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Sanddancer's 999 Challenge

999 Challenge

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Edited: Jan 12, 2009, 9:13am Top

I think my categories will be as follows

1. 1001 Books to Read Before You Die
2. Fiction Authors that are New to Me
3. Crime and Detectives around the world (each one from a different country)
4. Theme: Dystopia
5. Retro: Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counter-Culture (fiction and non-fiction)
6. Around the World (fiction set outside of the UK and USA - each one from a different country)
7. Non-Fiction
8. Complete Works of - T C Boyle
9. Themed Titles - Animals (a different animal in each title)

* - denotes a book that I already have a copy of
All other books are still subject to change.

Edited: Aug 30, 2009, 4:05am Top

1. 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (from either issue of the book)

1. Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
2. The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
3. Slow Man by J M Coetzee
4. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
5. Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
6. Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
7. The Successor by Ismail Kadore
8. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
9. Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster

Other possibilties include
something by Paul Auster
Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard
Stone Junction by Jim Dodge
Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Falling Man by Don DeLillo

Edited: Jun 5, 2009, 3:34pm Top

2. Fiction Authors New To Me (probably whatever takes my fancy as the year progresses plus any new authors in book club reads if it is something I'm actually intersted in reading)
1. Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
2. Underground Man by Mick Jackson
3. The Flood by David Maine
4. The Man who was Thursday by G K Chesterton
5. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
6. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
7. The Girls: A Novel by Lori Lansens
8. When I was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten
9.The Other Hand by Chris Cleave

Edited: Sep 7, 2009, 2:46pm Top

3. Crime and Detectives (possibly with a global theme with a different setting for each one)

1. Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg (Greenland)
2. Real World by Natsuo Kirino (Japan)
3. Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner (Finland)
4. Right as Rain by George Pelecanos (Washington DC, USA)
5. Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi (Greece)
6. The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri (Sicilly)
7. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith (Soviet Union)
8 DeKok and the Somber Nude by A C Baantjer - Amsterdam, the Netherlands
9. The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo - Stockholm, Sweden

Other possibilities
A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson* (Portugal)
Buenos Aires Quintet by Manuel Vazquez Montalban (Argentina)*
The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo (Oslo, Norway)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Sweden)
* denotes a book I already own.

Edited: Sep 16, 2009, 2:56pm Top

4. Theme: Dystopia & Apocalyse
1. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
2. The Declaration by Gemma Malley
3. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
5. Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
6.Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
7.The Giver by Lois Lowry
8. We by Yevgenry Zamyatin
9. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Edited: Aug 28, 2009, 3:59pm Top

5. Retro - Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counter-Culture

1. Retro Retro: Fictional Flashbacks by Amy Prior
2. 1968: the year that rocked the world - Mark Kurlansky
3. Hippie by Barry Miles
4. Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
5. I think therefore who am I by Peter Weissman
6. When I Was Cool - Sam Kashner
7. In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
8. Willard and his Bowling Trophies by Richard Brautigan
9. Hippie Hippie Shake by Richard Neville

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test - Tom Wolfe
Storming Heaven by Jay Stevens
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out - Timothy LearyAtomic Candy - Phyllis Burke

Edited: Oct 7, 2009, 3:40pm Top

6. Around the World (9 different countries excluding USA and UK)
1. Cloud Street by Tim Winton Australia
2.A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini Afganistan
3. Distant Star by Roberto Bolano Chile
4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz Dominican Republic
5. Purple Hibiscus by Ngozi Adichie Nigeria
6. Tropical Fish Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana Uganda
7. An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappha - Zimbabwe
8. The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Safak Turkey
9. Let It Be Morning by Sayed Kashua - Israel

Edited: Sep 5, 2009, 3:11pm Top

7. Non-Fiction
1. Shakespeare by Bill Bryson
2. Los Angeles without a Map by Richard Rayner
3. The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Laver
4. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.
5. Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
6.The Last Shot by Darcy Frey (sports related book picked by my OH)
7. Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
8. Hippo Eats Dwarf by Alex Boese
9. You Cannot Live as I have and not end up like this: The Thoroughly Disgraceful Life and Times of Willie Donaldson by Terence Blacker

Other possibilities
Seeing is Believing: How Hollywood taught us to stop worrying and love the fifties by Peter Biskind*
The Joke's Over by Ralph Steadman*
Never Hit a Jellyfish with a Spade by Guy Browning
something else by Bill Bryson
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S Thompson
something else by Mark Kurlansky

Edited: Oct 19, 2009, 2:55pm Top

8. The Complete Works of: T. C. Boyle
1. East is East
2. Inner Circle
3. A Friend of the Earth
4. Talk Talk
5. Budding Prospects
6. Riven Rock
7. World's End
8.The Road to Wellville
9. Water Music

This is excluding Drop City and Tortilla Curtain which I've already read. I'm only counting his novels here as I'm not a big fan of short stories.

Edited: Aug 1, 2009, 4:03am Top

9. Title Theme - Animals (a different type of creature in each title)
1. The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Tom Baker
2. White Tiger by Aravinda Adiga
3. Giraffe by J M Ledgard
4. Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre
5. The Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
6 The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
7. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
8. Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
9. Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman

Oct 16, 2008, 9:08am Top

Have you read Naked Came the Manatee? I don't know if it's something you be interested in. It's a quirky serial novel but I found it funny.

Oct 16, 2008, 9:11am Top

Victoria - thanks for the recommendation. I've read a couple of Carl Hiassen's books and enjoyed them so will give that one a go.

Oct 16, 2008, 9:35am Top

I've only read one Hiassen book - Skinny Dip - and it reminded me of Manatee. I hope you enjoy it!

Oct 22, 2008, 8:35pm Top

read and likedGirls Like Us recently, also read Hotel California a year ago. One is the girls side of the story regarding 1960s -70s rock and the other is more the boys side of the story.

Oct 23, 2008, 9:43am Top

On the small chance that you haven't read it, how about On the Road? Or would The Man with the Golden Arm fit?

Oct 23, 2008, 11:15am Top

Shannon - Girls Like Us sounds really interesting as the woman are often overlooked. I've read bits and pieces by Barney Hoskyns, the writer of Hotel California so I will keep that one in mind too.

RidgewayGirl - I have indeed read On the Road many years ago. I like the sound of The Man with the Golden Arm though - I'd never even heard of it. It sounds like it might fit vaguely into a counterculture type category

Thanks for the recommendations!

Oct 23, 2008, 4:19pm Top

The Man With the Golden Arm is a good book and also a good movie.

Nov 6, 2008, 2:25pm Top

hey sanddancer - since you like mysteries, you might want to consider something by Michael Connelly for your California category. His Harry Bosch mysteries take place in LA and are very good.

I just read The Quiet American. It's a wonderful book, so well written. I hope you enjoy it.

Nov 10, 2008, 9:38am Top

Karenmarie - thanks for the recommendation. I'll look out for his books. I'm looking forward to reading The Quiet American - I love Graham Greene and this is one of the few I've not read before.

I'm thinking of making the Crime & Detective category a bit more challenging so I don't just end up reading lots of books by the same author. I might restrict it to no more than 2 books by the same author or even harder, making each one from a different country. But I'll make a decision on this later in 2009 when I see how things are going

Edited: Nov 19, 2008, 4:01pm Top

A Small Death in Lisbon is a book I recommend strongly - I've gone on to read most of his books. I like a foreign setting for my crime too. Have you read Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen? That would be for the animal category.

Dec 2, 2008, 5:27am Top

Predictably I've now changed my mind about my categories. I want to add Dystopia as a themed read, so I'm getting rid of California which I was doing because that is where I'm going on holiday, but I think most of the books I would read in that category can be moved elsewhere. So I've edited the above to reflect the new category.

It may all change again!

Dec 2, 2008, 9:38am Top

Yay for dystopia!

Dec 2, 2008, 11:17am Top

Great category (Dystopia) - I'll be watching to see what you pick. Always looking for more in that category!

