Now taking suggestions for next years AW Reading Challenge!

Chris P

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It's that time of year again! Where the thermometer is either skyrocketing upward or plunging into the depths of despair, the shops are choked with Xmas cheer and kitchy crap for that impossible-to-shop-for nephew, and we're all wondering how it's almost already the mid-2020s when we were just getting used to the 2010s.

It's also the time of year where I start assembling next year's list of topics for the upcoming AW Reading Challenge! For those not familiar with the Challenges, each of the year's topics specifies some criteria to guide you in the selection of the 12 (or more, or fewer) books you choose for the Challenge. There are 50 topics to choose from, and each suggestion will be incorporated as well as a few more chosen at random from my master list (The 2022 thread is here.)

As always, AW has been the best resource for ideas. What ideas do you have?

(@Siri Kirpal I've noted the suggestion you made in the 2022 thread. Thanks!)
 
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mrsmig

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How about books whose titles are also in the lyrics to a popular song (e.g. Hemingway's Islands in the Stream, or Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True)?
 
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Chris P

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Looking over my master list, and in coming up with new topics (18 new ones!), I have some questions for you all.

First, for "The Heart and Mind of a Writer: An author memoir or collection of essays by an author." I realize this is actually quite a confusing topic. I mean, anyone who writes a memoir of compiles a collection of their essays is an author, so any of these descriptions would do. I think the original intent was to read non-fiction by a fiction writer (On Writing by Stephen King comes to mind), and therefore "by a novelist" might be a better descriptor. What do you think?

Also, for a new category, I want to highlight works by indigenous authors. Most often in the English-speaking world, we tend to think of "indigenous" writers as North American Indian/First Nations, or Australian and sometimes Pacific Islander. So, my tentative category is "We Were Here First!: A book by or about a Native American/First Nationer, Indigenous Australian, or Pacific Islander." But, in the broad sense, indigenous people would also include non-diaspora Africans, South Asians, and others. I like the idea, but I'm struggling with an inclusive description. I feel like focusing on "indigenous peoples of formerly colonized areas" would be problematic. Other challenges have specified "Native North American," so how I described it above fits that model, but there are lots of stories from the whole world in this vein that would be excluded. What's y'all's take on this one?

All input welcomed.
 
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Chris P

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How about books whose titles are also in the lyrics to a popular song (e.g. Hemingway's Islands in the Stream, or Wally Lamb's I Know This Much Is True)?
That will be on the list! I was thinking of Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone when I came up with it.
 

mrsmig

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Would "books by or about indigenous peoples" be specific enough?
 
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Chris P

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Would "books by or about indigenous peoples" be specific enough?
You mean I might be over thinking this? Little ole me?

I might have to overthink that proposition.
 
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Fi Webster

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This looks like fun, Chris!

I'll throw out a few ideas:

Amazing Critters: Pick an animal, any animal, and read all about it.
Eyes on the Prize: A novel that won the Booker, the Hugo, or another major award.
I Don't Speak the Language: Fiction in translation.
Less is More: A collection of short stories.
Name Dropping: A book where one or more famous dead people are characters in a fictional tale.
What the Heck Is Going On?: A book that sheds light on the state of the world today.
Trying to Be a Better Me: Self-help books don't get enough respect: read one that's well-reviewed
That Author You Keep Hearing About: A book by someone whose name keeps popping up

I could just keep churning these out! =laugh= I'll let other folks take a turn.
 

Chris P

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This looks like fun, Chris!

I'll throw out a few ideas:

Amazing Critters: Pick an animal, any animal, and read all about it.
Eyes on the Prize: A novel that won the Booker, the Hugo, or another major award.
I Don't Speak the Language: Fiction in translation.
Less is More: A collection of short stories.
Name Dropping: A book where one or more famous dead people are characters in a fictional tale.
What the Heck Is Going On?: A book that sheds light on the state of the world today.
Trying to Be a Better Me: Self-help books don't get enough respect: read one that's well-reviewed
That Author You Keep Hearing About: A book by someone whose name keeps popping up

I could just keep churning these out! =laugh= I'll let other folks take a turn.

