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MissWatson climbs the Ziggurat of Babel (aka Mount TBR)

2019 Category Challenge

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Edited: Jan 3, 9:16am Top

Welcome! Willkommen! Bienvenue! Bienvenido! Привет!

I'm Birgit and this is my sixth category challenge. This year's CATs should be very helpful in the everlasting quest to whittle down Mount TBR, so I will concentrate on these. I also hope to reactivate my neglected foreign languages. Last year's attempt to restrain my book-buying habit failed miserably, so I will just keep track of the pages read and the books that will go on to a new home.

The ticker. The goal is to read 2019 pages per month.

Edited: Jan 13, 8:01am Top

The language challenge

Last year I finished a surprising (to me) number of books in French, and the more I read, the easier it got. I'm hoping to repeat this with Spanish and Russian, but in the spirit of being realistic I'm staggering the numbers to keep it achievable. The goal here is 75.
I'm still not entirely sure what Ferro's phrase means, but I love the sound of it. Aliens is one of my top ten movies. (Picture snagged from imdb)

Russian 5
Spanish 10
French 15
German 20
English 25

1. Das Känguru-Manifest by Marc-Uwe Kling
2. Märchen und Sagen by Ludwig Bechstein
3. Ritterburgen by Joachim Zeune
4. Der Geldkomplex by Franziska Gräfin zu Reventlow

1. Paper and iron by Niall Ferguson

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 4:14am Top

The CATs

Starring my sister's cat, Porthos. I hope to read at least one book for each, but won't stress myself if it doesn't happen. Overlap with the language challenge is allowed.

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 3:56am Top

Calendar CAT

(hosting June)

Edited: Jan 5, 9:56am Top


(hosting May)

January: Your name in print
Ein Hund für viele Katzen by Michael Foreman
Die Eisprinzessin schläft by Camilla Läckberg

Edited: Jan 6, 9:58am Top


(hosting June)

January: series in translation
Die Eisprinzessin schläft by Camilla Läckberg
Die siebte Leiche by Vlastimil Vondruška

Edited: Jan 14, 5:08am Top


(hosting November)

January: First in, last out
Der letzte Rebell by Lee Hoffman

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 3:59am Top

The KITs

This is optional. Time may not always be sufficient.

Edited: Jan 11, 3:08am Top


This year there will be no overlaps with the CATs (except for the CAT square, obviously), overlaps with the language challenge are allowed.
Thanks to the makers of this lovely card, christina_reads, LittleTaiko and LShelby!

4: Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch by Michael Ende
9: Das Calderon Imperium by Léa Cohen
10: Serafinas Geheimnis – 3x schwarzer Kater by Sabine Ludwig
18: Das Waldhäuschen und seine Bewohner by Ludwig Bechstein

Edited: Jan 8, 4:02am Top

Mount TBR erosion

I realised rather late that anything that doesn't count for the CATs, KITs or Bingo can go into the language pile, so there's no need for an overflow category. Instead I'll track my TBR in the vain hope that it will go down, especially since the CATs this year are focused on books I already own. The January bargain bins have thrown me off track already...

The TBR, as of
January 8, 2019: 1,314. Ouch.

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 4:07am Top

Come in! Hereinspaziert! Entrez! Entrad! Bходите!

Just a second while I get the coffeee...

Nov 25, 2018, 7:31am Top

Great setup! Bonne lecture multilingue :)

Edited: Nov 25, 2018, 8:34am Top

Wow, Birgit! I'm impressed that you can read in 5 languages. As the students at school say: You are the bomb.com!

Nov 25, 2018, 12:02pm Top

I'm impressed too, especially at the planned numbers. I can read (up to a point) in a couple of other languages, but very very slowly and it really takes it out of me, so I would struggle to do more than 1 or 2 a year.

Nov 25, 2018, 8:01pm Top

Looking forward to following along, Birgit.