Edited: Jan 6, 2009, 12:49pm Top

I have finished my first book of the year!

Cloudstreet by Tim Winton
Category: Around the World - Australia

I haven't read much Australian fiction and this one was very much about Perth in Western Australia, although the dysfunctional families in the book are universally recognisable. The book is about two families, the Pickles and the Lambs who live in the same house, told over a twenty year period. It is told in a fragmented style with varying length parts with sub-titles within each chapter. There were also touches of magical realism and symbolism thrown in, which worked well to raise the book above the standard family saga.

Edited: Jan 6, 2009, 12:50pm Top

Retro Retro edited by Amy Prior
Category: Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counterculture

This is an anthology of short stories loosely around the theme of our obsession with retrospective culture. This book typified why I normally avoid collections of short stories, namely that the quality tends to vary considerably. In this book, the ones I enjoyed most were the ones with the most obvious retro theme. My favourite was "Empty Boxes" by Nicholas Royle, which is about old cinemas in London, but I also enjoyed Brett Ellen Block's "Future Tense" which was about the spirit of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in the modern age, Joyce Carol Oates "Strand Used Books 1956" about a change encounter with Marilyn Monroe, and "The Death of Blonde" by Christopher Kenworthy about hair and history. Others I didn't enjoy at all and couldn't see what the retro connection was, in particular "The Stock Exchange" which unfortunately was also the longest story in the collection. I'm pleased I managed to finish it as I normally give up on short story collections and I may seek out books by some of the writers here.

Jan 5, 2009, 2:52pm Top

You might enjoy Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan. It's crazy fiction from the period and focuses more on rural/communal aspects of hte period. It's commonly packaged as two novellas (Trout Fishing and Watermelon Sugar) and a long poem (Springhill Mine Disaster). Titles are deceptive ... the book is not really about any of these things. It's a bit of an experiment in literary form with recurring characters and lots of funny vignettes, but not much narrative flow. The book would be a nice balance to the memoirs and histories you have selected.

Love the distopia and TC Boyle categories and see many of my favorites there.

Edited: Jan 12, 2009, 9:16am Top

Tracy - thank you for the comment. Although I hadn't added it to my list, I did have the Brautigan books in my mind as something I should probably read this year, so its good to have someone else recommend them too. And Trout Fishing in America could also count in my Animal titles category too.

Edited: Jan 6, 2009, 12:51pm Top

The Boy Who Kicked Pigs by Tom Baker
Category: Themed Titles - Animals

The first book in my wildcard category of books with no connection other than that they have a type of animal in the title.

This is a very short book, more of a novella really as it consists of just over 120 pages and alternate pages are taken up with illustrations. I was able to read it in under 2 hours.

It is a very odd book. I'm not sure it is quite suitable for children, certainly not young children, as it is quite graphic in its depiction of the death and gore, but illustrated books to tend to be associated with children's literature rather than adults. The illustrations by David Roberts are an essential part of the book. I suppose it is similar to some of Roald Dahl's books which can also be quite nasty and are enjoyed by adults as well as children, and are closely associated with the illustrations of Quentin Blake.

It has a very black sense of humour, which I enjoyed. The conversation between the local reporters in particular tickled me and I was close to laughing out loud. It probably won't be a book that everyone will like, but if wicked children, rats and dark humour are your thing then this is a good little read. Given its shortness, I wouldn't recommend paying full price for it though.

Jan 6, 2009, 9:54am Top

I love it when people leave empty spaces in their categories, enabling the rest of us to start trying to fill them in. In your Dystopia category, you might consider Canticle for Liebowitz by Walter Miller, if you haven't read it already.

Jan 6, 2009, 12:49pm Top

Ktruh - thanks for the recommendation - I haven't read it yet, so will look out for a copy of it to add to that category.

Recommendations are always welcome here and many of the books are just ideas so not set in stone, except where I already own them, as I really should try to get some of those read :) I imagine the 1001 books category will change a lot throughout the year if the 888 challenge is anything to go on.

Jan 6, 2009, 3:20pm Top

How did you make that line through the books you've read? That's very cool.

Jan 7, 2009, 5:21am Top

Jhedlund - it is easy. Where you want it to begin put (strike) and at the end put (/strike) but substituting the brackets here for . (Not sure if that explains it very well!)

Jan 7, 2009, 5:39am Top

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Category: Dystopia

(overlap with 1001 Books to Read Before You Die if needed)

It is hard to know what to say about such a classic book as so much has already been written and many people will already be familiar with it. What surprised me most about this book was how accessible it was, what an easy read and how much humour there is, especially in the early part of the book. It is very different from 1984 which is often mentioned alongside, because as well as the humour, the society presented here is supposed to be a Utopia and happiness is its ultimate goal. The book explores what unrelenting happiness means and whether there might be something higher in life. Although it was written in the 1930s, I don't think it has dated and a true sign of good dystopian novel, some of the things here are close to our reality now.

I absolutely loved this book and can only wonder why I didn't read it sooner. I think perhaps I was expecting it to be harder going than it was so would encourage anyone might feel daunted by it, to read it.

Jan 8, 2009, 3:34pm Top

Hello Sanddancer,
for your category on animals i have another one that won't figure in that many books : Giraffe by J.M. Ledgard, a bit strange but nice book.

Jan 10, 2009, 5:53am Top

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Category: Fiction Authors New to Me

I started this book at the end of last year but didn't get too far with it. I loved the idea of it - a detective novel where the crime is solved by a flock of sheep. However it proved to be a bit harder to get into than I expected, hence me putting aside for a couple of weeks. Once I got back on with it, I did enjoy it. I loved the characters of the different sheep with their different personalities and names and that they enjoyed being read to. The human world seen through their eyes was often amusing. My copy also had cute drawings of sheep at the corner of the pages which was a nice touch. But I thought the book was too long for the premise and it would have been better if it had been reduced. The author is German and there were a few times when some of the phrases were very clunky and didn't quite make sense so I wondered if it lost something in translation occasionally.

Overall an imaginative and unique idea but it didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Jan 10, 2009, 12:26pm Top

I read Three Bags Full in German (Glenkill) and loved it. I do wonder if the translation could be an issue as I'm finding that when I read a book by a Scandinavian author (I have a thing for Northern European crime novels) in English it's often much less satisfying than another book by the same author read in the German translation.

On one hand, I'm very pleased when a book is translated into English as so few are. On the other hand, I worry that a poor translation will stop someone from reading more by that author or even cause them to not read translated works altogether.

Jan 10, 2009, 1:39pm Top

RidgewayGirl - they weren't major things in Three Bags Full but I think it did break the flow of it for me and stop me from getting really immersed in the book. It wouldn't be enough to stop me reading further translations though. I'm hoping to read more Scandinavian crime myself this year too.

Jan 10, 2009, 1:49pm Top

Shakespeare The World as a Stage by Bill Bryson
Category: Non-Fiction

My first non-fiction read of the year and what a great start. I've only part Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and gave up on it because it seemed dated but I did like his style. I'm quite partial to a bit of Shakespeare too and fascinated by the theories that he didn't write the plays. So this book seemed like a good choice. The first chapter outlined that very little is definitely known about Shakespeare, and although this was interesting, it did make me worry about how a book could be sustained if we don't know anything much. However, I needn't have been concerned. Very little biographical information was given as certain, but Bryson wittily collects together and mainly dismisses the various rumours and theories about the Bard, particularly in the final chapter which is devoted to the theories of alternate authors. The book also gives a wealth of information about England in Shakespeare's lifetime, which was particularly interesting and give me a wealth of infomration for example I knew the Spanish Armada was defeated but not how before reading this and I learnt the origin of the term box office. The only weak point (but necessary in a review of Shakespeare) was the section on different folios and quartos of the plays.

A great informative read and I'll definitely read more by Bill Bryson.

Jan 10, 2009, 3:18pm Top

Thanks for the review, sanddancer. I have this book on my list, but knew little about it. Now I'm even more eager to read it!

