Author Topic: 2015 Reading Challenge  (Read 2529 times)

heisenbergman

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2015 Reading Challenge
« on: January 04, 2015, 11:58:53 PM »
I was really successful in jumpstarting my reading habit midway through 2014 - even doing the Book Discussion threads and stuff - but a shitstorm of workload towards the last couple of months of the year really put a stop to that.

I saw this posted on another foum I frequent and figured I'd join in. Anyone here who wants to join in is welcome to as well.

This isn't meant to replace the Book Discussion threads, but right now I'm not in a place where I'm ready to jump back into that sort of structured reading. At least this activity is more loose and you have more liberty to pick what you want.

This OP could also serve as the index for this thread.

The list:

01. A book with more than 500 pages
02. A classic romance
03. A book that became a movie
04. A book published this year
05. A book with a number in the title
06. A book written by someone under 30
07. A book with nonhuman characters
08. A funny book
09. A book by a female author
10. A mystery or thriller
11. A book with a one-word title
12. A book of short stories
13. A book set in a different country
14. A nonfiction book
15. A popular author’s first book
16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
17. A book a friend recommended
18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
19. A book based on a true story
20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list
21. A book your mom loves
22. A book that scares you
23. A book more than 100 years old
24. A book based entirely on its cover
25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
26. A memoir
27. A Book you can finish in a day
28. A book with antonyms in the title
29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
30. A Book that came out the year you were born
31. A book with bad reviews
32. A trilogy
33. A book from your childhood
34. A book with a love triangle
35. A book set in the future
36. A book set in high school
37. A book with a color in the title
38. A book that made you cry
39. A book with magic
40. A graphic novel
41. A book by an author you’ve never read before
42. A book you own but have never read
43. A book that takes place in your hometown
44. A book that was originally written in a different language
45. A book set during Christmas
46. A book written by an author with your same initials
47. A play
48. A banned book
49. A book based on or turned into a TV show
50. A book you started but never finished

« Last Edit: January 05, 2015, 12:00:36 AM by heisenbergman »

heisenbergman

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2015, 12:00:09 AM »
Saving this spot.

Junior

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2015, 12:04:14 AM »
Reading with achievements! I like it. I probably won't hit everything but I'll try as many as I can.
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heisenbergman

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2015, 12:09:41 AM »
Reading with achievements! I like it.

I have an unhealty addiction to unlocking achievements :P

I probably won't hit everything but I'll try as many as I can.

Same here. I'll probably get started with The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay to check off #18

btw... on that other forum, they said that you read one book to tick off multiple checks (i.e. - Fifty Shades of Grey checks off: A book with bad reviews & A book by an author you’ve never read before & A book with a color in the title), but idk if I want to do that, personally...

Junior

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2015, 03:58:33 PM »
05. A book with a number in the title

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This is a total cheat, since I started it last year, but I don't care. Station Eleven is yet another post-apocalyptic novel set roughly 20 years after a flu virus has wiped out almost all of Earth's human inhabitants. This setting is, I think, one of the novel's most interesting elements. We often get books or movies or even TV shows set right after an apocalypse, or maybe 100 years after. Here the catastrophe is still close enough to be a major part of nearly every survivor's life but far enough away to allow for some semblance of normalcy to have taken hold. There aren't many marauding biker gangs, for instance, nor do the characters have to do much in the way of surviving except when the come in contact with a town ruled by a cult and its leader known only as The Prophet. That has echoes of probably the biggest plague book in recent cultural history, Stephen King's The Stand, though this book has none of that tome's scale nor supernatural elements. As one character remarks late in the book after remembering that most of the post-apocalypse stories from before the flu involved zombies, "'I'm just saying, it could be worse.'" While I do enjoy more crazy stuff in my books, this one had enough compelling elements without throwing in corpses that want to eat brains, too.

There are two other things from the book that I'd like to make note of. The first is the book's exploration of what art means to a society, especially when most of society is no longer extant. There is a troupe of actors and orchestra members that travels a route around the upper middle of the US in the book around which most of the main timeline's action takes place. They perform Bach and Shakespeare, all the best of what we have created. There's also a comic book written before the flu that plays a prominent role in joining characters across years and countries. It's this focus on the connective power of art that is probably the book's greatest feat. Rarely does a character come out and say that art is important for reasons A, B, and C. Instead, Emily St. John Mandel lets the works speak for themselves, showing us only the works and the ways their audience reacts to them. The idea that art can remake the human spirit after the worst possible happening is a powerful and enduring one.

