Category Archives: Reading Challenges

The TBR Double Dare 2012 is Over!


Well, I’m glad that’s over.

It seemed like a good idea at the time – nominate the books you want to read for a three month period and then read ’em.  But although I managed to read 10 books from the nominated 30, there were great chunks of wasted time in between books as I tried to decide what to read next and rejected most I picked up.  It got to the point where nothing interested me – weeks went by with nothing read.  I think the rot set in after Penelope Fitzgerald’s mess-of-a-book, Human Voices, which I didn’t finish – a short, 143 page book that I was unable to finish.  But perhaps more on that later.

This is what I did manage to read:

1.  One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes

2.  The Magician King by Lev Grossman

3.  Franklin & Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage by Hazel Rowley

4.  Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

5.  The Flight of the Maidens by Jane Gardam

6.  Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald (DNF)

7.  The Lucky Ones by Rachel Cusk

8.  Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier

9.  The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers

10.  A Sensible Life by Mary Wesley

In the last two weeks of the challenge after a couple of weeks of non-reading, I thought I should at least give it a bit of a go so marched through Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates, and wafted through Mary Wesley’s A Sensible Life.  The latter was not a high point – for both Mary Wesley and me – but, again, perhaps more on that later.

If I’m honest, however, and why wouldn’t I be, my forced reading helped me to discover that Jane Gardam’s novel The Flight of the Maidens is a wonder, and that Rachel Cusk is a genius – the evidence before me is her book The Lucky Ones.  Hazel Rowley’s Eleanor & Roosevelt was brilliant and inspiring and Daphne du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek an entertaining romp.  Tim Powers seems like a very nice man if his friendly and entertaining characters are anything to go by.

Would I do this challenge again?  Maybe, but I’d nominate the whole of my unread books so I’d hundreds to choose from.  Though knowing my reading is whim- or fancy-driven, I probably wouldn’t be able to find anything to read amongst that lot either.


Thoughts on the TBR Double Dare


I’ve read five books from my TBR Double Dare pile, which is great, of course, but what I’ve read has caused me to think about all the other books crammed around the house and how long some of them have been crammed around the house.

You see, with the exception of Drusilla Modjeska’s Stravinsky’s Lunch, the books I nominated for the TBR Double Dare are all relatively recent acquisitions, occurring within the last couple of years, mainly from BookMooch.  There are other books around the house that have been with me for much longer – in some cases, almost twenty years or so.

While I’m pleased to have knocked a few intended books off my list, I feel as though I could take this reading challenge a bit deeper.  In other words, figure out which books have been around the longest and either read ‘em or ditch ‘em according to my level of interest in ‘em.

Three examples:

The Confessions of Aubrey Beardsley by Donald S. Olson

 According to the docket still in this book, I bought it from the Electric Shadows Bookshop in Canberra on 28 February 1995 for the princely sum of $32.90.  I liked the idea of this book – a dramatization of the life of artist Aubrey Beardsley – but I could never find a way into it when I tried to read it.  Am I interested now?  A bit.

Betrayals by Charles Palliser

Charles Palliser’s Betrayals has been with me as long as the Donald S. Olson.  I’m put off by the reference to Italo Calvino on the back, who I’ve always thought of as a tricksy post-modernist and while I appreciate tricksy post-modernism, I’m currently more in love with plot and highlighting historical injustices towards women.  Am I interested in this one today?  Not much.

Immortality by Milan Kundera

This last was a present from my dad in 1993 – he inscribed it for me.  I used to like Kundera’s work, particularly The Book of Laughter and Forgetting.  I think I just never got round to reading this one.  Do I want to read it still?  Yes.

It’s only a vague thought at present but I feel as though continuing on with the TBR Double Dare after April and focusing on books like those I’ve mentioned could make a very real and valuable contribution to my TBR pile.  While making me feel incredibly virtuous in the process.

Hmm, worth a thought.  There’s nothing quite like feeling virtuous.

And we’re away in the TBR Double Dare


Well, I’ve read my first book for the year and one which was earmarked for the TBR Double Dare: One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes, a gently drifting book about the deprivations and changes affecting life in post-war Britain.  I’m not sure if I’ll review it but it was very pleasant read if a little slow, offering many insights into how the middle class dealt with the social effects wrought by WW2, the most significant being the changes to their daily lives caused by the almost complete lack of servants.  Without Nanny to look after the children, for instance, it fell to mother to pick up the reins and their is some doubt about her suitability.  Hmm, perhaps I will write about it in depth at some stage because there really are some great insights which I’d like to record, particularly in relation to the changing roles of women.

As to my next read, I’m not quite sure what to do because four of the library books I reserved have come in all at once.  I may sacrifice a couple because the loan period is 3-6 weeks depending on whether or not someone else wants them, but the one I think I’d like to read next is Lev Grossman’s The Magician King, a continuation of his first book, The Magicians, which I very much enjoyed.  The Magicians subverted a number of fantasy cliches in an intelligent way and I expect the same from The Magician King; I’m also keen to hang out with a group of characters with whom I’m already familiar.  So perhaps it will be my next read.  But things change on a whim around here so until I’ve actually started it, who knows?

