**August - the Adventurous Reader Challenge
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While I know we are still running our tome challenge through August (and I know I'd still reading my tome-of-choice), I thought I'd offer up an August challenge for those interested.
The Adventurous Reader Challenge
Imagine you are a literary Marco Polo, out exploring, bent on discovery. Chose a book from the library or bookstore shelves that you have heard nothing about. No one has recommended to you; you have not read about it in a blog or news source. You are UNfamiliar with the author. You have only the synopsis on the book and perhaps a few blurbs on the back of it to help you make your decision.
Essentially, the idea is that you come to the book cold, not having heard yea or nay about it. Yes, it's risky perhaps, but ah! the adventure. You are venturing into unknown territory.
-- No prize winners or classics (they come with implied recommendations).
-- Again, no authors you are familiar with
-- No checking recommendations on the book anywhere until AFTER you've read it and written comments on this thread.
-- This, of course, will probably eliminate nearly all the books in your TBR pile, especially if you've been hanging out here on LT very long:-)
--new or older books okay, of course, as long as you've just discovered it.
You have a couple weeks before August rolls around. If you find a book will you be able to resist checking out the reviews on it? :-)
Please do not start listing your intend-to-read book before you read it - to avoid comments that might disqualify your choice. And please wait until August to start posting the comments on your book as part of the challenge is to go out looking for a book over the next couple of weeks.
Are you up for the challenge?
I doubt it. I cannot find even one really good book to read. I am feeling desperate and distraught. The thought of being adventuresome gives me the megrims. I shall probably have to visit the really used bookstore in Knoxville to find something.
Hmmm, picking a book blindly off of the library's new release shelves is always risky and I am usually sorry, however, I am in the position of taking two children to the library at least once a week and so will probably succumb.
Would a book from the other half's library count if I choose an author I don't know and he hasn't recommended the book to me?
I had originally thought that I wouldn't participate in this challenge, but I realized that I will be going to City Lights Bookstore during my San Francisco trip next week, and will almost certainly purchase several books that I've heard nothing about before. So, count me in!
This is a great challenge, Lois! I hope you have lots of takers.
ETA: This is how I choose many of the books I read.
Oddly enough, one book I chose this way in the past was the Kite Runner by Khalen Hosseini. I found it on the new book shelf of my local library. In the interim, others have discovered this author and his books as well. :)
A suggestion that I'd make is to pay close attention to what the book says on its cover and blurb. Only choose it if it "speaks" to you. I have found some really great, but little known authors, this way. I can't recommend them here (or you couldn't read the it for this challenge!).
If you pick a klunker, I'd suggest that you toss it and not force yourself through a read that is not a good fit for you. There are too many good books out there by lesser known or unknown authors.
I can't wait to see what everyone chooses.
I have taken it. Thus far am bored to tears. I will not name names. I do not want company in this misery.
>4 charbutton: well, it just being there suggests an implicit recommendation:-)
I will go to the bookstore next week sometime and peruse the shelves. I'm going to aim for someone's debut novel or collection, I think.
Not necessarily. I have several books in my library that I picked up for no particular reason other than never having heard of them or their authors. It is one of these I have picked. Thus far, the reading is misery. I have started early as I do not expect the torture to end anytime soon.
P.S. First tomes and now blind adventures. Do you wear black leather at home and carry a whippy whip?
#9 "P.S. First tomes and now blind adventures. Do you wear black leather at home and carry a whippy whip?" lmao ahhh thanks for laugh.
>9 urania1: I'll never tell, you'll have to ask dukedom. "blind adventure", I like that.
I feel kind oddly modest thinking of books. I have lots of mysteries at home, but...well, maybe.
I went to the bookstore today, pulled a chair up to one of the paperback fiction shelves and began browsing, pulling interesting-looking individual books out to read the backs. Browsing is becoming a lost art, me thinks. It really didn't take me long to find something - an author and book that I have not heard of and with a synopsis that sounds good. Now, I must wait for August...
ah -- the lost art of browsing -- I used to spend hours as a kid browsing in the library -- luckily I could check 8 books at a time. I think I've transferred my browsing here to LT, but I have to use all my resistance not to go to Amazon and buy 8 books at a time. I should really just browse through my house and read the forgotten treasures here.
Well, I have quite a few qualifying books in my TBR stacks--books I picked up because the title sounded interesting, I was attracted to the cover art, or I went far enough to read the jacket blurb, but I know nothing about the author or the book itself. I think I'll be able to find something.
I have several books on my TBR that I picked up in bookstores just because they looked interesting even though I had never heard of them or their authors. I am mid-tome, and have other tomes in the offing, but I will need a break and may read one or more of the following:
Deleted book names because I didn't read the instructions carefully enough.
