Bethany and I will one day finish the AP English Challenge, we swear. But we’ve been talking about what to do as our next book-reading challenge for a while now and I initially thought of picking one book a month to read off my mental list of “books I really should have read by now.” When I first started thinking of books to put on this list I thought mostly of classics, like Gone with the Wind, Mrs. Dalloway, and Heart of Darkness. These are books I own, and would like to read, but they aren’t privileged enough to reside in one of the three high priority piles I have going at all times (and these piles never seem to get any smaller for some reason): Newly Released Hardcovers, Indiespensible Selections, and the all-important Books My Boss Lent Me. Needless to say, I have a lot of books that don’t fit into any of those piles. I needed a compelling reason to pick up some of the others. And we love a good reading challenge on Postcards from Purgatory.
Initially we were thinking of twenty books each, but then Bethany thought to expand it to twenty-four, so we can go for two full years. She also thought it we shouldn’t know what’s on the other person’s list. So numbers were assigned to the books. Each month we will assign each other a randomly selected number and we will read the book that corresponds with that number. And then we will, you know, do what we do here on PfP. And the best part is that this will be an ongoing challenge. Once a book is chosen we’ll pick a new one to replace it on the list. So maybe “The Challenge of 48” isn’t exactly an accurate title, though there will be 48 active books in the pool at any given time.
I’m going to try to pick replacement books that are as dissimilar as possible from the ones they are replacing. I am doing this because my first list of twenty-four books is a bit heavy on contemporary fiction by women, and after I’d finalized my list I realized that I forgot East of Eden. I forgot In Cold Blood. I forgot A Tale of Two Cities. I forgot Fitzgerald. And Hemingway. Catch-22. My new friend Henry James. Lolita and Dr. Zhivago. Mark Twain, for heavens sake! Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I was so desperately trying to include all the female authors I’ve been meaning to get to for the past couple of years that I forgot about the male ones. The dead ones, at least. I remembered T.C. Boyle and Michael Chabon and a couple others, but none of the dead ones. Possibly I’m revealing too much in this paragraph about which books are and are not on my list, or maybe I’m just adding to the excitement.
I assigned Bethany Number Sixteen for June, which is Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. She assigned me Number Nine, which is Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. I’m really excited to start this challenge. I hope I finish The Luminaries before the end of June.