Mrs. Peabody’s 2013 reading challenges

A little late in the day, I’ve been thinking about my reading goals for 2013, and have decided to take part in two challenges.

I’m not normally one for reading challenges, because I already have plenty of ‘performance enabling’ and research targets to meet in my professional life. Adding yet more items to tick off the list hasn’t seemed like a particularly good idea.

However, a combination of factors has drawn me to these challenges:

  1. They will help me broaden my reading in a more directed way.
  2. There are ‘easy’ levels, which look invitingly…easy.
  3. They both look like great fun.

The first is the 2013 Global Reading Challenge

The ‘Easy Challenge’ involves ‘reading one novel from each of these continents in the course of 2013: Africa, Asia, Australasia/Oceania, Europe, North America, South America, and The Seventh Continent (Antarctica or your own ‘seventh’ setting, e.g. the sea, the space, a supernatural/paranormal world, history, the future)’.

You’re also asked to ‘find a country, state or author that is new to you from your own continent’.

If you fancy joining me, you can sign up here via the host blog, Kerrie’s ‘Mysteries in Paradise’. There are links to challenges from past years, so that you can get ideas for reading; other wonderful posts out there will also provide inspiration. For example, there’s a great list of Latin American crime fiction over at ‘Ms. Wordopolis Reads’.

The second is the 2013 Translation Challenge

Hosted by ‘Curiosity Killed the Bookworm’, this challenge is a simple one: you’re asked to read one translated book a month.

You can sign up here. There’s also a handy set of links to publishing houses known for their support of translated crime fiction, to help create a reading list.

Those of you with eagle eyes may have noticed that the challenges overlap – books read for one could very well also be submitted for the other. This is a deliberate strategy on my part: if the nineteen-book total begins to feel unmanagable, I can double up where necessary and still complete them both. This could be viewed as a subtle bit of cheating or as a cunning back-up plan. I prefer the latter interpretation… 🙂

My January book for the Translation Challenge was Fred Vargas’ An Uncertain Place (France) and February’s will be Hakan Nesser’s The Return (Sweden), sequel to the wonderful Borkmann’s Point. I probably won’t be submitting these to the Global challenge though, as I’m on the hunt for something a bit more exotic from Europe. Suggestions welcome!

I’ll be building lists of the books I’ve read for my 2013 challenges here.

32 thoughts on “Mrs. Peabody’s 2013 reading challenges

    • The Bulgakov is brilliant and this will urge me to reread it. But are these supposed to be crime novels? I’ll easily get through if it includes general fiction as I’m not writing at present, just reading – am poised to join the white flight from central London to a place in the country and can’t settle to writing with imminent upheaval ahead. Am also finding I want to read less and less crime as there is so much real violence around. Anyone else feel the same?

      • Just to clarify, Cassandra – the reading challenges don’t have to involve crime – you can pick any type of literature you like – or you can mix the genres up. The main emphasis is simply on ‘getting out more’. I will probably make mine crime, though, as I have a hungry blog to feed 🙂

        I do feel sometimes that I need a break from crime and trot off to refresh myself with something else. There are also weeks in which I’ll try to ignore the papers because the events being described there are so truly awful (although then I feel that I’m turning away when I shouldn’t, and so can’t win).

  1. Mrs. P – I commend you for getting involved in these challenges. I really do have a lot of respect for folks like you who broaden their reading that way.

    • Thanks, Margot – let’s hope I don’t regret it further down the line! I’ve deliberately tried to keep things manageable, and am reasoning that I do lots of reading along those lines anyway, so it should be OK 🙂 The main incentive (apart from the fun) is that the challenges will help me keep a bit of an eye on the scope of my reading. I would have liked to have been a little more adventurous in my reading last year…

  2. Thanks for linking to my list, and good luck with the challenges! I’ve only tried one Argentinian book so far that was a bit too dark for me (Money to Burn), but I’ll keep working through the list.

    • You’re welcome – it’s a very useful list! I just need an extra bit of time to browse amongst all the goodies and decide on a couple to read.