The other element that bears some mention is the book's structure. Rarely does it stay in one place for too long. Instead it flits around to different characters and different time periods. The book opens with the death of an actor onstage as seen by an audience member who becomes one of the first to realize that this flu everybody is talking about on tv will be the end of life as he knows it, so after the play ends abruptly he goes out to a convenience store and basically buys it out. Then the book jumps 20 years into the future and joins the Travelling Symphony on its merry tour. Then it jumps back and gives much of the life story of the actor who dies at the beginning, his first wife's backstory, and so on and so on. That's only the first fifty pages or so, too. It's a delicate balancing act and it faltered only a few times as it spent what I considered to be a little too long on the pre-flu stuff. All of that is important info and necessary to make the rest of the book work, so I wouldn't cut or shorten anything, but maybe one extra jump around to break up some of the more mundane stuff would have suited the book better. As is, though, it is one of the few books that has actually scared me. The descriptions of the events just after the pandemic starts to spread, which, in the book's whirling timeline come towards the end of its story, are truly terrifying because Emily St. John Mandel has a firm grasp on the kinds of thoughts that would run through my own head if such events were to happen. It is chilling that something such as this is so possible and so well captured on the page.

5/5.
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pixote

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2015, 03:37:38 PM »
I love this thread. Maybe I'll even find time to participate.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Dave the Necrobumper

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2015, 04:08:01 PM »
I like this idea, I will keep it in mind. However this one:

25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

I will not be able to do as I was a good boy and read all my required reading at school.

ses

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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2015, 11:56:14 PM »
I think I'll try to do this. I just started reading Maus, and it satisfies at least 4 of the categories.
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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2015, 03:54:36 PM »
26. A memoir

Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation by Adam Resnick.

I'm not a huge memoir reader and I'm not even sure of the technical definition thereof, so this might be a bit of a squeeze. Either way, it was an enjoyable read about which I have not much to say. Adam Resnick has been a writer for David Letterman and SNL and wrote Cabin Boy and Death to Smoochy, so if you know those movies you might know where Resnick comes from, mentally. He's not a well adjusted guy and some of his stories in this book explain why that may not be. His father looms large in his memory as basically a huge asshole, if an entertainingly blustery one from Resnick's POV. And Resnick's five brothers seem to have tortured him throughout his childhood. Reading these stories, I was struck how similar Resnick's writing style felt to that of George Saunders, even if they come from entirely different perspectives. Where Saunders is empathy personified, Resnick is filled with self-loathing and anxiety, which he projects outwards towards basically every person he encounters. It is almost always really funny, but I side more with Saunders when it comes to the human race, so time spent with Resnick is always going to be somewhat off kilter to my belief system.

4/5.
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Re: 2015 Reading Challenge
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2015, 04:09:19 PM »
44. A book that was originally written in a different language

The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen.

As you can see by the author's name, this was originally written in Finnish and its sense of cold detachment is indicative of its setting, a small town where the titular Society is the primary export, full as it is of 9 of Finland's best and brightest authors and led by the mysterious children's author Laura White. The book begins, roughly, with the induction of a new member (Ella, our main character) into the Society and Laura White's sudden and fantastical disappearance. At the party to celebrate the new induction, Laura White gets only a few steps down her mansion's grand stairway before she seems to slip and fall. It is there that the book announces magical realism as its true genre when Laura White doesn't tumble down the stairs but rather disappears in a poof of snow. What? The characters in the book are less shocked about the whole thing than the reader and for good reason, since the book never lets the world of garden gnomes and mysterious phantoms get too far out of sight. What makes the book so great, though, is that all of these mystical things seem to be manifestations of real emotional traumas, whether it is Ella's father's Alzheimer's or the secret that has turned the members of the Rabbit Back Literature Society against each other.

Luckily, Ella has a tool to pry the information she needs to discover what happened to Laura White and other such mysteries the novel introduces: The Game. It is a simple thing. Any time after ten PM but before dawn, any member of the Society can challenge another member to a round of The Game so long as they can gain access to them. If they can break into the other's house, they get to ask the other questions and the other cannot lie. After the asker is satisfied with the responses the tables are turned and they are asked whatever questions the other would like answers to. It is an emotionally draining experience used by the members of the Society to get insights into the ways people think or to use other's memories as fodder for their own writing. The book's strongest sections are meta-commentaries on the extreme ends an author will go to in order to mine the people around them for tics or movements or dreams without considering the truly invasive nature of their digging. There's a dream sequence towards the end that illustrates the idea perfectly as one of the members of the Society flies around a store plucking peccadilloes out of the shoppers for use in his future writings. Fun.

The book does slow down a bit more than it probably should in the middle, a product of having so much set-up to do. But the characters carry any narrative lulls with aplomb, especially Martti Winter (are you seeing the theme I'm seeing with the names?), the group's best writer who has chosen to feed his body in order to slow his mind. The Game he plays with Ella is fascinating and enlightening. Fans of Twin Peaks will feel at home in Rabbit Back when the dogs of the town start to patrol Martti Winter's front lawn for no discernible reason and the books in the town library undergo a strange metamorphosis described by one of the characters as a "book virus" which changes the endings of classic works such as Crime and Punishment. It's all strange but it is strange for a reason. And it's a lovely place to spend some time.

5/5.
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