I maintain a list of about 140 topics (and growing), then pick 50 for people to select 12 of. I have some that are quite similar to these, so I'll likely combine with those. Are there any you would particularly like to see? I take requests! :)

It's tons of fun! About half a dozen of us are regulars, and it would be great to have you join in!
 
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Fi Webster

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I maintain a list of about 140 topics (and growing), then pick 50 for people to select 12 of. I have some that are quite similar to these, so I'll likely combine with those. Are there any you would particularly like to see? I take requests! :)

It's tons of fun! About a dozen of us are regulars, and it would be great to have you join in!

Oh... animals for sure. And short stories. I also like to read at least one worthy self-help or self-improvement book a year.

A couple more I'd really like to do is

It Happened Long Ago: Nonfiction about a historical event.
Someeone You Should Have Heard About: Story of a pioneer in some field who's not been celebrated enough because they're a woman, Black, Hispanic, or some other category undersung by traditional historians.

What about collections of essays? Or of poetry? Because I like those, too, very much.

I don't quite understand how the reading and chatting part works. Do we read and discuss books from other people's lists as well as our own? How is the discussion organized so it's not a free-for-all?
 
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Chris P

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This looks like fun, Chris!

I'll throw out a few ideas:

Amazing Critters: Pick an animal, any animal, and read all about it.
Eyes on the Prize: A novel that won the Booker, the Hugo, or another major award.
I Don't Speak the Language: Fiction in translation.
Less is More: A collection of short stories.
Name Dropping: A book where one or more famous dead people are characters in a fictional tale.
What the Heck Is Going On?: A book that sheds light on the state of the world today.
Trying to Be a Better Me: Self-help books don't get enough respect: read one that's well-reviewed
That Author You Keep Hearing About: A book by someone whose name keeps popping up

I could just keep churning these out! =laugh= I'll let other folks take a turn.
It wasn't letting me save my edit, so I've pasted a response:

EDIT: To match your categories, in order you posted them. All of this is open to discussion:
  • Animal house: A book about animals in any way. [NEW! Thanks for the suggestion!]
  • Vast critical acclaim: A book that has won a prestigious award.
  • No hablo: A book originally written in another language (i.e., a translation). We also have: Another’s Mother Tongue: Any book in the foreign language of your choice.
  • Bits and pieces: An anthology (poetry, short stories, whatever).
  • Name droppings: Fiction where a real-life person is a character with their own lines. [NEW! I worded it the way I did, since I think going to an Ed Sheeran concert doesn't count, but going backstage and talking to him does. I'm wondering if your original suggestion might go under alt-history? Just the (alternative) facts, Ma’am: An alternate history. However, I think alt-history is more about today being different because Caesar survived the assassination, Poncho Villa conquered Texas, etc., and not alternate things real people might have done. Happy to discuss!]
  • How we got to where we are: A book about the politics of your country (history or current events, but published in the last 5 years). [We also have: Be the change you want to see: A book about a sociopolitical issue. Do you have a preference? I likely won't include both in a list.]
  • Being the you you want to see in the world: A self-help book on any topic. [I thought we had this one on the list many years ago, but I might have took it off because it might be too personal to discuss on an open board. But, we're all adults and can decide what we discuss in front of other people.]
  • Would "Keep up with the Joneses: A book everyone else seems to have read but you have not" fit the bill for the last one? I know yours was about the author, and this one is about the books. I guess we could broaden it to "a book or author everyone else..." with no problem.
 

Chris P

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Oh... animals for sure. And short stories. I also like to read at least one worthy self-help or self-improvement book a year.

