the same assignment. Anyway:
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
I had to trick myself to get into this book via driving while I listened to it. I did not care much for it this time either but I would have been completely out to sea on this as a senior in high school. It could have been even shorter than it was. I try to only remain positive in my book reviews but there is a reason that I abandoned this then and had to press to get through it and trick myself as an adult. And P.S., this cover image is weird. Hester is supposed to be pretty and appealing and this character just looks weird.
A Book You Started But Never Finished: I admit I have less baggage around this category. Not like I did with The Scarlet Letter. My father really likes it and I tried to wrestle this book into submission twice to no avail. Again, I had to get the audio to really get myself rolling. Driving to work, exercising or crafting will sweeten any book long enough to pull me into it.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The fact that this book involves rabbits is the only reason I can think of that this would be considered appropriate for children. And maybe that he originally developed this story as told to his own children and then decided to write it down at the behest of his apparently precocious little girls. This book will need to be re-read in its time, as it is so much to take in at a first read. My favorite part of the story is that he created legends about rabbit culture and words that would be relevant to them but would have no need to be created for humans, like silflay as the word for coming out of the burrows and eating. I really liked how different warrens had different viewpoints and societies and opinions that drove the story forward. When the rabbits chose to incorporate new ways of thinking, like making a meeting room in the burrows and making some alliances with other animals, they gained advantages that even they did not anticipate. I also liked how Fiver proves his mettle and gains respect. Just because. When I was reading I would get nervous when Fiver did not approve an adventure. (Other contenders for this category include Hugo’s Les Miserables, which I made it half through during a sleepless maternity leave, and The Lion’s Paw by Robb White).
A Book That Is At the Bottom of Your To-Read (or for MMD A Book You Have Been Meaning To Read): My TBR list has been monstrous since I found that list of 100 books by The Independent that floats around social media with labels all like how the BBC thinks I am ignorant and have only read six. Actually my first goal was to out read the Psychiatrist with whom I work and then I fully intended on being a social media snob when it resurfaces on occasion. I have read around 70. Sometimes I make sure people know that. The stragglers left are either of seriously hefty length or just are not my cup of tea. Not that I mind a hefty length because I do want to read Don Quixote and I already have the audio on deck, but for this challenge I chose:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A war satire? I don’t care for war books or even satire that much. As is the point with satire it throws into light the absurdity of war and probably other social conventions of the mid-century that are likely lost on me. It did not help me that this made it to Goodreads as a book most often abandoned, right up there with Ulysses. I was reading reviews as to why people did not like it, or were so divided on it, and I started to lose my steam for the whole thing so I put it on audio and went to the gym and then picked up my knitting needles. Strategy is key here.
I surprised myself when I actually got into it. It is a genuinely funny book and one of those that is beautifully written with striking statements about things that have always been true but have not been in words like that; words that make it all the more clear and true. I wanted to know why the characters had their particular issues and tried to piece it together through the disjointed time construction, but even then I focused less on the time piece and liked the stories of the men.
I can see where the disjointed time construction and satirical conversation would lose readers. Other contenders included Don Quixote, like I said, War and Peace, and Romeo and Juliet, but I need to read a play too and that fits better there. Although I have not read Death of a Salesman either. And I did think about Ulysses, but people have been saying on the internets that a better idea is to work through Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man first.
I have been trolling Pinterest for other people’s ideas on what books would fit in these categories. What are you choosing or would choose? Leave a comment below!!