Thursday, February 25, 2010

Classics Reading Challenge 2010 - Progress...

Well, here we are at the end of February, and I'm doing fairly well with my challenge of reading twenty classics I've never read before from the list. (If you're interested, the list can be found here.)

I've started out with the easy books, but I did throw in extras. For instance, Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne is on the list, House at Pooh Corner is not, but was in the same volume so I read it too. Eeyore is a lot more sarcastic in the books, Kanga and Roo seem to have been additions to Christopher Robin's collection of stuffed toys and don't enter the book until later. Tigger isn't even in the first book. Rabbit and Owl seem based on live animals and are therefore more intelligent than the stuffed animal characters. But Christopher Robin is the most intelligent, taking on the role of a benevolent god in the Hundred Acre Woods. I went there a few years ago, and there are markers where various scenes in the book took place. It's not as impressive as one would hope, but Pooh Stick Bridge (pictured) looks much like the illustration--I wonder if the bridge has been replaced as it looked new.

It was interesting to compare the first book, based on stories Milne told to his son, and the second which was written as a sequel when Christopher Robin had apparently outgrown the stories and was off at school. The introduction and conclusion of House at Pooh Corner had an almost bittersweet quality. I noticed a similar contrast between Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (which I read last year) and Through the Looking Glass, which I finished last week. Alice is rather obnoxious in the first, and more mature and likable in the second. There's much more structure in Looking Glass--it's based on a chess game (as wacky as Wonderland seems, Carroll was a mathematician, and there is a sort of logic to the fantasy world), and it's clear when Alice moves from one square to the next as a pawn. Similarly, Milne's second novel shows more structure, written for a public audience as opposed to a record of oral stories written down for one child. Movie adaptations of both seem to have blended the two books together. The talking flowers and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, who appear in the Disney film, are from the second book, for instance. As a companion, I read a short biography on Carroll, Lewis Carroll in Wonderland by Stephanie Stoffel, which gave a good overview of his life and a lot of photos. The thing most people know about Carroll is that he liked to photograph children--was in fact one of the most renowned children's photographers of his day--and seemed to have a fondness for spending time with children that was questionable for a single man. It seems his friendship with Alice Liddell, on whom Alice is based, ended abruptly before the book was published. He kept a daily journal, but a niece tore the pages referring to whatever happened between him and the Liddell girls out. One theory is that Alice got to be close to marriagable age and it was no longer appropriate for her to spend time with an unmarried man. There is also a theory that he may have been in love with her and interested in marraige (which wouldn't have been unheard of at the time, despite the age difference), though he was not a suitable suitor due to the class difference (Mrs. Liddell was socially ambitious).

 The third classic on the list I read was the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote. The book is much more liberal than the Audrey Hepburn movie, and more poignant with a very different ending. It reminded me a bit of a modern-day Camille by Dumas fils. (the basis for my favorite opera, La Traviata) in both plot and overall structure. The most notable difference to me when compared to the movie were the frequent, casual references to lesbianism--I can't imagine that being in an Audrey Hepburn movie. the edition I read also contained a few other short stories by Capote which are worth reading because they show his strength for character-driven short stories.

I supposed my conclusion so far on the Classics Challenge is that while reading a work by a classic author is good, reading two or three gives you a better understanding. I know that isn't a very profound observation, as it seems rather obvious. I guess another way to put it is that being widely read doesn't necessarily mean a wide variety of different authors, but rather a deeper understanding of each author. however, I think you do need to read broadly to find the authors you want to read more of, and be open to all types of books. You never know what you might end up liking.

I started the next book on the list, Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, last night.  Though only two chapters in, I think she's another author I'll want to read several books by. Seems the goal of 20 books on that list (which lists one book by each of 150 classic authors) is going to be a bigger challenge than I thought, but a worthwhile one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Blog!

