I’ve always been a planner. I like to make lists, and I love the feeling of accomplishment when I can cross things off. Although I’m open to changing plans as my whims change or unforeseen opportunities arise, it’s reassuring to have a game plan.
It didn’t take me long to discover that a love of lists and plans is not unusual within the book blogging community. And at no time is that more obvious than at the end of the calendar year, when bloggers are finishing reading challenges, issuing new challenges, and setting goals for the coming year. Last year, I decided not to join any challenges because I found the list updating and linking back and progress reporting to be too much work. My only set goal was to read all the books I had owned for at least four years. And to add a small element of pressure, I’ve told myself that if I couldn’t get those books read by December 31, I’d have to give them away—the theory being that if I’ve had a book for four years and haven’t read it, I’m probably no longer all that interested. Other than that, I’ve kept my options open, participating in community events such as the Classics Circuit and others that suited my mood at the time and reading a review copy or two each month.
That has proven to be an excellent plan, and with one month left in the year, I only have four books left on my “owned since 2006” stack. So between now and December 31, I intend to read or discard the four books you see below.
Also in December, I’ll be reading another Morland Dynasty book to keep up with my plan of reading one (almost) every month, He Knew He Was Right for the Anthony Trollope Classics Circuit, and The Jesuit’s Guide to (Almost) Everything by James Martin for my church book club. And I’m still savoring my reread of King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett and whatever audiobooks show up in my Booksfree audiobook queue (currently Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby). And then there are a handful of review copies I’d like to read in December. Still, I’m confident I’ll be able to find time for those four books that have been sitting in my stack since 2006.
As for 2011 plans, I plan to stick with the same basic approach. However, inspired by Eva, I decided to take the part of reading challenges that I find fun—the list-making—and use some of the wonderful challenges out there to make some reading lists to inspire me, and perhaps you. So as challenges or projects catch my eye or pop into my head, I’ll be sure to share them (giving credit to the challenge or project creator who gave me the idea). I may create a “reading project” page to collect all these lists, but I may decide that’s too much work. We’ll just see about that :).
So to get the ball rolling, I thought I’d start with a challenge that I spotted recently, the 2nds Challenge, hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages…. The goal of the challenge is to go back for seconds of an author you’ve only read once or a series in which you’ve only read once. I don’t know about you, but I frequently discover new-to-me authors and tell myself I must read more of their books only to move on and forget all about them! And then there are those authors that I don’t enjoy as much as I expected but whom I feel deserve a second chance. So I love the idea of this challenge.
For the challenge, you can choose from among four levels—reading 3, 6, 12, 20, or more books. Since I’m not officially joining the challenge, I’m not choosing a level, but I thought it would be fun to share the names of some of the authors I’ve tried once and would love to try a second time. So without further ado, here’s the list, with the titles of my first reads by those authors. For some, I’ve already selected my second read, but for others I’d love suggestions!
- Laurie Halse Anderson: I loved Speak and really want to try more. Any recommendations?
- James Baldwin: I loved Go Tell It on the Mountain. I’ll probably make Giovanni’s Room my second Baldwin, but I’d welcome your ideas.
- Alan Bennett:The Uncommon Reader will probably make my best of list for this year. I’m considering The Clothes They Stood Up In or A Life Like Other People’s as a second helping.
- Anne Brontë: I loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and I already own Agnes Grey.
- Peter Carey: I wasn’t thrilled with Parrot and Olivier in America, which was my first attempt at Carey. However, Oscar and Lucinda, which I already own, was a terrific movie and has an altogether more appealing premise.
- Willa Cather: I read and loved The Professor’s House, and I already own The Song of the Lark.
- Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is one of my all-time favorite books, but I still haven’t read Clarke’s other book, a short story collection called The Ladies of Grace Adieu.
- Douglas Coupland: I read and enjoyed Hey Nostradamus! several years ago, and Generation X, Generation A, and Miss Wyoming are all on my virtual TBR list.
- Kate DiCamillo: The Tale of Desperaux was absolutely magical. I’ll probably make The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane or The Magician’s Nephew my next.
