Wednesday, January 12, 2011

11 for '11

For the past FIVE years, I have created a reading challenge for myself. The challenge is to read from a list of books, one for each year of my life. So, beginning with the year I turned 39, I had 39 books on my list. Realistically, my goal is to read up to a third of the books on the list, which becomes more difficult as the list grows exponentially. Not to mention that I am easily distracted from the list. Not because it’s a bad list or a difficult list, after all, each title represents a book I actually want to read. Rather, I drift toward brand-spanking new books or books that are gaining word of mouth.

Mostly I’m in it for the list-making.

So this year, I’ve shifted my schedule a bit, from the start of my birthday year (October) to the start of the calendar year (January). And, I have decided to pare the list down from forty-something to eleven for ’11. And they are, in no particular order:

Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)
Recently I read aloud The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe on a car trip, and I was wowed by the storytelling. Then I remembered that I first read this books when I was in the fifth grade, the same age as Simon. Miss Otto, my English teacher, encouraged me to make a list of words I was encountering for the first time and to look up the definitions in the dictionary. it was here that I learned dais. Anyway, I never finished reading the seven-book series and vow to in '11.

As Always, Julia (Julia Child and Avis DeVoto)
The letter of Avis DeVoto have recently been made public, and, combined with Julia Child's, they flesh out a remarkable story. I read the first 100 pages during Christmas vacation in Princeton, NJ, and look forward to finishing the book when it becomes available in the library.

Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
Not long ago, I read a reference to this book, which had been assigned reading in the 19th and 20th Century English and Irish Lit class I took during my JYA in London. I never finished reading Mrs. Dalloway then, but figure it's about time.

Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain)
I live on the Mississippi River. And, I've long been remiss for never having read Mark Twain. Need I say more?

Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
This fat novel has been recommended to me over and over again. Also, I have had it on my TBR list for the past four years. I will read it this year.

Pearl Buck in China: Journey to the Good Earth (Hilary Spurling)
This biography is on my alma mater's 2011 Conversation with Books list, and I am hoping to read it before then.

The Good Earth (Pearl Buck)
See above.

Freedom (Jonathan Franzen)
Big, fat book of the year. I'm 100 pages into it, which is only 100 pages from the point where, I hear, the novel clicks.

Salt: A History of the World (Mark Kurlansky)
Soon, I will have read every book Mark Kurlansky, a modern-day John McPhee, has written.

Art of Eating (M.F.K. Fisher)
Actually, five short books. I've always wanted to read each of them. Plus, I'm trying to get more culinary essays onto my reading list.

Cloud Nine (David Mitchell) 
I have owned this book for a long time and recently read a synopsis of it, which pushed the book up my list.

So, 11 for '11 is a mix of fiction and nonfiction, short volumes and long, classics and new releases, children's books and adult, shelf-sitters and books I have started but never finished. I think it's going to be a good reading year.

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