I read Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everthing a couple of years ago, found it very entertaining and extremely informative.

Jan 11, 2009, 3:30am Top

Ivy - I plan to read A Short History of Nearly Everything soon having enjoyed the Shakespeare one so much.

Jan 11, 2009, 6:06pm Top

Hola Sanddancer

Might I suggest Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crimes books to you. The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear. Both good books. My husband read them and then brought Three Bags Full. I'll have to ask him how they compare since I haven't read that one yet.

Jan 12, 2009, 3:49am Top

Chrine - thanks for the suggestions. I have read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde from his Thursday Next series which I loved and have the next in that series waiting to be read, but it doesn't quite fit in my challenge. I will definitely get around to reading his Nursery Crimes series too at some point.

Jan 12, 2009, 11:26am Top

#40 I read Short History when it first came out, and another Bryson book that I can't remember the name of where he did a driving tour around the USA. I loved Short History, the other was just OK. I've seen his Shakespeare book, but have been putting it off. I'm beginning to think I need to give it a try. I'm not especially a huge fan of Shakespeare, but I do appreciate his influence - do you think I might still enjoy it?

Jan 12, 2009, 12:07pm Top

Sjm - I would still recommend giving it a try. I don't think you need a huge knowledge of Shakespeare to enjoy the book, but it might give you a greater appreciation of his work, for example there is a part about words and phrases that are first found in his plays. The parts I found most interesting were more about the society he was living in and about theatres, rather than about Shakespeare's work.

Jan 12, 2009, 12:34pm Top

Thanks, I'll try to work it in this year.

Jan 12, 2009, 3:31pm Top

Thanks for your review of Three Bags Full, it made me interested in reading it. Have you tried Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocolypse? It's a very offbeat mystery.

Edited: Jan 13, 2009, 3:35am Top

Victoria - I have heard of Robert Rankin but I haven't read any of his books. I think he was compared to Jasper Fforde who I like, so I will certainly try to read one of his books soon. I could use it in my Animals in the titles category too.

Jan 13, 2009, 5:33am Top

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Hoeg
Category: Crime and Detectives with a global theme - Denmark/Greenland

This book is about a crime but it is also very mucha piece of literary fiction, as there is so much more to it than the solving of a crime. I picked it for this reason and also because I've not read anything set in either Denmark or Greenland. A young boy falls off the top of a building and it is deemed an accident, but Smilla, his neighbour, doesn't believe it and sets about investigating. Smilla's mother was a hunter from Greenland and her father a successful doctor from Denmark and much of this book is about the position of Greenlanders in Danish society. The pace of the book is very slow, but I enjoyed that in the first part and was fascinated by the insights into the culture of Greenland and Denmark. However, I thought the second part of the novel, set on a ship heading to Greenland was much weaker and it didn't work so well as a thriller as it was meant to in this part.

Edited: Jan 13, 2009, 3:45pm Top

Black Water by Joyce Carol Oates
Category: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

A fictionalised account of the crash involving Ted Kennedy, told from the point of v iew of the drowning girl. It is a short book, but beautifully written. I found it really moving in particular the parts where she is imagining a conversation with her parents and saying "I'm a good girl". It was quite harrowing and upsetting reading, but very powerful.

Jan 13, 2009, 4:04pm Top

Thanks sanddancer - I got the strikethrough to work on my lists too. I'm definitely a person that gets a lot of satisfaction from crossing off on lists, so this feature makes it even more fun for me.

Jan 15, 2009, 3:39pm Top

East is East by T C Boyle
Category: Complete Works Of - T C Boyle

I wanted to do a category of the work by one author and I picked T C Boyle simply because I'd enjoyed the two books of his I'd previously read and he had the right amount of books for a whole category!

This book is quite similar to The Tortilla Curtain in that it is about a culture clash between American and illegal immigrants. In this case, the illegal is Hiro, a 20 year old Japanese cook who jumps off a ship, thinking he is arriving in mainland USA, but actually ending up on Tupelo Island, Georgia. Here he encounters locals not used to foreigners and an artists colony and through a series of misunderstandings becomes a wanted man. The book has some great comic moments at times being almost a farce, there are some witty observations in there, particularly regarding the writers at the artists retreat and Boyle has a great turn of phrase. But there is a serious side to the book about the lack of understanding and mistrust between cultures that gives it a serious side and a certain poignancy.

This book wasn't life changing, but it was an immensely enjoyable read and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of his work.

Jan 15, 2009, 3:42pm Top

You are blazing through your challenge! I'm enjoying your reviews on the blog, thanks for contributing!

Jan 17, 2009, 4:13am Top

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
Category: Around the World - Afganistan

I finally got around to reading this. A colleague gave it to me sometime before Christmas and I'd been putting off reading it. I really didn't expect to enjoy it as I thought it was just going to be endless misery. But once I got going with it, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading it. It was very easy to read and it wasn't as over-the-top with misery as I was expecting. And it did make me cry.

I wouldn't say it was the best book I've ever read or even the best book I've read this month, but I can see why it has been so popular and so praised.

Jan 17, 2009, 2:02pm Top

I find "enjoy" or "like" difficult to use for A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I thought it was a very good book and an important book. I thought The Kite Runner was a better book -- far more powerful, and more believable characterization -- but in many ways, I found A Thousand Splendid Suns more interesting. I believe that it's important that we better understand what has happened (and is happening) in Afghanistan, and this book truly shows the women's side of it. I think that's why Hosseini chose this topic for his 2nd book, though he didn't seem as comfortable or proficient at depicting the women's point of view.

Jan 18, 2009, 3:43am Top

Ivy - you see I did actually enjoy reading it because although it wasn't particularly pleasant, it did have a good well paced plot and there were bits that were uplifting, and the overall background about the history Afganistan was very interesting. I was wary of it for the very reasons that you praise it - I thought that it being an "important" book would be at the expense of it being a good read, which I don't think it was. I recently read Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani which is set in 17th century Iran but is very similar on the place of women in society, but was probably better at depicting the point of view of a woman since it was written by a woman.

Edited: Jan 18, 2009, 11:25am Top

White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
Category: Themed Titles - Animals

My first really disappointing read of the year. This won the Booker Prize in 2008, but I really don't see what was so special about it. It is the rise of a servant in India from lowly beginnings to a successful businessman in the new economy. It is full of sly observations about the out-sourcing culture but I felt it had purposefully been written for a Western audience. The story promised more than it delivered and I thought it just fizzled out at the end.

Jan 18, 2009, 2:14pm Top

re #55:

I think my comments about A Thousand Splendid Suns may have sounded more critical than I intended. I totally agree with you about the plot, thought that the 2 points-of-view were nicely handled, and that the uplifting parts contributed to the believability of the story. I found the book fascinating and gave it 5* (which usually only happens with about 4 of the 60 or so books I read each year).

Based on your comments, I'm going to add Blood of Flowers, and eliminate White Tiger (which I was somewhat uncertain about, anyway), from my list of possibles. Thanks!

Edited: Jan 20, 2009, 3:22am Top

The Declaration by Gemma Malley
Category: Dystopia

I don't usually read Young Adult books but since this one fitted my Dystopia theme, I thought I would read it. In the near future people live forever taking a drug called Longevity, but because of population growth putting a strain on the world's resources, anyone taking the drug must sign "the Declaration" that prevents them from having children. This book is about the children born as "Surpluses" whose parents broke the law in giving birth to them. The idea itself is as interesting (and as plausible) as any other vision of the future I've read in adult literature. The execution of the idea is very straightforward which is what I suppose makes it Young Adult. This makes it a very easy read, and although thought-provoking, it didn't require much thinking about. I enjoyed reading it, but I'm not sure that I'll read the sequel, because I don't think the idea has enough depth for a second book and I think the second book will be more about actions rather than the dystopia idea, which is where my interest lies.