I am being very rigorous about this because I have many more books I bought online that I had never heard of and had barely or never heard of the authors, but it is possible there was a review or two online in addition to the publisher's blurb . . . However, I'm itching to read some of those, so I might pick one anyway. Or I might just have to go to the bookstore . . .
>17 rebeccanyc: It is a lovely excuse for the bookstore—that is, if you need one:-)
This year I picked up an advanced reading copy of a book from a second hand shop. I don't think the book ever made it to publishing or if it did it died a quick death as I don't think it's even on LT! It doesn't even have a blurb etc so I really have no idea what the book could be about... It was entirely the mystery which prompted me to buy it (and that it was $2).
Apart from several bizarrely amusing quotations, I am suffering mightily on my blind adventure, reading a book, which I will not name and which I am 95 percent certain no one in this group has ever read - although oddly and accidentally enough I just ordered a book by said author (not realizing I already had a different book by said author, whom I assumed was now completely unknown and probably dead but who is suddenly "in fashion" and not dead. The book I ordered sounded like the "very" thing to kick me out of my bout of book ennui. I now have my doubts. I will not, however, list the latest book on LT until sometime in August.
And no . . . this book doesn't involve black leather, whippy whips, or electricity. Well maybe electricity since people do turn lights off and on. But thus far one must infer the existence of electricity. But the inference is a safe one (100 percent certainty here). Sorry dukedom_enough. I don't think it's the kind of electricity to which you refer ;-). The book does involve lots of implied wallowing in self pity, however. How's that for a teaser? And it won a prestigious prize from what country, for what, and in what year I will not say. However, if anyone would care to start a betting pool, I am happy to start an online book gambling ring.
>21 urania1: must be French, or written in the French tradition:-) I have found much hand-wringing in some of the francophone novels I have read. While this is not necessarily equal to "wallowing" but perhaps akin to it, it was the first thing I thought of while reading your post.
I have something in my TBR as well that would work for this. I admittedly bought it primarily for the name.
Still plugging away at urania's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Boring August Adventure Read (courtesy of avaland, LT's resident dominatrix). The author's other book, referenced in post 21 arrived today. It is hot stuff, and I do mean hot - written when the author was only 19. And no avaland, the author is not Françoise Sagan. Everybody has heard of her, so she doesn't qualify for a blind adventure.
>25 urania1: oh, I had not thought of Françoise Sagan, actually what came to mind first was the Annie Ernaux book I read (her first, I think).
Nah. Annie Ernaux is too well known. I've read four of her books.
I am beginning my challenge book today.
When I browse I pull up a chair to the bookshelf (the store I frequent has chairs in the aisles thankfully) and start pulling books out. This book had an interesting spine: it was a butterscotch color faded at the edges, the title was on an angle, and there were two interesting image at the top and bottom which turned out to be the midsection of fish. I hadn't heard of the book or author and the writeup on the back of the book made me think of Michael Crummey, so I bought it.
I'm reading Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner, a young, Quebeçois writer (so the book says). I'll be back when I'm finished.
How are the rest of you doing?
Ooh, Nikolski is already on my wishlist. I look forward to reading what you think of it.
I had picked up a copy of Sunday's Silence at the last local FOL booksale. It has an interesting sepia photograph on the cover that was slightly over-exposed. And the back cover mentioned the Tennessee Appalachians, which are not that far away, and a church of snake-handlers. I still don't know if it'll be any good, but I've pulled it out and plan to start it in the next few days.
Nikolski is on my wishlist as well.
I've got two I picked up at different times at my local thrift store. The first is House by Tracy Kidder which details the construction of a home. The second is Crude World by Peter Maass which was an impulse buy, but I wonder if I hadn't seen something about it somewhere before. I fully expect both of these to be difficult reads for me and will probably throw both across the room at some point.
I hope to start mine soon, but want to make some more progress on my current tome first.
I bought a book at City Lights that would fit this challenge. However, I plan to go back there at least once before I leave, so I'll wait until I actually read whichever book I choose before I comment about it.
I used this as an excuse to visit the local used bookstore, where, among other things, I found a book with a title that appealed to me and a reasonably interesting description. I might not get to it until later in the month, but I'm looking forward to seeing how well I did with my selection. I know that last time I did something like this, with Johanna Sinisalo's Troll: A Love Story, I was pleased with the results.
I know that last time I did something like this, with Johanna Sinisalo's Troll: A Love Story, I was pleased with the results.
Hehe! I also did the same thing with that book. What a great find it was!