I have a really good reason for not posting for a while--I've started a new blog. I was telling a coworker about how I planned to challenge myself to read 20 classic books that I haven't read from the list of 150 I've mentioned before. The 20 will count toward my usual 52-books-a-year goal. She was interested in joining me (we're starting with A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh and next are reading Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote). Then I mentioned it to other friends and family members, and they were interested in doing the same thing, or something similar. So I decided to create a resource blog to post the classics list, and other recomended reading lists and challenges. My hope is to get others to contribute recomended lists for specific genres, since I have broad but not necessarily deep knowledge of various genres.
The blog is at Please check it out!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reading Challenge 2010

I was thinking about what to do as my reading challenge next year. Having conquered the 52 books finished in a year, I could do it again, or increase the number, but it would be nice to do something different.
Early this year, there was a quiz circulating on Facebook based on a report by the BBC that claimed most people had only read 8 out of a list of 100 books. While it was a fun quiz, I found it a problematic measure of deep literacy. Some books were doubly listed--both Hamlet and The Complete Works of Shakespeare as well as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Chronicles of Narnia appeared, and the respective latter two are really collections of several books. The other issue for me was there was an emphasis on contemporary popular fiction, particularly British fiction. How could Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code make the list when Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and Nathaniel Hawthorne didn't? For that matter, why include several works by Austen and Dickens and omit those American authors. Granted, this list was British and no doubt aimed at the general public (hence the inclusion of recent popular works), but I wanted a more comprehensive list.
And so I created my own Literacy Quiz, which I've posted below. I tried to think of classic works of fiction, and include one book for each author. To be a "classic," it has to have stood the test of time, which I set at 50 years. I focused on literary fiction, but also included key works in genre fiction. I also tried to include books from different countries. I used the BBC list in part, but mostly searched lists of top books and recommended reading lists. Because I was only including one work from each author, I had a scoring system to give credit for reading a different book by the same author. In the end I listed 122 books, and left 3 spots to write additional books at the quiz-taker's discretion.
So what I'm thinking is that my goal for 2010 should be to read a certain number of classics. They should primarily be books on the list below, or at least by the authors on the list below. I'm not sure how many. I'm thinking 20, but that would be about a classic every two weeks, and most classics take longer to read. I may also stick with my 52-book total quota--I need my commercial fiction fix, and I want to stay current on contemporary fiction, as well as nonfiction. So perhaps I should start with 10, and if I finish them by June, I'll make it 20. I think this will be a good way for me to keep reading, but emphasize the classics.
I may also include authors or books not on the list. I didn't include plays, which is why Shakespeare isn't included, but there are a few of his plays I haven't read. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller was published in 1961, so it didn't meet the 50-year criteria, but it's very close. I simply didn't think of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, and am actually currently reading it. Though I'll likely finish before the end of this year, I'm tempted to count it anyway since I've finished my 2009 challenge, and want to get started on the next one!

The Literacy Quiz

I Scored 207 on the Literacy Quiz!

Below are classic works by over 100 authors. These are books that are generally recognized as having great literary value that have already stood the test of time (i.e. have been in print for about 50 years or more). There are three slots for bonus titles: books by authors you think should be included (feel free to disregard the 50-year rule).

To determine your Literacy Score, use the following rules:
4 points – if you read the book listed
5 points – if you read the book listed and it wasn’t a school assignment
3 points—if you read a different book by the author than the one listed

