Posted by: Lisa Hill | September 21, 2019

2019 Reading Women Challenge (Goodreads)

I don’t do challenges, other than make desultory efforts with 1001 Books, The Complete Booker and Read the Nobels.  But one of the groups I belong to is the Goodreads 500 Great Books by Women, and each year they have a challenge… which I did not even discover until today because I must have skipped the email that announced it.

So just to amuse myself, I hereby present my unwitting efforts to complete the challenge.  Some categories I was never going to achieve, not even by accident. Categories I’ve achieved are highlighted in bold.

  1. Mystery/thriller by a WOC: #Cheating? A mystery lies at the heart of The Yield by Indigenous author Tara June Winch, but genre fiction it is not.
  2. Woman with a mental illness: Beneath Pale Water by Thalia Henry and Butterflies in November, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir, translated by Brian FitzGibbon
  3. Author from Nigeria or New Zealand: Lots to choose from because I’ve read seven novels by Kiwi women, but I’ll go for In a Fishbone Church by Catherine Chidgey.  (I have Americanah by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche on the TBR but I haven’t read it yet.)
  4. About or set in Appalachia:  #PossibleFail/Possible Pass… I Googled Appalachia: Wikipedia says it’s a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama and Georgia.  I’ve read seven books by American women and five set in America by women (two of which were by Australian women, Toni Jordan and Lucy Treloar) but to get a pass on this I would have to mess around a lot with the geography and I cannot be bothered.
  5. Children’s book: #Fail.  Not on my radar since retirement! (But I did feature some from A Past Life in a recent #6Degrees).
  6. Multi-generational family saga: Epic fail.  (And no, thankyou, I do not want any suggestions).
  7. Featuring a woman in science: Through Ice and Fire (the story of the Antarctic icebreaker Aurora Australis) by Deputy Voyage Leader and scientist Sarah Laverick
  8. Myth retelling: Circe by Madeline Miller
  9. A novella: Dry Milk, by Huo Yan, translated by Duncan M Campbell
  10. About a woman athlete: #Fail
  11. YA book by a Woman of Colour: #Fail I’ve read one YA novel this year Stone Girl by Eleni Hale, what a shame they didn’t have a category for a book about triumphing over a miserable childhood in State care.
  12. Lambda Literary Award winner: this is a US award for books with LGBTIQ themes, and it turns out that I’ve read one of the past winners, Disoriental by Negar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover, but I read it in 2018 so it doesn’t count. But if the spirit of the category is what counts, I’ve read 9 books with LGBTIQ themes and characters this year, and of those I offer Real Differences by S. L. Lim.
  13. A translated book published before 1945: Kristin Lavransdatter#3 The Cross by Nobel prize winner Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally.  I can’t use La Mare au Diable (The Devil’s Pool), by George Sand because I read it in French.
  14. A play: Black is the New White by Indigenous author Nakkiah Lui
  15. Written by a South Asian author: Home Fire, by Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie
  16. By an Indigenous woman: Welcome to Country, a Travel Guide to Indigenous Australia, by Marcia Langton
  17. From the 2018 Reading Women Award shortlist: #Fail Finding out what these were involved listening to a podcast and I couldn’t be bothered.  Why have a time-consuming podcast when a quick and simple list would suffice?  But from a partial list in one of the participants’ posts, I learned that Terra Nullius by Indigenous author Clare G Coleman was one of the nominees.  I’ve read it, but that was back in 2017 so it doesn’t count.
  18. Romance or love storyBruny by Heather Rose.  (But it’s much more interesting than just a  love story… my review is coming soon.)
  19. About Nature: Blooms and Brushstrokes, A Floral History of Australian Art, by Penelope Curtin and Tansy Curtin (it’s not just about the art, it’s about the flowers too).
  20. Historical fiction: Zuleikha, a novel, by Guzel Yakhina, translated by Lisa C Hayden
  21. A book bought/borrowed in 2019: I’ve bought 24 books this year, 17 of them by women, but I’ll give a #ShoutOut to my library with Hearing Maud by Jessica White.
  22. A book you got because of the cover: #Fail.  Much as I like good cover art as in Blooms and Brushstrokes, I do not buy books because of the cover.  More often I don’t buy a book because of the sexism inherent in the cover (back view of headless woman; title in sickly pink script, anything with ridiculous high heels &c).
  23. Any book from a series: (doubling up here) Kristin Lavransdatter#3 The Cross by Nobel prize winner Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnally
  24. Book featuring a religion other than your own (hmmm to the assumption here that everyone has a religion): This has to be Kristin Lavransdatter#3 The Cross (again!) by Nobel prize winner Sigrid Undset, translated by Tiina Nunnall since it’s the only one I can remember that featured religion.

So this is the challenge you discover in mid September and find that you’ve accidentally done a good bit of it because you read widely! 16 isn’t bad IMHO when I wasn’t even trying, and if you count No 4 and No 12, then it’s even better.

What do you think of a challenge like this?  Do challenges encourage you to read out of your comfort zone?

 


Responses

  1. I think the only way to approach challenges is as you have done here. I really don’t want to have to read to meet an external target. (I wonder if AWW Gen x Week readers feel the same way).

