Friday, December 31, 2021

2022 Book and Movie Challenge

2021 was the year I read Les Miserables on a whim — and it wasn't even on my list!

And it was the year that I fell in love with silent movies. In a big way.


In 2021 I discovered some new favorites and was even inspired to read a book not on my list at all that I'd dropped twice before — Les Miserables. I didn't read every single book on my list. But even the ones I dropped (sorry War and Peace!) were given a fair try. And that's all I promise any book on my list. Read all about the 2021 reading challenge it here.

As usual, I'll have some challenging reading coming my way just because of outside influences. Two of Scott's choices for A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast sound rip-roaring - cowboys and Vikings!

  •  Lonesome Dove (Update - to my chagrin this book is one that I hated although I really wanted to love it. I read 100 pages before calling it quits.)
  •  Njal's Saga (a real Viking saga that's really long).  (Update - liked it well enough.)

My Catholic women's book club will be making me face a book I've managed to avoid until now:

  • The End of the Affair by Graham Greene.  (Update - loved it!)

 The literary podcasts I listen to are doing the same with books I either have ignored or avoided. Close Reads has hit several for me this year.

  • Anna Karenina — quite good with a lot of insight. I didn't love Anna herself but maybe I wasn't supposed to? At any rate, I'm glad I read it.
  • 1984 — a great cautionary tale, not a great novel. I appreciated it but didn't love it.
  • Laurus — magical realism, holy fool, Russian literature. What was I thinking? I hate all those things and so it makes sense that I couldn't get too far with this book. Abandoned it.
I hardly need to add to this list, do I? And yet ... I have a few that people keep pushing at me and I keep ducking. Let's see where an honest try takes me!

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

  • Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card — because my brother-in-law (and others) will not stop telling me it is better than Ender's Game and that I should read it. Okay, okay!
    DID NOT READ — I just couldn't make myself read more than a few pages. It turns out mentally I am done with Ender's story and that universe. To be fair, I already had to struggle to read the first book, though I did wind up really liking it.

  • The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz. I tried a book by Horowitz once and didn't get too far. But, again, people just won't stop pushing this author in my face. I like the sound of this series where he writes himself in as the Watson to the main detective.
    FINISHED — I liked this pretty well. Horowitz does love to go on and on about himself and being an author which I liked at first and got tired of later. I did like his recreation of a modern Sherlock style detective. Without an adoring Watson (like the original stories) we see how annoying that type of person is. And also how brilliant. I don't know if I'll read any others in the series. Going to see how it settles as I think about it.

  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel — I tried this a couple of times and was never interested enough to pick it up after putting it down. However, my daughter, Hannah, really liked it and recommended it. Heck, maybe the third time is the charm. FINISHED — mixed feelings on this one. I loved the writing style but something about the ending felt as if it was off. It seemed to trail off into nothing. It didn't feel like real science fiction and then when I looked up the author I found she's a novelist who liked the idea on speculating about 15 years after civilization collapses. And then wrote a novel about it. Which was unsatisfying. So I didn't love it and I didn't hate it.

  • The City of God by St. Augustine — I got halfway through and then put it down, the way you do with a super duper long theology discussion. Nothing against it, but I'd read a lot and was ready for a change. Now is the time to pick it back up!

  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray — This one's my daughter Rose's fault. She talked about how funny it is and that hooked me. To be fair, I forgot I meant to read this next year and began listening recently. What a snarky, fun novel so far!
    FINISHED — Aside from the humor, it was also surprisingly action packed. However, there were very long sections which today would have been cut. For me the section when the little boys were growing up was too long, but that is my modern sensibility coming through. Otherwise, though I can highly recommend it for someone who would like a big helping of snarky humor with their novel.

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke — I had to be forced to read Clarke's previous novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell which I liked overall. I tried this and wasn't crazy about it. However, a lot (and I mean a lot) of people love it. So I'm going to give it a better try.
    DID NOT READ — the lyrical descriptions of The World were beautiful and haunting, but 50 pages in almost nothing had happened aside from some sea gulls and The Other, both of whom I feel will be instrumental later in the book. But I just didn't care and was bored with the continual descriptions of that world when nothing else was going on.

  • Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope — recommended by my daughter Hannah who fell in love with Trollope's novels this year.
    FINISHED — loved this one. So funny and insightful. Rather reminded me of the overall tone in Vanity Fair except not quite as snarky and moved along at a brisk pace.

More silent films - yay! Also, Batman. (Yay?) And I will finally venture out of India for my foreign Shakespearean adaptations.

  • Grand Hotel starring Greta Garbo and John Barrymore — somehow watching Our Man Godfrey this year made me think of this movie which I saw a really long time ago.

  • Freaks directed by Todd Browning — Rose has long pushed this movie and after seeing Browning's direction of the original Dracula this Halloween I am finally on board.

  • Sherlock, Jr. starring Buster Keaton (silent) — the ultimate (perhaps original) meta-film where a bored film projectionist daydreams himself into the movies he is showing. FINISHED —A slight but sweet little film but good escapist entertainment.

  • Dark Knight trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan — I never saw the last movie of the Dark Knight trilogy and it's been so long that I've got to rewatch them all now.

  • It starring Clara Bow (silent) — Not the horror movie but the movie that made Clara Bow a star and defined sex appeal for the Jazz Age. FINISHED —Not as hilarious now as it probably was back in the day, but Clara Bow was adorable and a really modern woman. She really had "It."

  • Throne of Blood directed by Akira Kurosawa — Lear, Japanese-style. I tend to like foreign adaptations of Shakespeare better than seeing English or American ones. I've explored Indian versions and now am going to see what the master in Japan did with the Bard.

  • Ran directed by Akira Kurosawa — MacBeth, also by the Japanese master.

  • Hamlet starring David Tennant — I love Hamlet and I also love David Tennant. So why not?

  • It Could Happen to You — Rose's recommendation of a romcom with a cop and a waitress who share a winning lottery ticket. FINISHED - fine, but nothing to write home about.


  1. I am a non-fan of Station Eleven and Piranesi. Sorry, some books are just not for everyone. :)

    If I may recommend Colin Firth reading The End of the Affair as it is excellent.

    1. Hannah pushed that at me so much last year that I have it waiting! I have tried both Station Eleven and Piranesi and put them down. So I will make a determined try- they have 100 pages to make me love them! :-)

  2. I hated Lonesome Dove because I didn't like any of the characters, DNF. Nevertheless, I really like Vanity Fair, even though all of its characters are either weak or despicable, but interesting. I dunno. Lonesome Dove just felt whiny and inauthentic in its Texan-ness.

    1. I like some Westerns and will be curious to see how Lonesome Dove is when compared to True Grit or Louis Lamour stories.

  3. Lonesome Dove is one of my all-time favorites. It seemed very authentic to me. Of course, I had seen the TV series first, which I fell in love with. Captured the grit; no glamorization of the times. I even have a hard copy of the book, which is saying something.