Nov 26, 2018, 6:26am Top

>12 rabbitprincess: Merci beaucoup!
>13 tess_schoolmarm: Thanks, Tess. I neglected Russian because I haven't really found modern authors that appeal to me and I hope I haven't gone totally rusty!
>14 Jackie_K: I'm very curious to see how long I will need to finish a real book in Russian, as opposed to a novella or short story. Classics are probably easiest because there's no baffling slang, and most of the time the plots are familiar.
>15 DeltaQueen50: Thanks!

Nov 30, 2018, 3:33pm Top

Aliens also makes my top ten movie list, so you've drawn me in for sure! I look forward to following along.

Nov 30, 2018, 7:48pm Top

>2 MissWatson: five by five means loud and clear (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest) and in the pipe is a very old saying that today is said "in the pipeline" meaning in the process of or coming along nicely.

Dec 1, 2018, 6:10am Top

>2 MissWatson: >18 tess_schoolmarm: I didn't know that either! Thanks Tess for continuing my lifelong education! :)

Dec 1, 2018, 1:03pm Top

>17 LisaMorr: Nice to see you here!
>18 tess_schoolmarm: Thanks, Tess!
>19 Jackie_K: That's what I love about LT!

Dec 2, 2018, 7:06pm Top

Love the languages/CATs approach to your attack on mount TBR!

Dec 3, 2018, 4:38am Top

>21 lkernagh: Thanks Lori.

Dec 12, 2018, 9:48am Top

Great challenge themes. Maybe Porthos will help keep you on track with your CATs goals. :-)

Dec 12, 2018, 10:15am Top

>23 This-n-That: Thanks. I'm afraid he will be too busy eating.

Dec 19, 2018, 9:38am Top

Five languages, that's impressive! I'm trying to keep up with three every year (German, English, Danish), and maybe I could manage some French, but a fifth one seems impossible. Good luck and have fun!

Dec 19, 2018, 10:07am Top

>25 Chrischi_HH: I once tried my hand (tongue?) at Danish, but the pronunciation threw me. It looks a lot easier in print, so maybe I'll give it another go one of these days. But the most important thing is practice, practice, oractice. My Russian is terribly rusty, I'm really curious to see how this works out.

Dec 23, 2018, 2:57pm Top

I'll be following along with envy and admiration - five languages, wow!

Dec 31, 2018, 8:57am Top

Good luck on all your challenges! Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2018, 11:51am Top

Dec 31, 2018, 2:55pm Top

Jan 3, 9:08am Top

>28 The_Hibernator: >29 thornton37814: >30 tess_schoolmarm: Thank you so much, and a Happy New Year full of lovely books to you!

Edited: Jan 4, 9:21am Top

After some deliberation, I have decided to count my holiday season's reading towards the 2019 challenge. So my first books are:

Ein Hund für viele Katzen by Michael Foreman, a lovely picture book for the RandomCAT
Der satanarchäolügenialkohöllische Wunschpunsch by Michael Ende for the Bingo (this was a BB from ChrischiHH)
Serafinas Geheimnis – 3x schwarzer Kater by Sabine Ludwig for the Bingo (a children's book)
Das Känguru-Manifest by Marc-Uwe Kling for the German section
Die Eisprinzessin schläft by Camilla Läckberg for the Random and SeriesCAT

edited for touchstones

Jan 3, 10:21am Top

Porthos is a lovely guy! I remember how much our cats loved those marble windowsills set over radiators when we lived in Germany. Warm and with a view.

Jan 3, 10:45am Top

>33 RidgewayGirl: Thanks, Kay! He loves to warm his paws there after a stroll on the balcony. But his favourite sleeping place is our legs.

Jan 3, 5:39pm Top

>32 MissWatson: I'm sensing a cat theme here!
I should brush up on my German skills too. I have gone from reading novels when studying it to now doubting I could hold a conversation! I am borrowing a conversational German set of CDs from my library, but picture books is a great way to get back into my reading.