Jan 22, 2009, 2:52am Top

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien
Category: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

I've finished this book and I still don't know what to make of it. What is it about? Murder, guilt, eternity and bicycles. It was absurd which I don't mind a bit of now and then, but reading this made me feel like I was going mad. It was funny in places but in other places it was just annoying. As well as the main "plot" the narrator is obsessed with a philosopher/scientist called de Selby, who he mentions frequently and there are extensive footnotes about de Selby's works. I loved this part of the book, although it was confusing trying to read the main text and the footnotes. De Selby is entirely fictional but the author has invented a whole body of work for him and a host of commentators on his work, who we are also given theories about. Very odd.

Jan 25, 2009, 8:42am Top

Real World by Natsuo Kirino
Category: Crime with a global theme - Japan

This book was described as Japanese feminist noir, not a genre I'd read before (nor am I sure how large a category that is). It is another book about a murder where there is no mystery involved in who did it, but rather it is the story of different people's reactions to the murder and the chain of events it triggers. With each chapter, the narration switches to a different person, between four teenage girls and the male teenage murderer. I enjoyed this technique, although I found the male perspective the least convincing. The book was as much about the conflict between generations in Japan, and teenage feelings of isolation as it was about the crime itself. It struck me as being a very Japanese book with themes I was familiar with from Japanese films. It was interesting, but I never felt emotionally involved in the story, but then detachment was something felt by the characters, so that may be the intended response to it.

Jan 27, 2009, 5:23am Top

1968: The Year that Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky
Category: Retro: Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counter-Culture

A good book to read early in the challenge, as it gave a great background to the political movements of the era. Although it is about the events of 1968, the book also provides a lot of background information to the events of that year, so does cover most of the 1960s. I was expecting there to be more here about music and culture, but it was pretty much all about the politics and the various protest movements. It was nonetheless incredibly interesting and covered an impressive scope. There was a lot on the USA, the war with Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, Yippies and the Presidential nominations, but the situations in Czechoslavkia, Nigeria, France and Mexico were also looked at in detail. One of the recurrent themes of the book was how this was the start of the media age, that things were only effective if you could get press, particularly television, coverage, and how this in turn led to a move away from non-violence because television favoured dramatic violent conflict. It was a very interesting read, but a lot of information to take in. My copy did have some photographs and pictures of protest posters, and if I had one criticism, I think it would be that some more of these would have been welcome.

Jan 28, 2009, 5:28am Top

I feel like I'm cheating because I keep on reading short books. I was trying to keep my categories balanced, but that hasn't quite worked out as yesterday I wanted something light to fit in my bag so jumped ahead to another Around the World book and finished it in the day.

Distant Star by Robert Bolano
Around the World - Chile

I seem to be drawn to books that are set under dictatorships, and because I wanted to read something by Bolano, I picked up this short book which is about a poet turned murderer in the early days of Pinochet's regime. The early part of the book was very effective in building up the tension of what it was like in those days where it became the norm for people to disappear and be presumed dead. It was very tense and the section about an art event was chilling. However, the latter part involved so much about Latin American writers and quite a bit about Les Miserables, that I'm afraid meant very litle to me. I'd be interested to read something by another writer about the same time period that is maybe a bit more of a conventional story.

Jan 28, 2009, 8:12am Top

Excellent reviews. I love TC Boyle, and now have to add East is East to my must find/must read list. Glad to see your comments on Bolano as well. I looked at Distant Star in the bookstore and thought about getting it as a test drive before tackling 2666. Since I'm not overly familiar with Latin American poetry and have never read or seen Les Mis I think I'll hold out for Nazi Literature in the Americas in paperback later this year.

Jan 28, 2009, 8:18am Top

Tracey - I love your expression "a test drive before tackling 2666" which is how I was viewing this. My library also has a copy of By Night in Chile which I might read later. This morning I've just started another Boyle book The Inner Circle which is looking good so far.

Feb 3, 2009, 6:51am Top

The Inner Circle by T C Boyle
Category: The Complete Works of - T C Boyle

This is a fictionalised account of the sex researcher, Alfred Kinsey, as told by one of his researchers, John Milk. Apart from Kinsey and his wife, the other characters in the book are entirely fictional, and whilst it purports to be about Kinsey, it is really more about how working for Kinsey affects John Milk's life and in particular his relationship with his wife. It seemed an interesting premise, but it turned out to be rather dull. Very little happened in the book at all. Some people have sex with some other people, while researching into the subject in a strictly scientific way. The conflict between the scientific research and human nature is mildy interesting and even humorous at first, but its interest wears thin as the book plods on. My least favourite of the Boyle books so far.

Feb 3, 2009, 10:38am Top

Was that the book that the movie "Kinsey" was based on or was that movie more biographical?

Feb 3, 2009, 11:13am Top

I think it was this book that the film was based on, although I haven't seen the film. Was it good? Actually I don't think I would have liked to see on screen a lot of things described in the book!

Feb 3, 2009, 2:53pm Top

I only watched part of it. The dialog was excruciating enough. Since it was on a movie network at home, I just turned it off before the visuals matched the discussions.

Feb 4, 2009, 4:28pm Top

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Category: Dystopia

Guy Montag is a fireman, but in this version of the future, a fireman's job is not to put out fires, but to start them, namely by burning books. As a book lover, I found the idea of a world where books are illegal particularly horrifying, but this book didn't quite manage scare me with that prospect as much as it should have done. I didn't get along with his writing style particularly, it seems very dated now and the story sometimes didn't flow very well. Several ideas were started but not really finished, and I didn't feel I got to know the characters well enough. I read the 50th anniversary edition which included an afterword by the author explaining how he wrote the novel, bringing together the ideas from four or five short stories he'd previously written, and I found this very interesting and think that those stories actually sounded more interesting then this. I enjoyed parts of the book, but for a novel I think it could have gone deeper.

Feb 4, 2009, 4:43pm Top

Sorry you didn't like The Inner Circle. I remeber it as being pretty slow (not even clinical, just dull). I checked it out from the library but never felt compelled to finish it ... just returned it about halfway read.

I have read 6 of your 9 Boyles plus DC and TC. The only other one I haven't read is Talk, Talk so I look forward your review on that. Even though it doesn't fit into my challenge, someone is shipping me East is East off Paperback Swap right now.

Feb 6, 2009, 6:01am Top

Tracy - I'm probably going to read Talk Talk next because there is a shop nearby that has it available cheaply.

Feb 6, 2009, 8:28am Top

Los Angeles without a Map by Richard Rayner
Category: Non Fiction

This a memoir about an Englishman who can't drive who moves to LA. I'm English, can't drive and am going LA on holiday soon, so I thought this would be good preparation! However, the author went there when he became infatuated with a Bunny Girl wannabe actress, which is something I'm unlikely to do. It felt like a bit of a cheat to read this for my non-fiction category, because it was such a lighthearted read. It was full of crazy characters, most desparate to find fame and success in either the film or music industry, and the author's descriptions of people were great. The actions of the author and his girl were sometimes hard to comprehend and in parts I wondered if things were true, or just embelished to make a better story, but really that didn't matter. It was a good fun read.

Feb 10, 2009, 9:24am Top

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Category: Around the World - Dominican Republic

This is a family saga, mixed with sci-fi references, street slang and the recent history of the Dominican Republic. Oscar may be the title character, but it is just as much about three generations of his family and Dominican culture as it is about him. I absolutely loved this book. I knew nothing of the Dominican Republic before I started, so found this fascinating. There are footnotes provided that explain some of the key events and people, which are written in a similar style to the rest of the book. Some horrible things happen in this book, but it is written with such a refreshing tone.

I'm finding the Around the World category the one that I'm most drawn to reading at the moment, and can the "New to Me Authors" category housing some overflow from this category.

Feb 11, 2009, 10:18pm Top

72> I have been trying to get the movie version of Los Angeles Without a Map. I have a read the book/see the movie category for next year. (I am doing a 2009 scavenger hunt for my 2010 books, no new or online shopping for them until the end of the year) One would think that with internet and everything I would be able to find a copy, sigh, I figured that I could buy the movies on-line at least if found them. I might have to move the book to another category. I need some fun reads to offset the basically 3 categories of history.