1. Aesop’s Fables -
2. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe -
3. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott - 5
4. Winesburg, Ohio – Sherwood Anderson -
5. Foundation – Isaac Asimov -
6. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen - 3
7. Go Tell It on the Mountain – James Baldwin -
8. The Black Sheep - Honore De Balzac -
9. The Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baum - 5
10. The Adventures of Augie March – Saul Bellow -
11. The Mandarins - Simone de Beauvoir -
12. Beowulf - 4
13. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte - 4
14. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte -
15. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury - 5
16. The Good Earth – Pearl S. Buck -
17. Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan -
18. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - 3
19. Tarzan of the Apes – Edgar Rice Burroughs -
20. Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Truman Capote -
21. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold – John le Carre -
22. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll -
23. My Antonia – Willa Cather -
24. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes - 4
25. The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler -
26. The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer - 4
27. The Awakening – Kate Chopin -
28. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie -
29. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins -
30. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad - 4
31. The Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper - 4
32. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane -
33. The Enormous Room – e. e. cummings -
34. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - 5
35. Divine Comedy - Dante -
36. Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe -
37. The Man in the High Castle – Philip K. Dick -
38. Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - 3
39. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky -
40. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - 3
41. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier -
42. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas -
43. Camille – Alexander Dumas fils. - 5
44. Middlemarch - George Eliot -
45. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison -
46. The Sound and the Fury – William Faulkner -
47. Tom Jones - Henry Fielding -
48. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald - 4
49. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert -
50. The Good Soldier – Ford Maddox Ford -
51. A Passage to India – E.M. Forster -
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons -
53. Lord of the Flies - William Golding - 5
54. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - 4
55. Riders of the Purple Range – Zane Grey -
56. She – H. Rider Haggard - 5
57. The Glass Key – Dashiell Hammett -
58. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy -
59. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne - 4
60. Catch-22 - Joseph Heller -
61. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway - 4
62. Cabbages and Kings - O. Henry - 5
63. The Odyssey – Homer - 4
64. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo -
65. Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston -
66. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley -
67. Daisy Miller – Henry James -
68. From Here to Eternity – James Jones -
69. Ulysses - James Joyce - 4
70. The Metamorphosis – Franz Kafka -
71. Just So Stories – Rudyard Kipling - 5
72. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence -
73. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee - 4
74. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis - 5
75. Babbitt – Sinclair Lewis - 4
76. The Call of the Wild – Jack London - 5
77. The Naked and the Dead – Norman Mailer -
78. The Magic Mountain – Thomas Mann -
79. Of Human Bondage - W. Somerset Maugham - 3
80. Selected Short Stories - Guy de Maupassant - 5
81. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez -
82. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers -
83. Moby Dick - Herman Melville -
84. Tales of the South Pacific - James Michener - 3
85. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne -
86. Gone With the Wind - Margaret Mitchell -
87. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - 5
88. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov -
89. A Good Man Is Hard to Find – Flannery O’Connor -
90. The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy - 5
91. Animal Farm - George Orwell - 5
92. Selected Short Stories - Edgar Allan Poe - 5
93. Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand -
94. Clarissa - Samuel Richardson -
95. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - 4
96. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery -
97. Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott -
98. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley - 4
99. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute -
100. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair -
101. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith -
102. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - 3
103. Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson -
104. Dracula - Bram Stoker -
105. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe - 4
106. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift -
107. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray -
108. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy -
109. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien -
110. Lady Anna - Anthony Trollope - 5
111. Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain - 3
112. Rabbit, Run – John Updike -
113. The City and the Pillar – Gore Vidal -
114. All the King’s Men - Robert Penn Warren -
115. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh -
116. The Time Machine – H.G. Wells - 5
117. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton - 4
118. Charlotte’s Web - EB White - 4
119. The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde - 3
120. Little House on the Prairie – Laura Ingalls Wilder - 4
121. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf -
122. Germinal - Emile Zola -
123. (bonus) Harry Potter series - 5
124. (bonus) The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison - 5
125. (bonus) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood –

Don’t forget to change the score to your own in the subject line!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mission Accomplished--52 Books Read

