Those that know me know that I love to set myself up for failure when it comes to bookish goals/challenges. Perhaps failure isn’t the right word. I did, after all finish Simon Thomas’s beastly Century of Books. And I have a decent success rate with the infamous TBR dare on James‘ blog. Maybe what I mean to say is that I set myself up to be miserable–but no, even that is too strong.
I guess, like it is for many of you, it’s really a love/hate thing with me and challenges. I love to join them or think them up, but I don’t always love doing them. But then today I bounced over to Lonesome Reader and saw Eric’s post about the shortlist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction and I started to get that feeling. He has reviewed five of the six books and possibly read the sixth already. I’ve read none of them. But I think I am going to…oh dear…trying to fight it off…can’t. hold. back. I’m going to read them all. (Cut to image of Kermit the Frog flailing his arms and saying yaaaay.)
I know that part of what has me bamboozled is that I am just in one of those moods where I want to read everything. But there are other reasons as well:
- This a good opportunity to see what passes for good, prize-worthy fiction these days. Given my predilection for old books, this is a good thing.
- Simon Savidge has sung the praise of The Bees repeatedly in print and on The Readers.
The Ali Smith cover is just too cool.
- I feel like everyone has read Sarah Waters and I haven’t. Given this one is set in 1920s London I think I could like it. Hopefully not too many flappers.
- Ironically, at a recent book blogger get together Frances of Nonsuch Book couldn’t tempt any of the seven or so bloggers in attendance to take a free hardcover edition of the Anne Tyler. She ended up leaving it on a free table in front of Capitol Hill Books. Now I will have to buy it. The last time I read Tyler was 1989–The Accidental Tourist. Even though I liked it I haven’t tried anything else.
- The others I know nothing about.
I will not be finishing them prior to the winner being announced, whenever that is. I just know I won’t.
I mean, what the heck are you thinking, Thomas? You will definitely regret this.
I mean – good luck! You should definitely read Waters. Maybe I wouldn’t have said that one first, but it can’t hurt.
I typically don’t regret the foolish challenges I join. I just love to complain about them.
It’s interesting that my Baileys Prize posts inspired you because I’ve been meaning to recommend to you specifically the book I’ve reviewed most recently Mrs Engels. Knowing something about your reading tastes, I think this would really appeal to you. Told from the perspective of a woman who keeps house for a man of rising fame it’s heavily about the domestic details of her life setting up house in London and wrestling with her hidden desires. I absolutely loved it. But I also think you will really like The Paying Guests – also very much about domestic life of a woman maintaining the up-scale house for her mother after they’ve fallen on hard times and had to take lodgers to make ends meet. And I bet you will really like the Tyler and Shamsie as well. I’m not sure how you’ll feel about The Bees. I imagine you’d get impatient with it but I could be wrong. I expect you’ll hate Cusk. And I’m afraid what you might make of Ali Smith. I love her so much but her writing is really divisive because she constantly tests and teases language. But there is always an emotional centre and thrust to her writing which makes me so passionate about it. So there are my personal recommendations for you; read what you feel drawn to most. But I feel proud to have inspired you even if you don’t follow through with the challenge.
I am off to buy all of them this afternoon. I kind of need some reason to read some things that I am not selecting for myself.
Awesome! Good luck.
Between Simon S. and the folks at Shiny New Books, I cratered and got The Bees myself. Haven’t started it yet, but it’s on my bedside table. The last Anne Tyler I read was Saint Maybe (1992?), but for whatever reason I haven’t read her since. I’ll be interested to see what you think of her latest. The same goes for Sarah Waters, but I’ve only read The Little Stranger. Good luck on your project – this one doesn’t seem nearly as crazy as The Century Challenge (I still have 18 to go on that one). :)
Susan that is great that you are only 18 books shy of your century. Do you need help with any of your years? I think the Bees is the one that I am most dubious of and least interested in despite all the high praise.
Actually, yes. I have some of the “holes” covered with titles to read, but there’s a few I’ve had an esp. hard time with. 1943 and 1944 (I assume the war affected the publishing industry to some degree), and the earlier holes include: 04, 05, 07, 13, 19, 26 – any suggestions for those?
Yay indeed! I hope you enjoy them.
I’ve decided to read them all too, I managed 4 of the 6 short-listed last year, I’m hoping I’ll do better this year.
Or at least enough of them to not feel like a chump. Your experience last year must have been fairly positive for you to give it another go.
I am not one to join challenges. The only one I do is the RIP challenge in October because it’s easy and because I am reading that genre during that month anyway. Good luck.
The RIP one is fun and very easy.
Thank you Thomas for doing this so that I don’t have to! I much prefer my authors to be dead, thank you.
So good luck….I’m supporting you from safely settled in my trenches…rock on mate.
Do you every read anything contemporary?
Well, you know I think that there are no foolish challenges. Living as I do in the Home for the Criminally Optimistic. I wish you well, of course.
The Sarah Waters was not her best. I skimmed through the final third of the novel, but her period and household descriptions did make for some enjoyable reading. How to Be Both was wonderful though. And Simon S. is hosting a group discussion on that one in June too.
Laughing about the Tyler irony.
I don’t think I will ever see the cover of that Anne Tyler book without thinking of Frances leaving it outside of Capitol Hill Books – so I definitely smiled to see that cover showing up as a book you plan to read.
Good luck with the challenge!
I am a big fan of Hogglestock (formally My Porch) and have increased my TBR pile because of your book recommendations. I also enjoyed seeing the renovations to your beautiful home. ( I grew up in the DC area and so miss brick homes.)
The reason for this comment is that I now also have a book blog and I’ve just hit 1,700+ users. I have listed your blog in my blog roll and wondered if you would do the same for mine.
While totally optional, I would appreciate any input or feedback you may have on my blog – turning to a professional for advice is never a bad move right?
No matter what, please know I am a regular reader of your blog, thank you for many happy reads.
Deborah at Bookbarmy.com