Four More Challenges!
I have decided to go for excitement, rather than embarassed apology, for the tone of this post. After all, if I wasn’t super-excited about these challenges, I wouldn’t join them. Right? Right! And these all support my ideal reading life, with classics and intriguing nonfiction and international authors.
A Tournament of Reading
I’ll admit to being biased on this one: I love the Middle Ages and I love Megan’s blog. Anyway, Megan is hosting A Tournament of Reading, which challenges participants to read Medieval books throughout 2010. As always nowadays, there are multiple participant levels to choose from with fun names (I feel like an old geezer, but I want to be like “I remember back when joining a challenge meant reading whatever number of books the host decided”). I really, really want to be a Lord (actually Lady might be more applicable) or Queen (because who wants to be King? They’re such weaklings in chess anyway), but I’m trying to be realistic. So for now, I’m committing to the Peasant level, with hopes that I will buck the serf system and become a Lady in the end! ;) As such, I have to read 3 books, and while they can be from any category I like the idea of committing to one each from: history (nonfiction! yippee!), medieval literature (classics!), and historical fiction. Furthermore, because I really love the idea of ‘microspecialising,’ and because Kristin Lavransdatter left me wanting more Vikings, I’ve decided to narrow all of my choices to Scandinavia. Here they are:
- The Pale Horseman by Bernard Cornwell: this is the second in a historical fiction series that centers around Alfred the Great. I read the first one (The Last Kingdom) a couple of years ago and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so it’d be fun to catch back up with the characters.
- Ice Land by Betsy Tobin: this is historical fantasy, told mainly by Freda! Who doesn’t love the Norse gods? Two of my very favourite authors, Gaiman and Byatt, seem to prefer them, and their affection has rubbed off on me.
- Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney: I read Beowulf in high school and felt ‘meh’ about it. But Heaney is friends with Armitage, whose translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight I adored. Plus, I saw that odd movie (mainly because Gaiman was involved, lol), and I’ve been meaning to reread the original ever since.
- The Sagas of the Icelanders: I’m ‘borrowing’ this from my Really Old Classics Challenge list, since I know I probably won’t get to it by the end of February. As I mentioned before, this is all Emily’s fault.
- The Vikings: a History by Robert Ferguson: I have a vague awareness of Viking history, but not nearly enough to feel intelligent. Plus, the cover has an awesome longboat on it. Longboats! Squee.
- The Far Traveler by Nancy Marie Brown: I read about this on Danielle’s blog ages ago (seriously: her review is from January 2008), and it’s stuck with me. It’s about a Viking woman, which is pretty cool since usually we just think of Vikings as crazy pillaging men. You know? Plus, I suspect that the Women Unbound challenge has permanently altered my taste in nonfiction, and this is perfect for it!
- Nordic Gods and Heroes by Padraic Colum: so here’s the thing. While I do know enough about Norse gods to hold my own in a conversation, I never studied them at school the way I did the Greek ones. So I thought it would be nice to read a whole book about them, and this one, aimed at a younger audience, sounds like great fun! Check out the first line, courtesy of the whole ‘look inside’ feature: “Once there was another Sun and another Moon, a different Sun and a different Moon from the one we see now.” My library doesn’t have it, but that’s what ILL is for.
Michelle is hosting her fourth (!) year of the Decades reading challenge with Decades 2010. Participants commit to reading at least ten books published in ten consecutive decades, and since I want to read more classics but I’ve already got the Victorians covered, I decided to go for the 1700s. Let me tell you…this was when the novel was just developing, so things are a bit sparse. You’ll notice I’ve gone up through the 1820s; that’s just to give me some breathing room.
- The Journals of Madam Knight by Sarah Kemble Knight (1704): this is a nonfiction travelogue about a woman going between Boston and New York. I love the idea that such a trip was noteworthy, and in an era when men dominated publishing, it’s lovely to see some women around. :)
- Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood (1719): I know. The obvious choice is Robinson Crusoe. But I tried reading it when I was in sixth grade and gave up in disgust one hundred pages in. The experience left with a deep antipathy towards Daniel Defoe, and I could kiss Haywood for publishing a novel in the same decade and thus giving me an alternative!
- Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726) or Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe (1722): this is me pretending that I’m willing to give Daniel Defoe another shot. But since I’ve always wanted to read Gulliver’s Travels, I’m thinking I’ll go for Swift! (Who didn’t love his “A Modest Proposal”?) That, and I always thought Moll Flanders was written by Thomas Hardy, so I’m putting it on this list so I’ll never make that mistake again!
- Aesop’s Fables ed. Samuel Richardson (1739): OMG, so like no one published a novel in the 1730s. Seriously. I know, I could read Pope’s “Essay on Man,” and I was all set to. But then I discovered it’s a philosophical poem. And that just sounds painful. Seriously, the 1730s are like the huge flaw in my consecutive decades plan. Please give me any suggestions you have!
- History of Tom Jonesby Henry Fielding (1749) or Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding (1742): obviously, I’m intent on getting some Fielding in this year! But I’ve never read him before, so I’ve hedged my bets by including a longer and shorter novel.
- The History of Miss Betsy Thoughtless by Eliza Haywood (1751) or The History of Sir Charles Grandison by Samuel Richardson (1753) : how could anyone resist a character named Miss Betsy Thoughtless?! Seriously?! On the other hand, it’d be neat to get a taste of Richardson in one of his shorter works, and since Sir Charles Grandison (also a rather fun name) was a response to Tom Jones, it might be fun to get into a British literary catfight. hehe
- Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (1764) or Julie by Jean-Jacques Roussea (1761) or The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (1766): so the 1760s were a banner year of publishing books-Eva-wants-to-read! I’ve always been curious about the origins of Gothic books (one of my favourite genres), but then I’ve read lots of Rousseau’s philosophy so his novels would be a neat comparison. Wakefield was a publishing sensation, and it’s mentioned in a whole lot of Victorian books that I’ve read, so that one would be interesting too.
- Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe (1774): I have this one out from the library now…Werther sounds like the original emo boy, hehe. I’ve never read any of Goethe, which embarasses me, so I thought I’d start at the beginning!
- Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (1782): this will be a reread for me. I wasn’t too impressed with it back in 2007, but I want to try a different translation this go round (my library has the Richard Aldington Everyman edition whereas I was seduced by the cover of the Barnes & Noble edition into not worrying about translators). As a sidenote, does anyone else find it odd that the title is always in French? I mean, it’s not like it’s a difficult phrase to translate! lol
- Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe (1794) or A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft (1792): I have Udolpho on my shelf, and I’ve been wanting to read it for years since I love Northanger Abbey. But then, having read a book about Fanny (Mary Shelley’s half-sister) last year, I’m even more curious about Mary Wollstonecraft.
- Belinda by Maria Edgeworth (1801): apparently this is set in Jamaica and depicts a biracial marriage! That makes me curious.
- Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott (1819) or Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818): I’ve read Scott’s Rob Roy, but not his most famous historical novel. And I’m all about the Middle Ages! :) Frankenstien would be a reread, but I wonder if I’d enjoy it more now, rather than when I had to read it for class when I was 17.
- Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey (1821): do I really have to justify having this one the list?! I’ve always been curious about it. :)
International Year of Biodiversity Reading Challenge
The UN has declared 2010 the Year of Biodiversity, and Classical Bookworm has created the International Year of Biodiversity Reading Challenge. Y’all know how excited I get whenever I see a reading challenge devoted to nonfiction; I simply have to enter it. And this one is all about biology, my favourite science! Sylvia has created several approaches to the biodiversity topic, and they all sound like such fun that I made a potential reading list for each one. I’m not sure what I’ll decide to go with in the end; fortunately the Biodiversity Bonanza lets me read a book from each theme.
- Basic (3 general biodiversity books):
- Biophilia by Edward O. Wilson: I think Wilson coined the term biodiversity, so he seems appropriate to include in the ‘general’ list!
- Out of Eden by Alan Burdick: this is a look at how species migrate due to our modern way of life and how that decreases biodiversity.
- The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen: ok, so I wasn’t a huge fan of the other Quammen book I read (Boilerplate Rhino), but the premise of this is so interesting (looking at island biogeography) I can’t resist.
- Biomes (3 books about ecosystems; I actually had the most difficult trying to figure out which books would count):
- Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America by Adrian Forsyth and Ken Miyata: two field biologists have written a book about the rain forests. :)
- The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen: Matthiessen went into the Himalayas with a zoologist, so I think this book is about the high altitude ecosystem.