>34 SqueakyChu:: It's the title, I think. It just screams to be picked up and investigated. I usually kind of dislike the practice of changing a book's title for international publication, but in this case, I have to admit it was a stroke of brilliance.
Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner (2005, T 2008 Quebeçois author)
Nicholas Dickner tells his story with a plain, charming, and easy-going, blue-jeans sort-of- style—as if he's just across the table from you. It works really well with the three characters he's created - Joyce, Noah and our narrator - all young, and each from different parts of Canada, each a bit restless, with nomadic tendencies of their own, or somewhere in their family history.
As you learn their stories, you also learn that they all are tied to the same family tree, blissfully ignorant of each other, and, as if following some internal compass, they all converge in Montreal. Now, if you think you know where the author is taking this, stop right here and leave those thoughts in the closest trash bin.
Nikolski is a charming story of self-discovery, fish, pirates, nomads and Canada. While I was a wee bit disappointed in how the book ended (in that my expectations were not fulfilled), I will be looking to see what else this new-to-me author has written and is translated.
I am happy to report, first, that I acquired two previously unknown books by previously unknown authors today, so that I now have three to choose from, and second, that I am likely to finish both my tome and my subway read by the end of the weekend, so I'll be free to start on this challenge.
Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson
This haunting novella, originally published in 1947 but only just translated into English, takes place in Nazi-occupied Holland. With allied bombers nightly flying in from the coast towards Germany, an ordinary Dutch couple, Wim and Marie, without much forethought, take in and hide a Jewish man, Nico. The novella jumps back and forth in time, starting with the evening Nico dies of a fever and the couple have to figure out what to do with the body, and then moving backwards to their life with their hidden guest. The "comedy," such as it is, comes from the tentative way Marie, especially, learns to live with the situation -- who to tell, who not to tell, what to do when the milkman comes, or the cleaning lady -- and her efforts to try to understand Nico. Needless to say, complications ensue after Wim and a doctor leave the body in a park. For me, the most interesting aspects of the book were the insight into the underground in Holland and, even more, the way Keilson is able to capture the claustrophobic feel of being cooped up in a blacked-out room.
After buying this book but before reading it, I discovered it on the front page of last week's New York Times Book Review section. Now, at last, I can read that review!
At last, I can reveal the dread name of the book which must not be named. Françoise Mallet-Joris's Café Céleste is the most excruciatingly and brutally boring book I have ever read in my life. However that said, for reasons unknown to me, I ordered a copy of her book The Illusionist. It is brilliant. Written when the author was only nineteen, the novel details the love affair between a young girl and her father's Russian mistress. Against my better judgment, I have ordered another of her books: The Witches.
In the meantime, determined that this blind reading adventure will not be a total failure, I visited my local purveyor of fine used books and purchased a gardening memoir entitled Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols. Thus far, I am enjoying it.
However, I do not believe that one should always succumb to the evil wishes of that leather-clad dominatrix avaland; therefore, I have begun an August adventure of my own that must meet the following criteria:
1. The book must come from my library.
2. It must be oldish (pre-1960s is preferable)
3. It must be physically oldish. In other words not a recent reprint.
4. It must be a hardback.
5. It must have a dust jacket (pre-1960s as well).
6. I must not previously have read said book although I am permitted to be familiar with the author.
I am making great headway through these books and having a glorious time. I expect to have read all of these books by the end of August.
Just finished my book for this challenge! Not only was it a book and an author I'd never heard of, but it was one I'm quite sure I never would have picked up without a strong recommendation if I hadn't been looking for something for this challenge. I initially figured I would do my hunting in the science fiction section, but nothing there called to me especially, plus I quickly realized that, familiar as I am with the field, my not having heard of an author probably told me something about them in itself. So I moved on over to fiction, where a title caught my eye and I decided to take a chance.
Alas, though, I think this adventure was only minimally successful for me. Here's my review:
The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman
Jane Hudson returns to teach Latin at the private girls' school she attended as a teenager. The place has some painful memories for her, though: while she was a student, both of her roommates, apparently suicidal, drowned in the nearby lake. Except Jane knew more about those deaths than she ever told, and now pages of her old journal, in which she recorded her secrets, are mysteriously turning up and past events are beginning to repeat themselves.
First the good: The wintry lake upon which everything in the novel centers creates a very nice sense of atmosphere. And the slow unfolding of the truth about what really happened to the narrator's old roommates is interesting and entertaining, if a bit melodramatic. Unfortunately, the present-day part of the story is much less successful, featuring details and plot points that seem awfully contrived and artificial, some characterization so sketchy as to be practically non-existent, and a big surprise revelation that was obvious a mile away. Not to mention -- and this applies to both parts of the story -- a main character so oblivious that she seems to be incapable of recognizing anything that's happening directly in front of her, ever.
