One thing that I try to do as much as possible with my life list items, is to bundle them into larger goals or tasks. Like killing two birds with one stone. For example, I really want to put together annual family scrapbooks/photo books, not only because it would be cool to be able to look back through them (and because the older I get, the more I question my memory :), but also, it would allow me to get rid of the ton of scrapbooking papers, punches, stickers, and washi tapes that I have collected over the last 10 years. Honestly, I have no emotional connection to that stuff- yet I move it from place to place because it would seem seriously wasteful to trash it. Marie Kondo would have a field day with me.
One of the bigger items on my Fortyby40 list is to read all the Man Booker prize books. In case, you are not familiar, the Man Booker prize for fiction is awarded for the best original novel, written in the English language. It was originally awarded in 1968 (we’re coming up on 50 books on the list!) In the literature world, it is a VERY big deal. This life list item came about after I read Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
My mum disagrees with me, but it is one of the best books I have ever read. My thoughts were, “Holy shit- if this one rocked my face off, maybe the other Mann Booker prize books will rock my face off too!” It hasn’t actually worked out that way. A couple of months ago, I started The Luminaries. It hasn’t hooked me yet, which is to say that it is super slow. Of course, I appreciate that I have plebeian taste, and that maybe, like John Snow, I know nothing. But that is neither here nor there.
So, for me, when the Modern Ms. Darcy published her 2016 reading challenge, I jumped on board, because I thought it would be a great opportunity to make tackle some Man Booker books. Also, because it gave me the excuse to read Deathly Hallows again. Duh.
A book published this year: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)
A book you can finish in a day: Night (Elie Wiesel)
A book you’ve been meaning to read: The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
A book recommended by your local librarian or bookshelf: The Third Coast (Thomas Dyja)
A book you should have read in school: The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Thornton Wilder)
A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF: Proud Breed (Celeste De Blasis)
A book published before you were born: Offshore (Penelope Fitzgerald)
A book that was banned at some point: Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
A book you previously abandoned: Clash of Kings (George RR Martin)
A book that you own but have never read: Women who run with Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
A book that intimidates you: The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
A book you’ve already read at least once: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (JK Rowling)
Right now, I am working on Off Shore by Penelope Fitzgerald. It was the Man Booker prize the year that I was born (1979). Since I was born so late in the year, technically, the book was published by the year I was born. Its about a little community of people who live on houseboats in the Thames. As I have learned more and more about the Man Booker prize, it seems that a lot of the criticism about the prize seems to be about it being very British- that is, not interested in America-centric books. Authors have been “blacklisted” because they speak out on topics that judges find problematic. Finally, it also seems like a lot of the controversy has to do with relative popularity of books; like the judges aren’t necessarily interested in books that do well commercially or that seem very “readable”. Like being a commercial success was some type of indicator of the “access” a book has with the general reader. And that if a book was accessible, it was not deemed “high end”.
I don’t really care. I should be unimpressed- much like my mum is. But, it’s a list, and we all know how I like lists.
I am about a fifth of the way into the book- and progress is slow. It is slow because I got a new course prep for winter quarter and feel like I really should be reading those books. You would think that I could get my act together to read, since I have been spending so much time on public transit lately. But its proving difficult- mostly because I have just been zoning out on Instagram when I get on the train to go home.
One of the things I like about Audible is that sometimes, famous people/celebrities will narrate books. Imagine my surprise when I got “The Things They Carried” last year and it was narrated by Bryan Cranston. Yeah- that Bryan Cranston. This week, I was perusing Audible and found a couple of the books that I am planning to “read”/”experience” for this challenge are narrated by familiar voices. James Franco will be in my ears reading Slaughterhouse Five and Jake Gyllenhaal will be narrating the Great Gatsby. Is that not the coolest?
Also, before you judge me for going after these old snooze-fest books, keep in mind that I have stayed away from the classics for years on purpose. I mean, honestly, how can the Great Gatsby even attempt to keep up with the Hunger Games, Harry Potter, or the Game of Thrones series? In any case, I am glad for the challenge, because it does seem unseemly, that the only thing I know about Slaughterhouse Five is from the movie Footloose.
Mr. Gurntz: He was trying to teach *that* book down at the school.
Mrs. Allyson: Slaughterhouse-Five, isn’t that an awful name?
Ren: Yeah it’s a great book… Slaughterhouse-Five, it’s a classic.
Mr. Gurntz: Do you read much?
Mrs. Allyson: Maybe in another town, it’s a classic.
Ren: In *any* town.
Mr. Gurntz: Tom Sawyer is a classic!
Literally, that is the only thing I knew about it. *shrugs*