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999 Challenge

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1HannahJo
Edited: Aug 28, 2009, 7:12pm Top

I might have to modify the categories a bit as the year goes on. I'm trying to expand my horizons, so I'm trying out new areas that I usually don't read (Sci-fi, historical fiction, ocean adventures...). I'm starting on Sept 9/08 and planning to end Sept 9/09.

1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die
1.Wide Sargasso Sea
2.Hideous Kinky
3.Fear and Trembling
4.Voss
5.Snow by Orhan Pamuk
6.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time By Mark Haddon
7.Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
8.Like Water for Chocolate
9.Animal's People by Idra Sinha

Mystery

1.Murder Must Advertise
2.Nine Tailors
3.Have His Carcase
4.Documents In the Case
5.The Moonstone
6.The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
7.Nemesis by Agatha Christie
8.The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
9.The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl

Science Fiction

1. Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan
2. Time Machine
3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
5. 1984 by George Orwell
6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
7. Slaughterhouse 5
8. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
9. Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

notablebooks.blogspot.com

1. How Doctors Think
2. Supercrunchers
3. Book Thief
4. A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World
5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist
6. There Is No Me Without You
7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
8. Beijing Confidential by Jan Wong
9. What is the What by Dave Eggers

Biography/Memoir

1. Long Ago in France
2. Unbowed
3. Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
4. Crazy for God
5. Loving Sabotage
6. Opposite of Fate
7. I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century's Greatest Forger
8. In the Land of Invisible Women by Qanta Ahmed
9. House Calls By Dogsled by Keith Billington

Ocean Adventures

1.Treasure Island
2.Blue Latitudes
3.Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish
4.20000 Leagues under the Sea by Jules Verne
5.Rowboat in a Hurricane
6.Dangerous Waters
7.Beyond the Horizon by Colin Angus
8.Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
9.Return to Treasure Island and the Search for Captain Kidd by Barry Clifford

Non-Fiction

1. Great Railway Bazaar
2. Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?
3. A Year Without Made In China
4. The Trouble With Boys
5. Food, Inc by Peter Pringle
6. Walking the Bible
7. Her Fork in the Road: Women Celebrate Food and Travel
8. Six Modern Plagues and How We Are Causing Them
9. I Was Vermeer: The Legend of the Forger Who Swindled the Nazis

Musical Reads

1. Ground Beneath her Feet
2. Dancing With Cuba
3. Bel Canto
4. The Story of the Trapp Family Singers
5. The Cellist of Sarajevo
6. The Soloist by Steve Lopez
7. Canone Inverso
8. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
9. The Unconsoled by Ishiguro

Historical Fiction
1. Half of a Yellow Sun
2. The Coffee Trader
3. Girl in Hyacinth Blue
4. Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz
5. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
6. Mistress of the Art of Death
7. Ten Thousand Lovers by Edeet Ravel
8. Wall of Light by Edeet Ravel
9.Look For Me by Edeet Ravel

2karenmarie
Nov 6, 2008, 2:04pm Top

Ooooh! Dorothy Sayers. One of my favorite authors of all times. And two of my favorites. You have a treat in store.

I like your categories - I'm also doing Historical Fiction, Nonfiction, and Biography for 999.

You might want to consider 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - it would fit in under Ocean Adventures of 1001 Books... I read the brand new translation for my 888 challenge and loved it.

See you around!

3MusicMom41
Nov 6, 2008, 2:29pm Top

I like your interesting categories. I agree with karenmarie--you picked the two best Sayers mysteries outside the set that includes Harriet Vane (my favorite Sayers is Gaudy Night--the 3rd of the 4 that have Harriet in them.)

I think I will borrow "Ocean Adventures" from you the next time I do a category challenge--that one sounds like a lot of fun. I will be interested to see what else you pick. I love Treasure Island but haven't read Blue Latitudes. This year I'm reading Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic for my Civil War category.

I'm very anxious to see what you choose for "Musical Reads" because I'm a musician and I will probably want to read some of your choices.

I'm looking forward to following your progress next year.

4HannahJo
Dec 19, 2008, 12:26pm Top

# 2- I'm putting 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on my TBR list. Filling the Ocean Adventures category is a lot of fun!

