Thursday, 17 November 2011

Reading Group Challenge 2012

It's that time of year to start looking at what I want to read in 2012 and what books were hits with me this past year. In one of my Goodreads website reading groups, we've been setting up our reading goals for 2012. The Group Reading Goal is a 12 + 2 challenge; twelve books plus 2 alternates that you pick to read over the course of the year. Of course this has lead to much discussion as we look at each others choices and comment on them. For interest sake, my tentative 12  + 2 list is -

My Group Reading Goals for 2012 -

1. Susanna Clarke - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell. At the dawn of the 19th century, two very different magicians emerge to change England's history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England - until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight. Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell's student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.

2. Sergei Lukyanenko - The Night Watch. Walking the Streets of Moscow, indistinguishable from the rest of its population, are the Others. Each owes allegiance to either the Dark or the Light, two powerful forces that long ago forged an uneasy truce in order to avert chaos and disaster. They watch each other closely, carefully maintaining the world's precarious balance between good and evil. Anton, a young Other of the Light, is a Night Watch agent who patrols the streets and subways of the city, protecting ordinary people from the agents - including vampires - of the Dark. On his rounds, Anton comes across a young woman, Svetlana, who is under a powerful curse that threatens to destroy the city, and a boy, Egor, an Other still unaware of his powers, whom Anton narrowly saves from the vampires of the Dark. Anton and his partner, Olga, a powerful female Other who has been turned into an owl as punishment, work frantically with their Night Watch colleagues - each gifted with their own particular powers - to deflect Svetlana's curse and to protect Egot from the creatures that pursue him.

3. Scott Westerfield - Leviathan. It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. his own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. with the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way....

4. Bill Bryson - At Home - A Short History of Private Life. Bill Bryson and his family live in a Victorian parsonage in a part of England where nothing of any great significance has happened since the Romans decamped. Yet one day, he began to consider how very little he knew about the ordinary things of life as he found it in that comfortable home. To remedy this, he formed the idea of journeying about his house from room to room to “write a history of the world without leaving home.” The bathroom provides the occasion for a history of hygiene; the bedroom, sex, death, and sleep; the kitchen, nutrition and the spice trade; and so on, as Bryson shows how each has fig­ured in the evolution of private life. Whatever happens in the world, he demonstrates, ends up in our house, in the paint and the pipes and the pillows and every item of furniture.

5. Deborah Cadbury - Chocolate Wars. With a cast of characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a Victorian novel, Chocolate Wars tells the story of the great chocolatier dynasties, through the prism of the Cadburys. Chocolate was consumed unrefined and unprocessed as a rather bitter, fatty drink for the wealthy elite until the late 19th century, when the Swiss discovered a way to blend it with milk and unleashed a product that would conquer every market in the world. Thereafter, one of the great global business rivalries unfolded as each chocolate maker attempted to dominate its domestic market and innovate new recipes for chocolate that would set it apart from its rivals. The contest was full of dramatic contradictions: The Cadburys were austere Quakers who found themselves making millions from an indulgent product; Kitty Hershey could hardly have been more flamboyant yet her husband was moved by the Cadburys tradition of philanthropy. Each was a product of their unique time and place yet they shared one thing: they want to make the best chocolate in the world.

6. Barbara Tuchman - The Zimmerman Telegram. Barbara Tuchman's novel tells the  story of certain events leading up to America's entry into World War I and of the intercepted message that triggered the dramatic climax. It involves a tale of espionage, secret diplomacy, international politics and personal drama probably unparalleled in history.

7. Jack Whyte - Knights of the Black and White. It is 1088. Whole many French nobles continue their occupation of a violently hostile England, one young knight, Hugh de Payens, is inducted into the Order, a powerful secret society. When the new Pope calls for knights to join his Crusade to redeem the Holy Land, Hugh is commanded by the Order to go along and quickly finds himself in hellish battle in Jerusalem. Sickened by the slaughter of innocents and civilians, Hugh decides to follow a different path, forming the Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ, a unique brotherhood of fighting monks who use the skills honed in battle to defend and protect pilgrims on the road to Jerusalem. But the Order has a different plan, and soon the brethren find themselves charged with an outlandish and dangerous task - a seemingly impossible mission to uncover a hidden treasure that could not only destroy the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem but threaten the fabric of the Church itself.

