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December Challenge Wrap-Ups

January 1, 2010

Get ready for a ridiculously long post! I’m wrapping up all the challenges that ended this month; in the end I completed fourteen and didn’t complete two. Feel free to jump via internal links, which I put in reverse alphabetical order just to change things up. :)

World Citizen Challenge
What’s in a Name? 2 Challenge
Spice of Life Challenge
Science Book Challenge
Orbis Terrarum Challenge
My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge
Lost in Translation Challenge
Graphic Novels Challenge
Getting to Know You Challenge
Dream King Challenge
Dewey’s Books Challenge
The Challenge that Dare Not Speak Its Name
Caribbean Lit Challenge
Art History Challenge
100 Shots of Short
9 for ’09

9 for '099 for ’09
This was a challenge to get participants to get to some TBR books from their own shelves. Are you that surprised that I didn’t quite finish it? There were nine categories, and I ended up reading books for six of them. I don’t feel that bad for not finishing though, and I did my best to finish a seventh (Watership Down), but I just couldn’t force myself to keep reading it! ;)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: a tie between The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and The Thornbirds, although for completely different reasons! ;)
Any new authors? Yep: Liza Delby, Michael Chabon, Tony Horwitz, and Louise Erdich. I’ll definitely be reading more of Chabon in the future!
Books I did not finish: Watership Down by Richard Adams; I got to around page 250 of 450 total. But I was so bored. I didn’t get to a dusty book (one that had been on my shelf longer than three years…but I don’t have any TBR books that old anyway!) or a used one (although I was planning on counting Moby Dick, and I’m only 50 pages from finishing it!).
What did I learn from this challenge? That I have a weird mental block about reading TBR books that I already own! ;) Oh, and that I really don’t like Tracy Chevalier.

100 Shots of Short Stories
Rob hosted this challenge to read at least 100 short stories this year. I read 78 unattached stories (you can see the full list) and then three anthologies, which brought my story total to 156. I read some other anthologies and/or collections for other challenges, but this is what I read specifically for this one!
Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best anthology: Virago Book of Ghost Stories
The best short story: A tie between “Natasha” by Vladimir Nabokov, “Chicxulub” by T. Coraghessan Boyle, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate” by Ted Chiang, “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin, and “Singing My Sister Down” by Margo Lanagan.
Any new authors? Since I mainly read anthologies, and then all those random stories, too many new ones to list here! :)
Books I did not finish: None! I did end up reading only a few stories from some of the books I got, though.
What did I learn from this challenge? I’ve found that I’m a bigger fan of collection instead of anthologies; trying to read just anthologies ended up in me reading less short stories than last year. And I discovered some new authors I definitely want to read more of in the future! I think reading a short story or two online is a great way to break out of a reading slump. Oh, and this was my first year recording individually-read short stories on a seperate page; I think that worked really well.

The Art History Challenge
I signed up for the Art History Challenge not knowing anything about the topic but eager to learn. As such, I stuck mainly with nonfiction, and I had a great time! I’m so glad that it’s being hosted again, because I’ve discovered how fascinating art history is! :)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich. It was a wonderful introduction to western art!
Any new authors? Jackie Wullschlager, Sharon Wexman, Ross King, and Jed Perl. I’d be most interested in reading more of Wexman, and I’ll probably avoid King and Perl in the future.
Books I did not finish: I had The Needle in the Blood on my list, but my library didn’t have it and I didn’t get around to ILLing it. Next year!
What did I learn from this challenge? How much I enjoy reading about art history! I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to try reading about it earlier. After all, I love museums! :)

The Caribbean Challenge
I was actually nervous about signing up for this challenge, because I didn’t even know if I could find six Caribbean authors that interested me. Obviously, I knew nothing about the region! Every single book I read for the challenge was marvelous, and I want to read many more Caribbean authors in the future!