Feb 12, 2009, 5:01am Top

Bruce - do I understand this right - you are gathering up things now for 2010??? That is forward planning! I haven't seen the film myself although I did know one had been made. I did a books into movies category last year, but I didn't actually watch the films of them all. I do expect that with the internet that everything should be available and I struggle to understand it when something isn't.

Feb 12, 2009, 5:39pm Top

75> yes I pretty much have my list for next year figured out. We like lists in our household, they keep us focused. Also I am using my 2010 list as a form of entertainment for 2009.

So we can visit used bookstores that we don't normally go to, it's kind of like antiquing. I have 2 books so far. This also keeps me from getting too scattered in my reading. Once some co-workers and I went to a bookstore and I was greeted by name when we entered (a large chain bookstore in downtowm Minneapolis) my co-workers were like - read much? The sales woman said she loved it when I came in becuse I read everything. Which isn't bad it's just that I think that for lsay my history books it would be better to read books on the same time/subject as a group instead of reading say Edward the Black Prince and then Shakespeare, then skip on to the ancient Greeks.

So next year (and probably the end of this year since I know I will find other books not on my list) will be focused on Shakespeare and Elizabethan history. I am a fan of Doctor Who so my science category is focused on the nature of space and time, and I am guessing that The Science of Doctor Who will not be an easy find in Minnesota, but I could be wrong, I did find a used copy of The Doctor Who Cook Book this summer.


Feb 18, 2009, 3:21am Top

Slow Man by J M Coetzee
Category: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

A man in his sixties has an accident that leds to the lose of a leg. He becomes besotted with his nurse, and contemplates life, loneliness and love. So far so good, but then things take an unusual twist with the appearance of a writer. What follows, I suppose could be termed post-modern, but it still retains the contemplative tone of the early part of the novel. It was an interesting book, although not one that I loved, but certainly it has left me wanting to read more by this author.

Underground Man by Mick Jackson
Category: Authors that are New to Me

A strange book written as a series of diary entries from an eccentric Lord, interspersed with accounts from people who met him. There were some wonderful descriptions and incidents in this book, but overall it was tinged with sadness, and the different perspectives show a misunderstood man. I enjoyed this but think it may be worth re-reading (if I ever get round to it).

Ice Moon by Jan Costin Wagner
Category: Crime & Detectives with a global theme - Finland

Policeman Kimmo Joentaa's wife dies and he returns to work where the case they are investigating is of a woman being suffocated in her sleep. He tries to solve the case, feeling his loss has given him a special insight into the killer. We also see things from the perspective of the killer. There isn't much of a mystery here, but it was still gripping to see what would happen next and how the case would be solved. The crime aspect is pretty standard, but the depiction of the policeman's grief is what sets this book apart from the norm. The setting of Finland does come into play slightly but isn't a huge part of the book.

Feb 20, 2009, 11:00am Top

A Friend of the Earth by T C Boyle
Category: Complete Works of.. T C Boyle

After the disappointment of The Inner Circle I was wondering if I'd made a huge mistake with this category, but thankfully this book has revived my faith in Boyle. It shared many of the qualities that I enjoyed in the other three books I'd read; colourful characters, believable emotions and a lot of imagination. It portrays a world devastated by global warming, floods and winds, but the eco-warriors aren't portrayed too sympathetically either. Rather a bleak depiction of the future, but a good read and I'm not feeling so daunted by the prospect of the rest of the category now.

Feb 20, 2009, 11:54am Top

Ooh! Let me know when you read something by Richard Brautigan (and I will, too!). I collect his paperbacks from the 1970's. I didn't think there were many people around who still read his books.

Feb 20, 2009, 12:00pm Top

I've not read anything by him yet but I've got Trout Fishing in America on order from my library. Still waiting for it to come in though. Do you have a favourite that you could recommend?

Edited: Feb 20, 2009, 1:45pm Top

I collect Brautigan's books but haven't read them in a serious number of years! I can't pick a favorite because I can't remember very much about them. They're very short, though, so let me know when your book comes in, and I'll read Trout Fishing in America with you. The copy I have was from an old boyfriend who gave it to me 39 years ago!! :)

A little over a year ago, I read Willard and his Bowling Trophies and thought it was very cute. Here's my review of that book.

Edited: Feb 28, 2009, 9:19am Top

I had hoped to have completed three books in each category by the end of February. This plan has fallen by the wayside as I got caught up in the Global Reading.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Category: Around the World
Country: Nigerla

My preconceived idea about an African novel was that it would be a tale of relentless poverty, but that wasn't the case with this book. Kambili lives a life of comparative wealth, but her life is overshadowed by her outwardly pious tyrannical father who subjects the family to terrible violence. The book was a good choice for a book about Nigeria as I did learn something of the tension between old religion and Catholicism, use of English and native language and the political unrest, but ultimately the images of abuse are what made the biggest impact. Powerful and well-written, but an uncomfortable read.

Tropical Fish Tales from Entebbe by Doreen Baingana
Category: Around the World
Country: Uganda

Another coming-of-age story from Africa and another superb read. The book is structured as eight short stories that work on their own, but are connected as they all involve Christine or her two older sisters. Mainly set in the period after Idi Amin's reign, it includes political unrest, brain drain to USA/Europe, AIDS and religion. Absolutely loved this.

Giraffe by J M Ledgard
Category: Themed Titles - Animals

A huge "thank you" to Lunar18 for recommending this book. It is a fictionalised account of a real event where the giraffes in a zoo in Czechoslovakia were slaughtered in the 1970s. The story is told from different perspectives, including a giraffe, a scientist, a sleepwalker and a hunter. The descriptions of the giraffes were fantastic. It was a strange book, drawing parallels between the communist rule and the capitivity of the animals. Another highly recommended book.

Feb 28, 2009, 11:09am Top

These last three all sound fabulous. Onto my wish list they go! :)

The Global Reading theme of Africa has really opened up a new world for me. I never before was interested much in reading about this continent, except for maybe books by the Egyptian author Naguib Mahfouz. It has been an eye-opening and rewarding experience to discover a few less known native African authors and allow them the chance to tell me a story. I'll be looking for the books you recommend. Thanks!

Feb 28, 2009, 1:06pm Top

Hello Sanddancer,
glad you liked Giraffe ! The different perspectives make it indeed a very special book. About Purple Hibiscus, uncomfortable is the precise word.
At this tempo you will have finished by easter ;-)

Edited: Mar 2, 2009, 3:30am Top

SqueakyChu - I definitely recommend the last three books I've read. Even Giraffe starts in Africa so you can continue your African reading!

Lunar18 - the recommendation of Giraffe really was a brilliant one for me. As well as the animal aspect, that period in Czech history is also something I've had an interest in and enjoy reading about.

The Natural History of Unicorns by Chris Lavers
Category: Non-Fiction

The idea of the unicorn has persisted for centuries, around the world, across different faiths. The author here attempts to find the real creatures that may be behind the myth, as well as looking at its use in religion, the craze for its horn for medicinal purposes and the search of it in Africa. A huge amount of research has gone into the book and it covers a wide scope, but written in a very accessible style with flashes of humour that reminded me of Bill Bryson. A little something on modern use on the unicorn in New Age groups is the only omission.

Hippie by Barry Miles
Category: Retro - Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counter-Culture

Probably best described as a coffee table book, this is a large format book dominated by wonderful photographs of the period. However, there is still a good amount of text in here too. The book covers the period from 1965 to 1971, taking each year in turn, working through it chronologically. Being about hippies, San Francisco dominates, but the music scenes in LA, London and New York are also covered. This book makes a good companion piece to 1968 The Year that Rocked the World as this covers the music, culture and fashions while not being quite so in-depth on the politics. It was an enjoyable read and very realistic about the realities of the counter-culture, rather than a rose-tinted view. It is really an overview and at times I would have liked more detail on some events/movements/people.

