Tag Archives: books in translation

Living My Best Life: The Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

Well, that was a fantastic day, readers!

It’s the first day after the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and I am still feeling the afterglow.  I mean, I am a solid reader, with a capital R.  I tend to read at a minimum 2-3 books a week.  But even I was delighted and overwhelmed in the best ways possible about how fun it was to push everything aside to concentrate on the goal of reading as much as I could in 24 hours.

Here are my results:

  • Five books completed
  • Three physical books (one was a galley/ARC, and one was a library book), and two ebooks
  • A mix of genres:
    • One graphic novel
    • One African fiction
    • One thriller
    • One noir translated from Japanese
    • One gay YA romance
  • 943 pages finished
  • 17 hours completed before passing out cold
My Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Experience
My Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Experience

 

Things that I discovered-

  • I already read a lot, but a challenge put me into “beast mode”/hyper drive.
  • I love, love, love getting a reflexology session while I read.  It may be the most decadent luxury I can image (that is still productive). It was worth every single penny, and more.
  • Audiobooks aren’t good for readathons because they are so slow compared to how fast I can read.
  • I don’t like rules.  Even the ones I make myself.  I had a whole group of books that I thought I would limit myself to for the challenge.  HA! Nope.  I added the Anne Frank in at the last minute and didn’t feel bad for a moment about it.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey's Readathon.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey’s Readathon.

 

Here were the books I read:

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith.

This is the 16th book in the endlessly charming No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, set in Botswana.  Mma Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the first detective agency run by a woman in the southern African nation.  She is aptly served by her extremely efficient secretary, Mma Makutsi, who is apt to remind people that she graduated secretarial school with 97% grades. They are very funny together as they solve cozy crimes.

What I love most about the series is the tiny glimpses into southern African life as it brings back the most poignant of memories from when I was raised in the area as a little girl.  Small references will create floods of memories, so these books are an exceptional joy to me.  (And I enjoyed the HBO version of the stories.  The casting was fantastic, as was the set.) So while the characters are wonderfully drawn, the setting has an equal weight in the story.

My husband had to ask me what I was reading because I would frequently let out a giggle or HA! while reading the story.

Good for: I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cozy mysteries, who wants to get a glimpse into daily life in Botswana, or anyone who likes humorous palate cleansers in their reading mix.

Anne Frank: the Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

I am of the mind that we cannot understand this story too deeply and that the multitude of formats (autobiography, play, movie, graphic novel, etc.) only helps us get to the heart of this tragedy.  Last year, my husband and I went to Amsterdam and one of our key moments was the tour of the Anne Frank House.  It affected us profoundly, as I noted in the previous post.

This graphic novel was wonderfully done.  I found the backstory of her maternal and paternal families and the political backdrop context very helpful to understanding the results and how it impacted the family.  And see the previous post for the surprise I found in the book.

Good for: anyone who wants a new way of approaching the Anne Frank story, history buffs, families that want a way to engage their middle grade and above kids into the story.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn

Few people are unaware of the name Gillian Flynn from her NYT bestseller and the subsequent movie for Gone Girl.  She has a gift for the fast paced and interesting thriller.  I wanted to take a completely different course for the read after the Anne Frank book, and thought this would be a good choice.  Plus it’s a novella so it would be a quick read.

This story was engaging from the very moment it opens- bawdy and seedy that let me know immediately this was no middle-grade book! We were back in the land of adults and all their foibles in search of solving the mysteries of what the fates held in store for them.   This had allusions to some of the eerie books of the past- The Woman in White by Wilke Collins, as an example. It was thrilling and perfect to get my blood racing.  If I had to do it again, I would have put it later in the readathon as I was starting to fade.

Good for: anyone who liked Girl Gone, fans of the spooky Victorian novel set up, those who like con artist themes, fans of noir

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

After getting my blood pressure up with The Grown Up, this book pushed the boundaries of how far my heart could expand before bursting.  It’s such a great example of how the YA genre being published today is rich, diverse and engaging.  Simon is a 17-year-old who is struggling to determine when and how he should come out to his friends and family.  He is involved in an email relationship with a boy who goes to his school, but they are anonymous to each other out of fear of public ridicule for being gay and also that the other will reject them.  But when they email, using secret email addresses, they can be honest and share the same struggles that they are having. Through these emails, they fall in love.  But because it’s a YA, things are never that uncomplicated, so there are the trials and tribulations as expected in a bildungsroman.

Good for: someone looking for a great gay romance story, anyone who likes YA or wants to see it done very well, those who love a good bildungsroman (as I do).

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

This was the last book I completed.  I could have just stopped after this one, and been perfectly happy with such a strong collection of books for my first readathon, but I pressed on anyway (unsuccessfully).

