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What’s better than challenges? More challenges!

August 29, 2009

I’ve been trying very hard to resist challenges, since I’m in quite a few right now (21, but who’s counting?). But then I actually looked at my ‘Current Challenges’ page, and realised that there are actually several there that I’ve already completed (I don’t usually do wrap-up posts until the challenge’s time period is over) and as for the others, I’m on track to complete them on time. The only challenge I’m behind on is the My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge (which happened last year too! apparently I don’t like to read dangerously). So there’s no reason for me not to join a few more! ;) With that in mind, I’ve decided to sign up for Banned Book, China, and Japanese Lit Challenges. I’ll talk about them in the chronological order, based on their ending dates.

bannedbooks Banned Book Challenge
This is one is hosted by BiblioBrat. The American Library Association’s Banned Books Week is September 26-October 3, and this challenge has participants read 1-4 banned books during the month of September. Because I’m me, after looking at the ‘Top Ten’ lists for most challenged and the classics list, I ended up with four books that sound great. But because I’m not insane, I made sure they’re all less than 300 pages, so we’ll see how many I get to. :)

  • Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya: I hadn’t heard about this one before, but it’s a coming-of-age novels set in the 40s, which sounds really neat. It’s also set in New Mexico, which I don’t think I’ve visited via books since Death Comes For the Archbishop back in 11th grade.
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin: I’ve heard good things about this one, and I read an amazing short story by Baldwin a few months ago that made me want to read more of his writing.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: this one showed up on so many of the lists, it seems to be a regular favourite! I know some kids who loved this in high school, but I never got around to reading it.
  • Lady Chatterley’s Love by D.H. Lawrence: Lawrence used to make me nervous, but Nymeth had me read a ‘short’ (40 page) story of his (“The Vicar’s Daughters”) that I loved. So now I’m eager to read more!

japaneseJapan Lit Challenge
This is the third round of Bellezza’s Japanese Lit Challenge! I participated last year and very much enjoyed it. This year, participants only have to read one book ‘of Japanese origin’ before January 30, 2010. It actually started on July 30, but since I’ve been so out of it with the blogosphere, I just now realised that! Here are the four novels that I’d love to read as well as one travelogue:

  • The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa: I’ve read so many good reviews of this quirky novel, I have no idea who to even link to!
  • Beyond the Blossoming Fields by Jun’ichi Watanabe: Tanabata’s review of this historical novel about Japan’s first woman doctor made me want to read it right away.
  • A Pale View of the Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro: I love Ishiguro; he’s one of my favourite authors. But I haven’t read his fiction set in his native country yet, so I thought it should definitely be on the list!
  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami: I read Norwegian Wood back in 2007 and have been meaning to read more Murakami every since. This one’s on my TBR case!
  • A Year in Japan by Kate T. Williamson: if I were going to visit Japan, I would want to spend all my time in Kyoto. This book by an American artist who lived in Kyoto is not only full of her love for the city but full of water colour illustrations. And the font is a cursive one, so it reads like an actual journal. How cool is that?

china5China Challenge
This one is being hosted by Jennie of Biblio File, who is definitely a Sinophile! It begins September 1st and lasts twelve months. I haven’t quite decided whether to stick with ‘The Fast Train to Shanghai’ level which requires five books, including one nonfiction and one translated fiction by a Chinese author, or to really get into it with the ‘Silk Road Trek’ level that requires me to read ten books about China, and to do at least three activities (which include eating Chinese food, watching Chinese movies, etc.). But my pool includes twelve books, so I’ll probably end up doing the latter. I’ve actually read quite a few books this year that would qualify for that, so this should be a good challenge for me. To develop the pool, I went through Jennie’s archives, my own TBR case, and then stumbled across a couple more. You’ll notice all of the fiction is by women authors; in the past, I’ve read several novels by Chinese men and not enjoyed any of them because of the treatment of women. So I’m avoiding that this time around! (And if you’ve read a novel by a Chinese man that didn’t feel misogynistic, let me know) Here’s the pool:

