Friday, January 3, 2020

2020 Challenge HQ

I've decided to do an omnibus post for challenges in 2020. I was originally thinking this would be a mini-omnibus, but it's gotten a bit larger as I think about it. Oh, well...

For full descriptions of each challenge, follow the link to the original post. I include brief descriptions here.

Erica has devised a new challenge to get us to read some classics. Half the fun of these is thinking of a list of classics in advance to match the prompts, so I've included tentative choices. She invites us (and I intend to!) double up with Classics Club books. Her prompts are as follows:

A Classic Over 500 Pages
 -Charles Dickens' David Copperfield
A Classic By a POC Author and/or with a POC main character
 -James Baldwin's Go Tell It On The Mountain
A Classic That Takes Place in a Country Other Than Where You Live
 -Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country
A Classic In Translation
 -Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt
A Classic By A New To You Author
 -John Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga
A Classic Book of Poetry
 -Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene
A Classic Written Between 1800 and 1860
 -Herman Melville's Moby-Dick
A Classic By An LGBT Author or With an LGBT Main Character
 -Willa Cather's One of Ours
A Classic Written By A Woman
 -Anna Seghers' Transit
A Classic Novella
 -James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
Classic Non-fiction
 -Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own
A Banned or Censored Classic
 -Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita

I'm sure I'll be switching them around. In particular I've put Goethe and Bocaccio on similar lists in the past, and yet they're still here...

Erica allows us to use one book for up to two prompts, but I'm going to try to avoid that. The Virginia Woolf is my winter spin book, so it should get read first.

Well, I'd assembled a list for Erica's challenge and then I saw Karen was doing hers again, so now I'm doing them both! Though there will be some overlap in books. Here's Karen's list of prompts, together with the books I've tentatively matched against them:

Nineteenth Century Classic
Twentieth Century Classic
Classic by a Woman Author
Classic in Translation
Classic by a Person of Color
 -James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
A Genre Classic
Classic With A Person's Name In The Title
Classic With A Place in the Title
Classic With Nature in the Title
Classic About A Family
Abandoned Classic
 -Thomas Carlyle's On Heroes and Hero-Worship
Classic With an Adaptation
 -Charles Dickens' David Copperfield

Which of these look good to you?

The goal is five different European countries, but let's think about the maximum, which is fifty! Unless the Scots get independence before the end of the year, then I can aim for fifty-one.

7.) Karel Čapek's R.U.R. Czech Republic.
12.) Anna Seghers' Transit. Germany

Bev challenges us to read books we already own. I've done this challenge a few times now, increasing the number each year until I flopped on it last year. (I believe this is called Test To Failure.) So this year I'm dialling it back, and going for Mt. Vancouver (36 books) which is what I would have successfully done this year. (Meaning it's not really a challenge, right? Oh, well...)

1.) Henry James' The American
2.) Brian Dillon's In The Dark Room
3.) Kate Briggs' This Little Art
4.) Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra
5.) Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own & Three Guineas
6.) David Jones' In Parenthesis
7.) Arthur Schnitzler's Late Fame
8.) Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric
9.) Arthur Schnitzler's Fräulein Else
10.) Yasunari Kawabata's Snow Country
11.) James Huneker's Painted Veils
12.) James Huneker's Egoists: A Book of Supermen
13.) Karel Čapek's Four Plays
14.) John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga
15.) Isaac Bashevis Singer's In My Father's Court
16.) Josephine Tey's To Love And Be Wise
17.) Carol Shields' Coming To Canada
18.) J. F. Powers' Wheat That Springeth Green
19.) John Dos Passos' Manhattan Transfer
20.) Henrik Pontoppidan's Lucky Per
21.) Patricia Moyes' Falling Star
22.) Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita
30.) James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room
32.) Susan Sontag's At The Same Time
33.) Graham Greene's Collected Essays
35.) Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar
36.) John Galsworthy's The White Monkey


37.) John Galsworthy's The Silver Spoon
38.) Thomas Carlyle's On Heroes and Hero-Worship

Keely at A Common Reader is hosting a Russian literature challenge for the year. No particular number of books, just a chance to share thoughts about Russian literature. I'm likely to try to read The Master and Margarita at the very least and hopefully a couple more.

1.) Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita

Here's a list of the books I've read this year from my multi-year Classics Club list.

7.) James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room

Canadian Book Challenge

The 13th Canadian Book Challenge now hosted by Shonna at Canadian Bookworm runs from Canada Day to Canada Day, but here's a list of the books I've read for this challenge in 2020:


Am I overdoing it again? Probably I am!

A link to last year's challenge omnibus post.


  1. I think you might be able to use The Master and Margarita in the banned book category. Per Wikipedia, at least parts of it were censored in the Soviet Union at one time.
    I admire your ambitions! Your post has become a double decker bus. LOL.
    I will be (probably) reading the second book in the The Forsyte Saga, In Chancery, for the 1920 Club in April 2020. Do you have a bind up of the first three novels? That must be a chunkster!

    1. Good thought about The Master and Margarita! I don't have any actual Russian books left on my Classics Club list, which is what I was using for Erica's challenge. I'm sure some of them were banned--but I just didn't know which. But the Bulgakov should work just fine.

      I was also thinking about the second Forsyte for the 1920 club. My edition has all three in one volume and so I'll probably read all three, but try to do In Chancery around the 1920 club. It's not so bad...a mere 834 pages... ;-)

  2. A Room of One's Own was quite satisfying, IMO.

    And Decameron...impressive! (I haven't read it, yet. It just looks intimidating.)

    1. Good to know on the Virginia Woolf. I'm really looking forward to it.

      The Decameron is intimidating! I tried once before & it was a bust...