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: That’s seriously impossible for me to choose; I had three or four five-star reads and the others were four-stars. They were all great, and I’d recommend them all.
Any new authors? They’re all new to me! And I want to read more of every single one of them. :D
Books I did not finish: None!
What did I learn from this challenge? How awesome Caribbean lit is. :D Who knew that so many amazing books came from that region?! Well, probably lots of people but not me.

The Challenge That Dare Not Speak Its Name (GLBT)
As soon as I saw this challenge, I knew I’d participate, and I’m excited that Amanda’s doing a new round in 2010. Anyway, I’ve never really focused on the orientation of the authors I’m reading before, which means by default I was reading mainly straight authors. So I’ll work more on that in the future. Anyway, I signed up for six, and once I had hit seven I stopped counting them towards this challenge.

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: Hmmm…that’s a difficult choice. I think Normal and I’m Looking Through You try, but the Woodson, Waters, and Colette come in a very close second.
Any new authors? Steve Luger and Jennifer Finney Boylan. I’d be interested in reading more by Boylan.
Books I did not finish: It was a very close call for My Most Excellent Year. A lot of bloggers loved it, so it was mainly guilt and hope that kept me reading, but it just wasn’t for me.
What did I learn from this challenge? That I should read more GLBT books! ;) I think it’s easy to allow reading to fall into the white, straight, American default, and I need to actively seek out other books.

Dewey’s Books Challenge
I was hoping to get to Einstein’s Dreams before the challenge ended, but life got in the way! Anyway, I still read six books, which exceeded the five-book requirement, and this was a beautiful way of honouring Dewey, even if it made me incredible sad at times.

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: Fun Home, hands down.
Any new authors? All of them actually!
Books I did not finish: I didn’t manage to pick up Einstein’s Dreams, but I do intend to read it this year. :)
What did I learn from this challenge? This is going to sound amusing…but I learned that as much as I loved Dewey and looked up to her, we didn’t really have similar reading tastes! Other than Fun Home and The Saturdays, I felt rather ‘meh’ about the books I read.

The Dream King Challenge
I love Gaiman, so I knew that I wanted to sign up for this challenge, but since the rules required reading from lots of different cateogires, and since most of my interest was in just a few categories, I ended up going for a lower level than might otherwise be expected (three books). ;) I did read some other Gaiman books this year, just for fun! (Oh, and I had to watch a movie, so I re-watched Stardust.)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: I loved the Audio Collection!
Any new authors? Strangely enough, Hope Mirrlees! I enjoyed the novel, though not quite as much as I was expecting.
Books I did not finish: None!
What did I learn from this challenge? Errrm…that Gaiman rocks? No wait, I already knew that. So this was more of a ‘for fun’ than ‘for learning’ challenge! ;)

Getting to Know You
I loved the idea of this challenge: to read a biography of an author and then read three of their works. But, even though I read a biography of Shakespeare back in February, I somehow never got around to reading his actual plays. I find that rather embarassing! But since Emily, our lovely host, quit the challenge herself halfway through, I don’t feel too awful about it. ;)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: Pretty obvious!
Any new authors? Nope
Books I did not finish: Any of Shakespeare’s plays…
What did I learn from this challenge? That I seem to have a bit of a mental block when it comes to reading plays. Even though I really enjoy Shakespeare! Odd, right?

graphic_novel_button21The Graphic Novels Challenge
I signed up for this one to make sure I kept exploring graphic books, which were a new-to-me style at the beginning of the year. After a certain point, I stopped counting graphic books towards the challenge because I was way over what I had signed up for (six). Suffice it to say, graphic books are a regular part of my reading now!