#3- I had never read Sayers before and loved the experience! I also really enjoyed Blue Latitudes and look forward to reading more of his books. I felt like I was reading a history and a travelogue at the same time, and I liked the comparison of Cook's journals and Horowitz's impressions at the same places hundreds of years later.

Not sure how I will fill up the musical reads section. Might need help on that.

5HannahJo
Dec 19, 2008, 12:32pm Top

OK, I'm trying to update my list. According to my own personal rules I'm doing this challenge between Sept 9/08 and Sept 9/09. So far I have completed 20 books, so I'm about on track to meet the goal of 81 books. I'm keeping track my finished books in message 1 and will slowly try to catch up on my reviews in this thread.

6HannahJo
Dec 30, 2008, 9:55pm Top

#1- Nine Tailors by Dorothy Sayers

I love mysteries I can't believe I hadn't read Sayers before! The Nine Tailors is a beautifully-written story that goes beyond being a clever whodunnit and into the realm of great literature. This tale of bell ringing is detailed and nuanced, and the haunting ending will remain with me forever.

This book was a great start to the challenge!

7MusicMom41
Dec 30, 2008, 10:17pm Top

I am so glad you liked Nine Tailors--It is one of my favorite books. I agree with you , it goes well beyond the genre category and is great literature--on so many levels. Nice comment you made.

8amysnortts
Dec 30, 2008, 11:38pm Top

I love The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I bought it at the airport on my way home from Amsterdam last Thanksgiving, and then gave it to my mom and another friend for Christmas. My book club ended up picking it as one of our selections this year- it was just as great the second time around. The narrator (death) is hilarious. What I find interesting is that over here people classify it as YA, but in Europe it is adult fiction. While the concepts aren't too much for young adults, I think the writing style may be hard for them. I hope you enjoy it!

9HannahJo
Dec 31, 2008, 6:55pm Top

For amysnortts :)

#2- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I approached this book dubiously because I had to search for it in the Teen section of my library next to all the gossip magazines. I think I would classify it as adult fiction which is accessible to a younger audience. It was a quirky book, and almost lighthearted at times which surprised me given its setting in Nazi Germany. I liked the various ways books were woven through the story (stolen books, unfinished books, books made out of old pages of Mein Kampf, stolen hours in libraries.) This book could have a big impact on a teen, so I'm glad it was in the young adult section and I'm going to recommend it to a 12yo neighbour of mine. (4.5/5)

10MusicMom41
Dec 31, 2008, 7:06pm Top

Hannahjo

Thanks for the review! I have Book Thief on my list for the 999 challenge and was reconsidering because I don't read a lot of YA (at least not yet! with LT, you never know!). I will definitely keep it in the list--it sounds like I will love it!

11amysnortts
Dec 31, 2008, 11:41pm Top

HannoJo, I agree! When I describe the book to people I have a hard time explaining that it's about a German girl in Nazi Germany, but that there are a lot of wonderfully funny moments- people don't believe the two can exist!

MusicMom, definitely read it! It's interesting to read a book about Nazi Germany that isn't told from a Holocaust victim- but just an average German citizen torn between the political times. Excellent book.

12ivyd
Jan 1, 2009, 2:59pm Top

Both Cloud Atlas and The Book Thief made my list of top 5 books of 2008.

It is interesting that The Book Thief is classified as adult in Europe. It seemed to me that it was written for teenagers, though with a great deal of appeal for adults, and I gave it to 2 of the teenagers on my Chistmas list.

13HannahJo
Jan 3, 2009, 12:03pm Top

#3 - Beijing Confidential

This is a follow-up to Jan Wong's fascinating Red China Blues in which she recounts her time as a starry-eyed Maoist studying as one of the first foreigners at Beijing University in the 1970s. In that book we learn that Wong reported one of her classmates to the authorities for asking for help to go to Canada. In Beijing Confidential Wong returns to China with her husband and teenagers 30 years later to try to discover the fate of that classmate.

Catching up with all her old acquaintances I met in the first book was enjoyable, and Wong's writing is absorbing and full of gossippy detail. Lots of irony is in evidence as she examines the changes China and her friends have gone through in the past decades. Great book, but read Red China Blues first.