Jan 4, 9:26am Top

>35 JayneCM: I found that getting back to reading French was easy, but actively speaking it is hard work. Contemporary children's books are a great way to get back into the language. Our Russian teacher always recommended fairy tales, but I'm currently reading Bechstein's fairy tales and I don't think you could use the vocabulary in an everyday conversation. It is too old-fashioned.

Jan 4, 1:16pm Top

>36 MissWatson: I'm currently working on Spanish conversational practice lessons that use a translation of The Wizard of Oz - El Mago de Oz. The narrator tells the story in small doses and then asks the listener questions that are to be answered in Spanish. So you are essentially getting an audio book but are also getting practice in speaking. The fairy tale is part of the mix that keeps it simple and effective.

Jan 5, 9:54am Top

>37 bkinetic: That sounds like a good interactive approach!

Jan 5, 10:04am Top

language / Bingo: a fairy tale

Whenever I look at my sister's shelves during the holidays something jumps out at me where I think I own a copy myself, but cannot remember reading it. This year, it is a collection of fairy tales and local legends collected by Ludwig Bechstein. Märchen und Sagen. I bought this for the illustrations, because I'm a completionist and wanted all the books Ruth Koser-Michaels worked on. Most of the fairy tales are variations on familiar themes, as the author himself acknowledges several times.
My choice for the Bingo square is Das Waldhäuschen und seine Bewohner, where an old couple share a solitary house in the woods with a cat and a snake and they tell each other several fairy tales, about snakes and cats.

Jan 5, 2:59pm Top

Oh, you read the Wunschpunsch! I hope you enjoyed it. :)

Jan 5, 5:15pm Top

>32 MissWatson: I loved that Michael Ende book when I read it (in English) a few years back.

Edited: Jan 6, 9:55am Top

>40 Chrischi_HH: I enjoyed it very much, Chrischi, thank you so much for bringing it to my attention. Somehow I missed it when it was first published.
>41 avatiakh: What I like about Ende is his brilliant wordplay that adults will enjoy even more than children, I think. And I wondered all the time how you could translate this. Some day I'll have to check the English version.


Jan 6, 10:06am Top

Series in translation

Die siebte Leiche caught my eye in the window of my charity bookshop because of the author's name, Vlastimil Vondruška. He's Czech and apparently a very popular and prolific writer in his home country. This is a historical mystery, set in the times of king Ottokar II, and one in a series about a royal procurator who gets to travel a lot. This time he and his squire get lost in a snowstorm and find refuge in a castle where during the feast of St. Barbara several people have been killed in the years before. Our hero solves the case in less than two days...
The plot is not entirely convincing, the language and the attitudes a little too modern, but the novelty factor of the unusual setting makes up for it. I'll probably pick up the next book if I run into it.

Jan 7, 6:12am Top


I picked up Ritterburgen because Die siebte Leiche is set in a medieval castle and I wanted to check a few facts. The Beck series is similar to OUP's Very Short Introductions, and this one is a bit too short for my liking. The author also fails to explain most of his technical terms, so it's not entirely satisfactory.

Jan 11, 3:22am Top

Bingo: Eastern Europe

I picked up Das Calderon Imperium at my sister's library because the blurb promised an interesting tale from a country I know virtually nothing about: Bulgaria. The author is Bulgarian, too, although her name, Léa Cohen, doesn't look it. I suppose that's the version she uses living in Switzerland, and her biography shares quite a few details with the tale told in this book: about the ravages wrought by two totalitarian regimes on four families. The book is cleverly constructed in four parts, each part dedicated to one person from the four families involved, each from the same generation, and with every instalment we move closer to the mystery of the huge fortune that Jules Calderon whisked out of the country in 1943 to save it from the Nazis. After the war, the communists tried to track it down with the help of their Stasi colleagues. As the three women, Eva, Lora and Lisa, delve into the past, betrayals come to light.
This was a great read, and as the complicated plot unfolds, I had to leaf back to re-read and discover a clue I had previously overlooked. There is a wordplay on one of the characters' names that is explained towards the end, which would have been more obvious in Bulgarian and I wonder how many more were untranslatable? It is a fine translation, a little rushed towards the end, but I chuckled over some very creative concepts. As far as I know, it hasn't been translated into English which seems a pity.