- Joan Didion: I read The Year of Magical Thinking partly to get Didion off my “authors I intend to try” list. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure where to go next with Didion. Slouching Toward Bethlehem? Or perhaps her fiction–Play It As It Lays?
- Theodore Dreiser: I adored Sister Carrie. And I fully expect to love An American Tragedy.
- Daphne de Maurier: When I get in a du Maurier mood, I usually just read Rebecca again instead of trying another of her books. I own My Cousin Rachel, so it’ll probably be my second du Maurier.
- Umberto Eco: Foucault’s Pendulum was good fun, and I’ve wanted to read The Name of the Rose for years.
- Shusaku Endo: Silence is a tremendous book, and I must read more Endo. I’ve been thinking my next will be Deep River, but The Samurai is also intriguing.
- Louise Erdrich: The marvelous book Love Medicine was my first Erdrich, and I’ll probably make Shadow Tag or The Beet Queen my second.
- Jeffrey Eugenides: I was not all that impressed by Middlesex, but lots of people have told me they liked The Virgin Suicides more (and I did like the movie).
- Michael Faber: So I kind of hated The Crimson Petal and the White, but I hated it because it’s exactly the type of “faux-Victorian” novel I hate. The writing was good, so I’d like to give him another chance in a contemporary setting with Under the Skin.
- Anne Fadiman: Ex Libris was delightful, and I’ve heard wonderful things about The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
- William Faulkner: The Sound and the Fury was my least favorite book that I read in college, but I feel like I shouldn’t write one of America’s greatest writers off because of one book. Should I go for A Light in August next?
- Jasper Fforde: Another “failure at first attempt” author. I thought The Eyre Affair got Jane Eyre all wrong, and I couldn’t cope. People tell me the Thursday Next series improves, but I’m thinking I’ll try his other series, starting with Shades of Grey instead.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald: I’ve only read The Great Gatsby. Should Tender Is the Night or This Side of Paradise be next?
- Penelope Fitzgerald: I enjoyed Offshore and will probably go for The Bookshop next.
- Susan Fletcher: I liked the writing in Corrag so much that I want to try Eve Green and/or The Oystercatchers.
- Helen Garner: Garner surprised me a great deal with The Spare Room, and I already own her nonfiction book Joe Cinque’s Consolation.
- Amitav Ghosh: I loved Sea of Poppies and look forward to the next book in that series, but in the meantime I might give The Shadow Lines a try.
- Ernest Hemingway: I liked The Sun Also Rises more than I expected (although I didn’t love it), and I’d like to try more Hemingway before I decide whether he’s an author for me. Any suggestions?
- Georgette Heyer: When I read A Civil Contract, I knew I’d found a perfect comfort read in Heyer, but I haven’t yet read more. I’ve gotten lots of suggestions, so I suspect it’ll be a matter of which book I can find when the mood strikes.
- Patricia Highsmith: It’s been 10 years since I read The Talented Mr Ripley. I do own The Glass Cell and People Who Knock on the Door. Now I just need to read them. :)
- Jhumpa Lahiri: I loved The Namesake, but I keep hearing that Lahiri is at her best with short stories. I own her collection Unaccustomed Earth, so I’ll try that next.
- D.H. Lawrence: Yes, I liked Sons and Lovers when I read it in college. Someone had to. I’ve been meaning to try more Lawrence ever since, and I’ll probably go with Women in Love.
- Dennis LeHane: Shutter Island was a mixed success (I thought the twist was obvious), but Jenny tells me that his Kenzie and Gennaro books are right up my alley.
- Doris Lessing: I felt I was missing something when I read Alfred and Emily, so I’ve since snagged a copy of Lessing’s autobiography, Under My Skin. I’m also curious about The Fifth Child and Particularly Cats.
- Ira Levin: I love good horror, and The Stepford Wives is good horror. I’ll probably go with Rosemary’s Baby next.
- Andrea Levy: Small Island was terrific, so I definitely want to try The Long Song.
