Reading challenges for 2014
Read a translated novel
In 2013, many of our staff members got hooked on reading translated books. Jonathan Franzen’s translations of the Viennese satirist Karl Kraus in The Kraus Project was a favourite for some, while others loved the metaphysical crime novel The Infatuations from Javier Marias (translated from the original Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa). Emily Gale called Fanny Britt & Isabelle Arsenault’s graphic novel Jane, the Fox and Me ‘exceptional’ (translated from the original French by Christine Morelli and Susan Ouriou), and Bronte Coates just won’t stop talking about Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend (translated from the original Italian by Ann Goldstein).
You can find more idea for translated novels published in 2013 here..
Read a book by a female author (Australian or other!)
While the Australian Women Writers Challenge was kicked off a few years ago now, Jon Page’s recent blog post about ‘how he completely failed the challenge’ reveals that this challenge still had an important role to play. For ideas on where to start, here’s a collection of 50 great reads by Australian women, all released in 2013.
If you’re wanting to look outside of Australia, some of the most talked-about books from 2013 were from women – Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, A.M. Homes' May We be Forgiven and Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers to name a few!
Read a banned book
Reading your way through a list of banned books is a bit like reading your way through a literature subject at university. There are so many classic authors with work that was once banned or challenged by schools or governments including Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Joyce, Flaubert, and so forth. Here’s some suggestions for banned and challenged books.
While many of these titles were banned in our history and are now widely accepted, the ban on some titles is surprisingly recent. For example, Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho is still technically banned from being sold in Queensland!
Read a book that’s outside of your usual taste or genre
It’s easy to fall into a groove with reading and so picking up a book that you would never normally consider is a great way to widen your eyes to new ideas. Take a recommendation from someone with very different taste to your own. Try out non-fiction (if you’re a fiction reader) or fiction (if you’re a non-fiction reader).
Depending on what your regular reading diet it like, you could test out a crime or thriller (such as Koethi Zan’s reportedly terrifying The Never List , a graphic novel or comic (such as Gilbert Hernandez’s coming-of-age story Marble Season), or a fantasy such as Neil Gaiman’s strange and lyrical The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Read an Australian classic
Put a homegrown spin on the usual ‘read-a-classic’ challenge, and read a classic from an Australian author.
For this challenge there’s plenty of places to start looking. The wonderful Text Classics series is designed to unearth some of the lost marvels of Australia literature, and is full of exciting books that have slipped under the radar (including Gerald Murnane’s A Lifetime on Clouds), while Penguin has some gorgeous collections of Australian Classics for both adults (including Ruth Park’s The Harp in the South) and children (including Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock).
Read a book by a début author
Sometimes it can be challenging to trust a new author, but pushing yourself to do so can lead to some most excellent discoveries. Plus, there’s a particular thrill in being able to follow a writer’s career (just as there is a different, if equally exciting, delight to be found in delving into an author’s entire backlist).
For some inspiration to get you started, here’s a collection of début novels we loved in 2013 which take us from Melbourne, Australia (Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project), to Iceland (Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites), to Africa (NoViolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names), to Ireland (Michele Forbes’s Ghost Moth), to Singapore (Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians), and more.
Reread a children’s book you loved
This kind of challenge proves that you can never read the same book twice. Picking up a book you favoured as a child as an adult there’s no doubt the story will reveal itself to you in a new way, and the risk is always that this beloved tale won’t stand the test of time.
Each month a Readings staff member reviews a children’s classic and the last few months have seen Boy: Tales of Childhood by Roald Dahl, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh appear.
You can find more of our staff favourites here.