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    • Well, AWW is not quite the same thing. Like my Indigenous Literature Week it’s not demanding: it involves reading just one book at a particular time of the year and the choice of book is entirely open within the very broad parameters.
      I found it interesting to see the choices this challenge sets: obviously keen to include People of Colour, and translations, but not interested in classics unless you count published before 1948. From the 2018 challenge I gather that they change geographic focus each year (last year they included books from Russia). I think they’ve tried to be inclusive of a variety of reading tastes, perhaps at the expense of having an achievable target for people who don’t read as much as we do. If whatever’s in the zeitgeist this year (e.g. The Testaments) is what you want to read, and it doesn’t fit with the challenge, that makes it harder still.
      From my PoV I joined this group because I was interested in Great Women who’ve been left out of The Canon, but I haven’t really found it useful for that.

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  2. I’ve seen various challenges like this doing the rounds but haven’t had the slightest interest in doing them. It’s hard enough doing the broad based challenges like Classics Club where you have complete freedom to choose what to read and when. Doing one with categories would be too constrictive for me particularly when some categories just seem ridiculous – the colour of lettering on the cover for example. This is one of the better ones

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    • Yes, I can’t see the point of those either (though I admit to doing something similar a while ago when I was quite taken by the idea of doing challenges.)
      I think perhaps they might work for people who want to read more than they do and also want to widen the scope and diversity of what they read. They can also sometimes create a community: on the Goodreads site they have a discussion board for the different categories and some of the chat can be quite engaging.

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      • I can see the benefits of doing the bingo challenge in those circumstances though I would lean more to the ones that took me into different genres or locations rather than just the colour of the cover. Good reads discussion groups Ive dabbled with but haven’t found the right one yet

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        • Yes, I joined their 1001 Books group I dutifully vote every time we’re asked to, but they always vote for the ones I’ve already read.

          Liked by 1 person

          • i’ve just joined this out of curiosity about what they select each month

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  3. Well done! I like the idea of the challenge except that I’m rubbish at challenges – I can’t even stick to ones I come up with myself. Nice to find you’ve done a lot of it inadvertantly though! :D

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    • The challenge you’ve (almost) done when you weren’t doing a challenge!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What’s a WOC?

    About the Appalachia: it’s not written by a woman but if you’re curious, there are books by Ron Rash, like Serena. At least it’s about a woman. He writes beautifully.
    Otherwise, there’s Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver. (Excellent, IMO)

    I think this challenge has very specific categories. I’d rather do it like you do: try to see what I’ve read that would fit than try to adapt my reading to some whimsical categories.
    Call me a finicky feminist, but I’m not sure that a challenge about men lit would include a category tagged “with mental illness”

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    • A WoC is a Woman Of Colour, as in Person Of Colour.

      Ah, I’ve read The Prodigal Summer, you’re right, that was a very good book indeed.

      Yes, I take your point about that category. While I think literature should cover the whole gamut of human experience, I think mental illness should only ever be represented as a part of a person, not their whole identity.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks and I agree with you about mental illness. There wouldn’t be a category with “someone with cancer”, right?

        Btw, I left a comment on you Camus review and I find it strange that you didn’t reply. Is it in the spams?

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        • One would hope not, but there are so many misery memoirs around now, I won’t be surprised if it turns up one day…
          I did reply to that comment, but it’s vanished. I think perhaps that I must have been interrupted before I’d finished, and then later on shut down the computer without finishing the reply. Sometimes I shut down in a hurry when a thunderstorm is overhead, and that may have been the reason.
          Anyway, my apologies to you, I do always try to reply to everyone!
          (I’ve replied now).

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          • Thanks I wondered if my profile had something that put my comments in spam.

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            • No, it was my fault, though it’s something to watch out for. It’s happened to me, and to one of my friends as well, and it feels awful!

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  5. I used to participate in a few challenges, but I became too obsessive to enjoy them. These days I just amble along, reading books reviewed/recommended by those whose views I respect and focussing on books by Australian women.

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    • I think they were A Thing for a while, but a lot of us have learned from experience that they can end dominating the reading and turning it into a competition. LOL I suspect that only happens to obsessives like us, but whatever, we are happier not doing them!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love challenges but I always fail. I’m not disciplined enough and next year is the year I really crack onto books I already own. No new books!!! Adamant!!!! Right!!!!! Why does this make me start laughjng?

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  7. Ooh, I have Appalachia advice! (It’s where I grew up.) I’d say anywhere in Virginia, West Virginia, North or South Carolina, Kentucky or Tennessee would count. And bits of other states depending on geography, but anything set anywhere in the above states is pretty solidly Appalachian.

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    • Well, thank you, Elle, but I’ll be honest, I couldn’t mark where any of those states are on a map. (I’ve never been to the US, so I’ve never needed to know its geography. I’ve never had any reason to learn it.) I (sort of) know where Texas is, and New Orleans, and Washington and New York, but that’s about it.
      But hey, I’m pretty good on Asian and Southeast Asian geography, and not too shabby about Europe and Africa either!

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      • Well, then you’re doing better than I am!

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        • I guess we tend to learn what we need:)

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