The Review: 2012 Reading Challenges

As the year comes to a close, so does the 2011 Goodreads Reading Challenge. (For those who do not know what a reading challenge is: it is a challenge set, usually by bloggers, to read a set amount of books on a certain subject, in a specific genre, from a particular region etc. by a specific deadline.  Think of it as a triathlon for bookworms).  I did dismally – falling embarrassingly short of my goal.  But I really enjoyed taking part.  I think the reason is that, though I’m not that enthusiastic about reading challenges in general – I love games.  And the way Goodreads set up their challenge really catered to that.  I found myself planning out my To Be Read list, constantly updating the page numbers on my Currently Reading shelf.  Re-checking how many books I’d read towards my goal, how many books (and what percentage) I was behind.  Now that I think about it, all that time probably would have been better spent reading.

It wasn’t until November that I noticed that if I reached my goal I’d get a badge!  And by then I was too far in the hole.

Well not this year!  A friend & I have built a small side-bet into our Goodreads Reading Challenge experience.  Think of it as a way to stoke the competitive spirit.  And if you have a friend who is also a fellow-bibliophile you might want to set up your own reading challenge side bet.  Lori @TNBBC has agreed to go head-to-head, reader-to-reader, mono e mono…and  we’re setting the goal at 100 books.  Whoever gets there first (or comes closest) gets the prize.  Well, it’s not really a prize.  The loser has to read a book of my… um, I mean the winner’schoosing and then blog about it.  Titles thrown around in these giddy early days include:  Bridges of Madison County and any novel by Danielle Steel (The Klone & I is a serious contender).

So here are the qualifiers –

  • Audiobooks count.
  • Graphic novels count, within reason.
  • There is no page minimum.  That having been said, either party can call foul on the other.
  • Any book over 400 pages counts as two books.  Audio books, regardless of length, can only be counted once.
  • Twitter trash talk is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

Now we need to come up with a badge…


Looking forward to our 2012 Reading Challenge (well, it’s actually GoodReads 2012 Reading Challenge that we’ve hijacked) got me thinking.  Which, as usual, led me to Google.  Type in “2012 reading challenges” and 5,360,000 results appear.  If you don’t feel like coming up with your own reading challenge, here are some great ones:

  • A Novel Challenge is hosting the 2012 Zombie Reading Challenge.  BBBBBoooooookkkkssss…..
  • Not exactly a challenge – but I do like Savidge Reads Books to Read Before the World Ends Manifesto (complete with a new regular feature entitled “Books for the Bunker”)
  • Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness is taking part in The Roof Beam Reader blog’s 2012 TBR Challenge (I probably should take part in that one myself).
  • Literary Escapism has a New Author Challenge 2012
  • The Black Sheep Dances is continuing her 2011 Eastern European Reading Challenge into 2012 (a.k.a. 2012 READ EAST).
  • Books and Movies announced the 2012 Graham Greene Reading Challenge earlier this month.  Because we can’t get enough of Graham. (I find it very interesting that I could not find a 2012 John le Carre Reading Challenge).
  • I love, love, love Simply… Challenging‘s Death by Gaslight Reading Challenge in which you get to choose from 4 levels of participation: The Merry Widow of Windy Nook; Palmer the Poisoner; Burke and Hare, Body Snatchers; and Jack the Ripper.  Special Bonus Challenges include Serial Killers; The Great Detective; Arsenic & Airships; and Penny Dreadfuls.
  • And last, but not least, Notes from the North‘s Nordic Reading Challenge is back by popular demand in 2012.  Snow covered expanses and huge, dripping icicles as far as the eye can see.
  • OK, not quite last – I know I’ve mentioned it before and technically it started in October – but the Around the World in 80 Books group on GoodReads is sooo much fun!  And if you’re looking for something to combine with a friendly wager – oh come on, I can’t be the only one thinking of The Amazing Race!???



I’m always the last person to know.   But just in case there’s someone even more out of the loop than I am, I’ve just discovered AmazonCrossing.  In 2010 launched the imprint which specializes in foreign language books translated into English. The books chosen are determined by “customer feedback and other data from Amazon sites to identify exceptional works that deserve a wider, global audience”.