  3. I am in a single challenge, the Canadian Book Challenge. I almost felt I had to undertake a challenge that involves Canadian books. When I participated last year I found it encouraged me to read Canadian books, especially mysteries. I liked that it chooses to run from Canada Day, July 1 to July 1. Overall I think one challenge and possibly one of Kerrie’s community memes are enough for me. I will be interested to see how two challenges work for you.

    • Thanks, Bill. Let’s hope I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew.

      I like the sound of your Canadian challenge. It’s more or less the opposite of mine, in the sense that it encourages you to dig deep into the literature of one country. But I can imagine that a country of Canada’s size has a wealth of literary offerings to enjoy. It’s nice to be able to concentrate on one’s ‘home’ literature as well.

  4. I had done the Global Reading Challenge for 2011 and completed the Medium level. Then last year I finished the Expert level, read three books from each continent and three historical mysteries. Doing the challenges pushed me out of my comfort zone to read several books by authors new to me and set in countries that I hadn’t read about before the challenge. That and some terrific blogs expanded my reading horizons greatly. I am so glad about that.
    This year I’m taking my time and will see what evolves as I mosey through crime fiction.
    And I calculated that I read 16 translated books last year.
    I’m also so glad for having read crime fiction written by Aussie women. Although they don’t need translation — although some words and phrases do — I enjoyed every one of the 10 books from Oz that I read. A very high quality of writing exists there.

    • I’m in total awe, Kathy, of your reading achievements. I don’t think I’ll be reaching the expert level any time soon. Baby steps for now!

      It sounds like taking part in those challanges had huge benefits for you in terms of broadening the scope of your reading and introducing you to new authors. I’m glad to hear this, as I’m hoping for exactly those benefits myself. Aussie women writers are definitely on the list too (*waves to Angela*). I have you and Bernadette to thank for pointing me in that direction, for which I’m very grateful. Looking forward to sampling some very soon 🙂

  5. I hope you find your challenges just challenging enough – not so onerous they become a chore but not too insignificant that you don’t notice you’re doing them – which sounds easy but I have found quite a difficult balance to achieve.

    I have enjoyed the global challenge in the past, completing it twice, I stopped doing it mainly because finding South American books I wanted to read was becoming a real chore – my brain is not wired to compute magical realism/fantastical elements which A LOT of writing from that part of the world contains and I was spending a ridiculous amount of time starting books and not finishing them just for the point of the challenge – I found myself less challenged than churlish by the end and decided I would do my own version which is to try to read at least one book from at least 20 countries in a year and avoid the pesky problem of finding multiple books from South America that didn’t make my ears bleed 🙂

    Look forward to reading your thoughts on all your challenge books

    • Thanks, Bernadette. Yes – the balance you describe is exactly the one that I’m looking for, although I suspect that I won’t be feeling under-challanged given my ‘to do’ list for the months ahead. If only I could clone another me to take care of the work part of my life…

      I agree that bleeding-ears-syndrome is best avoided . South America remains a bit of a target area for me – I’ve read very little of its crime fiction thus far. Some has been excellent – Ernesto Mallo – and some not: there was a Peruvian crime novel I read with great anticipation but found disappointing on a number of fronts – in spite of the fact that it had won a prestigious prize. I quite like magical realism if it’s well done, so hopefully there’ll be something out there that appeals.

      The best of luck with your 20 country challenge – that sounds like a great one and I’ll look forward to reading about your finds.

  6. Pleased to see that I am not alone in this – you’ve picked my two favourite challenges! I am trying to keep the two challenges separate though… but these are the good intentions still largely intact in the second month of the year. I may well find myself starting to panic further down the line (especially since it’s not that easy to find books in my rural corner of the non-English-speaking world).

    • Oh good! We can compare notes 🙂

      One of the reasons I went for both was because I couldn’t choose between them, but I have to recognise my limitations now and double up… Good luck with completing them both separately – I admire your resolve and wish you every success. And if you run out of books we can send an emergency package from Blighty!

  7. As you know I have a lot of reading challenges going on ( but I do allow them to overlap. i.e. I can count a book for more than one challenge. Some of the challenges are more in the nature of record keeping because I have no difficulty in completing them. Altogether though they help me achieve some sort of direction and balance in my reading. Helped by the fact that I read almost exclusively crime fiction.

