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  • Writer's pictureEmily

My 2023 reading challenge check-in

I thought that I'd set the easiest challenge in the world this year. Since starting this blog, I'm always making book lists; often of books that I've read, but I pick up other titles and they sound SO GOOD! So, this year, I decided to just go back and pick up some of those titles. And I got a decent head-start; I listened to Into the Wild and The Hours in December last year, and I'm counting them. (They were on the GenX list.)

Since then, I've gotten another of the GenX books: The Virgin Suicides, which I've been meaning to read for years. I've looked for it often to find that it's checked out, but I finally got it.

So, that's three from one list.

I meant to read a book from the Rory Gilmore challenge, which isn't one of my lists of course, but another one I've been working on off-and-on for a long time. I thought I'd bought an Eleanor Roosevelt biography from the list, but I have volume 2 of a three volume biography, so I put it back on the shelf. (The author is Blanche Wiesen Cook, and has vol 1 and vol 3. They're all out of stock. Some of these books, the ones that aren't classics, are going to be harder and harder to get... I can't believe that I didn't notice that I had vol. 2. I was in a used book store with my Gilmore list and it was pretty frustrating.) I couldn't get both of the other volumes when I wanted to read it: I think one was in print and the other in audio, and I don't know. I'll go back to it someday.

I also made a stab at a long list that I made from the book Novel Interiors, but it can be hard to get a good copy of a classic. I chose The Mill on the Floss from the list, but my library doesn't have it. I looked at the e-book that is available, but I really want it in print, and I put it aside, too. It can be hard to get a good copy of a book in the public domain because of all the cheap editions available, which can have awful formatting and proofreading. (The one I linked to on bookshop is from Oxford World's Classic, so it's probably perfect.) I want to read it because I know that some people love the main character, Maggie Tulliver, and I want to give George Elliot another go. I hated Silas Marner when they made me read it in high school and I didn't LOVE Middlemarch.

So, I need to try to borrow that biography and The Mill on the Floss from another library. I really do want to get back to this challenge, because putting these lists together or going over other people's lists that I've saved really make me want to read these books!

Anyway, my easy challenge has been too challenging for me so far, but I've read lots of good books this year, and some of them were pretty challenging in themselves (The Deluge! just carrying the thing around!).

I will also say in my defense that I've read some things from my TBR list, so I'm pretty pleased about that.

Here's what I thought of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides.

I already knew that it had the unusual collective "we" narrator, and it was written from the viewpoint of a group of boys who lived in the neighborhood of the Lisbon girls and were collectively something like in love with them. It's frustrating in a way- because the girls at are the center of the story, but you never get very close to them. You never get to know why they do what they do, or what they think about anything. It's also, in a way, scary- you know going in what's going to happen; even if you haven't seen the movie, it says early on that the girls die by suicide within the space of a year. But watching it play out, getting to know the girls slightly, knowing that they're doomed, wishing that they might not do it after all. It's like the climb up on a roller coaster, knowing that a drop is coming up. It's a strange book in some ways. I didn't like the narrators most of the time- they were recalling the impressions of their youth which were necessarily immature. But it's interesting. I can see why it's a classic- I suppose it'd be considered a classic, anyway. I was still in high school when it came out, so pretty old. When I finished it, I put it down and though, "I don't know how I feel about that book. I don't know what I think about this." But with a little distance, I think it's a pretty amazing book.

Is anyone else doing a reading challenge? Has it led you to any new favorites? Please leave a comment and let me know :)

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