Not Just Another Grouchy Grammarian

Musings about language, books, grammar, and writing in general

Book Riot’s READ HARDER Challenge and GOODREADS Reading Challenge Update #1

Okay, I’m six days into both challenges. I am not reading quite as fast as I’d like to be, but I have noticed that age and life have slowed me down a bit. Still, the Goodreads tracker says I am one book ahead of schedule, so I can’t be doing all that badly.

While I will not double-dip (use one book for multiple tasks) in the Read Harder Challenge, I will let books read count for both challenges where applicable.

Book 1 (Both Challenges): The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, by Allison Hoover Bartlett. Task #2 (a book of true crime) was easy to pick – I had just downloaded this book because it was not only true crime but about books – rare books – something I have been interested in since I first read 84, Charing Cross Road, by Hannah Hanff and its follow-ups.I was not disappointed. Not the fastest read, but one to savor, as the author learns more and more about the world of rare book dealing, independent bookshops, and about John Gilkey and how (and – to some degree – why) Gilkey acquired the books he was so obsessed with.

Book 2 Both Challenges: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. It’s a damned good thing I had been introduced to Austen back in high school. If this book had been my introduction to her, I’d probably never have picked up another book by her. Mostly, I wanted to slap the heroine all through the book. She is spectacularly naive – misses cues all over the place – some so broad that they should have been like getting hit with a two by four. Still, it solved the task for the Book Riot challenge handily (Task #1, a book published posthumously).

Book 3 (Both Challenges): Familiar Things, by Hwang Sok-yong translated by Sora Kim-Russell. I had already downloaded this because one of the writers I know had marveled about having read a Korean Sf/fantasy novel, and the idea intrigued me. It handily fulfilled Book Riot’s Task 19 (a book of genre fiction in translation). Again, while it was definitely not something in my comfort zone, it was well worth reading. I found it easy to empathize with Bugeye (the protagonist) and his friend Baldspot. I found it very realistic when it came to portraying how resilient kids can be, even under the most radical of changes. This was definitely worth the time spent.

Book 4 (Both Challenges): The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I am not sure how I managed to miss this one over the decades, but I have now made up for that lack. These stories are about how man kept trying to colonize Mars, and what happened to each expedition. Some of the stories feel complete in themselves, some feel like cliff-hangers, but all of them are good short reads. It was a wonderful choice for Book Riot’s Task 5 (a classic of genre fiction {i.e. mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, romance}).

Book 5 (Both Challenges): Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley. This is not a book I would have picked up on my own. However, since I do not know much about graphic novels/comics, I looked for recommendations in the discussion group for this task (Task #4: a comic written and illustrated by the same person). I am so glad I did pick it, though. The writer brings to life what it’s like to be the child of two foodies with different outlooks on almost everything. This is not only a really fun comic, but it lovely and sweet. One of the best parts of it is that it isn’t about blowing things up or catching bad guys, or any of the tropes of action-type comics, which I got bored with decades ago.

So, those are what I’ve read so far this year. My next book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, will only work for the Goodreads challenge, but I want to read it now for several reasons. For one thing, any book that Trump tries to suppress should be very interesting to those of us who did not vote for him. For another, GQ Magazine noted:

“If Trump refuses to abide by the standard (and now useless) “norms” of the presidency—shit, if he doesn’t even KNOW them—why should ANYONE in the press adhere to needless norms of their own? They shouldn’t, and it appears that Michael Wolff was one of the few people to instinctively grasp that, and I hope more White House insiders follow his lead. Sometimes you need a rat to catch a rat.”

They further note that while his ways of obtaining information may border on sleazy, he “got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.” To me, this sounds like the book is going to be just as fascinating as Woodward and Bernstein’s article about Watergate. I can’t wait to dig into this one.

So that’s my reading challenge update for the first six days of January. See you soon.

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