    • I’ve just had a peek at all of your challenges, Kerrie, and am in awe of what you take on!

      I’m glad that overlaps are permitted, as they may prove necessary in my case… I must say that I’m already feeling the benefits of the challenges in terms of making me think in a more directed way about my reading. I’ve been on the lookout for a ‘seventh continent’ candidate and think I may have found an interesting one – which made me very happy!

      All the very best for your challenges and many thanks for hosting.

  8. On South America, I have enjoyed books by Brazilian author Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza, as well as Mario Silva adventures by Leighton Gage, although those have more violence on the page than Garcia-Roza’s, which there’s a lot of thinking about everything. Claudia Piniero of Argentina is also good and quite clever.
    I found out about these authors from good blogs.
    Also, I neglected to say that I also discovered some excellent Canadian writers and now I’m hooked on more series.

    • Thanks very much, Kathy, for recommending these authors. I’ll take a look at Claudia Piniero first, I think, as I’m keen to read more women-authored crime as well at the moment.

      If there are a couple of stand-out Canadian writers you could recommend, that would also be great 🙂

  9. If you are looking for recommendations, Catalan author Teresa Solana has two very enjoyable crime novels, A Not So Perfect Crime and A Short Cut to Paradise, which are socially critical mysteries written in the Christesque tradition. Both are published by Bitter Lemon Press with a third one, The Sound of One Hand Killing, coming out this year.

    • Thanks very much for this recommendation, SKing. I’ve heard of Teresa Solana and had a peek at her first novel in the library, but haven’t read it properly yet. She seems to have quite a distinctive style and I’ve heard quite a few people say good things about her work.

  10. Great idea. I may well join you. I already have Tail of the Blue Bird by Ghanaian writer Nii Ayikewi Parkes on my reading list, suggested by someone in my reading group.

    • To which I say: come on in, Chrissie, the water’s lovely! It would be great to compare notes.

      I’ve just checked out Tail of the Blue Bird and it looks mighty intriguing – thanks very much for alerting me to that one. Parkes was an International Writing Fellow at Southampton Uni according to his biog, which is one of my old haunts. Small world.

  11. Claudia Piniero’s Thursday Night Widows is interesting, unique, like nothing I’ve read, The Argentinian economic crisis is the backdrop of the story.
    Canadian: Robert Rotenberg writes good ones. Several readers like Gail Bowen’s series about Joanne Kilburn. I only read Kaleidoscope, the last one, and liked it. I mean to get more of them.
    I haven’t seen this at readers’ blogs but I read The River Runs Orange by R.J. Harlick, a woman writer and mean to read more by her. I learned a lot about Native culture and customs. Vicki Delany writes a light, humorous series about a young constable, Mollie Smith, and I needed a book like the first one at the time, will read more. She writes stand-alones, too.
    And my latest find, thanks to bloggers, is Anthony Bidulka, who writes about Russell Quant, a gay, male detective in Saskatchewan. I’ve read the first two and laughed out loud.

    • Hi Kathy – thanks so much for taking the time to get back to me with these suggestions. Lots of really interesting stuff to follow up there. I’m particularly intrigued by the Piniero and the Bidulka. A few laughs would be very welcome and an added bonus too 🙂

  12. Bidulka will give you laughs. I read the second Russell Quant book after a few rough spots and Russell and his eccentric friends kept me laughing.
    Also, re: Aussie women writeers, Kerry Greenwood’s Corinna Chapman series is fun.

    • Thanks, Kathy – I really appreciate all of your recommendations. I reckon it’s important to have some humour to offset those more gruelling crime fiction reads. I do admire crime writers who produce genuinely funny work – it must be a very difficult thing to pull off well.

  13. If you want something Japanese to add to your list, I can recommend Strangers by Taichi Yamada. It’s a ghost story, quite a short novel, but packs a powerful punch. Does it matter that it’s not crime?

    • Thanks very much for this recommendation, Chrissie. I’ll probably make my official choices crime because of the blog, but the challenge is meant to be a very open one, so it’s fine to suggest non-crime (and I like having a little break from criminality every now and then too). I’m partial to anything Japanese following a visit there in 2007 – it’s all good!

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