  • Night of Many Dreams by Gail Tsukiyama: a historical novel set in WWII Hong Kong (which counts as China). I just got this one from the library, and since it’s almost September, I thought I ought to put it on the list!
  • Sky Burial by Xinran: Tibet counts as China for the challenge. I won this book in a contest awhile ago and keep meaning to read it; putting it on a challenge list should make me more likely to.
  • Great Call of China by Cynthea Liu: this is a YA novel reviewed by Jennie about a girl travelling to China, which sounds really neat. And if I like it, it’s part of a YA series that looks to be all about studying abroad! :)
  • Love in a Fallen City or Lust, Caution by Ailing Zhang: I’ve heard great things about this author, and these are the two books that my library has. She’s a Shanghai author.
  • The Girl Who Played Go by Shan Sa: a pseudonym for Yan Ni Ni, who grew up in Beijing and now lives in France. This is her first novel to be translated into English, and it’s setin 1930s Manchuria. So it probably won’t be super-happy, but it should be interesting. I wanted to include a novel set around Beijing, since most of fiction I chose deals with China’s fringes.
  • Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord: another historical book that I found thanks to Jennie’s review. I love big books, and this one is almost 600 pages and spans five generations! So of course it had to go on the list. :)
  • Shanghai Girls by Lisa See: while I don’t think it’s ‘great literature,’ I certainly enjoyed See’s other two historical novels (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Peony in Love), so since I won an ARC of this I thought I’d include it!
  • The Last Days of Old Beijing by Michael Meyer: when looking for nonfiction, Jennie’s review of this one really caught my eye. It’s about Beijing tearing down hutong neighbourhoods to prepare for the Olympics.
  • Serve the People by Jen Lin-Liu: based on another of Jennie’s reviews, I thought it’d be fascinating to read a travelogue in China written by a Chinese-American currently living in Beijing.
  • The Good Women of China by Xinran Xinran: I almost never put two books by the same author in a challenge pool, but this one just sounds too good to ignore! Xinran was a radio talk show host, and these are stories of some of her listeners who called in about the situation for women in China. It will probably be super-depressing, which I’ll just have to prepare myself for.
  • The Long March: The True History of Communist China’s Founding Myth by Sun Shuyun: according to Jennie’s review, this is a part-history, part-travelogue look at Mao’s Long March by a Chinese writer. I know the basic outlines of the Long March, but nothing more, and the book sounds quite intriguing.
  • Iron and Silk by Mark Salzman: I loved the other book of his that I read, True Notebooks, so I mooched this account of his time in China teaching English. Over a year later, it’s still on the TBR case!
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21 Comments leave one →
  1. Bellezza permalink
    August 29, 2009 6:45 pm

    Eva, you won’t be disappointed by either The Housekeeper and The Professor, or Kafka on The Shore. Wonderful choices! I’m so glad you’re signing up, and don’t forget to check out this month’s give-away on my blog (Dolce Bellezza). Welcome!

  2. August 29, 2009 7:04 pm

    I debated on that Japanese Lit Challenge. On the one hand, it’s easy, only one book, and I already have several I want to read. On the other hand, it’s only one book, and I’ll probably read one of my list anyway, so it’s not really a challenge. I love the button – is it wrong to want to join something purely for the button?

  3. August 29, 2009 7:19 pm

    I just wanted to let you know that I loved (loved, loved, loved!) “Go Tell It on the Mountain” in one of those ways that you can’t quite explain why I love it…I just do! I look forward to hearing what you think about it!

  4. August 29, 2009 7:28 pm

    You’re a glutton for punishment! Good luck!

  5. August 29, 2009 11:34 pm

    You’ve probably noticed from previous comments that Murakami is one of my favorite authors. I first read Norwegian Wood and kinda shrugged, but then found myself thinking about the novel multiple times later on. Then I read After Dark and loved it. Followed by Kafka on the Shore where I realized that Murakami just kept getting more surreal. Just finished Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and think it may be my favorite so far. I’m glad you’re joining the Japanese Literature Challenge!

    I look forward to your thoughts on Sky Burial. I read that about a year ago and it still haunts me.

  6. August 30, 2009 5:31 am

    Great lists! I’m about to read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for my book club; I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    If you’re looking for a great Chinese movie, I love the movie To Live. Hard to find but it’s so good.