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: A tie between Alice in Sunderland and Castle Waiting. I also *love* the Fables series!
Any new authors? All of them! :)
Books I did not finish: None-even if I’m not loving a graphic book, they tend to be short, so it’s difficult for me to abandon them.
What did I learn from this challenge? Thanks to Understanding Comics, the idea that graphic books are a FORM, not a genre, with a huge variety that will appeal to any reader really sunk in for me. I read so many different kinds of graphic books this year, that it’s silly to pigeonhole them.

lostintranslationThe Lost in Translation Challenge
I thought it’d be fun to read all different countries and languages for this challenge, and it was! I even ended up reading more than I needed to (six). And I read lots of translated books for other challenges, but I don’t like cross-counting books. I had fun making sure each book represented a different language. :)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: That’s difficult…I think the ones that stood out the most are Palace of Desire and The Blue Sky. But I read a lot of great books for the challenge!
Any new authors? Mia Couto, Ryszard Kapuscinski, Galsan Tschinag, and Thu Huong Duong. I plan to read more of Tschinag and Thu Huong Duong!
Books I did not finish: None, but Sleepwalking Land took me waaaay longer than the 200-something pages led me to expect. It was like walking through thick, deep mud.
What did I learn from this challenge? That I should make a conscious effort to integrate translated books into my reading. And to pay attention to the translators. :)

My Year of Reading Dangerously Challenge
I signed up for this one with the best of intentions-I wanted to read more poetry and essays. But I changed around my original list so much, and then for awhile I almost gave up (twelve books seemed like an awful lot)! In the end, I only read a couple books about poetry and then ten essay collections.

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: That’s really difficult, since I loved a lot of the essay collections! Obviously Atul Gawande made me run out and read his second book right away. So I guess I’ll go with Complications, but all the books listed between The London Scene and Better were awesome. :)
Any new authors? Herbert Kohl, Zadie Smith, Nora Ephron, Anne Lamott, Atul Gawande, and the authors in the anthology Go Your Own Way. I especially want to read more Smith and Lamott-and I wish Gawande had more books published for me to read! :)
Books I did not finish: I know that I gave up on an ‘about poetry’ book, but I don’t remember what it was called. I also abandoned On Photography by Susan Sontag: I found it tedious and academic to the point of irrelevence. And painful. I think it’s why I didn’t look at another book for the challenge for months.
What did I learn from this challenge? That essay collections actually reall appeal to me! And that I’m still awful at getting myself to read poetry. There’s always next year though. :)

The Orbis Terrarum Challenge
This was the second round of this challenge, and this time it involved ten books and countries instead of nine. I love the idea of taking an around the world trip via books, and even though I changed three of my original books, I had great fun! :)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: That’s really tough, but I’d go with I’m Not Scared by a hair. Honestly, all of these were fascinating and super-readable except for The Noodle Maker, Gate of the Sun, and The Maias.
Any new authors? Actually, they’re all new authors! I didn’t even plan that. :)
Books I did not finish: I switched some books around, but once I started a book for the challenge, I finished it. Gate of the Sun was incredibly painful though…looking back, I probably should have abandoned that one.
What did I learn from this challenge? That round-the-world trips are so much fun! :) And that I love international authors, but I already knew that.

Science Book Challenge 2009
The actual challenge only required participants to read one book, I think, but I decided to commit to reading at least one a month. In the end, I read 14 science books for the challenge!

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: A tie between Proust was a Neuroscientist, Dr. Tatian’s Sex Advice to All Creation, Tree: a Life Story, Uncle Tungsten, Spell of the Tiger, and Proust and the Squid. Obviously, I’m a fan of science books! :)
Any new authors? Lots. So I’ll just list the new-to-me authors I’d love to read more of: Maryanne Wolf, Sy Montgomery, David Suzuki, Olivia Judson, Bill Schutt, and Jonah Lehrer.
Books I did not finish: I can’t think of any, but it was a really close call w/ Flowers: How they Changed the World.
What did I learn from this challenge? Well, I already knew I was a nerd who enjoyed pop science books. ;) But I learned how much I enjoy neuroscience books specifically, and books about animals! :)

Spice of Life
Rebecca, one of my favourite book bloggers, hosted this challenge to read books that featured food. I signed up for a medium level, but ended up upgrading to the highest one since I enjoyed them so much. I finished with 8 books, completing the Feast level. But the cookbooks that I read for the challenge are different from the ones that I reviewed, for logistical/library-related reasons.