Mar 2, 2009, 8:12am Top

I definitely recommend the last three books I've read. Even Giraffe starts in Africa so you can continue your African reading!

Except that it is now March and we've moved on to Argentina. :)

Mar 2, 2009, 8:40am Top

Giraffe sounds fascinating. Thanks for reviewing it ... another great addition to my wish list!

Mar 6, 2009, 1:54pm Top

I hope you do give Children of Men a try! I can't wait to see your review of We - I have that one on my wishlist. I thought I had nabbed a copy on BookMooch but the owner hasn't been on BM for over a week so I think it's a no-go.

Mar 10, 2009, 11:45am Top

Update for the past week:

The Flood by David Maine
Category: Authors that are New to Me

I hadn't heard of this author but when I received a swap request on ReadItSwapIt, this book was listed and I took a gamble on it. It is a retelling of the Noah and the ark story from the Bible, but with the characters fleshed out and the incidents made realistic. So we see the great discomfort of living on a large ship with all those animals, as well as the anguish at seeing the rest of humanity wiped out. Parts of the book are very funny, but towards the end it moves onto posing some questions about religious beliefs that were interesting. I'm glad I took a chance with this book as I loved his writing style and I will definitely be reading more of his books in the future.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Category: Dystopia

So much has already been written about this book already - the main points that come up being that it doesn't have much punctuation (I didn't find this a problem) and that "the writing is as sparse as the landscape" (true but doesn't do justice to the power of that writing). I wasn't at all prepared for how moving this book is - it was certainly the most personal and affecting of the books I've read so far in this category. It would be better described as "post-apocalyptic" than dystopian as society has completely broken down and there isn't the description of the society structure that you usually find in dystopian books, but it was just as believable and perhaps the most disturbing vision of the future that I've read yet.

Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
Category: Retro - 1060s, Beats, Hippies, Counterculture

Richard Brautigan is very much of his time and I feel has fallen from favour due to the rarity of his books in London libraries. This is a difficult book to describe - it is made up of lots of very short little essays or stories, where "Trout Fishing in America" is variously an activity, place or person. It is very strange and at time frustrating, but in other places utterly charming. I really enjoyed the story "Trout Fishing in America Terrorists". Brautigan certainly can write so I will seek out another of his books in the future. This one however was a good choice as an example of the experiments in literature of this period.

The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks by Christopher Brookmyre
Category: Themed Titles - Animals

I'm feeling rather pleased with myself for picking this category as it really is throwing up some great contrasting books. This is sort of a crime book, although without any police or detectives. It features Brookmyre's recurring character, the investigative journalist Jack Parlabane, who I will admit to having a slight crush on. The topic of this book is fake psychics and mediums, and people's susceptibility to these, which is something I find very interesting. Sadly the book didn't feature any actual rubber ducks, but the unsinkable rubber ducks of the title refers to beliefs people continue to hold in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. This wasn't exactly an intellectual read and I spotted the twist coming half way in, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable read and a return of form for Brookmyre.

Mar 16, 2009, 12:29pm Top

Another week of reading:

The Man who was Thursday by G K Chesterton
Category: New to Me Authors

A very very odd book. Funny in places but I'm not sure I fully understood the religious subtext. Enjoyed much of it, but not sure I'd read anything more by Chesterton in the future.

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M Cain
Category: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

My first venture into noir and I'm not sure it is for me, which is strange because I like film noir and quite a bit of crime fiction, but this didn't do much for me. I could picture it as a good film and must rent a version of it at some point. Some the "passionate" dialogue I just found funny.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale
Category: Non-Fiction

A notorious Victorian crime, that captivated the imagination of the public, media and writers of the time. The author has done a huge amount of research so there is a lot of detail in here, but at times it was just too much. It is a very interesting study of Victorian attitudes (the thoughts on mental illness in women were particularly awful) and the beginnings of detective fiction, but not as much of a mystery as the blurb would have you believe. I'm glad I read it and for the most part enjoyed reading it, but don't think it deserves the praise that has been lavished on it.

Edited: Mar 19, 2009, 10:32pm Top

I gave up on Trout Fishing in America. I'll read it some other time. It was really off the wall, but other than that, I wasn't enjoying it. Maybe I'll give another Brautigan book a try soon.

Edited: Apr 25, 2009, 1:23pm Top

Back from holiday:

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Category: Authors that are new to me

I have been meaning to read this for ages and finally got around to it while on holiday in San Francisco. It was the perfect book for that setting and an easy read. WHile I enjoyed reading it at the time, I don't feel particularly compelled to rush out to read the rest of the series.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
Category: Non-Fiction

Just adding this now as I wasn't sure if it was fiction or memoir, but everywhere seems to think it is non-fiction. Despite the potentially depressing subject matter, this was really interesting and I will definitely be reading other non-fiction by Orwell later. I enjoyed the descriptions of the Paris restaurant system and the part about the evolution of swear words.

Right as Rain by George Pelecanos
Category: Crime & Detectives with Global Theme
Country: USA

This is the first in the series featuring the private investigator Derek Strange. I've read Pelecano's Washington DC series and this was pretty similar. It is very readable with interesting characters and cool music references, but I am beginning to find that his plots are all pretty much the same. I have the next one in the series already so I will read that at some point, but I hope there is a bit of a change in there.

Apr 18, 2009, 3:07pm Top

An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah
Category: Around the World
Country - Zimbabwe

An interesting collection of short stories where Zimbabwe's political regime provides a backdrop. The characters are from all backgrounds and their stories are different, but the hyper-inflation, dictatorship and AIDS epidemic are never far away. Overall a rather bleak (but undoubtedly accurate) portrait of the country and its people, it is beautifully written and interspersed with flashes of humour. I didn't love it quite as much as I did Tropical Fish: Tales from Entebbe which covered similar ground, albeit in a different African nation, but would still recommend this.

Apr 23, 2009, 9:49am Top

Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Category: New to Me Authors

A book club read, which I probably wouldn't have pick up otherwise, but I really enjoyed it. Good old-fashioned story-telling that captured my imagination immediately. The conclusion was perhaps rather implausible and too neatly wrapped up, but it worked well with the rest of the book. Certainly someone I'll consider reading again.

Book of Chameleons by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
Category: Themed Title - Animals

A short and surprisingly easy read, featuring a very unusual narrator - a gecko. It is an odd tale based around notions of identity, hence the chameleons of the title, and mixes dreams and rememberances of past lives with the central story. Interesting but rather more slight than I was expecting.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Category: Dystopia and Apocalypse

I've renamed the category as this and The Road are more about apocalyse than technically dystopias. This book was a complete revelation. I was expecting to find it dated and corny, but it seemed so modern. The triffids featured in the book infrequently, so they remained ominous, when they could have so easily become a silly idea. The book really does ask some big questions about what people would do faced with the destruction of society, and succeeds in making you think about it. Some parts of it were actually rather upsetting to read, not quite as bad as The Road, but still powerful. There may be more of Wyndham's books being added to this category.

Apr 27, 2009, 4:10pm Top

The Messenger of Athens by Anne Zouroudi
Category: Crimes & Detectives with Global Theme
Country: Greece

The police on a small Greek island dismiss a young women's death as suicide, but a mysterious detective from the mainland arrives determined to uncover the truth. The story moved between the present and the last months of the victim's life. Central to the story were the traditional Greek attitudes towards marriage, family and honour. There was also plenty of local cuisine mentioned. Very readable.

Talk Talk by T C Boyle
Category: The Complete Works of - T C Boyle

Definitely my favourite Boyle book of the challenge so far. Like many of his other books, the narrative is divided between characters, in this case a deaf woman, Dana who has been the victim of identity theft and the man who stole it. It is hard to feel any real sympathy for the criminal but he is not quite what you might at first expect, so he feels very much real. The book addresses attitudes towards people who are different and is at time genuinely moving.