14HannahJo
Jan 5, 2009, 2:06pm Top

#4- Dancing With Cuba by Alma Guillermoprieto

I was disappointed with this one. Guillermoprieto tells her story of becoming a dance teacher in post-revolution Cuba. I am not a dancer, but enjoyed the dance aspects of the book (her working with Martha Graham and Twyla Tharp, and discussing how dance could be political). On the other hand, I found her politics and her love life so muddled I found myself wanting to reach into the book and shake some sense into her.

15HannahJo
Jan 7, 2009, 5:07pm Top

#5- Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

A pleasant, quick read. Each chapter traces back the invented history of the owners of the painting. Some turns of phrases were clever, and I learned a little about Vermeer and his life. Overall quite good for what it is. I don't think I'll remember it for the rest of my life, but it would be a nice companion on an airplane.

16HannahJo
Jan 11, 2009, 12:23pm Top

#6- The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux

I read this because it is considered a classic in the travel writing genre. I can't say I was overly impressed. Perhaps it has just not aged very well. His impressions seem shallow and he complains an awful lot. Don't think I'd recommend this except maybe as an example of superficial travelling

17HannahJo
Jan 11, 2009, 12:35pm Top

# 7- Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?: A Swashbuckling Tale of High Adventures, Questionable Ethics, and Professional Hedonism by Thomas Kohnstamm

I seem to be writing a lot of negative reviews lately! I'm not really a sourpuss, just sometimes unlucky :)

This is a book I grasped off a library shelf in a desperate effort to get something to read while my two little boys ran madly off in all directions. I vaguely remembered hearing the title somewhere, and thought it might be a good light read.

Kohnstamm writes about his experiences as a Lonely Planet writer in Brazil. The problems he faces are that he does not have enough money or time to visit all the destinations/hotels/restaurants for the guide, so he has to cheat. I disliked Kohnstmm immensely as he fills the pages with how he got drunk/high/laid (repeat as necessary). I wanted to throw the book across the room as he told how he was forced to become drug dealer to support his work. What a jerk.

18MusicMom41
Jan 13, 2009, 1:48am Top

You are having a run of bad luck, HannahJo. I see you like travel writing. I'm sure you've read the Provence books of Peter Mayle, but have you tried M.F.K. Fisher? She has written some books about Provence and also Paris. She has also written a lot of books about food--as in good eating usually associated with travel or living abroad. They are older but her writing is wonderful and she has charm--and is very opinionated. It's been a while since I read her so I can't think us any titles off the top of my head.

19HannahJo
Jan 16, 2009, 3:07pm Top

Ooh- thank you MusicMom for the lovely suggestion. I've never heard of MFK Fisher before but I like the idea of crossing food writing and travel writing. I've checked her Long Ago In France out of the library and will give it a shot.

I'm really enjoying The Coffee Trader right now so hopefully I'm out of my rut.

20RidgewayGirl
Jan 16, 2009, 4:42pm Top

I really disliked the two Paul Theroux books I read! It upset me to read about him whining his way across the exotic places I would love to visit! And I'm sure the locals loved having him around! If you'd like to wallow in whining, I can also un-recommend Travels by Michael Crichton, in which he whines that no one thinks he'll make it up Mt. Kilimanjaro, that his hiking boots hurt (he unpacked them from the box directly before starting the climb) and, in my favorite section, complains that his guide did not adequately impress upon him the importance of what he was being shown so that he didn't bother to pay attention and missed something good.

Drums Along the Congo, on the other hand, detail the adventurous travel of a guy who just relishes every single encounter he has in the Congolese jungle to the point of not being upset to wake up with giant cockroaches snuggling against him for warmth.

21HannahJo
Jan 16, 2009, 8:32pm Top

I don't think Theroux would be able to handle the Congolese jungle! Don't think I would, either, but it would make an interesting tale to tell!

#8 Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I think I never read this book as a child because it was made into a cartoon with unappealing animation, and it seemed to be targeted to boys. Now I can have happy memories of spending a rainy weekend curled up with a rolicking good tale. Loved the salty characters and the spine-tingling adventure. I am really enjoying filling up my ocean adventures category and reading a lot of good books I wouldn't normally reach for on the shelves.

