To read 12 books in 2018 from that have been on my To-Be-Read shelf longer than a year.
Every year, Adam hosts a TBR Challenge at Roof Beam Reader. Since I own more than 250 books I haven’t read *dodges tomatoes* it seems time I get on that. The challenge only requires 12 books, but I’ve silently pledged to knock off 10% of my TBR this year (25 books). For the purposes of this challenge, though, I’ll only focus on 12 here (plus two alternates, which Adam allows in case I’ve picked a few clunkers).
- Perdido Street Station by China Mieville (623 pp.)
Mieville’s brand of science-fiction is literary, challenging, and so, so weird. In Perdido, Isaac–a gifted and eccentric scientist–has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his research. But then a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, and Isaac is sparked by curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. I’ve put off Perdido for years because it’s pretty far from my comfort zone. But hey, when in Rome, right?
- The Reality Dysfunction by Peter F. Hamilton (1121 pp.)
I’m considering Reality Dysfunction my Everest this year. Peter Hamilton’s massive, expansive sci-fi epic doesn’t just stop at 1121 pages. This is actually the first of a trilogy. On a primitive colony planet a renegade criminal’s chance encounter with an utterly alien entity unleashes the most primal of all our fears. An extinct race which inhabited the galaxy aeons ago called it “The Reality Dysfunction.” It is the nightmare which has prowled beside us since the beginning of history.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (180 pp.)
After the nearly 2000 pages that are Perdido and Reality Dysfunction, Gatsby will be a breeze. I actually “kind of” read Gatsby a few years ago. I skimmed parts of it, and retained–literally–nothing. I wouldn’t even consider this a re-read.
- The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach (512 pp.)
I plan to read this near the end of March, right before the MLB season starts. Harbach’s novel is “an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment,” but it’s also a love letter to the game of baseball. I can’t wait.
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (215 pp.)
It’s hard to believe I’ve never read a Vonnegut novel. Slaughterhouse seems a good place to start. Fun fact: more than 10% of my friends on Goodreads have given this 5 stars.
- The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber (500 pp.)
Described as “a monumental, genre-defying novel over ten years in the making,” The Book of Strange New Things is “a masterwork from a writer in full command of his many talents.” Hard to beat that, huh? It’s about a priest who gets sent to preach the Bible to an alien species. I’m guessing it doesn’t go well.
- Shadow & Claw by Gene Wolfe (413 pp.)
Shadow & Claw constitutes the first half Gene Wolfe’s unanimously acclaimed Book of the New Sun duology, hailed as “a masterpiece of science fantasy comparable in importance to the major works of Tolkien and Lewis” by Publishers Weekly. This is the tale of Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers on the world called Urth, exiled for committing the ultimate sin of his profession — showing mercy toward his victim. I have no idea what to expect, really, but this has comes highly recommended from a good friend of mine. Let’s cross our fingers.
- East of Eden by John Steinbeck (601 pp.)
I wish John Steinbeck was my grandpa. Alas, I must soak up his wisdom via books like East of Eden. I was hooked on Steinbeck after Of Mice & Men. When I found out East of Eden was a retelling of the Cain and Able story, I knew I had to read it. Really looking forward to this.
- The Instructions by Adam Levin (1030 pp.)
If The Reality Dysfunction is my Everest this year, then The Instructions is K2 (the second tallest mountain in the world). This book is so physically massive it makes my house guests laugh when they walk by it. It’s the story of Gurion Maccabee, a truly spectacular talker for a ten year old. Ejected from three Jewish day schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader of a very different sort, with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity.
- Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (277 pp.)
I have tried to read Catcher several times. I have always hated it. 4th time’s the charm, maybe?
- Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Wolff (233 pp.)
I have tried Mrs. Dalloway several times. I have always hated it. Sensing a pattern?
- Sea of Silver Light by Tad Williams
Last, but certainly not least, as this entry actually represents four books and about about 3000 pages. Sea of Silver Light is the fourth book in Williams’ Otherland tetralogy. One of my goals for the year is to read this series from beginning to end (one book per season), so I’ll only get to this one if I manage to tackle the first three door stoppers. Pray for me.
Alternates (in case of clunkers):
- A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (256 pp.)
Toews’ All My Puny Sorrows is one of my ten favorite books (maybe even top five), so I’ve resolved to read everything she’s written. Why not start with her first?
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (422 pp.)
I don’t even know how this book ended up in my house, but everything I’ve heard about it has been great. Seems like a book I could rip through in no time, aka the perfect alternate pick in case I still hate Mrs. Dalloway.
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