All that being said, I did find it a very quick read, and at times a fairly engaging one, but mostly it just leaves me thinking somewhat wistfully about what a good book it could have been, if written by someone with a defter feel for character and story.
>39 urania1: Mary, I think you should make that the September challenge for all who might care to throw in the proverbial literary gauntlet. Give it its own thread.
Wait! Isn't that 6 criteria?
I may join you, surely I have something in my library that fits.... (damn, must have a dust jacket?)
Hmm, my pre-1960s book mostly belonged to my parents and are still in boxes and uncataloged on LT, or are reference books of some kind, or are books I read in school or college, but there must be some with dustjackets that I haven't read . . .
I have one book that meets all of Mary's criteria, and it's a book that she recommended to me: Yesterday by Maria Dermoût. It was published in 1959, and I have the original hardback from that year, with a dust jacket:
It's around here, somewhere...
I have two books for Lois's challenge, which I'll read in the next week or two.
My second adventurous read was Purge by Sofi Aksanen. It is an ambitions, at times compelling, but ultimately flawed and frustrating book. It attempts to connect early 90s post-Soviet Estonia with the horrors of the wartime and early post-war years, when Estonia was first invaded by the Nazis and then by the Soviets, by bringing together a young Russian escapee from sex slavery with an aging Estonian woman living in a country village, and letting her memories unfold. Surprise: they both have things to hide and there is a connection between them!
There were things I really liked about this book, especially the beautiful depictions of the Estonian landscape and rural activities such as milking, canning, pickling, and making herbal mixtures, as well as the way Oksanen focuses on women's experiences under totalitarianism even though it is the men who are in charge. I also enjoyed learning more about Estonian history, and for the most part Oksanen is great at keeping the story moving along, even as she mixes up times and characters.
But, in the end, I was disappointed. The chapters about the escaped sex slave are incredibly graphic, and stand in too stark contrast to the tone of the rest of the book. In places, I just got tired of listening to the characters' endless thoughts and worries; a little more restraint would have been a good thing, and Oksanen could have benefited from a good editor. Some of the plot was either a little obvious, or a little contrived, and the motivations of at least one of the characters were a little hard to fully believe; in addition, other than the two protagonists, the characters were a little one-dimensional. And, at the end, Oksanen includes some "documents" that either should have been worked into the story or left out. The ingredients are all there for a great book, but Purge isn't it.
Edited to fix touchstone.
My adventurous read was Under The Sun by Justin Kerr-Smiley, about an unlikely friendship which grows up between a shot-down RAF pilot and his Japanese captor on a tiny island in the Pacific at the very end of World War Two.
Some very interesting ideas (eg the two men are both drawn to the mystical side of their respective religions, and find some common ground there).
Unfortunately, the writing is EXTREMELY pedestrian: no thought seems to have been given to how the story should be revealed to the reader, to how to develop the men's friendship in a plausible way, to show rather than tell, or indeed to punctuate properly. Pity.
This is my review of the first read for this challenge.
Wild Grass by Lu Xun
Lu Xun (1881-1936) was one of the most important writers of 20th century Chinese literature, and considered to be the 'founder of modern Chinese literature.' He wrote in a variety of genres, and was widely respected by Mao and other leaders of the original communist movement in China. Much of his work has been translated into English, although I had never heard of him before stumbling upon this book.
Wild Grass (1927) is a collection of prose poems that date from 1924-1926, which was translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang. In the Foreword to this collection, Lu describes wild grass at that which grows from the abandoned clay of life, that which follows from the unhappiness of his past life. This grass is fragile and lacks beauty, yet it is full of vitality during its brief existence.
These prose poems cover a variety of topics: nature, friendship, personal struggle and loss, and betrayal and redemption.
A representative poem is this excerpt from "Hope":
My heart is extraordinarily lonely.
These poems are gentle and deceptively simple, which likely won't affect the reader on a initial examination, but will have greater impact on subsequent readings.
Yay! I made it just in time for this challenge. Well if you bend the rules to include graphic novels that is.
I found a great new graphic novel series The Stuff of Legend by Mike Raicht. A great little comic of living toys taking on the dark side to save their boy. All in beautiful Sepia and brown tones.
