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Reading challenges and me….

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It’s probably fairly clear to anyone who reads my ramblings regularly that I’m an utter failure when it comes to reading challenges – either joining in with those run by others, or with the self-imposed ones I set myself in a flurry of enthusiasm and then allow to fall by the wayside… In fact, the only reading event I usually manage to stick to is the bi-annual reading clubs I co-host with Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book; and that’s with a lot of organisation and forward planning… And I was reminded recently that I devised (back in 2015!!) the project of reading all 27 books in the Penguin Modern Poets series, released between 1962 and 1979. In fact, I even have a page on the blog for it…

My Penguin Modern Poets collection!

However, if you have a look you will see I stalled early, at book no. 6, which was back in 2016 – which is pretty feeble. However, despite that utter failure, I am still fighting the urge to approach another reading project; it was this which reminded me of the Poets, and it came about when I saw (on Twitter, I think) that Penguin are releasing set 6 of their Penguin Great Ideas series in September – and it includes Perec and Calvino and Camus amongst many other rather wonderful authors!

My Great Ideas…

A quick hop onto Wikipedia revealed details of the 5 earlier sets, and I hadn’t quite realised how many there were; but I knew I had the whole first set and assorted volumes from the later ones. So of course I had to make a list, which is fatal for any book addict; because immediately you want to start collecting the whole lot, ticking them off merrily as you acquire them (well, I do, anyway…)  Looking down the checklist, there is a fantastic range of titles, all of which I’d be happy to read. And a lightbulb ping moment in my head said “You could read them as a project, you know…” Of course, we know how badly I do with these things, and so it really *isn’t* a great idea (ha!). Still. I’m tempted – and trying to fight against it. You can see from the image above that although I have all the first set, I only have a few of the later ones, so that would be a lot of purchasing and a lot more shelf space needed. No, it really isn’t a good idea…

Penguin Moderns box set and Little Black Classics pile

This also reminded me, of course, that I still have the Penguin Moderns box to make my way through, and I had been doing quite well, getting up to book 26 a year ago; and then I stalled… I *have* been galvanised to pick these up again, and have some reviews coming up next month of later volumes. However, as you can see from the picture, there are also the Penguin Little Black Classics, and I haven’t read all of them either. Yikes!

Anyway, I am going to try to take up the Poets Project again, and so I dug them out on Sunday to see what I had, where I was and generally take stock. This kind of necessitated a shuffle of the general poetry shelves which were slightly in disarray, and looked even worse when I started moving things about:

Poetry mid-shuffle

It was a useful exercise though; after having a bit of a crisis, I decided to shelve them alphabetically and put anthologies at the beginning, and after removing the Russians they fitted in quite nicely. Here’s the back row:

And here’s the front row:

This is, of course, not all the poetry in the house. The Russians are mostly on the shelf below; Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes are upstairs; and there are various Bloodaxe/Morden Tower anthologies lurking on other shelves. And probably others if I looked properly. Anyway, this is the next Penguin Modern Poets volume in the series:

Watch this space to see if I finish it! As for the Penguin Great Ideas – I think I’m going to be battling the concept of a project for a while; I’ve already sent off for one of the ones I don’t have, and will definitely be investing in more in September. Oh dear, oh dear….

2020 – will there be challenges???? ;D

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Traditionally, the start of a new year in bookish circles means making plans for future reading, deciding on challenges and projects, as well as setting up piles of prospective reads. I’ve done all those things in the past, but more often than not I fall by the wayside; I’m very much a person who reads by whim and mood, and I’ve found I don’t respond well to restrictions. I prefer to follow my reading muse and pick up whichever book I fancy. So in recent years I’ve tended to avoid most formal challenges, sticking instead to the Club reads I co-host with Simon, and of course WIT Month which is a big favourite. Having said that, I *have* been considering dropping in on a few upcoming reading events:

First up is the Japanese Literature Challenge, hosted by Dolce Bellezza. I love Japanese literature and as the challenge runs until the end of March there’s plenty of time for me to participate, particularly as I have at least one lovely Japanese title on the TBR! I think I *will* sign up for this one, because even if I only manage *one* book at least I’ll have taken part! 😀

Next up is this event:

The European Reading Challenge is hosted by Rose City Reader, and as I read a lot of translated literature, once again this should be no problem – particularly as it runs all year long! 😀 Plus France and Russia are included so really I have no excuse for not succeeding with this one! Again, I have any number of appropriate titles on the TBR, and as the top (deluxe!) level is to read just 5 books from Europe – well, if I don’t manage that, what the heck will I be doing this year????

Finally, there is Robert Musil… I’ve considered his massive magnum opus “The Man without Qualities” and there is a year-long Twitter readalong which has just started. It’s a *big* book – 1152 pages in the easily available all-in-one Picador version – which is vaguely intimidating, although spread out over a year maybe not so. However, I felt I would probably struggle physically and mentally with a book that fat and after a little investigation discovered that Picador had issued in the past in three separate volumes. Well – after a bit of humming and hahing and chatter on Twitter about ripping books into sections (!!), I succumbed and the three separate volumes are on their way. Will I read them? Who knows – I may well have a go! ;D

Apart from these challenges and the others I’ve mentioned above, I think I will try to keep my plans fluid, light and stress-free. Oh – well there might be *one* more event coming up during the last couple of weeks of February… But more about that will follow later! ;D

Reading challenges ahoy!

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I often feel somewhat notorious (and a bit of a failure!) because of my inability to complete reading challenges! The first one I tried was the LibraryThing VMC group’s Elizabeth Taylor readalong a couple of year’s back, and I just about made it (though I did join in halfway through….). In 2013 their group read was for Barbara Pym and I burnt out mid-year. And this year, they went for a Great War themed readalong which I didn’t even get started with! I *did* succeed with my plan to read Anthony Powell’s “Dance to the Music of Time” series, however, and I’ve also completed the first volume of Proust (out of three I have) plus Olivia Manning’s “Balkan Trilogy”, so I suppose I’m not doing too badly!

I'm particularly keen on this era of Penguins

For 2015 I’ve decided, along with HeavenAli, Liz and possibly others, to read “The Forsyte Saga” – nine novels plus the odd interlude so at less than a book a month that should be manageable. However, a couple of other possibilities have reared their heads…

pp.001Ð050.indd

The most recent edition of Slightly Foxed magazine had an article on C.P. Snow, which reminded me that I have his “Strangers and Brothers” series of 11 novels on my bookshelves. I think they would be a remarkably interesting exercise following on from the Powells, particularly as Snow was satirised in “Dance” as J.C. Quiggin. The main issue I have with Snow is deciding on the order of reading, as the early novels were published in one order, but later Snow recommended a different reading order. I am one of those odd pedants who insists on reading the Narnia books in the order published, refusing to read “The Magician’s Nephew” first, so I think if I do read the Snows I shall be awkward and stick to the publication order.

Then there is Lawrence Durrell. I read and enjoyed “Prospero’s Cell” earlier in the year, and have been humming and hawing about whether to try his fiction, in particular his Alexandra Quartet. The question was decided in the Samaritan’s Book Cave at the weekend, when I popped down in search of books for Youngest Child’s university studies and instead came out with these:

alexandria

Yes, all four volumes of the Alexandria Quartet in lovely old Faber editions for £1 each. Cheaper than online with no postage involved (just the wear on my shoulder carting them around town).

So there are several series I could pick up and run with (let alone all the other recent arrivals). I am *definitely* going with “The Forsyte Saga”; but as for the others, I shall keep my mind very much open and free, and if those books happen to float past me, I may well be picking them up…! 🙂

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