- The Last Great Sea by Terry Glavin: if I hadn’t already read Carl Safina’s Song for the Blue Ocean, I’d choose that! But this is a specific look at the North Pacific Ocean, and it sounds just as good (and Safina wrote the intro!).
- Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez: I think this is a natural look at the far Canadian north, but I’m not completely sure. ;)
- The Hidden Forest by Jon Luoma: I’ve always loved forests! And this book has ‘ecosystem’ in the subtitle, so I *know* it works for this category. lol
- Branches (3 books on different life forms):
- The Hedgehog’s Dilemma by Hugh Warwick (mammal): I ‘borrowed’ this from my huge Science Book challenge list. Because seriously: who doesn’t want to know more about hedgehogs?!
- Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard by Nicholas Money (fungus): I don’t know much about fungi, other than that mushrooms are delicious. ;) This is about molds and other fungi than just mushrooms, so it should be interesting!
- Anatomy of a Rose by Sharman Apt Russell (plants): I really enjoyed the other Russell book I read (Hunger), so I’d love to read more by her.
- Eye of the Albatross by Carl Safina (bird): I’m a fan of Safina, so I’ve been wanting to read this one. :)
- The Earth Moved by Amy Stewart (invertebrate): a book about earthworms?! So random, it’s sure to be endearing.
- In Search of the Golden Frog by Marty Crump (amphibian/reptiles): it combines travel, herpetology, and a look at being a mother with a career. Doesn’t it sound perfect?
- Bye-Bye (2 books about extinction/endangered species):
- The Ghost with Trembling Wings by Scott Weidensaul: borrowed my big list of Science Book reads, this is about apparent sightings in the wild of species that science think have gone extinct.
- Hope is a Thing with Feathers by Christopher Cokinos: a look at extinct North American bird species and some currently endangered ones.
- Nature’s Ghosts by Mark Barrow Jr.: it focuses on the history of America’s conservation movement as it relates to endangered/extinct species!
- Hope for Animals and Their World by Jane Gooddall: I feel like with all the dreary books on this list, I’ll needa bit of hope. And who doesn’t love Goodall? ;)
- A Gap in Nature by Tim Flannery and illustrator Peter Schouten: first of all, how exciting is it that the book has an illustrator?! I love science sketches. This is a book about 103 animals around the globe that have gone extinct between 1500 and 1999.
- A Sheltered Life by Paul Chambers: a book all about giant tortoises, which are endangered.
Aussie Author Challenge
I read several Australian authors this year, but most of them wrote books set outside of Australia! So when I saw the Aussie Author Challenge, I thought it would be nice to be a bit more deliberate about my Australian reading this year. ;) For now, I’m signing up for the Tourist level and committing to 3 books by the end of the year, but I might end up a Fair Dinkum with 8!
- Flying too High by Kerry Greenwood: I read the first in this 20s mystery series a couple years ago, and while I didn’t love it, I enjoyed it enough to want to give it another try!
- Carpentaria by Alexis Wright: this is a novel about land rights written by an indigenous Australian. Since last year I read a novel about the same issue from the perspective of a white Australian author, I think it’d be a marvelous balance!
- Alice Springs by Nikki Gemmell: a novel set in the Outback. My dad has visited Alice Springs several times (we have an Air Force base there), so I’m curious about it!
- 1988 by Andrew McGahan: I read and enjoyed a different novel by McGahan last year (The White Earth-that’s the land rights book I mentioned earlier), so I’d like to read this one set during Australia’s bicentennial!
- The Hamilton Case by Michelle de Kretser: ok, so this one is set in Sri Lanka and not Australia. But Kretser’s Australian, and it sounds too good to pass up! It’s a literary murder mystery set in the years before Sri Lankan independence.
- Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan: it’s set in Tasmania! I’ve never read a book set there. ;) And during the 1800s, one of my favourite time periods for historical fiction. So I’m hoping it’ll be good!
- The Transit of Venus by Shirley Hazzard: I’m not sure how Australian I’d called Hazzard, but she was born there and she was on the Australia’s Best Authors list (I’m beginning to think Australian authors are much like Canadian ones, with a somewhat more nebulous view of nationality than my American heart is accustomed to). This novel about two Australian sisters who go to England after WWII sounds intriguing!
Have you read any of these books? Tell me what you thought of them!