  7. August 30, 2009 8:06 am

    I’ve already joined the Japanese Lit challenge, but the other two sound excellent. You’re tempting me….

  8. August 30, 2009 9:32 am

    What wonderful challenges. I’m tempted by the banned books challenge.

    Good luck, and look forward to your reviews for these.

  9. August 30, 2009 1:25 pm

    Great choices Eva.

    You can’t go wrong with Lisa See. Ever.

    I’m going to be keeping my eye out on that Ishiguro review. I got When We Were Orphans as I’ve heard great things about his writing.

    And thanks for joining the Banned Book Challenge!

  10. August 30, 2009 8:43 pm

    Great challenges! I look forward to your reviews, Eva!

  11. August 30, 2009 11:35 pm

    Bellezza, thanks for the welcome! And I’m glad you enjoyed those books. :D

    Amanda, I have been known to join challenges for the button. And even if it’s only a book, I love challenges for the community reviews and all that too.

    Lauren, I read the first part today and love it too! I’m waiting to start the next part until Tuesday, because I know otherwise I’ll finish it before September. :D

    Bermuda, lol! I love challenges!

    Terri, ohhh-a haunting book…I really need to read it soon!

    Rebecca, I’m curious about what you have to say re: Snow Flower. I enjoyed it, but it was much fluffier and ‘book club’-ier than my usual fare. :) Thanks for the movie rec!

    JoAnn, you can never join just one challenge! ;)

    Bella, thanks!

    Biblio Brat, Ishiguro’s writing is the best if you love subtlety.

    Melody, thanks!

  12. August 31, 2009 11:04 am

    Good luck with all those challenges

  13. August 31, 2009 3:44 pm

    You are participating in 21 challenges? holy cow! :)

    I am glad you joined in the Japan Reading challenge. That’s one of the few I actually finished. haha. I’ve joined again but still haven’t read any books.

    I really like the sound of the banned book challenge but unfortunately I think I have to pass. I hope you do get to read Bless Me, Ultima. Terrific book!

  14. August 31, 2009 6:08 pm

    Oh no…the China Challenge is soooooo tempting…

  15. September 1, 2009 12:24 am

    Sagustocox, thanks!

    Iliana, I know-I have no life. ;)

    Debi, there’s a ‘one book’ level too! Not that I’m a challenge pusher or anything…

  16. September 1, 2009 6:49 am

    I wouldn’t have liked Perks of Being a Wallflower if I had read it in high school, but I really liked it when I read it last year. It seemed very true and very beautiful. Hope you find the same thing.

    Thanks also, for your Japan reading list. Except for the Murakami (huge fan!) they were all new to me, and looked really interesting. I’m going to start with the one about the woman doctor.

  17. September 1, 2009 7:31 am

    I’m so glad you’re signing up for the China Challenge! I also tend to gravitate towards female authors, but Mo Yan (my favorite author) tends to have very strong female characters in his novels. Red Sorghum and Garlic Ballads are good places to start with him.

  18. justicejenniferreads permalink
    September 1, 2009 12:04 pm

    Good luck with the challenges – they all sound like fun! I’m going to take it easy on the challenges for now, but in the future, I see myself being like you and going for it! I love t accomplish things!

  19. September 3, 2009 9:29 am

    Oh my. More challenges. My challenge list is already out of control, but I just might have to join the banned books challenge. Thanks for pointing these out!

  20. Jenny permalink
    September 3, 2009 5:46 pm

    This summer I read the classic 18th-century Chinese novel, The Story of the Stone. It has wonderful portrayals of women — much stronger and more complex and interesting than the men, in fact. It’s VERY long (3500 pages total) but if you really get into Chinese literature, I would highly recommend it. It is a real page-turner and I wound up loving it.

  21. September 19, 2009 4:57 am

    I’m glad that you joined the China challenge too, so I can steal the books in your list! :) The ones I’ve heard about are The Girl who Played Go and Lust, Caution. Lust, Caution is made into a movie that was soooo popular back when I was in Singapore (directed by Ang Lee). Worth checking both the book and the movie I’d think.

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