Is that a challenge???

I’ve been checking out all these reading challenges. I like the idea of theme reads & reading projects, but as I have mentioned previously, I also really really love to browse and choose books at random. Also I am not super keen on being told what to read, even if it is I myself who is doing the telling, ya know?

On the other hand, lately I have not been doing a very good job of setting aside time for myself to read. Between work, family, and other obligations my “free” time is quite limited, and it’s all too easy to let the hours slip away while engaged in the vitally important work of stalking people on facebook. Reading in bed for 5 minutes before falling asleep is just not enough. Perhaps if I take up the gauntlet I’ll be able to stay more focused on the really important things in life, i.e. books. Plus this seems like a great way to meet other bloggers.

So, I’m going to try it out. I’ve decided on two: Back to the Classics and Mount TBR. This will amount to at most two books per month of “required” reading — enough to keep me focused but not enough to preclude spontaneous trips to the library.

Mount TBR

This challenge, issued by Bev at My Reader’s Block, specifies: “Books must be owned by you prior to January 1, 2012. No ARCs (none), no library books. No rereads. . . . The intention is to reduce the stack of books that you have bought for yourself or received as presents. . . . Books may be used to count for other challenges as well.”

I actually don’t have a towering TBR stack. I get the vast majority of my books from the public library. Still, there are a few. Mostly gifts — some off my wishlist, others chosen by people who know me well. And there are a few that I have bought for myself, usually on a whim. Oh yes, and there are some lingering volumes from about twenty years ago when I belonged to one of those book-of-the-month clubs.

I think for now I’ll declare myself at the lowest level, Pike’s Peak. That’s twelve books over the course of 2012. I can do that! I’m not going to declare them in advance; I’ll just list them as I read them.

Back to the Classics

This challenge comes from Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much. It’s a good one for me because many of the books in my TBR pile also happen to be classics. The goal is to read one book from each of the following categories during 2012. The first thing I thought when I saw this was, well how exactly do you define classic? Not to worry. Sarah defines a classic as “any book that has left its mark on the world. I want to say ‘literary world,’ but that is not always exactly the case, is it? It is a book that is remembered, or can conjure an image in anyone’s mind whether they have read it or not. In most cases, these books are old. But I also believe that some more recent works could be considered classics.”

Fair enough! So, here are my picks:

Any 19th century classic — Anthony Trollope: The American Senator

Any 20th century classic — Saul Bellow: Herzog

Reread a classic of your choice — Louisa May Alcott: Little Women

A classic play — Henrik Ibsen, Hedda Gabler

Classic mystery/horror/crime fiction — Raymond Chandler: The Big Sleep

Classic romance — D.H. Lawrence: The Fox

A classic in translation — Stendhal: The Charterhouse of Parma

Classic award winner — Salman Rushdie: The Satanic Verses

A classic set in a country that you (realistically speaking) will not visit during your lifetime — Chinua Achebe: Things Fall Apart

Cathedral Lit

A cathedral I'd love to visit: Gaudi's Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

The Guardian lists ten of the best cathedrals in literature and I have read none of them. I love churches and cathedrals and I love Church Lit (as distinct from Christian Lit), especially if it involves different factions of Anglicans or Protestants. All the better if beadles, vergers, rectors, vicars, etc. are involved. However, I’m hard-pressed to think of books I have read that specifically involve cathedrals. Let’s see. There is Cathedral by David Macauley — not a novel but a fascinating book to pore over on a rainy afternoon. The Young Unicorns by Madeleine L’Engle, if I recall correctly, is set in a cathedral. And perhaps The Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers would count? I think that is more of a church than a cathedral, but of course it does have a belfry. Which makes me wonder: at what point does a church become a cathedral?

I’ve been looking over various reading challenges to try next year. I have kind of mixed feelings about declaring in advance what I am going to read because it rules out browsing. On the other hand, something like the Read Your Own Books challenge would help take care of some of that nagging guilt, ya know? I say this because of course it did occur to me to give myself a Cathedral Lit challenge and just drill right down the list. Eh, maybe not. I’m bookmarking it though.

What Cathedral Lit have you read?