- Hilary Mantel: Mantel proved she could take Tudor fiction to a whole new wonderful level with Wolf Hall, so I want to see what else she can do. Beyond Black and Fludd are the two I’m considering for my next, unless Mantel finishes her next Tudor book before I get to one of those.
- Gabriel García Márquez: I adored Love in the Time of Cholera, so of course I must read One Hundred Years of Solitude.
- Patrick McGrath: Asylum was a mind-bending delight. I’m thinking Trauma will be my next McGrath.
- David Mitchell: I enjoyed The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, so I snagged a copy of Ghostwritten almost immediately after finishing my first Mitchell. And of course Cloud Atlas is on my list as well.
- Toni Morrison: Yes, it’s true. I’ve only read Beloved—I liked it but didn’t fall in love to the degree that I expcted. I do own a copy of A Mercy, and Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye are on my list.
- Maggie O’Farrell: The Vanishing of Esme Lennox is another good twisty well-written story, and I’ve heard good things about O’Farrell’s latest, The Hand That First Held Mine.
- Helen Oyeyemi: I liked The Icarus Girl, and it seems that readers who liked it liked White Is for Witching, which I already own, even more.
- David Park: Swallowing the Sun was a good, dark, character-driven novel, so I’d like to try The Truth Commissioner as well.
- Georges Perec: I loved the wordplay in A Void, although the story was lacking. I understand that Life: A User’s Manual has the fun and the story.
- David Quammen: I don’t read a lot of science writing, but Quammen’s Monster of God was great, so I know he’s a go-to science author on the rare occasion that I get in a science mood. I believe Song of the Dodo is Jenny’s favorite.
- Ruth Reichl: I liked Comfort Me with Apples, and I’d really like to get the back-story on Reichl’s relationship with her mother in Tender at the Bone.
- Lionel Shriver: I wasn’t crazy about So Much for That, but The Post-Birthday World has a much more interesting premise, and I already own it.
- Jane Smiley: I read Duplicate Keys a million years ago and said then and there I’d read more Smiley. I’ve since gotten a copy of Moo that has sat on my shelves for a couple of years.
- Colm Toibin: I loved Brooklyn to pieces, so more Toibin is a must. But what to read next? The Master? The Blackwater Lightship?
- Josephine Tey: I’ve only read The Daughter of Time, but I really want to read The Franchise Affair, especially given that it was part of the inspiration behind Sarah Waters’s wonderful The Little Stranger.
- Rosy Thornton: Crossed Wires was a wonderful contemporary romance, so Thornton will definitely has potential to be a go-to comfort read for me. I have her new book, The Tapestry of Love, and I’m also eager to read More Than Love Letters.
- David Foster Wallace: Although Infinite Jest was a bit too much for me, I loved bits and pieces of it and decided Wallace’s essays must be terrific, so I want to try Consider the Lobster.
- Evelyn Waugh: I’ve read Brideshead Revisited, listened to the audiobook, and watched the mini-series, but I haven’t read more Waugh. Any suggestions? I’m thinking Vile Bodies.
- Jincy Willett: Her story collection, Jenny and the Jaws of Life, wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but The Writing Class sounds like something I would like a lot.
- Jacqueline Woodson: When I read Hush earlier this year, I knew I’d want to read more Woodson, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Any suggestions?
- Virginia Woolf: I’m kind of sad that I hated Mrs Dalloway in college, but there it is. I may give it another try someday, but I’m thinking I’ll go for A Room of One’s Own first.
- John Wyndham: I’m always happy to find great new-to-me horror/science fiction writers, and I enjoyed The Day of the Triffids enough to know that Wyndham belongs on my “read more” list. I have The Crysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos to try next.
Whew! So you can see what a list-maker I am! But for me, a long list like this is just a pool to gather ideas from, not part of a deliberate plan. There’s no way I’d commit to reading even one book by each of these authors over the next year!
How about you? Do you like making reading lists? Or are you a more spontaneous reader?
And, of course, I’d love your thoughts on possible second reads by any of these authors.