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Looking for a challenge


For the past four years, I’ve had a reading challenge – i.e,. each month I read a book and then write about it on this blog. Each one was themed. Sort of. In 2007, I read ten (plus two extra) of my favourite science fiction novels. In 2008, I read twelve novels by literary authors I’d not read before. In 2009, I read twelve sf novels I remembered enjoying as a teenager and had not reread since. This year, I tried reading the first books of twelve fat fantasy series, but had to give up halfway through.

But I can’t think what to do as a reading challenge in 2011, so I’m looking for suggestions. Either a theme, into which twelve books fit. Or simply a list of a dozen books. Or perhaps twelve books from a single author’s oeuvre. I don’t mind. Except, no fantasy. I tried that this year and couldn’t do it. Also, no westerns. I’ll read Cormac McCarthy, but I’m not at all a fan of the genre. But, otherwise, pretty much anything else goes – science fiction, literary, classics, crime, horror, historical… No rereads, though. I’d like to read something I’ve not read before.

So, suggestions please.

29 thoughts on “Looking for a challenge

  1. 12 novels by Nobel laureates that have been characterised (by genre readers and fans) as fantastic fiction?

  2. I was also going to suggest a Novel laureate challenge, but was thinking it should included the realist and fantastic novels together without prejudice.

    Alternatively, twelve Booker prize winners.

    Or twelve examples of creative non-fiction, which means books like Tom Wolfe’s “The Right Stuff” and Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail of ’72”

    Or you could read twelve early English novels. Say for this challenge novels written between 1700 and 1825.

    How about science fiction from twelve different non anglophone countries?

    • All good suggestions, although I’ve already read The Right Stuff (it’s a favourite work, in fact). I tried reading Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail but couldn’t get on with it, despite liking Fear and Loathing.

      At last count, I’d read 6 Booker Prize winners, and have a further 7 on the TBR. Not sure about early English novels. That sounds like hard work.

      Non-anglophone sf… Well, I’ve read quite a bit of that: Polish, Russian, French, German, Dutch, Danish… In translation, of course (although I’ve read some bande dessinée in French)

      • Then maybe it would be an interesting experiment to read some travel literature.

        I would, however, argue it isn’t a challenge if it isn’t hard work.

        Twelve notable works of philosophy maybe.

        Twelve volumes of poetry from Shakespherian sonnets, through English romantics up to modern free verse and taking in the war poets along the way.

      • Well, there’s hard work and there’s hard work… I don’t want to give up halfway through as I did this year. And, to be honest, I have zero background in philosophy, so that might qualify as “too much” hard work. I read a quite a bit of poetry as it is, especially war poetry – both WWI and WWII.

  3. How about a World Tour of SF? You could read 12 books written in 12 non-English speaking countries that have been translated into English. Poland, Russia, France, Japan, Spain…. there are a lot of countries with a rich history of SF all their own.

    Probably the hardest part would be finding the translations to begin with but it would be an interesting experiment.

  4. How about combining genres, e.g. 12 historical crime novels? And to start the list: C.J. Sansom, Dissolution; Iain Pears, An Instance of the Fingerpost.

  5. Science fiction books with strong female characters! I think that would be an interesting challenge — especially if you go out of your way and try to find stuff from pre-1990…

  6. That’s the problem — I’ve recently read a string of 1960s/1970s novels and they’ve had non-existent female characters (Barrington J. Bayley’s works seldom even name the token women which crop up occasionally) — so, I’m looking for some old 50s-mid-80s novels which have interesting female characters… perhaps I’m really just looking for suggestions…

    I seem to remember being pleasantly surprised at the female main character in von Vogt’s Mission to the Stars/The Mixed Men… And (I suspect you’ve read this) the female central character in Blish’s They Shall Have Stars.

    • I’ve read both Mission to the Stars–and remember the female captain–and Blish’s Cities in Flight quartet (albeit many years ago). There’s a central female character also in van Vogt’s The Undercover Aliens (AKA The House that Stood Still), who initially seems a typical femme fatale but proves to be something quite different.

      DG Compton’s novels all feature well-drawn female characters. Then there’s Gwyneth Jones’s early novels, especially Escape Plans. CJ Cherryh. Leigh Brackett. Sydney van Scyoc.

  7. I’ve read most of C. J. Cherryh’s novels and a few by Leigh Brackett — but I’ll check out the rest — thanks! I tend to like the 50s, 60s, 70s works so perhaps I’m expecting too much…

  8. Graphic novels. I’ll try to come up with a list of 12 decent suggestions, perhaps that you haven’t already read. I’ve been through a couple of good ones myself, lately.

  9. I was gonna suggest literary SF, Ian, but since it’s already been suggested, why don’t you read and review twelve “imdependent” author’s books? There is a lot of crap put there, some have to be decent, right?

    • Yeah, but how do I find it? I’ve no desire to wade through reams of self-published crap to find the few gems. That’s not a challenge, that’s a lifelong mission.

  10. What about vintage SF-Horror. Classic blends of SF and horror going up to (and including) the 50’s?

    You could include stuff such as “At the Mountains of Madness” by H. P. Lovecraft, “Lost Worlds” by Clark Ashton Smith, “With Folded Hands” by Jack Williamson and “Body Snatchers” by Jack Finney.

    I’m thinking that this would be an area that includes many classics not too far out of your field of interest but perhaps you’ve not got around to reading as yet? There must be quite a lot to choose out of in this vein, most of which should be quite reaily available?

    • Not a bad suggestion. I have all the Fantasy Masterwork books, and there are two in that series I’ve yet to read – Clark Ashton Smith and William Hope Hodgson. Lovecraft I’ve already read, however.

      Um, I could just pick 12 books from either the SF or Fantasy Masterworks series I’ve never read before, and call that the challenge…

      • You’ve read all Lovecraft? If not, there’s a few others that I would suggest as part of a SF-Horror reading challenge (such as “Colour out of Space” & “Shadow out of Time”).

        As for Clark Ashton Smith and William Hope Hodgson…their stories often incorporate themes from horror, SF and fantasy. Althugh their type of fantasy is diametrically opposite to the sort of fat fantasy that you have recently taken an aversion to. If you wanted suggestions as to which stories contained more SF rather than fantasy themes, I could help pick them out but I don’t think their are whole collections thus themed.

        Of course, picking books from the Masterworks series could be a challenge, especially if you deliberately chose those books you would otherwise be least inclined to read were they not part of the series.

        I must admit though, I would like to see you do a reading challenge that involved horror in some form or another…

  11. Twelve holy books, to be critiqued as fantasty or SF. Or maybe not.

  12. Pingback: A challenge found, possibly « It Doesn't Have To Be Right…

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