Since I by and large do really poorly when it comes to reading challenges I tend to avoid them (it's not a good thing to stress out over reading, which I find myself doing occasionally), but I can't say no to Carl's two annual reading challenges--the first being Once Upon a Time V. Since he notes that the word challenge can be off-putting, I think I will simply think of it as 'reading along' and as he suggests just take pleasure in reading rather than trying to reach some goal. And I plan on reading just one book. And you probably already know by now I am all for pleasure reading, so no problems on that count. I think I can manage that between now and June 20. Whether I succeed or not is going to depend on the book I choose, and I have a small pile set aside at the moment to ponder. The shorter the better, but I do have a couple really hefty books I've heard much about and have had on hand for some time that I might make an attempt at.
At the moment I am leaning heavily towards A.S. Byatt's The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye: Five Fairy Stories. I've been wanting to read this for a while. The title story is about a "world renowned scholar in the art of storytelling" who finds a mysterious bottle in an Istanbul bazaar that contains a "marvelous being". I'd like to read more of Byatt's fiction, and a book of stories seems a good way to start.
Some time ago someone suggested Peter Beagle's A Fine and Private Place to me as a good fantasy book. It's set in a large cemetery where a romance blooms between two ghosts. I do love the sound of this one.
For a previous Once Upon a Time I read a book of short stories (retellings of fables and folk tales) by Angela Carter. I have a few of her books on hand and thought The Bloody Chamber might be a possibility. This is another short book with ten stories. Again these are retellings of famous legends and fairy tales--Little Red Riding Hood, Bluebeard, Puss-in-Boots, Beauty and the Beast among others. I like Angela Carter, but her writing is definitely on the quirky side and I have to be in the right mood for it. Will have to test the waters with this one.
The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany is another book I acquired for a previous challenge. Dunsany was a famous Victorian author and this is a classic fantasy novel from what I understand about a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess.
So all these books are totally manageable and well under three hundred pages. I think I could get on well with any of them and maybe would even be able to read more than one. But when I was scanning my bookshelves I pulled down two others. These are very hefty books and would definitely take lots of time and effort. Do I even want to attempt either of them now?
Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson is the first of three books called the Baroque Cycle. According to Stephenson's website it is "history, adventure, science, truth, invention, sex, absurdity, piracy, madness, death, and alchemy. It sweeps across continents and decades with the power of a roaring tornado, upending kings, armies, religious beliefs, and all expectations". It weighs in at 916 pages with not particularly large type.
Do you remember when everyone seemed to be reading Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell? I do. I wasn't reading it but I bought it. Does it count that I read her book of short stories (again for another of Carl's challenges)? This is "an epic tale of nineteenth century England and two very different magicians--teacher and pupil--who emerge to change history." It's 846 pages and similar type that fills the pages edge to edge though it comes with the odd illustration.
If I was practical I would choose one of the books from above. If I end up being unpractical I'll pick one of the latter two and probably end up finishing the book sometime well into 2012!
So, are you reading along? Which book(s) have you chosen? Have you read any of these? Maybe I shouldn't be afraid of those door stoppers of books and will find them so totally absorbing that once I start I won't be able to set it down. I'll be contemplating this for the next few days, but I'm looking forward to reading something!