Sunday, January 3, 2010

As I mentioned previously, I've decided to undertake a "Reading Challenge" to help me stick to my goal of reading more for fun this year.  I think this is partly due to my Teach For America brainwashing that I need to set measurable goals, but after all, having a clear goal in mind isn't a bad idea either so, here we go...

The challenge I've chosen is the 2010 Global Challenge, which I imagine is going to overlap quite a bit with other challenges throughout the year. I'm going to rein my inner over achiever and not go for the "Expert" but moderation is the key so I am undertaking:

The Medium Challenge
Read two novels from each of these continents in the course of 2010:
  1. Africa
  2. Asia
  3. Australasia
  4. Europe
  5. North America (incl Central America)
  6. South America
Try to find novels from twelve different countries or states.

So here are my proposed picks.  As the year progresses, I will revisit this page and cross them off as I read them.  This list (like anything) will change (a lot) over the year, so feel free to send along any recommendations you might have.  I would especially appreciate recommendations of authors from continents I haven't hit yet...

(Note: Clicking on any of the photos will take you to the amazon page for that book.  I've tried to stick to paperbacks or kindle editions, to keep the cost down.)

1) Africa:

Say You're One of Them (Oprah's Book Club) 

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan - Nigeria

To say that I have heard good things about this book would be an understatement. It's a collection of five short stories by a Nigerian Jesuit Priest about life in Africa.  I am really looking forward to reading this one!

The Last Friend 
The Last Friend by Tahar Ben Jelloun - Morocco

If I can get my hands on a copy of this in the original (French) I would like to read it, but a translation will have to do if not.  North Africa is a region of the world that I know very little about, but should know more.  As a French teacher, I think Morocco is a fitting place to start, and this novel should be a great introduction to the history of Moroccan independence.

2) Asia:

Nectar in a Sieve (Signet Classics) 
Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya - India

This is one that has been sitting on my bookshelf for a LONG time.  It was recommended by a friend back in college, and I never actually got around to reading it.  Set in rural India, the book tells the story of a family through the eyes of a mother.  It looks like a great book, and my friend was absolutely in love with it, so this one sounds very promising.
COMPLETED: January 9th, 2010

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders

In Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin - Pakistan

I really love short stories, and this anthology of eight stories set in Pakistan has been touted as "sublime" all over the place.  Now I just have to hope that it lives up to the hype!

3) Australasia

The Bone People: A Novel 
The Bone People by  Keri Hulme - New Zealand

I have to admit that I was stretched to come up with books for this one.  I've been really curious about New Zealand ever since the amazing endorsement it received via Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, so I thought a good Kiwi book would be a worthy choice.  I don't really know a lot about this one, but it is described as being a blend of Maori mythologies and modern narrative.

The Secret River
The Secret River by Kate Grenville - Australia

This novel won the 2007 Orange Prize is set in a fascinating period of Australia's history; through the eyes of a petty thief, the novel weaves the narrative of a frontier family's struggle to survive amid the backdrop of early Australian history (when it was still a British penal colony).  I'm hoping this one doesn't end up being a "wild west" style story, because I'm really not one for westerns. Would anyone who has read it like to comment?

4) Europe

The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oxford World's Classics) 

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - Ireland/Britain

This is one of those books that I have heard about over, and over, and over..... So I am using this challenge as an excuse to finally sit down and read it.  I absolutely loved The Importance of Being Earnest, so I am hoping that I will love this one as much.  Best part... it's a classic so it's FREE at Gutenberg!

Zadig; L'Ingenu (Penguin Classics)Zadig by Voltaire - France

Another classic.  I read quite a bit of Voltaire in college (and a bit in high school, since the French tends to be on the easy side even if the philosophical concepts aren't)  but I never got around to this one.  This seems like the perfect time to tackle Voltaire's critique of we silly believers in "fate" and "Divine plans." I'll be reading this in the original French, but the link to the right is for the translation.  I've (obviously) not read this one, but the Penguin series tend to have pretty decent translators so I don't see why this one would be any different.

5) North America (Including Central America)

Monkey Hunting (Ballantine Reader's Circle) 

Monkey Hunting by Cristina García - Cuba/America

This is a book that I have seen sitting on other people's bookshelves, but that I have never picked up myself. The book is the story of a family split between two countries, Cuba and China.  The novel is a story of hardship, tradition, love, and struggle.

Runaway by Alice Munro - Canada

It's time that I finally read something by the woman that Jonathan Franzen (New York Times Book Review) said "has a strong claim to being the best fiction writer now working North America."  My love of short stories, and my need to complete the North America section makes this one an easy choice!

6) South America

The Storyteller: A Novel 

The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa - Peru

I haven't really read much South American literature so this one was tough.  But, this book stood out at me from a mile away.  A Peruvian Jew is determined to preserve the culture and story of an Amazonian tribe, so he becomes their "habladore"(storyteller). 

Love in the Time of Cholera (Oprah's Book Club)

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez - Colombia

Having read (and enjoyed) One Hundred Years of Solitude I knew that I wanted to read another Márquez.  This one came highly recommended.  It's a love story told over many years, but in a rather unconventional format. Looking forward to reading this one!

Ok, so there's my list.  Please feel free to leave me comments, suggestions, critiques, or encouragement!

Blogging Day: 3                Days to go: 362


Dorte H said...

What a great post! I really admire your list with photos and information about the books. It looks so appealing.

As I mostly read crime fiction in my spare time, the only one I have read is The Picture of Dorian Gray. I think it is an excellent novel, and I hope you are going to enjoy it.

Ryan S. said...

Dorte: Thanks so much. The amazon associate thing in the side bar makes it really easy to post book covers. I am a very visual person so it helps me to see the covers too :)

I haven't really read much crime fiction, which is odd because I love shows like Law and Order (and all the spin-offs) maybe I need to edit the list to include a crime novel. Any good Danish authors you can recommend?

(PS Thanks for being my FIRST official reader/commenter :) Off to a great start!)

Dorte H said...

If you want to include some Scandinavian crime I won´t recommend any Danish writers (my two favourites have not been translated into English), but one of the great Swedish writers(Johan Theorin, Håkan Nesser, Stieg Larsson, Åsa Larsson), or Norwegian (Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum, Anne Holt).

A true classical series is the Swedish Sjöwall and Wahlöö one about Martin Beck. Their first, Roseanna, is a very fine crime novel.

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