22avatiakh
Jan 18, 2009, 4:47pm Top

I felt the same about Treasure Island - it is a great timeless story. I finally got round to reading it a couple of years ago as I noticed that a lot of children's writers enthused about it. I've just read The Coral Island which was published earlier than Treasure Island, and is another great adventure story about boys and shipwreck in the South Pacific.

23ReneeMarie
Jan 18, 2009, 9:42pm Top

Hey! I have a recommendation for your ocean adventures category: how about Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder?

It's a dual story of the 1857 sinking of the SS Central America thanks to a couple of hurricanes, and a modern day salvage effort to recover the tons of gold that went to the bottom with the ship.

Wisconsin Public Radio has something called Chapter-a-Day, where one chapter of a book is read over the air each weekday until the whole book has been read to you. Kinder's book was fascinating. Truly a nail-biting story.

The half hour chapters aired at lunchtime. When WPR did Kinder's book (and also when they did Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz), it made me cranky if anyone tried to talk to me during that half hour.

24HannahJo
Jan 25, 2009, 6:32pm Top

I've never heard of The Coral Island before, but feel like I should have. I'll put that on my list to read on a stormy weekend.

And thank you for the suggestion ReneeMarie- I could use a sunken ship story in that category! I admire those who search for sunken treasure in the same way as those who climb Mt Everest (Not something I could ever see myself doing, but terribly romantic...) I must have some pirate blood in me because this section of the challenge has been so much fun for me.

And since you mention Tony Horwitz, I'll mention the two of his that I have finished for the 999...

#9 Blue Latitudes and
#10 A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

Blue Latitudes follows the voyages of Captain Cook, visiting Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, the Aleutians, England and Hawaii. Horwitz and revisits Cook's journals in light of Horwitz's own impressions of those places. The combination of history and travelogue is entertaining (the more things change, the more they stay the same...), and Horwitz provides insights about subjects such as how Cook's childhood in the quiet English countryside paradoxically made him into a great explorer.

I read A Voyage Long and Strange because I enjoyed Blue Latitudes so much. Horwitz takes a similar approach to exploring Europeans in America before Plymouth Rock. I can't say I'm a big American history buff, but Horwitz is such a good storyteller it didn't matter. Of the two books, Blue Latitudes was a little more enjoyable to me as I liked the diverse exotic locales. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books, and I see that his wife is Geraldine Brooks, so maybe I'll try one of her books for my historical fiction category.

25HannahJo
Jan 29, 2009, 10:54am Top

#11 Long Ago In France by MFK Fisher

Really enjoyed this one. Fisher talks of arriving in Dijon as a happy newlywed, and how the people and food affected her. Many of her memories involve meals or cooking or ingredients, and I found it very moving how remembering her friends evokes wonderful feasts. Something wistful about the writing- knowing that her marriage would end and the war was about to start was always lingering in her words. Glad that MusicMom41 introduced me to her.

26karenmarie
Jan 29, 2009, 11:21am Top

Hi HannahJo:

I listened to Girl in Hyacinth Blue and it was enjoyable, but really liked Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier better.

27MusicMom41
Jan 29, 2009, 2:11pm Top

HannahJo

I'm glad you liked MFK Fisher. I love her style of writing. Before we took our tip to Provence a few years ago I read her Two Towns in Provence and although it had been written fifty years before our visit, I still saw things that she had described. For her times she was a very "modern woman."

I will have to look for Blue Latitudes--you make it sound very appealing. I really enjoyed the book we read last year (A Pirate of Exquisite Mind) about Dampier who was compared to Cook and I'm loving Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz. I guess that's reason enough to try the Blue Latitudes! :-)

28HannahJo
Feb 12, 2009, 11:17am Top

#12- Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

This was for my musical reads category. Terrorists in a South American country hold a diverse international group hostage, including a famous opera singer. One blurb on the dust jacket said that instead of Lord of the Flies this was like Lord of the Butterflies, as the captors and captors alike find beauty and love in such an unexpected setting.

Patchett has a beautiful style, full of detail and captivating. I found myself excited reading about the transformative power of art and beauty. I really was set to love this book. Frustrating for me, though, was how the book set the scene for terrorists with hearts of gold, the most unlikely love affairs, perfect communication and mutual respect. Who would have thought a hostage incident could be so saccharine?

