Am I really going to try this again?

I said I would never do this again. Simon Thomas at Stuck in a Book has reissued his dastardly A Century of Books challenge. The first time (has he done it more than once?) the century was 1900 to 1999 and participants were to read 100 years of books in a year, one from each year. I made the stupid mistake last time of trying to read them in chronological order which really hindered my progress. And, as much as I read old books, getting through the first 20 years of the century was way more painful than I had thought prior to starting. This time around Simon has proposed that the century consist of 1919 through 2018. This twenty-year shift is just enough for me to make this a much attractive (and doable) challenge.

Although the first 20 years from the last time around had a few books that I truly enjoyed (and one that is an all time favorite), the overall memory of those 20 years still makes my stomach churn six years later.

1900 – Claudine at School by Collette (so boring)
1901 – Claudine in Paris by Collette (so boring)
1902 – The Immoralist by Andre Gide (kind of enjoyed)
1903 – The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (really needed to be 100 pages shorter)
1904 – Peter Camenzind by Hermann Hesse (loved)
1905 – The Duel by Aleksandr Kuprin (kind of okay)
1906 – Young Torless by Robert Musil (really disliked)
1907 – The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad (why is he so hard to read?)
1908 – Love’s Shadow by Ada Leverson (enjoyed)
1909 – Martin Eden by Jack London (all-time favorite)
1910 – Clayhanger by Arnold Bennett (snooze)
1911 – Zuleika Dobson by Max Beerbohm (man, I hated this book)
1912 – The Charwoman’s Daughter by James Stephens (fine)
1913 – T. Tembarom by Frances Hodgson Burnett (enjoyed)
1914 – Penrod by Booth Tarkington (snooze)
1915 – The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela (boring)
1916 – Under Fire by Henri Barbusse (unpleasant writing style)
1917 – Gone to Earth by Mary Webb (kind of liked)
1918 – Patricia Brent-Spinster by Herbert George Jenkins (loved)

I guess that only half the list makes me shudder in recollection.  But then there were 4 more that I only kind of enjoyed. I think the problem was that there are too many “esteemed” books on the list that I should have chucked instead of finished. This time I plan to set books aside and find something more enjoyable.

Like last time I am going to try and read mainly from my TBR pile, but the shift in dates, and the fact that my TBR is much bigger and more diverse this time around means, I hope, that I won’t run into so many problems finding enjoyable books. Last night I stayed up way too late combing the shelves to fill in my century. So far I like the way that list is shaping up and will post about it in the coming days.

In the meantime, I think this one challenge may encompass every urge I have this year for reading resolutions. Anyone who listened to the year end recap that Simon Savidge and I did on The Readers will know that I am anti-resolution this year, but my resolution to not have resolutions seems to be wavering. By participating in this one challenge, I think I can manage to

  1. Read at least 100 books.
  2. Greatly reducing my TBR pile.
  3. Pick up the pace on my Brookner re-read–If I wanted to, all 12 of the remaining Brookners I have to re-read could be put on the list.
  4. Follow whims–the addition of 2000-2018 really allows for room to read recent and diverse novels.
  5. Get a complete accounting of my TBR–I’m going to make a list by year so that I know what I have to choose from, and if I have more than one book for a given year I can choose the most enjoyable one.

I do know this. I will fail. My hope is that this time I don’t let that keep me from reading or ruining my year. If it does…well, I can always blame Simon Thomas.

23 thoughts on “Am I really going to try this again?

  1. Kateg January 2, 2018 / 8:41 am

    I have to listen to the last episode of The Readers, but I read Simon Thomas’ original post and deleted it. I salute you for the effort, but I decided I need to read more of my TBR and I need to be a free range reader. I want to read more Willa Cather as my monthly read fell apart last year. I will enjoy your posts and hope to pick up a few titles to read. Happy New Year!!


    • Thomas January 2, 2018 / 11:42 am

      You will here in the episode how my Willa Cather read helped tank my year last year.


      • kateg January 5, 2018 / 2:33 pm

        I listened and realized Cather may have done me a disservice as well. As I was driving when I finished the episode (and the iPhone app does not directly play another podcast any more grrrr) I was thinking my problem is I do not like to read the same author in sequence. I do much better if I take a break, even with my favorites. I think 12 Cathers in a year was just impossible! Now after reading the comments on your blog, I am putting the years into an empty Moleskine ( I may have a stationery thing as well as a book thing) to write the first book I read from that year. I read more modern, newish books than you do, although I have loved older things based on your suggestions. I think this will take me several years and am looking forward to reading about your progress.