This was all brought to my attention while I was writing my review of The Hangman’s Daughter, which was one of the first two books the imprint acquired.  What I find exciting is how they choose which books to translate and publish. It’s all driven by sales – which in theory will allow “monolingual” readers (why does the prefix “mono” make everything sound like a highly contagious disease?) access to best sellers of the non-literary persuasion.  Books like The Hangman’s Daughter, that probably won’t be picked up by one of the small indie press that specializes in translations.

The easiest way to find out what their offering is to type “AmazonCrossing” into the search engine.  About 51 books came up right away…all of which are available on the Kindle.

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The Little Convict by Yoram Gross (a.k.a. – “Toby & The Koala” stateside)

I can’t believe I found it! This is up there with The Bugaloos, Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, The Dark Crystal & The Wookie Christmas Special on my list of Things-That-I Remember-As-Being-A-Whole-Lot-More-Awesome-Than-They-Truly-Are. (I’m still going to try to order a copy from Amazon).

5 Last Minute Non-Book Gift Ideas for the Reader Who Has Read Everything

  1. A Subscription to a literary journal, magazine, newspaper or some kind of periodical.  (An extra bonus is that many of these are available digitally on multiple platforms).  I recommend looking for one with more words than pictures.  The New York Review of Books, Granta, Times Literary Supplement, The Paris Review, The New Yorker and The Economist are all perennial favorites. is a great resource for more information.
  2. A Snuggie or Slanket.  I know, I’m as horrified as you (and Tim Gunn) are.  But the reality is: a blanket with sleeves can be very convenient when you’re trying to stay warm, balance a book and juggle a hot beverage.  Now, my man (an early adopter) claims that Snuggies are inferior to the Slanket – but I believe that’s a personal decision each of us has to make alone.  All I ask is please,  remember, its a blanket with sleeves… that you should never be seen wearing in public.
  3. Page Points (bookmarkers) and a Bookweight – I know Levenger makes these, though I’m sure they’re not the only ones.   Page Points clip onto a page and are handy not only as a bookmark, but at marking specific passages.  A Bookweight holds the book open to the page your reading or just working from.  Both look really useful, and I’ve been waiting years for someone to slip them into my Christmas stocking.
  4. An Older Dog or Cat – There are few things better, in my mind, than curling up to a good book with your dog or cat sleeping close by.  Or chewing on a bone.  Or sticking their face in the middle of the pages your reading to get patted.  Or drooling… lots and lots of drooling.  Any pet is a lot of responsibility and should never be bought or given on a whim (so, technically, this isn’t a last minute gift).  But, if you have been considering a pet – there are a lot of benefits to broadening your search beyond puppies and kittens to adopting an older animal.  Benefits include avoiding the trials of housetraining, the destructive behavior that even the best animals go through as part of growing up, and the boundless energy of puppy- and/or kitten-hood.   And while many people believe that adopting an older animal means taking on someone else’s problems – my family has adopted several and found it to be just the opposite.  I know there are people out there who will say I’m anthropomorphizing but older, rescued dogs and cats seem to know that they’ve found a home.  Plus they tend to be better read.  I advise checking with your local rescue or SPCA for more information.
  5. And last, but not least…. an iPad.   Because, seriously, who doesn’t want an iPad???

Book trailer for YOU comma Idiot looks pretty good period Who knew question mark

I’m not a fan of book trailers. That’s a gross understatement.   I hate book trailers.  I think the whole concept is kind of stupid.  I mean, why would watching a video convince me to read a book?  That’s like someone encouraging to ride my bike by driving me around the block in their brand new Nissan LEAF (I like it in blue ocean, in case you were wondering).  Or taking me to Bermuda because they want me to learn how to snowboard.

Anyway.  A few months ago I received an email asking me if I wanted an advance review copy of Douglas Harris’ YOU comma Idiot.  I said no… now I’m kinda’ regretting that decision.

O.K.  I’m COMPLETELY regretting that decision.

What do you think?

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