This was a stark, cold, distant Japanese noir telling of a young man who finds a gun.  The fact that it is next to a body of a dead man is of no concern to him.  The gun becomes his passion and obsession.  I won’t spoil anything except to say that I found this book similar in style to The Stranger by Albert Camus with it’s bleak, emotionless telling.  I thought it was fantastic and will probably read it again.

Good for: those who love the noir genre, readers of existentialism, anyone who likes Japanese novels in translation


Ultimately this was one of the most fun days I have had in a long time, and I cannot wait to do it again.  I may even try to get a small group of friends together for a weekend retreat to do something similar!

Thanks to the generous and amazing people who cheerleaded us through the hours, hosting mini-challenges and tweeted encouragement our way as we progressed through it all.  It was an absolute delight and a great way for me to bust through my TBR pile.

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon: Hour 16- 5 books down and starting to fade

Having finished Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda, I was happy to be moving into book 5. I wanted something slimmer because to be honest, the last one could have bogged me down if it was poorly written. It was a 300 page book, but it flew by. 

So I chose a slim tome for book 5. I picked the new release I heard so much about, The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura. It was fantastic. Where Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda was emotive, passionate and heart expanding, this was stark, cold and dark. Japanese noir meets The Stranger. I loved the writing and the metaphors and was impressed with the translation. 

Both are highly recommended, but for different reasons: Simon… is fantastic for YA fans, those who like coming out stories, someone who wants a modern gay romance. The Gun would be for someone who likes grim and stark stories, someone who wants realism and not fantasy, anyone who likes books in translation, those interested with modern Japanese culture, and fans of noir. 

I’m starting to fade. It’s over an hour after my bedtime and all the ingested caffeine is making me feel all fuzzy, but my eye balls are drying out. Must. Press. On. 

On to pick book 6…


Reading Challenges and Why I Love Them

I have just recently gotten excited about reading challenges.  To be perfectly honest with you, I had no idea such a thing even existed until a few years ago.  But now that I know about them, it’s hard for me to stop doing them.

You may ask- why would you do that to yourself?

I have always been someone who likes a challenge and wants to test my abilities.  About 2 + years ago I was doing fine with my reading.  I was keeping my Goodreads list going by documenting when I was done with a book and rating it.  I was reading an ok amount, but all of it was fairly rote and automatic.  There wasn’t a lot of forethought or planning involved in what I was doing.  And I think because of that, I didn’t enjoy my reading to the extent that I do now.

My favorite moment of the reading process is the one after I finished something I enjoyed reading, basking in its afterglow (hopefully) when I realize that there is another book out there that could hold an equal or better treasure.  In cruder terms, you could say that I chase the reading high, like an addict.  Being a mood reader, I want to be really present in that moment and pick something that will appeal to the feeling I am having.  Most often times it is a reaction to what I just finished.  If it was something really heavy, I may want a “palate cleanser” of a read that will help me transition out of that world and into something else. If it was a fluffy or light-hearted book, I may look for something with a bit more substance.  But all this bouncing around was random.  I wanted a bit more form to what I was doing.

Enter the reading challenge

The first one I heard about grabbed me instantaneously.  It was the Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge for 2015.  The way it works is that they have chosen 24 categories or tasks.  That equates to about 2 books a month.  I knew I could do that, without a problem.  They keep the categories (as they call tasks) broad enough for readers to research and interpret the task as they want.  There isn’t really any rules other than that.

Here was their list of tasks for the Read Harder Challenge 2015:

I loved almost every second of this process, even when the books I chose may have missed the mark with my personal tastes.  I loved doing the research to discover what I could like that would fit into these categories.  I enjoyed being pushed to think more diversely and in interesting ways about how I read without any guardrails.  I discovered new areas that I ended up loving.  And some things that I thought would be very easy for me, turned out to be surprisingly hard.

The good-

Through this process, I found that I really like science fiction. !!!  (I know– it was a surprise for me, too!)  My previous experience with sci-fi was Dune by Frank Herbert and not much else.  I often felt unmoored by some of the sci-fi stories I had read and was not comfortable just “going with the flow” in an unfamiliar world.  I was kind of uptight about it, I admit.  I spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect fit for me.  I scoured some of the suggestions people on Goodreads were throwing out there.  I asked friends, and I kept an ear out for new releases that might fit the bill.  I landed on Moxyland by Lauren Beukes.  It featured a female heroine, set in the future in Cape Town, with a technology/pharmaceutical backdrop.  It was edgy and fast paced and very exciting.  I really liked it.

Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune by Frank Herbert
Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
I will admit to being intrigued by this great cover for Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

For the book published before 1850, I was stumped for something that I wanted to read.  I landed upon Middlemarch by George Elliot.  I was really happy with this pick because a list had just been published about the top English novels ever written and of all the books out there, Middlemarch was considered the number 1 book.  Again- who knew?  I was a little intimidated by it, and afraid that I was going to end up getting bogged down in it, but I found it so readable and I really felt something for these characters.  It was such a nice surprise for me that I went ahead and bought one of the lovely hardcover editions for my personal collection.

Look at this lovely clothboundPenguin Classics hardcover edition of Middlemarch by George Elliot.
Look at this lovely clothboundPenguin Classics hardcover edition of Middlemarch by George Elliot.

 

I also discovered how vast and exciting the Young Adult (YA) side of publishing was.  It has really expanded into a massive genre of potential gems.  I am probably aging myself but the only things I had that could be considered YA when I was growing up was Sweet Valley High and a few other things like that.  Nothing with the breadth and depth of topics and content that exists now.  I enjoyed what I read, but it was in the research that I discovered many books that I ended up reading this year.

The bad-

I was disappointed with the book I picked for the task of a book written by someone under the age of 25 years old.  I chose Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin and it just didn’t work for me.  The voice, tone, and content were not good fits for what I was looking for or what I tend to enjoy.  It could be just a generational thing.  I finished it because of the challenge, otherwise, I would have put it down and moved on.

Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin
Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin

The Ugly-

As I entered into December of 2015, I had 2 tasks not yet done and it was stressing me out.  The Poetry and the Short Story tasks were so frustrating me to no end.  I went through SO MANY books, looking for a fit.  To be perfectly candid, I don’t really like poetry.  Now I can appreciate a poem, but an entire book of poetry was really a stretch for me.  I will admit to taking a bit of a short cut on this task and pulling out one collection I have that I know I like- The Portable Dorothy Parker.  She has been a voice that I have turned to through many a broken heart, so I could heal through sarcasm, snark, and witty barbs.

The Portable Dorothy Parker
The inestimable Dorothy Parker, in a collected form.

I was absolutely shocked at how hard it was for me to find a short story collection for my tastes.  I mean, I found a ton of short story collections, but I learned a lot about the genre through this process.  One of the things I learned is that a lot of the stories that win awards and people seem to love are strange, awkward or have a dramatic twist.  The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a perfect example.  As with poetry, I might like a single short story that has those elements, but I don’t particularly care for an entire collection of that type of work.  I tried the Miranda July work, No One Belongs Here More Than You.  I couldn’t finish it.  It was making me feel so bleak and hollow like I was falling into a depression.  I was told that most people will use the collection as I do with palate cleanser novels- to transition from one book to another.  But since I didn’t have enough time to do that, I shelved it and started the search again.  And I am so glad that I did because I found a beautiful gem of a book- The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.  From the first few paragraphs, I knew this was the right book for me.  The writing was lush and evocative.  I was pulled in immediately.  I loved it so much.  I am on the hunt for a first edition hardcover copy of it, so I can keep it near me always.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
I wasn’t feeling this book- No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July.
The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
A lush and lovely book- The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

 

The results-

The year that I spent really thinking about what to read and searching for which books would be in that Venn Diagram of what I love and what the task required was wonderful.  I read so many books that I would never have even thought to look at the covers, let along crack them open and read them.  And it is only because of the challenge.

What’s on deck for 2016?

Well, since the Read Harder Challenge was such much fun for me last year, I jumped on it for this year as well. Here are the tasks for this year, in a handy PDF that you can print and fill out as you go through the year:

ReadHarderChallenge2016_checklist_web

I have also participated in a Readathon where a person designates a fixed amount of time- 24 hours, 48 hours, a week, etc. to try to read as many books as possible.  It sounds a little insane, but it is very fun to completely devote yourself to only reading.  Many times there are communities on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram or Youtube that promote a readathon and readers will plan together, share progress, cheer each other on, and generally offer breaks to each other during that time period.  Some tips that I have heard and would like to share for how to survive a readathon would be to pick your books wisely, even if there is a theme to the readathon.  For example, your goal is to read a lot, so you may want to find shorter books that aren’t dense from a subject matter perspective, so you can feel the success of plowing through them and upping your numbers.  Readers are always talking about all the finger food they have available to nosh on so they don’t get distracted by having to stop and make dinner.  (It also seems like a really fun time to break any diets or rules you have and just indulge as you turn the pages as often as you can.)  I enjoyed myself immensely during that time so I will look for more opportunities to do that in the future, and will make a note of them here.  Maybe we can do one together!

There are other types of challenges.  I will investigate and bring some others to the blog.  But I am curious- do any of you participate in reader challenges? Why or why not?   Please leave us the answers in the comments.