100 Greatest Books Challenge, which seems to be a good point to say some words on it!
I can't say why I decided to do this, other than I thought maybe it would be a good thing to do: there was no real thought behind it. Again, I was confronted by a list and thought, "Challenge accepted". I think when I started in July, when I started this blog, too, I had read around twenty books. Now, as I say, I've read fifty, and can say I'm a marginally better person for it.
Of course, some of it has been dreadful. The Wasp Factory is probably the most offensive book I've ever read, for example (and yes, I get berated for this, but I stand by it: I loathed it). Anna Karenina, too, was a disappointment, and others feel that it is the best book ever written and I'm a moron for "not getting it". And I did "get it", I just didn't "get into it": there's a big difference. The Magic Faraway Tree Collection wasn't exactly gripping either, but given that I am at least twenty years older than the target audience, I don't think that's anyone's fault! And Dune was yet another example of an epic failure, those who is accountable for that failure I wouldn't like to say.
But that is the bad stuff, and I can honestly say the good outweighed the bad in epic proportions. Charles Dickens is, far and away, the biggest success out of this. At the end of August, I wrote this about Mr. Dickens, and good God, I wish this was not my most popular post (and oh, it is by far my most popular post, it's marching ahead of the second top by about four hundred hits). I take it back, I take it all back, and how. The 100 Greatest Books Challenge has six Dickens books, and in July I had only read A Christmas Carol. I had tried and failed to get into Oliver Twist many times, but this challenge forced me to do it, and for that I truly am grateful. I still have some way to go before I feel that I can call myself a Dickens fan: although I have gone on to read Tale of Two Cities (which I didn't like as much as Oliver Twist, but I did still enjoy it), and I have bought Our Mutual Friend and The Pickwick Papers, I still need to read Great Expectations, Bleak House and David Copperfield to complete the Dickens on that list, as well as a few others perhaps before I feel I can judge his major works. But I am more than happy to do so: Dickens is no longer a chore. From what I have read, I thoroughly enjoy Charles Dickens.
So that was a success, and what else? Well, I think another breakthrough was for me to come at least some way in dropping my book snob attitude. I don't like being a book snob, it's not something I claim with pride. I think it shows, in me at least, a certain lack of confidence. I thought, when I said to one of my friends that I resented paying even £1 for The Da Vinci Code, that was quite a witty thing to say, but really it wasn't. I mean, great it is not, but I did enjoy it. And, furthermore, I think it's important to at least have some grip on the zeitgeist, so it was a good one to read. And, in that spirit, I was happier to read a few more that I looked down on. Memoirs of a Geisha, for example, is another one I could not put down, and I'm looking forward to seeing the film at some point.
The final success in all of this is I've got over my dislike of 'ridiculous plots'. The Time Traveller's Wife is the best example I can think of: I picked it up in a bookshop not long after the film, read the back and thought, "How silly" and that was the end of that until September, when I finally bought it in Alnwick. As you can see, the book didn't exactly inspire a review, but it inspired something in me. It was very beautiful, and I'm glad to have read it. And The Alchemist - again, I have no inspiration to mention it in its own post (which is ironic, I was promised by the publisher that it would change my life), but at the same time I was happy to read it.
So far, this challenge has been, as you can see, very good. Looking through what's left, I have high hopes for Moby Dick (which I have started, but got distracted; I was enjoying it, though), Les Misérables (which I shall be reading next year with Laura), as well as the rest of the Dickens titles, and a few others. I can't say I'm looking forward to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but such is life. This is, at number 50, a very good challenge for me.