Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015 Book Challenge (and some movies) - UPDATED

I wound up getting distracted from a lot of these about halfway through the year. The movies list was especially ignored. Yet, I am glad for this list because it did give me direction and I read books I might have missed otherwise.


I was really delighted to get an email recently from a couple who follow along on my book challenges. They actually have read some of the books that I myself am reading.

This is power indeed! I will try to always use it for good and not evil. Therefore, rest assured that no Dostoevsky will enter these portals again!

You can find my 2014 Book Challenge here, with the results recorded. Overall it was very rewarding with only a few duds in the batch and I actually read most of the books on my list.

As before I'm carrying a few books over. And I may not get through all these. It isn't an assignment but a way to keep from getting distracted from these goals.


  1. Don Quixote
    I thought I'd read this last year but did what I have done twice before: read the first adventure, put it down "for a little while" and never picked it up again. I have the audiobook narrated by Simon Vance, thanks to the library, and will give this a try that way since audio has opened up so many good books to me which I couldn't get through otherwise.
    REACTION: even with an audiobook I only got through 20 chapters before feeling as if every adventure was a repeat of the one before. More or less. On the other hand, I did get through 20 chapters. I'm willing to admit this is a classic for good reason. Those reasons will just have to remain hidden from me as I'm giving up and moving on.
  2. The House of Seven Gables
    I love his short stories and enjoyed The Scarlet Letter. Let's see what this lesser known novel is like.
    READ IT: loved this book which is so different from The Scarlet Letter. It almost is like a shorter Dickens novel with the oddball characters and descriptive passages.
  3. North and South
    I was intrigued because Rose enjoyed this book and Heather Ordover did it last year at CraftLit. However, I wasn't crazy about the narrator and having seen that Juliet Stevenson has a reading at Audible (voice of Jane Austen, audiobook narrator extraordinaire) I thought I'd mosey along at my own pace.
  4. Philip K. Dick
    I'm not sure which book I'll choose but I enjoyed The Galactic Pot-Healer so much when I read it a few years ago that I thought I'd try another.
  5. Poetry
    I'm not sure why I've suddenly gotten interested in poetry but I am going to find a basic classic poetry anthology and read a poem aloud every day. We'll see how that works out.

    (Just to clarify I have never cared about poetry and so have ignored it most of my life. I know about the fog on little cat feet and the road less taken, as well as the man who wasn't there ... but that's about the extent of it. Any recommendations to read T.S. Eliot are going to have to wait until I can tell Tennyson from Wordsworth.)

    READ IT: 101 Classic Poems edited by Roy Cook - love this book and my poem a day. In fact, I love it so much I'm rereading it, a poem per day.


  1. Art - A New History by Paul Johnson
    I've been taking my time and enjoying this greatly but really would like to finish this book. 2015 is the year! It will happen!
    REACTION: It took me three years but I finished it! What a wonderful book! It is one I could easily see myself leisurely rereading. The intertwining of history outside of the art world made it really come alive and it has come to mind in a variety of contexts since I began reading it. It really enriched my worldview.
  2. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
    It is interesting just how often I am helped in everyday life by The Hobbit, believe it or not. I want to know Tolkien's thoughts in his own words now instead of just reading his fiction.
    REACTION: I really enjoyed the personal letters. Unfortunately there weren't nearly as many of those as I'd have liked. Most of the letters had to do with answering questions about The Lord of the Rings. At the time this book came out that was probably a good choice. People hadn't minded Tolkien's letters for information and no books were available which summed up a lot of that info for us. However, now there is a lot of that information out there and so I eventually wound up skipping over those letters. I'll probably never reread this (as opposed to my feelings about The Habit of Being) but I'm glad to have read them once.
  3. Churchill: The Power of Words
    Tom read this and really liked it, except for a few speeches here and there. I'd like to read it but if I don't put it on this list it will never happen.
    ABANDONED: NOT because of the book but because I picked up the audio version of Boris Johnson's The Churchill Factor. That covered Churchill's life and used enough of his speeches that I have had enough Churchill for now. It was a really entertaining way to learn more about that great man. Perhaps some other time for this one.
  4. Through a Night of Horrors: Voices from the 1900 Galveston Storm
    Another one that Tom read which I'd like to read. Tom's grandmother survived the great storm when she was 6 and so he's got a natural interest in the event. Flipping through it I was caught up in the immediacy of the voices as the story unfolded via letters, diary entries, and interviews.
  5. The King's Good Servant But God's First: The Life and Writings of St. Thomas More by James Monti
    I've been wanting to read about St. Thomas More's life and his writings. This looks tailor-made!


For no other reason than I enjoyed them the first time round but want to see if they stand up to rereading.