My third and last Adventurous Read was The Three Fates and it is difficult for me to know what to say about this intense, angry, bitter, sad, language-obsessed, and brief novel by Linda Lê, a Vietnamese writer who moved to France in 1977, at the age of 14. It is the intertwined stories of three young Vietnamese women who were brought to France as children by their grandmother, known as "the Jackal": two sisters and a cousin. In fact, none of the major characters has a name: the main narrator, the cousin, is called "Southpaw" because she has had one hand amputated (we never find out how), and the two sisters are known by such names as Potbelly (for the elder, who is pregnant) and Cutie (for the younger, who is most recognized for her beautiful legs). The sisters, against the advice of the cousin, are arranging to bring their father, known as King Lear, from Saigon for a visit so he can see how successful they have been since they were stolen from him and brought to the west.
This is about as straightforward as I can be, because the novel itself is convoluted, full of multilingual wordplay (amazingly, as far as I can tell, translated into English), mythological and literary references, words I never heard of, witches and other supernatural beings, and coded language. To add to the intensity, there are no paragraph breaks, although it is broken into sections. As far as I can tell, it is not just about the razor-sharp depictions of the characters, but also about the intersection of cultures and the aftermath of the war and the takeover of the south by the north.
Not only did a lot of The Three Fates go right by me, but there were many times when I was reading it that I wondered why I kept on going. It is a very impressive work, and Lê is a remarkably talented writer, but I'm not entirely sure I enjoyed it.
I completed two Adventurous reads this month. One was forgettable (River of Glass by Deborah Bergman), but I adored reading Hell by Japanese author Yasutaka Tsitsui.
I was originally attracted to Hell (no touchstone as it always goes to the wrong book) by its title and the fact that it was a translated novel. I'd picked it up at my local Friends of the Library used bookstore. I did note that the author won some literary prizes so I figured the book would be worthwhile reading albeit that the book's contents were unknown to me.
What a treat it was! It was a wild ride of a story about people in Hell. Only it was not the kind of devil-and-fire Hell that we might imagine.
The story starts off with three schoolmates playing on a tall platform. One is forced by the others to fall off of the platform, thereby causing the injured boy to sustain a lifetime leg injury. After this individual's death, his leg injury disappears. He has no feelings of hatred or anger toward his former schoolmates, but he does meet up with them again plus a myriad of other characters in a most unusual Hell.
I posted a review of this book here on LT hoping to entice others to read this most entertaining novel.
Thanks for a fun challenge, avaland!
The answer is a definite "Yes!"
Robert, this book is fun. I'm sure you'll like it. You can always send your extra books to me if you find you don't have room for some! ;)
I've put it on my Barny Noble wishlist. Heaven knows when I'll get to it.
I have a 1222 square foot home plus porches, one of which is useful, in which I live with a cat; it is too small to accommodate my books without some unaffordable structural changes. I would have to send you most of my books, and I think you would likely be overwhelmed -- but maybe not.
If you give away your cat, you'll have room for about three more books. ;)
After that description, I fear it will be Hell for me as well.
P.S. Robert how do you insert touchtstones when the works do not show up on the lists. Inquiring minds want to know.
#58 work#::title inside square brackets should work (except when it doesn't)
So, for Hell, use this 3991171::Hell to get this Hell. Success?
Daniel pretty much has it.
I suspected from Squeaky's longevity at LibraryThing that she knew how to click on 'others' so I did not even try the touchstone for Hell which is what I would normally do first. I searched for the title from the search page, and it responded with about 4000 results which were pretty much unsiftable.
So I decided to search by author. Tsitsui didn't look like a typical Japanese name, so I searched just on 'yasutaka.' I found the author into which others had been combined. I noted in passing that the name in the URL was 'tsutsuiyasutaka' (which was pretty standard but needs to be confirmed) and selected the book from the list. I put the work number followed by two colons before the title in square brackets and similarly put the formalized author name followed by two colons before his real name in doubled square brackets.
it responded with about 4000 results which were pretty much unsiftable.
Yeah. After not finding it within the first 100 books, I didn't feel like sifting through 4,000 books...
By the way, I got another Adventurous Read into this month's challenge right under the wire. The book was Still Alice by Lisa Genova. I'd picked it up at The Book Thing of Baltimore and figured I'd use it for a Bookcrossing giveaway. After looking at it, however, I thought I'd keep it to read myself.
I didn't know anything about the book or the author previously, but I found out as I read it that it was about a brilliant Harvard psychology professor who developed early onset Alzheimer's Disease at the age of fifty. This is a novel, not a biography. It is written from the point of view of the woman who develops the disease. You (or I) as the reader experiences what the vicitm is experiencing as the disease progresses. It is a poignant book that comes across as very realistic. I posted a review as well.
My previous read (message #63) was disqualified as an Adventurous Read as I just discovered it was a prize winner (Bronte Prize, 2008). Oh, well!
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