Taking up the TBR Double Dare


I might not be blogging much but I’m still reading.

I’ve been inspired by recent posts at My Porch and Book Snob to put together a list of books I’d like to read next year.  My Porch is participating in the TBR Double Dare at Ready When You are, C.B. and given the large number of unread books around the house, I’m going to join in.  The idea is that for the period 1 January 2012 – 1 April 2012 I can only read books in my To Be Read stack.

It’s a good opportunity to put together a list of books I’ve been wanting to read for a long time and which have been forgotten on the shelves.  I’m also hoping that it will give my reading a bit of focus instead of being seduced by all the new misses that walk in the door and demand to be read first.

Research / Reading-for-Pleasure Stack

I’m working on a writing project set in the 1930s and these are books that either contain elements relating to that era or to the art of writing itself.

From the bottom up, Stravinsky’s Lunch (1999) by Drusilla Modjeska explores the relationship between life and art vis-à-vis the lives of twentieth century Australian artists, Stella Bowen and Grace Cossington-Smith.  Steering the Craft (1998) is Ursula le Guin’s instructional writing book while Aspects of the Novel (1927) is E.M. Forster’s take on the novel.  Ruth Adam’s A Woman’s Place (1975) is a non-fictional account of what it was like to be a woman in the twentieth century while Vere Hodgson’s Few Eggs and No Oranges (1976) documents life during WW2.  I’m very excited to be finally reading the latter as I’m a Persephone virgin so this will be my first proper Persephone title, grey cover and all.  Lastly, The Tivington Nott (1989) by Australian author Alex Miller is a fictionalization of his life as ‘a young labourer swept up in the adventure of riding second horse in a west country stag hunt’.

The For-So-Long Stack

These are some of the books or authors I’ve been wanting to read for ages including firstly, Penelope Fitzgerald.  I chose Human Voices (1980) on the strength of a review by My Porch and the recent tv series, The Hour, (about the making of a current affairs tv show at the BBC during the 50s).  L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953) and E.M. Forster’s Howards End (1910) have been with me a very long time and it’s time to finally read them.  I enjoyed Forster’s A Passage to India and the film adaptation of Howards End so I can’t go wrong really, can I?  Elizabeth Bowen’s The Heat of the Day (1948) , E. Arnot Robertson’s Four Frightened People (1941) and Rachel Cusk’s The Lucky Ones (2003) have been chosen because I want to read more books by these authors.  I had a particular infatuation with Rachel Cusk in 2009 and 2010 but I’m not sure why I stopped reading her books thereafter.

The Easy-Reading Stack

These books are what I want when I’m either sick or want to rest my brain.  I’ve read all of Mary Wesley’s books except Second Fiddle (1988) and A Sensible Life (1990).  I’ve been saving these two up for the last few months because her books are so enjoyable but I might need to read them as part of this challenge to lighten the mood.  The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by G.W. Dahlquist is a book I picked up from an op shop and which I know nothing about.  The quote on the front of the book says “Fantastic.  Somewhere between Dickens, Sherlock Holmes and Rider Haggard.  I was in seventh heaven”  Kate Mosse, author of Labyrinth.  Was it silly picking up a book by an author I don’t know with a recommendation by an author I don’t know?  We’ll see.  And finally, Mansfield Park by Jane Austen was thrown in because I was intrigued by Iris on Books’ staunch defence of Fanny Price as a character and because Billie Piper played Fanny in a recent movie adaptation and Ms Piper, as an actor, can do no wrong in my book.

The Panic Stack 1

I put this lot together at the last minute because I looked at the books I’d lined up for the challenge and thought “Is that enough?  Have I given myself enough choices?  What if I don’t have the right book to fit my mood?”  So I quickly grabbed the half-finished One Fine Day (1947) by Mollie Panter-Downes and Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928) by Siegried Sassoon, the very small Bonjour Tristesse (1954) by Francoise Sagan, the historical My Cousin Rachel (1951) and Frenchman’s Creek (1941) by Daphne du Maurier and the post-war set The Flight of the Maidens (2000) by Jane Gardam and Tea at Four O’Clock (1956) by Janet McNeill.

Other books that may make an appearance are those at the library I have on reserve or on loan: Time to be in Earnest (2000) by P.D. James, Franklin and Eleanor: An Extraordinary Marriage (2010) by Hazel Rowley, Father and Sons (2007) by Alexander Waugh, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (2011) by Jeanette Winterson, All That I Am (2011) by Anna Funder and The Magician King (2011) by Lev Grossman.

And then I had another little panic and threw into the mix:

The Panic Stack 2

From the bottom up: Company Parade (1934) by Storm Jameson, Miss Mole (1930) by E.H. Young, All the Pretty Horses (1992) by Cormac McCarthy, Non-Combatants and Others (1916) by Rose Macauley, The Anubis Gates (1983) by Tim Powers, Spinster (1958) by Sylvia Ashton-Warner and The Gypsy’s Baby (1946) by Rosamond Lehmann.

And that, I hope, is that.  My only qualification for reading books that are not part of these stacks is that I may need to extend the scope of my research to follow up sources as, and when, they are uncovered.  Other than that, it should be sweet.

Bring on January!