8. Iain Banks - The Wasp Factory. Two years after I murdered my younger brother Paul, for quite different reasons that I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin, Esmerelda, more or less on a whim. That' my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again. It was just a stage I was going through.

Enter - if you can bear it - the extraordinary private world of Frank, just sixteen, and unconventional, to say the least.

9. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange.  Fifteen-year old Alex doesn't just like ultra-violence - he also enjoys rape, drugs and Beethoven's Ninth. he and his gang rampage through a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills. But when Alex finds himself at the mercy of the state and subject to the ministrations of Dr Brodsky, the government psychologist, he discovers that fun is no longer the order of the day..

The basis for one of the most notorious films ever made. A Clockwork Orange is both a virtuoso performance from an electrifying prose stylist and a serious exploration of the morality of free will.

10. Robertson Davies - The Rebel AngelsThe Rebel Angels revolves around the execution of a difficult will. In this case, the estate is of one Francis Cornish, a fantastically rich patron and collector of Canadian art and a noted antiquarian bibliophile. A lost Rabelais manuscript is rumoured to be among his possessions, and his executors include the deliciously revolting Renaissance scholar Urquhart McVarish; Professor Clement Hollier, a classically middle-aged inhabitant of the ivory tower; and the Reverend Simon Darcourt, Davies's obligatory humanist clergyman. A heroine is provided in the form of Maria Theotoky, a beautiful Ph.D. student of Professor Hollier's. A rich, funny, and slightly ribald campus novel results.

11. Ken Follett - Pillars of the Earth. As a new age dawns in England's twelfth century, the building of a might Gothic cathedral sets the stage for a story of intrigue and power, revenge and betrayal. It is in this rich tapestry, where kings and queens are corrupt, that the common man shows eternal promise - and one majestic creation will bond them forever.

12. Barbara Kingsolver - The Poisonwood Bible. This is the story of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry  with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in post colonial Africa. The novel is set against one of the most dramatic political chronicles of the twentieth century: the Congo's fight for independence from Belgium, the murder of its first elected prime minister, the CIA coup to install his replacement, and the insidious progress of a world economic order that robs the fledgling African nation of its autonomy.

Alt 1. Vikas Swarup - Six Suspects.  Seven years ago, Vivek "Vicky" Rai, the playboy son of the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh,murdered Ruby Gill at a trendy restaurant in New Delhi simply because she refused to serve him a drink. Now Vicky Rai is dead, killed at a farmhouse at a party he had thrown to celebrate his acquittal. The police cordon off the venue and search each and every guest. Six of them are discovered with guns in their possession and are taken in for questioning. Who are these six suspects? And what were they doing in the farmhouse that night? Both a riveting page - turner and a richly textured tale of human frailties, Six Suspects is the work of a master storyteller.

Alt 2. Elleston Trevor - The Flight of the Phoenix . Two men die when Frank Towns crash-lands his Skytruck passenger-freighter in the storm - whipped Libyan desert. From the broken hull dazed survivors stagger - twelve men and a monkey - to face a gruesome, near-waterless ordeal, hundreds of miles from help. Then one man conceives an apparently fantastic idea, to build a new plane from the wreckage of the old....

So there you have it, my main Group Reading Challenge for next year. I'm already looking forward to it. Next couple of Blogs I'll highlight some of my favourite reads of 2011.. Betcha can't wait, eh?

Keep on reading!!


  1. What are you going to do when you've finished these luvvie.. ??
    It will only be March after all. ;o)
    J xx

  2. Maybe I'll have to buy some new books. ;0)

  3. As a Brit I know I'm biased.. but having tried Hersheys I can tell you Cadbury's is an altogether better chocolate. ;o)

    Oh and from now on, it's one in one out with the books bucko !!
    Jo xx

  4. The best chocolates I ever had were from a chocolate shop in Brussells, I think it was called Leonidas. I used to bring back a couple of boxes everytime I went there for conferences.. mmmmm. But if I get rid of books, it'll ruin your carefully designed shelves.. ;0)


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