Monday, October 11, 2010


Well, I'm done. Finished book #100 (Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky) Friday night.

Glad that's over. (The challenge, not the book!)

This was an interesting challenge (read 100 books across 10 categories by 10/10/10) and one I'm not certain I want to repeat. While I expanded *what* I was reading--Mystery, Short Stories, Biography/Autobiography--I don't like how I was reading. First, the good.

I learned that short stories really are okay. I like a certain type: one that isn't deliberately obtuse but wraps-up somewhat neatly. The character don't have to live Happily Ever After (I'm not a fan of that type of book anyway) but what I mean about that is so many short stories leave me thinking, "What in the world just happened?" I like them a bit more linear than that. It's hard to express to others what the specific quality is (qualities are) but let's just say I like some short story writers more than others. I know 'em when I read 'em.

I've always known that I like bio and autobio but I don't read enough of them. I did cheat with a few "memoirs" but really tried to focus my reading on the more solid, researched works.

As far as mystery/crime go--a genre mostly new to me--I learned that I like crime/thriller better than I do "mysteries." I found most of the genre mysteries to be predictable and somewhat flat. I'll try more, definitely, but found I liked the thriller/crime novel reads more.

Indie Presses: I probably read more indie press books than the average reader but this year I decided to put my money where my mouth is and focus on reading more of them. I read some wonderful books that don't always get the press coverage and buzz others do and I will continue to expand my reading in this area.

On to the bad. Ugh, I don't like how this made me read. I read too quickly a lot of the time and rarely stopped to savor a book. I got anxious trying to finish books. It's also a strange experience to track your reading on an Excel spreadsheet. Walking into a bookstore or library made me twitch. I'd put down books I want to read because I had to fit books into categories. I counted and recounted the books on my spreadsheet and panicked when numbers didn't add up. I did it again this morning.

Yesterday I was in Tattered Cover to pick up a copy of Lonesome Dove (#101) and was browsing the shelves. What a relief when I realized I could pick up ANYTHING. It didn't have to fit into a column on a spreadsheet. And savoring Bad Marie was a delight. I picked Marcy's book on purpose and it was well-worth the wait. (It is a fantastic book--read it.) I'm looking forward to reading like a normal person again, minus the twitching.

So, what were my favorites? (And then we'll look at some numbers.)

These aren't necessarily the books that will make my end-of-the-year list though many probably will. This are my favorites in each of my ten categories. Some books fit into more than one category (most did, as a matter-of-fact) but this list is based on where I slotted them for the challenge.

9, 10, 11 (books published in 2009, 2010, 2011): Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe

Authors New to Me: Twins by Marcy Dermansky (which is why I picked Bad Marie for my last book)

YA: Wanting Mor by Rukhsana Khan

Not Yet Read Classics: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

Biography/Autobiography: Tie between Soupy Sez (which is a book my company publishes, for full disclosure) and Adam Schrager's excellent The Principled Politician: The Story of Ralph Carr

Indie Presses: Tie between Elise Blackwell's An Unfinished Score (Unbridled Books) and Sourcebooks' A Seat at the Table by Joshua Halberstam

Mystery/Crime: Collusion by Stuart Neville

One Word Titles: Tie between Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides and Taqwacores by Michael Mohammed Knight

Guilty Pleasures: Tie between Room by Emma Donaghue and Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky

Short Stories: Six Kinds of Sky by Luis Alberto Urrea

Now, some numbers.
There's been some chatter lately about women writers getting short-shrift in the book review media and also that we (collectively) take male writers more seriously somehow. 48 of the books I read were written by women.

51 of the books I read were published in 2009, 2010, or 2011 (though I don't think I have read any 2011 galleys for this challenge.)

70 were written by authors I've never read before.

30 were published by independent presses. (Including but not limited to Unbridled Books, Sourcebooks, Greywolf, Algonquin, Soft Skull, Europa, New York Review of Books Press, Candlewick, MacAdam Cage, and Soho. There is some GREAT indie publishing happening out there--read 'em!)

So, that's it in a nutshell. Glad I did it. Glad it's over. Won't do it again. Thanks to all who cheered me on along the way! (And let me know your thoughts about anything I've said--please! Maybe you can help me articulate my short story thing better?)


  1. What a great idea, kudos to you two!

  2. I know it's early to think about it, but do you think you'll do a 11/11/11 thing next year?

  3. You've inspired me! I plan on doing a very similar challenge starting in November. Thanks so much for this!