Well, I'm happy to report I've accomplished my goal of finishing 52 books this year, and with a month to spare!
Of course with a project like this I had to keep a record--to be honest, I wouldn't remember I'd read some books if I didn't write them down, which tells you of the impact of those books. Basically, I just kept a spreadsheet of the book details (title, author, genre, etc.), my personal rating, and maybe a brief note.
As far as my goal of being diverse, I'm reasonably satisfied, though I probably could have read a greater variety of nonfiction categories--I mostly stuck with memoirs, travel, essays, and humor. Another of my earlier goals was to purge my shelves, and I got rid of about half of the books I read that I owned (some were borrowed from the library or friends). Basically, anything that didn't get a 4-star rating or higher went in the canvas bin for donations/used book store trade ins.
Before I get to my favorite books of the year, I should briefly explain my rating system. There are half stars, but obviously those are for books that fall between.
* = repulsive, I actively disliked this book. Nothing got one star because I wouldn't have finished it, and only the books I finished counted.
** = Didn't like, regretted reading it. Only three books got a 2, two of which were slightly obscure 19th century children's *** classics.
= Okay, enjoyable read. Most books got this, which isn't surprising since I focused on books I wanted to read.
**** = Exceptional, I would read it again or recomend it to a friend. I'll note these in a moment.
***** = An all time favorite. None received this. There are only a handful of books I've ever considered a 5.
I should also note that my rating system is entirely subjective, naturally, and vastly skewed according to my personal preferences. I also weigh books in the context of their genres. For instance, a romance novel could get a 4, while Hemingway earned a 3. You can't compare carrots and cupcakes, each have their place and can only be compared to their kind.
So, without further rambling, here, in order of having read them, are the 4-star books of 2009 (a.k.a. those I would recomend):

Lord of Ice by Gaelen Foley (historical romance)
A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins (memoir/travel)
What I Did for Love by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (contemporary romance)
Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott (memoir)
The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsely (personal finance)
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver (fiction)
Wildlife Preserves by Gary Larson (humor)
The Widow of the South by Robert Hicks (historical fiction)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (classic/science fiction)
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (memoir/essays)
Lord of Fire by Gaelen Foley (historical romance)
Finger Lickin' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich (mystery)
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (YA/fantasy)
Searching for Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede (YA/fantasy)
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris (memoir/essays)
Signspotting III by Doug Lansky(humor)
The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (historical fiction)
Bear Portraits by Jill Greenburg (photography)
In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck (classic/fiction)

I tried to be diverse in my reading. I work on commercial fiction, so I try to keep up on genre fiction (romance, mystery, science fiction, young adult, etc.) I also tried to get in a few classics, and for most it was evident to me why they've lasted.
So now I'll have to think about what adjustments to make for 2010. More books? More diversity? Hmmm....

