I was looking around for a Classics Reading Challenge yesterday, hoping for some accountability that will get me to read a few classics, when I came across this excellent blog, A Novel Challenge, which lists a TON of current reading challenges. Really. A lot. If you’re looking for a chick lit challenge? She has links to one. Historical Fiction more your thing? She’s got that, too. Practically anything you’re looking for, it’s there. I found a classics challenge there, and as soon as I figure out what I’m going to read for it, I’ll put up a list.
Anyway, one of the challenges I came across is the Dewey’s Books Reading Challenge, for those of us who loved her blog and her book reviews. If you’re not familiar with Dewey, she was a voracious reader, and a very active member of the book blog community, and she passed away in November. There are a lot of people out there who really adored her blog, clearly. Sadly, her blog, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, seems to be down right now. I’m not sure if this is because her husband has removed it, or if hackers got to it somehow (they’ve done this to me), or if there are just technical problems and her husband is either unaware or too busy with real life to fix them.
The challenge is to look on Dewey’s blog and find 5 books she reviewed, and read them in 2009. This is a problem, because of Dewey’s site being down, but there are a lot of bloggers participating, who perhaps got their lists together before the problems started. I’m going to take two of the books I had already decided to read for my TBR challenge, and then add three more that I found on other participants’ blogs.
The descriptions of the books are lifted from Powells, and are Publishers Comments.
Stardust, by Neil Gaiman.
“Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria — even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie — where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.”
I’ve also heard that his other book, The Graveyard Book, is exceptional, and is about life in a graveyard with ghosts. As a matter of fact, there’s a reading challenge dedicated to Mr. Gaiman, so he must be pretty popular. I’ve heard wonderful things about this book, and I know a film version was made a few years ago. I’m looking forward to it.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery.
“We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. Outwardly she conforms to every stereotype of the concierge: fat, cantankerous, addicted to television. Yet, unbeknownst to her employers, Renée is a cultured autodidact who adores art, philosophy, music, and Japanese culture. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence.
Then there’s Paloma, a 12-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the 16th of June, her thirteenth birthday. Until then she will continue behaving as everyone expects her to behave: a mediocre pre-teen high on adolescent subculture, a good but not an outstanding student, an obedient if obstinate daughter.
Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them. They discover their kindred souls when a wealthy Japanese man named Ozu arrives in the building. Only he is able to gain Paloma’s trust and to see through Renée’s timeworn disguise to the secret that haunts her. This is a moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.”
I’m also reading this book for the TBR Challenge. Dewey didn’t actually review this book, as it was the book she was reading when she passed away. But she was so enthusiastic about it, I had to give it a try.
The Road Home, by Rose Tremain.
“In the wake of factory closings and his beloved wife’s death, Lev is on his way from Eastern Europe to London, seeking work to support his mother and his little daughter. After a spell of homelessness, he finds a job in the kitchen of a posh restaurant, and a room in the house of an appealing Irishman who has also lost his family. Never mind that Lev must sleep in a bunk bed surrounded by plastic toys — he has found a friend and shelter. However constricted his life in England remains he compensates by daydreaming of home, by having an affair with a younger restaurant worker (and dodging the attentions of other women), and by trading gossip and ambitions via cell phone with his hilarious old friend Rudi who, dreaming of the wealthy West, lives largely for his battered Chevrolet.”
This is an Orange Prize winner, and I’ve loved other Orange Prize winners, so I’m thinking it might be really good. I almost bought it at Moe’s in Berkeley the other day, but it’s still in hardback, and I’m too cheap and short on space for that. So I’ll get it from the library. I’m also reading this for the TBR Challenge.
How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff.
“Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.
As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.”
Maya almost read this book, as it was suggested by my SIL, who is a librarian in Juneau. Kathy (my SIL) hasn’t read it yet, but said that her coworkers all rave about it. We got it from the library and she started it, but it looked like two first cousins were going to fall in love with each other, which grossed Maya out to the point that she lost interest. I’ll give it a try, though.
We Are On Our Own, byMiriam Katin.
“A stunning memoir of a mother and her daughter’s survival in WWII and their subsequent lifelong struggle with faith In this captivating and elegantly illustrated graphic memoir, Miriam Katin retells the story of her and her mother’s escape on foot from the Nazi invasion of Budapest. With her father off fighting for the Hungarian army and the German troops quickly approaching, Katin and her mother are forced to flee to the countryside after faking their deaths. Leaving behind all of their belongings and loved ones, and unable to tell anyone of their whereabouts, they disguise themselves as a Russian servant and illegitimate child, while literally staying a few steps ahead of the German soldiers.
“We Are on Our Own “is a woman’s attempt to rebuild her earliest childhood trauma in order to come to an understanding of her lifelong questioning of faith. Katin’s faith is shaken as she wonders how God could create and tolerate such a wretched world, a world of fear and hiding, bargaining and theft, betrayal and abuse. The complex and horrific experiences on the run are difficult for a child to understand, and as a child, Katin saw them with the simple longing, sadness, and curiosity she felt when her dog ran away or a stranger made her mother cry. Katin’s ensuing lifelong struggle with faith is depicted throughout the book in beautiful full-color sequences.
“We Are on Our Own “is the first full-length graphic novel by Katin, at the age of sixty-three.”
Dewey introduced me to the genre of graphic novels, for which I am grateful. She hosted a Graphic Novels Challenge last year, which I really enjoyed. I had no idea that they could be more than ‘comic books’, so I was amazed to discover the depth that can be reached.