So I suppose I would give this book 5 stars at the beginning, 3 stars in the middle, and 1 star for the silly ending.

29HannahJo
Feb 15, 2009, 11:38am Top

#13- Rowboat in a Hurricane by Julie Angus

In 2005 Julie Angus became the first woman to cross the Atlantic in a rowboat, taking five months to travel from Portugal to Costa Rica. Can't say that this would be a challenge that would appeal to me personally, and I can't believe that people would actually attempt it. Angus is personable, and she effectively alternates between writing about the voyage itself and science and her background and memories. I enjoyed reading about the details of their menus and the wildlife they encountered. Part of what made this book interesting to me was how she talked about how she came face to face with environmental change, including two hurricanes at the end of an intense storm season, weakened trade winds, and dwindling fish stocks in the ocean. Really good page turner-couldn't put it down!

30avatiakh
Mar 6, 2009, 10:21pm Top

I've just started reading Bel Canto and came across your review, I'm feeling a bit underwhelmed by the plotline so far - so glad to read your thoughts and I might ditch the book in favour of something more substantial. This is my first attempt at reading Ann Patchett.

31HannahJo
Apr 16, 2009, 1:52pm Top

Catching up! I've now completed 45 books, so I'm over halfway through this challenge! I started in September, though, so I've only got 5 months to go.

#14- Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

This was a gorgeous read and I feel so priviliged to have read it. It is based on a true story of a cellist who played Albinoni's Adagio in G Minor for 22 consecutive days in a bomb site as a lament for each of the people killed there while lining up for bread. With this as the backdrop, we follow several characters struggling to retain a sense of dignity as their country is descending into hell. Beauty being a weapon against inhumanity, without being sickly sweet.

I'm so excited to be able to hear Galloway speak next week.

32HannahJo
Edited: Apr 16, 2009, 2:07pm Top

#15- The Soloist by Steve Lopez

Rather glad to have read this one, too, although the trailers for the movie look like they've Hollywoodized it. Steve Lopez is a journalist who writes about his relationship with Nathaniel, a homeless man who he first encounters playing a two-stringed cello on the street. After hearing that he had studied at Julliard, Lopez delves into the story and learns how schizophenia destroyed his career.

Over time, Steve and Nathaniel become friends, and Steve helps Nathaniel gain access to instruments and orchestras, as well as housing and support. Steve sounds like a good guy, and the relationship is genuine. I really liked how the book shows the struggles of living with mental illness, and it is painful to see Nathaniel progress and regress.

Personally, if I had written this book I would have used a different style than just seemingly piecing newspaper articles together. I would have liked to have more information about the disease itself, as well as had different voices tell the story. Nathaniel's music is clear and beautiful while his thinking and life are chaotic, and I think that could have been better communicated with stronger writing.

Still, I would recommend this book and I hope it does some good.

33HannahJo
Apr 16, 2009, 2:17pm Top

#16- The Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp

This was a sweet indulgent read. Maria is quite fun, and her character shines through as she tells the story made so famous by the Sound of Music. Faith plays a big role in the family's life (what do you expect from an ex-nun!), and I was impressed by how the whole family stood up to the Nazis (one of the older boys turned down a position as a doctor as he knew what was happening to the Jewish doctors, and one of the younger girls would not pledge allegiance to the Nazis and got in trouble with the school). The book also follows the family to America, where it is newly-poor but rich in love. They faced so many hardships, but as Maria notes it was the difficulties which showed her the amazing character of her children. This would be a good read for a 10 year old who loves the movie, and might spark some interesting discussions.

34MusicMom41
Apr 17, 2009, 10:12pm Top

I read The Trapp Family Singers when I was in college and I thoroughly enjoyed it--it was one of my "study break" books. As I recall it wasn't nearly as saccharine as the movie. Don't get me wrong--I like the movie, too. Luckily I saw the movie before I read the book!

35cmbohn
Apr 18, 2009, 11:57am Top

The Trapp Family singers sounds like a good book. And I am STILL waiting for The Book Thief from my library.

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