Apr 27, 2009, 4:24pm Top

I'm looking forward to the unicorn book! As far as Chesterton goes, The Man Who Was Thursday is pretty different from the rest of his books. Most of them are mysteries with a 'supernatural' feel, which turn out to have a logical explanation, if rather weird or spooky. Which makes him sound like Scooby Doo, but it's not really.

May 6, 2009, 3:59am Top

Cmbohn - quite a few people have been interested in the unicorn book. I'm looking forward to seeing some more reviews of it.

I think therefore who am I? by Peter Weissman
Category: Retro: Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counter-Culture

This book is sub-titled "Memoir of a Psychedelic Year " and is about the author's experiences in 1967. Much of it is centred on his discovery of LSD and the changes that brought about in him, but essentially this is a coming-of-age story, about a shy young man searching for purpose and growing apart from his childhood friends. There isn't much glamour to be found here as poverty and paranoia are never far away and the hippie ideals are exploited by thieves and hangers-on.

Edited: May 7, 2009, 3:39am Top

Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
Category: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die

Another great piece of speculative fiction from John Wyndham. I initially found this one harder to get into than the Triffids because I didn't find the characters are distinctive, but the narrator returned to the village and the children were no longer babies, I found it really interesting. Like The Day of the Triffids it made me think about what I would do in that situation and about man's position on earth.

The Last Shot City Streets, Basketball Dreams by Darcy Frey
Category: Non Fiction

I'm not that interested in sports but my partner is obsessed and challenged me to read one of his sports books. He picked this as the one I'd find most interesting and it turned out to be a great choice. It is about three high school players who dream of college scholarships as their only way out of their Coney Island homes. The book really made me care about these kids, and their situation. It also gave an insight into the crazy and even immoral world of college basketball which would be funny if it wasn't playing with real lives. Highly recommended even if you are indifferent to basketball.

Edited: Jun 5, 2009, 3:32pm Top

Some of my reading recently has been outside of the challenge, so not much progress to report and my plan to keep the categories even has failed somewhat.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Category: Dystopia and Apocalypse

A classic of this genre, this is about a society where some women are wives, whilst others sole function is to have children. The narrator explains her present predicament as one of these handmaids whilst also describing how the society came to adopt these strict rules. It was all frighteningly believeable, and although an uncomfortable read, written in an accessible way. So far this category has been a great success.

The Girls by Lori Lansens
Category: Fiction Authors New To Me

Not entirely sure why I picked this up as I have an irrational fear of cojoined twins, but I still enjoyed it. It was a poignant story, and I liked the narrative being split between the twins, and the different style they had. I was maybe expecting something more to happen but still it was a moving story.

When I was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten
Category: Fiction Authors New To Me

A disturbing unsettling story written from the viewpoint of a child with emotional/behavioural problems. It started strongly and I was drawn into it, despite the difficult subject matter, but ultimately it didn't deliver on the early promise. Still glad I read it though.

The Other Hand by Chris Cleave
Category: Fiction Authors New To Me

Yet another book with a split narrative, which I do enjoy and seem to be unconsciously drawn to. This is the story of two women, a middle class English journalist and a young Nigerian refugee. I absolutely loved this.

The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
Category: Themed Titles - Animals

It took me a while to read this - I put it aside twice and read the two books above instead. I'm found it very difficult to engage with but I'm not sure why, perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood for it. It is about the Domincian Republic under Trujillo, telling of his last weeks, the aftermath of his assassination and the story of a woman, Urania who returns after 30 years ago from the country. I found the parts about Urania the most interesting, perhaps because they were the most emotional, human parts. The rest could have been a lot shorter.

I have now completed my New to Me Authors category. This was the first category I finished last year too. I still have several new authors on my shelves leftover.

Jun 6, 2009, 11:54am Top

Hello Sanddancer,
one for your animals category : The trip of the Elephant by José Saramago. Attention, i didn't read it myself yet and of course you have to like Saramago, some do, others .... ;-)
Seems you have nearly finished the challenge, unlike me.

Jun 14, 2009, 1:20pm Top

Hello Lunar. I don't feel I'm that near the end - it is getting tougher and I have lots of other books that are outside of the challenge that keep tempting me away.

Still I've just read another one for my Retro category and it is the first one about the Beats.

When I was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School by Sam Kashner
A memoir about the author's unusual education at the school ran by the surviving Beat poets, long past their heyday. The author is naive and his education consists largely of babysitting of the poet Gregory Corso, his family and William Burrough's alcoholic son, Billy. He is still in awe of the legends, and is embarrassed by his own family, but Ginsberg is an vain old man, obsessed with fame, Corso is out of control and Burroughs is portrayed as heartless (although I must admit I found him entertaining in a way the author clearly didn't) and Kerouac and Neal Cassady haunt them all. However, the real star of the book for me, was Kashner's father, a Jewish lampshade salesman who turned up to meet his son dressed as Ginsberg, unaware that Ginsberg was going to be there and who was unphased by meeting The Clash's Joe Strummer, assuming he was just a bum! The book is a bit repetitive at times, but did have some good moments and it made me think about how far the position of poet has fallen in recent years.

Jul 23, 2009, 3:34pm Top

A long overdue update although my progress has been rather slow. I'll update by category rather than order of reading:

1001 Books to Read Before You Die

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Wonderful, subtle book. One I wonder why I'd never read it before. Poignant. Highly recommend.

The Sucessor by Ismail Kadare
About a fictional version of Albania involving political intrigue and a harst regime. It had the ingredients I normally love, but somehow it failed to grab me.

Crime and Detectives around the World

The Snack Thief by Andrea Camilleri - Sicilly
Pretty much business as usual from the Montalbano series but that is no bad thing. As ever, great at invoking the feeling of the place.

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith - USSR
Really gripping story about murders in the Soviet Union where their political system refuses to acknowledge that such crimes are possible. Fascinating for the insight into the politics of the era as much as for the thriller aspect. Disturbing, but I found myself immersed in it.

The Giver by Lois Lowry
A very interesting premise about a supposedly utopian society. It is a young adult book, but it still managed to be absolutely chilling, in particular in one place.

Retro: Beats, Hippies, 60s and Counterculture

In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan
Hmmm - still a bit confused by his writing. Again, it had its moments, but very patchy and didn't really do much for me.

Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell
Interesting memoir of his time fighting in the Civil War. I would have perhaps appreciated it more if I knew more about the war in advance of reading it, but still well written and absorbing.

Complete Works of - T C Boyle
Budding Prospects
Very slow to get going and could easily have been made 100 pages shorter. Enjoyed the last 100 pages more, but not my favourite of his.

Aug 16, 2009, 3:40pm Top

Since I last posted, I have completed another category!

Themed Titles - Animals

Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
This is what I think is described as meta-fiction. It is very strange and hard to describe, but I enjoyed it. There is a shark in the book, but it isn't a real shark but a type that feeds off human memories. Its that kind of book!

Downtown Owl by Chuck Klosterman
There isn't a real owl in this book, but Owl is the name of the small town location of the book. It is about the quirky characters in small town North Dakota. Like Klosterman's non-fiction work, it is heavy on the pop culture references. The book has had some negative reviews, but I really enjoyed it.

I have also added to a couple of other categories

Retro: Beats, Hippies, 1960s and Counter-Culture
Willard and his Bowling Trophies by Richard Brautigan
Brautigan has somehow managed to dominate this category, but finally I've found a book of his that I whole heartedly enjoyed. This one was still odd, but had some sort of plot and felt more human than his other books. I may tempted to read more of him in the future, but not for this challenge.

1001 Books to Read Before You Die
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
An epic family saga full of quirky characters and a very interesting narrator, I loved this. I was initially put off by the length of it, but if anything I thought it could have gone on longer. I'm glad I made the effort to pick it up and carry it about with me for a week.

I'm still hopeful that I can finish the challenge by the end of the year but the 9/9 target won't be happening now. The TC Boyle books are proving to be the toughest as I'm now rather bored with his style.