  1. The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman
    REACTION: I loved this book just as much as the first time I read it. I couldn't put it down and read it obsessively until I finished it in a few days. Highly recommended.
  2. The Soul of a Chef by Michael Ruhlmandecided I didn't want to reread this after all. One Ruhlman this year was enough.
  3. Cruel Beauty


I see that I didn't challenge myself last year. The results - without a list I didn't challenge myself much. So let's queue that baby up again.
  1. Sophie Scholl - The Final Days
  2. Laura
    REACTION We loved this classic noir film, especially the hard boiled detective investigating the murder.
    Mark McPherson: When a dame gets killed, she doesn't worry about how she looks.
    Waldo Lydecker: Will you stop calling her a dame?
  3. Deliver Us From Evil
  4. Tsotsi
  5. City of God
  6. The Exorcism of Emily Rose
  7. Rashomon
  8. Cloud Atlas


  1. Perhaps you need more of a warm-up before this, but T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets should really be up there on your poetry list. Reminds me it's about time to re-read it.

    You will love Tolkien's letters. One letter in particular is my personal favorite, but I won't spoil it for you by telling you which one :] I'll just say that what I loved most about his letters was getting a bit of an inside look at his imagination, anxieties, etc., and also getting a glimpse of the affection he had for his work, his family, and friends.

    Monti's book about Thomas More sounds really good. Outside of A Man For All Seasons, I don't think I've actually read anything written by More himself. Will have to add that to my list. I'm not so ambitious about having a whole list set for the year, as it seems that I always have ALL THE BOOKS in my 'want to read' queue, but I tend to anchor my reading for the year around one "big" book, which is my main challenge for the summers (e.g. Brothers Karamozov, City of God). I tend to always find that I make so many adjustments to read the right book at the right moment. I think Kristin Lavransdatter is going to be my 'big' book this year. I also try to include at least one title from Fr. McCloskey's Catholic LIfetime Reading Plan, which is a good list in and of itself.

    Happy Reading in the New Year!

  2. Hi JoAnna!

    Just to clarify I have never cared about poetry and so have ignored it most of my life. I know about the fog on little cat feet and the road less taken, as well as the man who wasn't there ... but that's about the extent of it. Any recommendations to read T.S. Eliot are going to have to wait until I can tell Tennyson from Wordsworth. :-)

    I have to do lists like this because my "to read" lists run to 8 pages of fiction and nonfiction. And I read 178 books last year. Not that I get distracted easily or anything! Ahem. :-D

    Anyway, this at least keeps these books in front of me so I don't forget about them. It worked so well with Dickens that I now know I'll be reading his books anyway so they don't have to be a "challenge" any more.

    1. That's more or less what I figured, based on some of your past comments. But I'm going to keep reminding you of it for when that time comes :) Something to aspire to. I don't think I would be reading poetry of my own volition today if not for forcibly working through it in multiple college courses - it does take a bit of an education to appreciate fully, and I am so thankful for that (studying at that age also opened my eyes to the immensity of some of these's a bit transfixing to be bowled over by a reading of John Keats and then remember that he died at age 25). It's an activity where familiarity with those dead languages really comes in handy. Wallace Stevens should also be on your list...what I like about him the most is that he worked his entire life as an insurance executive, only writing poetry as a hobby in his free time. File that one away :)

      Your yearly book consumption is truly impressive. I'm at about 25% of that, but I think that is just symptomatic of our nearly opposite reading styles. I'm all about the slow, absorb everything, digest a while and scribble up notes kind of reading. So many good books ahead!

    2. Believe it or not, I've tried consistently to read less ... to slow down, to absorb more at one time. And just as consistently I have failed in my quest. I can occasionally do it but very rarely. As you say, we have very different reading styles. Vive la difference! :-)

  3. Don Quixote is fantastic. The House of the Seven Gables OK, even a bit boring. I think highly of Hawthorne's short stories but have found his novels a bit lacking. The Scarlet Letter is good, but not great. I haven't read any others to give you a heads up. I do hope you enjoy the poetry. There's nothing like it for a satisfying read that takes less than ten minutes, depending of course on the length.

    1. I also love Hawthorne's short stories. I used to not like the Scarlet Letter very much until I reread it and listened to CraftLit's discussion as Heather Ordover went through the story. Wow. A much more wonderful book than I ever gave it credit for. I haven't heard much positive about The House of Seven Gables but when SFFaudio discussed it last year I realized I probably should give it a look see.

  4. I have that Paul Johnson Art book! I should start it. The Galveston Storm book looks really interesting to me too. When I worked at Red Cross we had a meeting in Galveston in 2000 for the 100th anniversary of the storm. I knew nothing about the tragedy before then but have been fascinated since. I'm surprised Hollywood hasn't made a big budget disaster film based on it.

    1. It does seem a natural for a big budget film doesn't it? Heck, one of my favorite old movies, which I haven't watched in a very long time, is San Francisco with Clark Gable, Jeanette MacDonald, and Spencer Tracy. They made a rip roaring good movie from the San Francisco earthquake.