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Novice in the Land of Manga

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been investigating the genre of manga. It's been a slow journey, but quite interesting because manga is a unique format (illustrated, like comic books), and heavily influenced by Japanese culture (because, well, they're translated Japanese books).
Traditional manga books read from right to left, meaning you start on what we would consider the last page, and read the top right panel first and proceed to the top left, then the second right panel, and so on. The panels are sometimes different sizes, so this can vary. Thinking this style wouldn't catch on in the US, they originally reset the books to read the Western way, a very time-consuming and costly process. But it's actually not difficult to adapt to. Manga written by Western (American) authors, and manhwa, which is the Korean equivalent of manga, is written in the Western style, like American comic books.
Manga is actually a Japanese adaptation of American comic books, which I think one of the great things about global culture. Japanese artists adapted American culture, and now their adaptation has caught on with a fierceness with American readers because of how they made it uniquely their own. In Japan, manga is published in thick magazines that feature different series. Episodes from popular series are then bound into books, and series of these books are published and translated for English-speaking audiences. A manga book might contain four episodes, and the beginning might remind readers of the concept or back story of the series, particularly in early episodes. This seems odd in the book, but makes sense when you consider how it was originally serialized.
Popular series are also made into animated television series. Anime series sometimes stay close to the books, but some episodes may differ, most often toward the end of the anime series to give it a conclusion where the books continue the story of the characters. Another impetus for me reading manga was checking out a few anime series on Netflix and online at and after falling in love with the anime movies of Hiyao Miyazaki. Miyazaki is distributed by Disney in the US, and his movies are brilliantly imaginative, and so different from what I'm used to seeing. My favorites are SPIRITED AWAY and MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.
Manga is divided into sub genres according to gender and age. As far as what you'll find in the bookstore, it's primarily shojo manga for girls and shonen manga for boys. There's also kodomo manga for children under 10, josei manga for women, seinen manga for men, and hentai or ero manga which features very explicit adult content. I've mostly focused on shojo manga thus far. I tried a few shonen books, but the ones I read focused on fight scenes and/or scantily-clad female characters (very like American superhero comics).
In Japan, manga is read rapidly, and embodies the idea of a 'picture is worth a 1,000 words.' I've not come close to mastering reading a picture along with the words at a quick pace, and don't know all the symbolism. The shape of the eyes will tell you about the character's personality, for instance. Some of these are obvious, and akin to American comics (big eyes = good, squinty eyes = bad). Also, apparently the hair color is significant, but as most manga is black and white, you have to rely on dialogue or cover art--I think this may apply more to anime series than manga.
There are some characters unique to Japanese culture. The one that most frequently appears in shojo manga is the bishonen--basically a really good looking guy who often appear nearly feminine. Another odd one is a teen character who is drawn and behaves like a child relative to the other characters despite being the same age--I don't know if this character type has a name, but I saw it in several series.
There are other odd things that come up that take a bit of adjustment. When characters have extreme emotions, they turn into child-like caricatures of themselves. When they're nervous, a big sweat drop appears on their heads. Most baffling of all, when they are attracted to someone they get explosive nosebleeds. I still don't get that last one, but speaking of, apparently in Japan sharing your blood type is like telling someone your astrological sign, so it's included in the character profiles, and the authors will often note theirs in their bios.
Probably the biggest challenge for me was keeping the characters straight. Not only do they sometimes look similar, there are usually a lot of them and they have unfamiliar Japanese names and nicknames. Then there's the honorifics added to their names, which differ according to the relationship between the character and the speaker. For instance, a male character named Tamaki might be called Tama for short, Tamakisan (like Mr. Tamaki, general term of respect), Tamakikun or Tamakun (term of endearment used by close friends), Sempai by someone younger in school or a club, or Kohai by an upperclassman or senior member of a club. A female character can also have a -san added (like Ms.) or -chan as a term of endearment (the equivalent of -kun for boys). You can see how it can get confusing for a new reader. I think I've got it down, but it took a while (and a helpful glossary of terns from one series).
I also learned a lot from a book called Understanding Manga and Anime by Robin E. Brenner, which is a guide written primarily for librarians that gives a good overview and recommendations of series. If you're a parent, you'll find age ratings on the back cover that are in line with American standards. The Japanese have a different approach to sexuality, but for the most part I've found the shojo series to be very tame by American standards. A more open attitude toward homosexuality and cross-dressing are the most noticeable differences relative to American YA series. For some reason, the girls find it attractive when the heartthrob dresses like a girl--but since the bishonen look a bit feminine, maybe this makes sense.
I think the main appeal of these series is that they are plot driven with strong characters, can be read quickly, usually have cliffhangers, and for shonen manga tend to center on a love triangle. As far as specific series, the ones I liked best so far are as follows:
FRUITS BASKET by Natsuki Takaya - An orphaned girl moves in with a family with a secret--the members change into animals of the Chinese zodiac when hugged by a member of the opposite sex. There's a love triangle between the girl, gorgeous but lonely Yuki who transforms into the rat, and the rebel and family outcast Kyo, who becomes the cat (the animal cast out of the zodiac).
OURAN HIGH SCHOOL HOST CLUB by Bisco Hatori - A tomboy attends an exclusive private school on scholarship, where she is mistaken for a boy and ends up part of a social club full of good looking boys who entertain girls with lavish parties. They call this a reverse harem, a theme in manga where a girl hangs out with a group of goodlooking boys. Another example would be BOYS OVER FLOWERS by Yoko Kamio. I wouldn't recommend starting with OURAN, as I did, because it's a tongue-in-cheek take on common themes of the genre. If you read it without knowing what those themes are, it's a bit baffling and weird, but I grew to like it more and more as I kept reading different series.
MAMMOTTE! LOLLIPOP - An average girl accidentally swallows a magic pearl that is central to a final exam for wizards from another dimension. In order to protect her from others, and pass the exam, two young male wizards (yes, love triangle) have to stay by her side at all times. This series tends to stray a bit into shonen, with each episode having a battle scene where the characters use their unique powers.
GOONG by Park Sohee - This is a manhwa series (i.e. Korean) with beautiful illustrations which reimagines Korean society as having a royal family (like Britain). It focuses on a high school girl who is married to the surly but attractive prince through an arrangement made by their grandfathers and has to navigate palace life. There's a lot of intrigue and politics, and a love triangle involving the prince's cousin--the original heir to the throne before his father died. It's more contemporary and targeted at older teens than the aforementioned series.
DRAMACON by Svetlana Chmakova - also focused at older teens, this is a brief (3-book) series about a young woman who wants to become a manga artist. Each book takes place at a manga/anime convention and it delves into the culture of the genre.
I know I still have more to learn, but I hope this post informs and perhaps even inspires. If you are a manga fan and have any recommendations, I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