Aug 22, 2009, 4:08am Top

A couple more crossed off the list

The Complete Works of - T C Boyle
Riven Rock by T C Boyle
Another Boyle book based on a real story, this time about Stanley McCormick, the son of a wealthy inventor and industrialist, who suffers from mental illness and is locked away for most of his adult life. It is also the story of one of his carers, who is a drunken philanderer, and of his wife. Episodes of his mental illness descent into farce and are at times almost funny, but ultimately it is a sad moving story, and one which Boyle does justice to. Possibly my new favourite Boyle book.

Theme: Dystopia
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
This is pretty much the prototype dystopian novel, which influenced 1984. In the future, society lives within strict controls, governed by the principles of mathmatics rather than emotions. I enjoyed the start of the novel with the introduction to the society and the narrator talking to an imagined reader in the future, but as the plot progressed and turned more to being about his feelings for two women, I found the writing a bit too florid and harder to follow.

Aug 24, 2009, 9:50pm Top

--> 103

I really liked Willard and His Bowling Trophies. That was a fun book. Trout Fishing in America did me in, though. I couldn't finish it. I'm keeping it and will try it again in another few years. I save all my old Brautigan books.

Aug 24, 2009, 9:52pm Top

I've come to like T.C. Boyles' writing very much. I have a *huge* volume of his short stories I'll probably never finish because of its size. It has some really creative stories in it though. I like his short stories much more than I do his novels.

Aug 25, 2009, 4:20pm Top

SqueakyChu - I haven't read any of Boyle's short stories yet, mainly because I tend to struggle to finish whole anthologies of short stories, but I think I may try to read some next year. I've seen a few other people comment that they prefer his short stories. I'm finding his novels very hit and miss.

Aug 25, 2009, 4:35pm Top

I'm planning on reading We for next year's challenge. There are so many editions available. What translation did you use?

Aug 26, 2009, 3:05pm Top

I read Clarence Brown's translation. I've no idea if this is a good version but it was the one I could get hold of.

Aug 30, 2009, 4:10am Top

Hippo Eats Dwarf by Richard Boese
I read Elephants on Acid by the same author last year but I enjoyed this one much more. It is about hoaxes and urban myths. What I liked about it was the mix of stupid and funny with the serious and thought-provoking.

Edited: Aug 30, 2009, 4:29am Top

Two more categories complete. So that is 4 down, 5 to go. Not many more books to read but it is getting tougher to get hold of the books I need to complete the challenge.

Retro - Beats, Hippies, 1960s & Counter-Culture
Hippie Hippie Shake by Richard Neville
The story of the Oz magazine, from its inception in Australia to the obscenity trial in London. The sections on the trial were the best parts of the book, with the rest written in a rather too hurried manner. An interesting insight into the conflict between traditional society and the hippie scene.

1001 Books to Read Before You Die
Mr Vertigo by Paul Auster
A fabulous yarn about an orphan who is taught to fly by his mysterious master. I love Auster's style here - it is written with such wit and warmth. Unfortunately I thought it dipped a bit when Walt became an adult and I found that part of the story rather less engaging, but still a great book overall.

Edited: Sep 5, 2009, 3:26pm Top

Some more progress with my "problem category", which is now looking much more manageable

The Complete Works of - T C Boyle
World's End by T C Boyle
An epic tale that moved between the 17th century, 1940s and 1960s and covers the fates of four families amongst the native Americans and early Dutch settlers in the USA. It was an interesting story, with the scope that is usually described as "ambitious". I enjoyed, but not quite so much as the marvellous Riven Rock.

And another category has been completed
You cannot live like I have and not end up like this: The Thoroughly Disgraceful life and times of Willie Donaldson by Terence Blacker
This was an odd choice for me as I didn't know who Donaldson was before I read this book, but I had enjoyed something by Blacker before and had seen good reviews for this. Donaldson was born into privilege, frittered away a fortune, and behaved very badly. But he had a decent career as a writer and certainly lead a life that provided plenty of incidents for a biography. Blacker's writing is to be commended for making me interested enough to read on, even though I didn't particularly care for the man at the centre of it.

Sep 7, 2009, 2:56pm Top

A pair of European police stories to finish off another category

Crime and Detectives - with a Global Theme

DeKok and the Somber Nude by A C Baantjer - Amsterdam
A simply told, but effective story where a beautiful young woman reports that her cousin is dead although no body has been found. De Kok investigates despite his collegue beng sceptical. The find a host of possible suspects and then a body is discovered in a gruesome state. The plot took me into the seedy red light district and world of drug addicts in Amsterdam.

The Laughing Policeman by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo
I had heard of this crime-writing duo on a documentary about Henning Mankell who cited them as an influence. This book was written in the 1970s, but it still seems pretty modern. There is a real sense of gloom here with the impression that society is on the brink of collapse. The crime itself is also very intriguing - 8 people murdered on a bus, including a policeman, who nobody knows why he would be on that bus. The book follows the police squad as they piece together the puzzle, which was engrossing.

Edited: Sep 16, 2009, 2:55pm Top

Creeping towards the end now. Another category done, just three more books to finish.

Dystopia and Apocalypse
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonngut
Very different from everything else in this category. This book used absurdity and almost comic exaggeration to makes its point. It deals with the end of world, which arises in ridiculous but actually rather believable circumstances and is probably quite close to how things are in the real world.

Sep 16, 2009, 3:29pm Top

Let's start the countdown : 3, ..., ....
now end of september should be your goal ;-)

Sep 16, 2009, 3:33pm Top

The end of September shouldn't be a problem except I'm waiting for one of the Boyle books to arrive. Getting hold of these last few books has taken some time so I've been reading plenty in between.

Sep 16, 2009, 3:43pm Top

Great job sanddancer! It's exciting to be so close.

Oct 8, 2009, 3:39pm Top

one left to go, chill the champagne i should say, or uncork the malt ! Success !

Oct 8, 2009, 6:36pm Top

The last book! I hope it's a great one! And please consider hanging about afterwards.

Edited: Oct 19, 2009, 3:18pm Top

I've finished!

Reading Globally
Let it be Morning by Sayed Kashua
This book was set in an Arab village within Israel and showed a perspective on the Middle East conflict that I was previously unaware of - Arabs living in Israel who were content to be citizens of that country, despite being second class citizens. The story is told in the present tense, which I still don't like as a technique but I could see why it was used to build up the tension.

The Complete Works of T C Boyle
The World to Wellville by T C Boyle
A fictionalised account of the healthy eating fads and health resort run by Dr Kelloggs. This was typical Boyle fayre. I quite liked this one.

Water Music by T C Boyle
I thought this may defeat me as I've feared with this category all the way through, but I persvered and finally finished it. This one was about an explorer going obsessed with Africa. It had some good parts and I particularly liked the bits about what famous people were doing at the time, but as with many of his books, I thought it was way too long.

Oct 19, 2009, 3:29pm Top


Oct 19, 2009, 6:06pm Top

Yay! You persevered and even finished your TC Boyle category! Impressive. Will you continue to hang out here with those of us who can't let go or are you eager to shake the 999 dust from your feet and read nothing but paranormal romance novels for the next few months?

Oct 22, 2009, 3:05pm Top

Congratulations .... up to the 101010 challenge ! You can take a headstart ;-)

Oct 23, 2009, 12:10am Top

Congratulations, sanddancer!

Oct 23, 2009, 2:10am Top

Thank you all.

I'm not going to start the 101010 challenge just yet - I'm taking a break from reading in categories, atlhough I won't be heading for those paranormal romances!

Oct 24, 2009, 12:00pm Top

Oh i see, you will have some chicklit now. That's fine, all of us have the right to do something weird ;-)

Oct 29, 2009, 11:55pm Top

Congrats on completing you 999 challenge! I'm enjoying just reading whatever I want for the rest of the year too.

Group: 999 Challenge

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