  2. Simon T January 2, 2018 / 8:50 am

    Haha! Well, now I’m nervous.

    I shifted the century (for me at least; Claire is still doing 1900-99) for the same reason as you – I found the first 20 years surprisingly difficult to fill. I did also try to do ACOB in 2014, but gave up at some point. I’m more optimistic this year!


    • Thomas January 2, 2018 / 11:44 am

      I love that you failed in 2014. Not that I want you to fail, but to make me feel better when I fail.


  3. Cloverlands January 2, 2018 / 9:22 am

    I’ve been doing botns book bingo for a couple of years (seriously!) as it encouraged me to choose tbr books I’d been putting off and helped me choose what to read next.
    Now I was ready for something new, so I’ve joined the goodreads seasonal reading challenge. There are so many rules and it’s super geeky, but in this case I love that 😊 First challenge was to read book whose author’s name has alternating vowels & consonants for one of the names (eg Peter), then a book whose title does the same in at least one word. I just love anything bookish that involves geeking out too.
    Your challenge sounds interesting – and I could just so hear your voice commenting on the ones you hadn’t liked!


    • Thomas January 11, 2018 / 9:58 am

      I like challenges that let me use my TBR, but I couldn’t handle anything as specific as what you describe.


  4. Claire (The Captive Reader) January 2, 2018 / 10:59 am

    Happy to see you’re joining us! (And blaming Simon at difficult moments is a well-known and very satisfactory part of ACOB. It will definitely happen come November.)

    I heartily applaud your plan to make a list (by year) of all your TBR books. There is no point in reading books you don’t enjoy. I started and discarded a lot of books last time we did this (2012) and will probably do so again. It’s easy to do when you have a list of alternates.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas January 2, 2018 / 12:03 pm

      I just looked at your list from 2012. A fabulous list of Thirkells and Stevensons and Pyms…without those, will it be harder this time around?


      • Claire (The Captive Reader) January 2, 2018 / 12:06 pm

        Perhaps? They definitely helped. But I have Nevil Shute, Margery Sharp, Monica Dickens, and a host of other prolific authors to help me through this time. And there are still unreviewed Thirkells (the 1950s) and Stevenson books if I’m grasping at straws.


  5. Elle January 2, 2018 / 6:12 pm

    Ooh, tell me why you hated Zuleika Dobson? I spoke to someone recently who also loathed it, and I couldn’t work out why—I thought it was an odd little book with some very peculiar register shifts, but it didn’t spark utter hatred in me.


    • Patience January 10, 2018 / 9:50 am

      I’ve also read it and disliked it. The whole premise – a young woman so lovely that men kill themselves if they can’t have her – is gross. It’s also dull and none of the characters are interesting. I actually met a woman named Zuleika and I didn’t like her either.


      • Thomas January 11, 2018 / 10:00 am

        Yes to everything Patience wrote, except for that last line I guess. I thought the premise ridiculous but also very, very dull.


  6. heavenali January 2, 2018 / 7:49 pm

    I am doing it too! My first time and I am doing 1919-2018. I had an idea that pre first world war would be hard and your previous experience has confirmed that. I know I read a lot of 50s stuff but I have so many books tbr from across the decades that I am hoping I can read mainly from my tbr. I do read more than a 100 books a year though my reading rate has been going steadily down the last few years. I am not going to try and do this in a year, I am hoping for two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Liz Dexter January 3, 2018 / 2:33 am

      If you do this then I can probably steal all your books from my gaps in my long-term century of books, mwah hah hah!


  7. BookerTalk January 2, 2018 / 11:43 pm

    In other words your resolve not to resolve in 2018 has already gone the way of most resolutions? I read this week that most resolutions are abandoned by Jan 12 so well done, you are ahead of the pack :)


  8. Liz Dexter January 3, 2018 / 2:33 am

    I’m STILL doing mine – i started in 2014 and determined that it would be “natural” (although I did panic about 1914 and look up stuff, then I LOVED “The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists” so all good). I’m currently up to 69, with two in the TBR (I have multiple older books in the TBR but all from years I’ve already got). I might use this year as a chance to get it finished off, as I’ll certainly get some ideas on books for my gaps from you all.


  9. Susan in TX January 4, 2018 / 7:33 pm

    Ha! I’m *still* missing 9 years from the 2012 Challenge. Not going to officially set out to do this, but will track my copyright/publishing dates this year, just to see how I would’ve done. I can’t take the pressure of finding the needles in the haystacks – although, to be fair, it does seem like the shift in start date should help quite a bit!


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