Books, Books, and More Books! The 99 Monkeys 2017 Reading Challenge

I’m running a bit behind on this, what with a new full-time job and commuting and a 13-hour day, door to door, but better late than never. I started this post months ago. I’m a bit grumpy at the lack of writing time I have these days, but we gotta eat. And, student loans.

I love book clubs and reading challenges because they shove me out of my ruts. Who doesn’t need more books to love? Largely lifted from Popsugar, this is my 99 Monkeys 2017 Reading Challenge:

(1) A book recommended by a librarian. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. According to Goodreads reviews, it’s an accessible work of schadenfreude and how it really feels to be a flawed human being. Recommended by my kid Monster, librarian by day, grad student and ninja turtle by night.

(2) A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long and (9) an espionage thriller. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emmuska Orczy. It’s been a few years now since I downloaded this free from Project Gutenberg. These folks have been making the world a better place by making available tens of thousands of classics in e-book form, at no charge. I am saddened to see that their domain name is now available, although I found a link to their archives here. I remember watching this movie ages and ages and ages ago and falling in love with the French Revolution version of Schindler’s List. It might have been the 1934 version because I feel that I was quite young, a pre-teen, or it might have been the 1982 version because I seem to remember it being in color, unless I’m confusing the impression of color with the word “scarlet.” At any rate, I’ve been meaning to read the book forever.

I should mention that I cheat by combining categories. The only thing better than a book with something new about it is a books with lots of new somethings about it.

(3) A book of letters. Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressman Taylor. I adore the epistolary format when it’s done right, and this one sounds like it packs a punch.

(4) An audiobook. Yeah, no, not going to do this one. Even if the book is good, I fall asleep when I’m being read to. Unless I’m doing it because I can’t sleep, in which case it rivets me so I can’t turn it off, because life is perverse that way.

(5) A book with one of the four seasons in the title. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. Kingsolver is also a new author for me; I’ve been seeing her name for years, but have never read any of her books. Hopefully she’ll do better for me than Jodi Picoult did last year.

(6) A book that is a story within a story. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher. A modern retelling of The Arabian Nights and Scheherezade. Ancient Persia!

This illustration is actually from More Tales from the Arabian Nights, but I love it. So lush. Public Domain.

(7) A book with multiple authors and (15) a book with a subtitle. Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. This choice needs no explanation. Because, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

(8) A book with a cat on the cover and (34) a book recommended by a favorite author. Bramen Met Arsenicum, aka We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. The favorite author would be Edgar Cantero, discovered during last year’s reading challenge when I chanced across The Supernatural Enhancements.

(10) A book by an author who uses a pseudonym. Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. Rowling writes the equivalent of literary heroin, or perhaps Pringles; once you pop, you just can’t stop.

(11) A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read. I don’t read many westerns, so I’ll go with Elmore Leonard’s Cuba Libre.

(12) A book by or about a person with a disability and (32) the first book in a series. Carry the Ocean by Heidi Cullinan, being The Roosevelt #1. From the blurb: “Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.” Seriously? Trains, dark moments, and Elwood Blues? I’m in.

We’re on a mission from God.

(13) A book involving travel. Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche. The only thing better than a train is a ship.

(14) A book in a genre you’ve never heard of. This would be ergodic literature, books that call for active participation by the reader beyond simply moving the eyes and turning the pages. Examples include Egyptian wall inscriptions that are three-dimensional and require moving from room to room, or B.S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates, a book-in-a-box consisting of fixed first and last chapters and middle chapters that are to be read in any order the reader likes. That one intrigued the hell out of me, but it’s not available from the library, and I’m too thrifty and broke to spring for something that sounds too highbrow for my peabrain. I almost skipped this category when I saw Marisha Pessl’s Night Film and Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves given as examples, as neither of those impressed me much (and Pessl’s egregious use of italics drove me batshit crazy). But then my eye was snagged by Ayn Rand’s The Night of January 16th. It’s a play with two alternate endings, depending on the audience’s verdict following the dramatization of a murder trial. One ticket, please. Just downloaded it.

(16) A book that’s published in 2017. Well, I’d like to list The Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin, but like so many other people, I am beginning to think it will never be published. What I hate about series that grab you up — they make you wait umpteen years between installments. But wait! You say Neil Gaiman has a new book coming out this year? His own retelling of Norse mythology? ~jumps up and down with excitement~ Totally just entered a Goodreads giveaway to win a free copy. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease.

(17)  A book involving a mythical creature. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling. Yup. Two Neil Gaiman books, and now two J.K. Rowling books. So sue me.

(18) A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile and (24) a book you loved as a child. I could still kill my Asshole Ex for destroying my tattered Dr. Seuss books. OK, then…Matilda by Roald Dahl. Is this the one with the flooding, and the ducks, or maybe it was a cat? We’ll see.

(19) A book about food. Chocolat by Joanne Harris. I’m pretty sure I would have loved the movie even without Johnny Depp; hopefully the book is even better.

(20) A book with career advice and (30) a book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Love me some Greek.

(21) A book from a nonhuman perspective. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips. The Olympians on hard times, with day jobs. This sounds hilarious, and with the potential for hidden depth.

(22) A steampunk novel. The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. Touted as one of the front-runners of the steampunk genre, it seems from the description to be a bit more sci-fi/fantasy, what with its focus on time travel. That works for me.

(23) A book set in the wilderness and (25) a book by an author from a country you’ve never visited. The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens. I live close enough to Canada now that you’d think I’d have got there, but not yet.

(26) A book with a title that’s a character’s name. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Another classic I’ve been meaning to read.

(27) A novel set during wartime. The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman. I have a morbid fascination with the horrors of the Nazi regime; this book focuses on Warsaw. It’s a memoir, not a novel, but I don’t care.

(28) A book with an unreliable narrator. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. This sounds like dark satire about modern society, just my cup of tea. And no, I’ve never seen the movie.

(29) A book with pictures. Girls Standing on Lawns by Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket). This collaboration between the authors and the Museum of Modern Art sounds quirky, nostalgic, arty, bittersweet, and perhaps a bit spooky. I am intrigued. Who doesn’t have a bonkzillion pictures like these in their family collections?

What’s the story, Morning Glory?

(31) A book about an interesting woman. Since I started putting this together I’ve been waffling between The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg and The Vatican Princess: A Novel of Lucrezia Borgia by C.W. Gortner. I still can’t decide. I love a good fictionalized biography, so I’ll probably read both.

(33) A book you bought on a trip. The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King. Purchased in the airport in Eugene, Oregon, on my recent trip for training for my new job, the first time I’d flown since before 9/11. That last trip came about after my best friend had to quit her job and move home to care for her ailing, elderly parents and couldn’t use a nonrefundable plane ticket she’d already bought. She gave it to me and I traveled under her name to go visit. Pretty tough to get away with that now, what with the TSA porn we’re all posing for these days.

Courtesy of you, me, and the utterly ineffectual war on terror.

I’m stopping at 33, because that’s enough structure to my reading life, and also because it’s a master number, and therefore lucky and groovy.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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