  3. lol re Ruthiella's "double decker bus"...

    this is a bit overwhelming...i'm a one-thing-at-a-time sort of person... interesting, tho...

    1. Ruthiella's comment definitely made me laugh, too. Here I was thinking more jitney and I came out with a full double decker...

      The good thing about all these lists is I can change them up. I did put together that list of books for the Classics Club, though; that was the start of all this mania.

      On the other hand, who doesn't like running around the house & piling up a bunch of unread books that you're going to read soon, right? Or is that only me...

  4. Argh! I just lost my comment! Okay, let's start over.

    You've certainly immersed yourself in challenges! All the best to you! I'll be watching your progress.

    I've been wanting to read The Decameron for years. I'm booked until the end of May, but if you want to read it together after that, I'm game. It might help both of us get through it. I'd like to do posts every couple of chapters so it might take a little longer to read, but it might be good to spread it out. In any case, let me know if you're interested. I'd like to do the same with The Faerie Queene (I've already started it and have a couple of posts up) but I don't think I could do both in one year.

    I so dislike Canadian literature. That probably sounds disloyal but the only Canadian authors that I've read and liked are L.M. Montgomery and Robertson Davies. I find the writing often depressing and hopeless and sometimes not that well-written. I would like to read The Handmaid's Tale though. In any case, if you find any good ones, please let me know. I'm always willing to keep an open mind! 😃

    Have fun with these challenges! You're certainly going for it this year!

    1. I would be interested in doing the Decameron together! That would be fun. Sometime May or after probably works well for me, too. We haven't figured out yet, but we're likely to do our big vacation in March or April--Spain is the plan--and after that would work.

      Both the Faerie Queene and Decameron is a little nuts. One of them may end up going, we'll see...

      I do sometimes read Canadian Literature as just due diligence. Partly it's that good current literature is hard to find, from anywhere. People get enthused about the latest thing, I read the review, and then I find it's just OK when I try it. If it's a classic, that means opinion has already shaken out about it, and it really probably is good. (Though I've read a few dud supposed classics, too.) Though I know what you mean when you suggest Canadian literature is particularly grim. It's all about the Survival. (Thanks, Ms. Atwood!)

      That said, I did think The Handmaid's Tale was quite good--though dark, too, probably justifiably. But (I may have mentioned before) Alice Munro! If you haven't read Lives of Girls and Women, you should. (If you have and didn't like it, oh, well,...) It's a classic sort of story: Del Jordan is a bright girl from the provinces who wants and needs to escape, and I think it's so well done.

      In fact I'm just about to talk myself into reading it again...

      Anyway, enjoy! Looking forward to seeing what you read this year.

    2. Okay, let's plan The Decameron for June or July. And Spain! You are so fortunate! I would love to go there. Are you going to attempt the Camino de Santiago walk? It would probably be a good time of the year to do it.

      Alice Munro? Really? Well, I'll certainly give it a try. Going to see if my library has it right now.

    3. For a long time I thought I wouldn't like Alice Munro. Short stories! Small towns! The New Yorker! Three strikes against as far as I was concerned. (Though I've softened on the New Yorker a bit.) But I really do think she's great. And the advantage of Lives of Girls and Women is (in addition to the fact it's one of the best) is that the stories are all about the same character, giving it more of a novel feel. And it's not depressing, though like Jane Eyre she goes through some hard times.

    4. Oh, and we're thinking about the Camino, but we may stick to the south--Cordoba and Grenada. Jessica (my wife) has been to Compostela before, so the temptation would be to do parts closer to the French border, but that might require a trip on its own.

      But in any case it should be grand and I'm very much looking forward to it.

      The Decameron in June! (or July!)

  5. 2020...our paths are diverging, I'm reading only non-fiction. Any 'classic' non-fiction available? Good luck!

    1. I saw you were doing a year of non-fiction. That would be too austere a diet for me... ;-) though I do have a dozen non-fiction books left on my classics club list and the Virginia Woolf essay will likely be the first challenge book I read this year.

      I've also got a couple of Melville non-fiction books near the top of the pile, so I'm sure there will be some others.

      Just now counting I see I read about 20% non-fiction last year. Probably be about the same this year.

      Good luck! I'll be looking forward to what you read in any case.

  6. What a great list! I'm doing both Erica & Karen's challenges too. I agree with Ruth: A Room of One's Own is WONDERFUL. Cheers and best wishes with this, Reese. :)

    1. Thanks! I am *so* looking forward to Room of One's Own, especially now with all the enthusiasm for it.

  7. Excellent choices. Enjoy and good luck!

  8. Good luck with all of these reading challenges! I love both Woolf's A Room of One's Own and James' The American. :D

    1. Thanks! Looking forward to both of these. I generally find early Henry James to just be a great read. Later Henry James is (ahem) more of a challenge...

  9. I used to try lots of challenges, but I ended up spurning them all halfway through the year. Now I tend to do perpetual challenges (a lifetime to complete them) and spontaneous challenges (challenges I run across with a duration of a month or so). I love how you have this post to update to keep up with them all. You will do well.

    1. Let's hope so! Though in fact this is considerably less in the challenge department than I did last year, which makes it...not very challenging.

      The real challenge will be to write blog posts, which I don't always get around to.

  10. Nice choices - that's a lot of books and challenges!

    1. Thanks! I'm really looking forward to reading them. It is probably too many challenges, though!

  11. I sooo need to get off my duff and post all my challenges. Thanks for the reminder! Great challenges you've listed!

    1. Challenge posts always end up being the most popular, too... 'cuz who 'mung us doesn't like a big ole list o' books? ;-)