Monday, December 28, 2020

2021 Book and Movie Challenge

It's been a while since I've challenged myself with a big list of books and movies to read in the upcoming year. But lately I've had an urge to tackle War and Peace. Maybe it's because reading all Dickens left me with a taste for big books. Maybe it's because I read Crime and Punishment last year and so I'm not as afraid of Russian authors as I used to be. 

Whatever the reason, it took me back to the days when I'd put together a list at the beginning of every year and see how I did.

I'm keeping it as short as I can because I already know I've got some big reads coming up next year. Scott and I are going to tackle The Epic of Gilgamesh and Gone with the Wind over at the podcast. The Close Reads podcast is going to take on Anna Karenina on their Patreon feed so that will help pull me along (they are why I was able to read Crime and Punishment this year). And my Catholic women's book club always keeps my reading list pretty full. 

Plus some of the books below are real doozies. But they are all doozies I'm interesting in giving a fair trial to and possibly getting all the way through.

(Titles are marked in red when finished, with a few words on how they hit me.)

  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (Anthony Briggs translation) — because it's there

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell — I loved the movie. Let's see if the book is as good or even better!

  • Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry — everyone's told me to read this. Time to stop fighting them.

  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco — everyone's also told me to read this. Time to stop fighting them.

  • Cannery Row by John Steinbeck — the Novel Conversations podcast made this sound light and fun as opposed to Steinbeck's usual doom and gloom. So I'm trying it.

  • A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles — another one that's been recommended  a lot and the last time it finally sounded good to me for some reason. Result — I loved this book. My review is here.

  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell — the book I've fought hardest against in recent years. Let's see if my instincts were right or wrong.

  • And It Was Good by Madeleine L'Engle — I feel as if I've read this before but the sample didn't sound more than vaguely familiar. Her nonfictional musings are always good.

  • Wilding by Isabella Tree — been wanting to read this since I read the WSJ review

  • Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay — a very recent recommendation from a podcast listener

  • Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys into the Medieval World by Christopher de Hamel — this was a gift some time ago but I haven't done more than sample it. This is the year to read it all!

  • William Wyler — we're slowly working our way through this director's filmography. We're up to Wuthering Heights and will see how far we get this year. My personal challenge here is not to skip any (such as Wuthering Heights, for example).

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) starring Lon Chaney — this has been on my list ever since reading Joseph's review.

  • The Rules of the Game directed by Jean Renoir (son of the painter) — a classic that has been mentioned many times in our house by Rose. I want to know why.

  • The Man Who Laughs — another classic mentioned by Rose a lot.

  • Metropolis — a classic mentioned by everyone!

  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925) — I really didn't like the modern musical. This surely has to be better! Also, some review (I can't remember where from) loved it.


  1. Wilding is on my list of books to read. Isabella got a copy last year for her birthday and loved it. I have picked it up a couple of times, but I'm only in the first chapter.

    Sailing to Sarantium is one of my favorites.

    1. I think I read a review in WSJ but then my daughter (a real nature lover) read and loved it. So it's been on my list with increasing interest, but if I don't "assign" it then I'll just keep shoving it away when the new and shiny books show up. :-)

  2. Wow, silent cinema is coming your way! That Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera is great. I saw it long before I was blogging, so I wasn't the reviewer. I should watch it again. I wish I could find The Man Who Laughs somewhere.

    1. The link goes to your post.

    2. Meant to say that when we find The Man Who Laughs I'll let you know. :-)

  3. Cannery Row is pretty slim actually!

    Cloud Atlas is such a joy. I found going between audio and print to be another level of joy, and sometimes necessity like in the middle. WAY BETTER than the movie in my opinion. And the author is so lovely.

    1. I will keep the print-audio suggestion in mind! I'm looking forward to that one a lot.