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: Hmmm…can I pick a best book for each category? A Time of Angels, Hunger: an Unnatural History, Red, White, and Drunk All Over, and The Spice Box.
Any new authors? All of them except Lara Esquival. I plan to read more by Russell, Schostein, and Divakaruni. Oh, and I want to buy Singh’s cookbook!
Books I did not finish: I wanted to read Julia Child’s memoir after loving Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her in Julie & Julia, but I’m still on the waiting list for my library.
What did I learn from this challenge? That I should read books featuring food more often! I love to cook, so it only makes sense that combining it with reading would lead to good results. :)

What’s in a Name? 2
This was the second round of Annie’s challenge, which involves reading books with titles that fit certain categories. I decided to add a layer of difficulty, by reading only books by African authors. Thanks to a last-minute ILL arrival, I managed to finish this one! :)

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: Song for the Night it’s so amazing.
Any new authors? All of them! I’d like to read more of Chris Abani and Alaa Al Aswany.
Books I did not finish: None. :)
What did I learn from this challenge? It’s really difficult to find books written by Africans with certain words in the title! ;) But that the extra work is worth it.

World Citizen Challenge
This was my own challenge, so even though the highest level called for seven books read, my personal challenge was to read two books a month for it. And to read four books that fall into each category. Oh, and to make sure that the books were well-distributed geographically speaking! I ended up reading twenty-four books, equally divided into history, economics, politics, culture, memoir, and world issues and about all sorts of world regions. That being said, I was *awful* at reviewing the books I’d read! I think it’s because I feel too close to the topic.

Books I read (titles linked to review where it exists):

The best book: I’m going to pick my favourite from each category again: The Last Days of the Incas, Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes, Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Notes From the Hyena’s Belly by Nega Mezlekia, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz by Michela Wrong, and Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang.
Any new authors? All sorts. But the ones I want to read more of are Michela Wrong, Orlando Figes, and William Dalrymple. Several other authors I’d like to read more of, but they don’t have any other books! ;)
Books I did not finish: I almost abandoned Saudi Arabian Exposed; in retrospect, I should have.
What did I learn from this challenge? How much I love reading international relations-y books! Also, that I’m a horrible challenge host. I’m blaming it on being an Aries!

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2010 6:13 am

    OMG…this post took me forever to read! But Eva, I honestly enjoyed every second of it!!! There’s like a bazillion things I want to comment on, but I fear my comment would make a post in itself, so I guess I’ll just say, “Congrats on all that reading challenge goodness! Despite what your success tends to do to my wish list!”

    • January 2, 2010 9:25 am

      I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually read it! lol It was more of a housekeeping post, but I’m glad you enjoyed it anyway!

      • January 4, 2010 10:01 am

        Yeah, just try to stop me from reading every word you write! :D

  2. January 1, 2010 8:34 am

    That was indeed long! But also interesting.

    Wishing you many good reads also for 2010!

    Greetings,
    Tiina

  3. January 1, 2010 9:37 am

    You are my challenge hero. I hope you had a wonderful new year and I hope 2010 brings you many wonderful things. Thank you, Eva, for being part of my blogging world. You definitely make it a brighter place!

    • January 2, 2010 9:25 am

      Aww-thanks Lu. I feel the same way about you! :)

  4. January 1, 2010 10:47 am

    Holy cow that is a lot of challenges. Here is my year end wrap up post

  5. January 1, 2010 11:29 am

    You totally rock at challenges! Congratulations! Happy New Year to you!

  6. January 1, 2010 5:22 pm

    This must have taken you ages to put together – but what a great read. So amazing that you could take on, and complete!, so many challenges ;)

    • January 2, 2010 9:26 am

      I did the different parts as I finished up the challenges, so the time was spread out. But yeah, it took awhile! :) I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  7. January 4, 2010 2:11 pm

    Congratulations on completing most of the challenges! Have a good reading year in 2010!

  8. February 1, 2011 4:27 pm

    just found your post through search in Google, would definitely share it.

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