Edited: Jan 11, 5:12am Top

>45 MissWatson: Sounds like a wonderful read. I also checked into English and found it translated into French and Spanish. Alas my language deficiency!

Jan 11, 5:52am Top

>45 MissWatson: That does sound good! I could probably have a go at the French, but it would take a *long* time!

Jan 11, 6:15am Top

>46 tess_schoolmarm: >47 Jackie_K: I often wonder how many good books we miss just because they are written in regions of the world that are off the radar of publishers.

Jan 11, 6:19am Top

>45 MissWatson:, >46 tess_schoolmarm:, >47 Jackie_K:, >48 MissWatson: Agreed! It does sounds like a fab read though. Fingers-crossed that it gets translated into English someday; otherwise I'll have to wait for retirement to try reading it in French!

Jan 11, 6:24am Top


And I have finished my first book in English: Paper and iron by Niall Ferguson. This is a leftover from last year, a very dry monograph of economic history. I read this during lunch breaks, and at this rate it takes a lot of time.
He looks at the German hyperinflation of 1923 within the particular context of Hamburg business and with a heavy emphasis on the Warburg family, because Max Warburg was an active player in Hamburg politics and the reparations negotiations. It's rather a slog with all the statistics and I haven't read enough about the economic arguments to be able to sum this up fairly, but I found it interesting. I won't remember any of the details, though, numbers just go into one eye and out the next.

Edited: Jan 11, 8:54am Top

>50 MissWatson: Interesting as I teach about German hyperinflation between the wars.

Jan 11, 1:40pm Top

>45 MissWatson: Argh, that sounds like a great book -- too bad there's no English translation yet!

Jan 12, 1:09pm Top

>51 tess_schoolmarm: It contains a lot of economics and his argumentation is so condensed that some of it went over my head. It's his PhD thesis, so loads of footnotes.

>52 christina_reads: Yes, and I hope she'll write another book someday.

Edited: Jan 13, 8:15am Top


I finished an ebook which I started last year: Der Geldkomplex by Fanny Reventlow, in which she writes letters to a friend from a sanatorium where she has sought refuge from her creditors. She makes friends with a few fellow bohemiens and they spend a lot of time drinking, having fun and scheming to get money. It seems this is mostly autobiographical, and at some point I'll try to read more about her.

Jan 14, 5:21am Top


The oldest books in my TBR date back to my university days, not always marked as such. As I fingerwalked my shelves, I came up against two sets of westerns, one by Luke Short, the other by Lee Hoffman. I have finally taken the plunge and ditched the Luke Shorts in German translation. I'm keeping the English ones, because they are very hard to find cheaply nowadays.
And I have decided to read or re-read the Lee Hoffman books, all in German, before I throw them out. They will be even more expensive to replace in English, but I may do so, for I remember that she has very unusual protagonists in her books, often from minorities, or doing jobs that do not crop up frequently in westerns. Der letzte Rebell is an interesting version of the lawless years immediately after the Civil War, we are in Missouri and a former rider with Quantrill joins an outfit that wants to get money for political influencers by robbing banks. The James brothers lurk in the background as exemplars. Not bad at all.

Jan 16, 1:10am Top

Your goals for the year are so impressive they make my head spin. o_0 Best of luck! :)

Jan 16, 6:55am Top

>56 madhatter22: Thanks for dropping in! The ususal reading languages are coming along nicely, but I'm putting off Spanish and Russian until after our big day in February. We're celebrating the centenary of the library, and it's a lot of work.

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