52 Books a Year

As I've mentioned before, I'm a bookaholic. Back in late 2007 I faced the usual dilemma--I had binged at the bookstore, and had a stack of books and no shelf space to put them. I've learned to occasionally weed out any books I no longer want. However there were no weeds at this point--I'd have to read some before I'd know if I wanted to keep them. The problem has always been that I shop faster than I read. So I decided that I would read as many books as possible. I didn't have to finish if I didn't like it, the goal was to purge the shelves, after all. But this naturally meant that I focused on the books I thought I'd least enjoy. It's not much fun to read that way.
For 2008, I changed the rules. I would see if I could read a book a week for a year. By the end of the year, I'd read 54 books. I was focusing on books I wanted to read more, and I did manage to get rid of about half of them. But I can't honestly say, "I read 54 books," because to me saying you read a book means you finished. And I didn't finish some of them.
So I upped the stakes again for 2009. Again, 52 books in a year is the goal, but I have to finish them. I think I've mentioned this before, but as the year has progressed, I've refined the rules.I have to be diverse, reading fiction and nonfiction, a variety of genres and authors. Audio books, I decided, count. The idea is no longer to purge the shelves (a hopeless goal, I accumulate about three books a week on average). The goal is to be more broadly read.
By summer, I was well ahead of schedule, and then I walked into my local Borders and noticed they'd rearranged the shelves, primarily to move the teen books into the adult part of the store and farther away from children's books. Most prominent was the manga section, which dwarfed the regular teen book section and was in the center of the store. I knew manga was hugely popular with teens--a friend of mine who teaches high school noted it's all kids are reading. All I knew was they were Japanese illustrated novels. So I decided I wanted to understand what the fuss was about and hit the library, where there were two large spinning racks of manga books. I'll save what I've learned about the genre for another post, and focus instead on what it did to my plan. Manga books can be read in about an hour or two, and I was reading about nine a week. I played with different ways of counting them--a full series would count as one, ten mangas would count as one regular book, etc.. after all, they're books, in a different genre, and I finished them, so they should technically count...but that made it too easy. So I decided none of them would count, and now was barely ahead and had to catch up.
So, here it is, second week of November, and I'm at 48 books read (not counting any manga). Things are looking good, but I don't know if the holidays will mean more or less reading time. Still, I'm confident, so when I've finished number 52 I'll post again, and talk about the top books I've read this year. Until then, I better get back to reading!