A couple more I'd really like to do is

It Happened Long Ago: Nonfiction about a historical event.
Someeone You Should Have Heard About: Story of a pioneer in some field who's not been celebrated enough because they're a woman, Black, Hispanic, or some other category undersung by traditional historians.

What about collections of essays? Or of poetry? Because I like those, too, very much.

I don't quite understand how the reading and chatting part works. Do we read and discuss books from other people's lists as well as our own? How is the discussion organized so it's not a free-for-all?
Ah! This year's thread might help explain things a bit. https://absolutewrite.com/forums/in...llenge-turning-the-page-on-a-new-year.350942/ I've been posting them since 2016, after my step-daughter, who isn't a strong reader, posted on her Facebook someone's reading challenge, and that inspired me to start one here.

But mostly we give (optional) short (or long, sometimes!) summaries, reviews or critiques of books we've read, and if anyone has read a book one of the others have, we discuss. Very come-as-you-are, participate-as-much-or-as-little as you like.

I'll move your requests to the list. The second one you suggested above is new, so I'll add that to the list too.
 

Fi Webster

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But mostly we give (optional) short (or long, sometimes!) summaries, reviews or critiques of books we've read, and if anyone has read a book one of the others have, we discuss. Very come-as-you-are, participate-as-much-or-as-little as you like.

Sounds good.

I'll move your requests to the list. The second one you suggested above is new, so I'll add that to the list too.

If you use my title for the second one, be sure to remove the erroneous E from "someone."

As for the understanding politics or current events book, I don't have a strong preference for how you word it.

I would, though, like to suggest an activism/change topic, the title of which comes from the only bumper sticker on my husband's 35-year-old Toyota Land Cruiser—white with black letters and a blue-&-green image of our planet:

Love your mother: An upbeat book about people working to improve how we take care of Mother Earth—climate action or work to allay the biodiversity crisis (optional: ideas for how you can pitch in)

It's a topic close to my heart, so I'll put it on my private list whether it makes your top 50 or not. 🌎🌍🌏

Thanks for doin' this, Chris!
 
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Ink-Soul

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I saw the post for this year's reading challenge, but I decided two would be too much since I was already participating in another challenge. But I plan on participating next year!

Honestly, I thought last year's categories were quite interesting, so I don't have many ideas. One category that might be interesting is for retellings since they're a trend. There are countless retellings of mythological stories being released every year (I'm currently reading one, btw!), and some are very good.
 

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No hablo: A book originally written in another language (i.e., a translation).

All good ideas, but I especially like this one. I think it motivates people to read books from other cultures, which is something that I normally try to do, and it's amazing!
 

Chris P

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One category that might be interesting is for retellings since they're a trend. There are countless retellings of mythological stories being released every year (I'm currently reading one, btw!), and some are very good.
I'm not too familiar with the retellings trend, although I'm certainly aware of it. I have a new Once Upon a Time category, and from your posts this trend is broader than fairy tales? Greek myths? What about of other ancient tales such as Greek tragedies, Gilgalmesh, Shahnameh, Asian stories? Does it include more recent works like Tale of Genji, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and the like?

EDIT: Bah! Shahnameh is only ten years older than Genji!
 
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I love the new ideas and categories being suggested, particularly the "indigenous peoples" one, and the "It Happened Long Ago", as I love books about history.

So looking forward to next year's list!
 

Ink-Soul

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I'm not too familiar with the retellings trend, although I'm certainly aware of it. I have a new Once Upon a Time category, and from your posts this trend is broader than fairy tales? Greek myths? What about of other ancient tales such as Greek tragedies, Gilgalmesh, Shahnameh, Asian stories? Does it include more recent works like Tale of Genji, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and the like?

EDIT: Bah! Shahnameh is only ten years older than Genji!

Yes, retellings would include everything: fairy tales, myths (not only Greeks, more like world myths; the one I'm reading now is Hindu, for example), Shakespeare plays (there are lots of those, btw haha), and other classics like Dom Quixote, Dracula, etc. (Maybe make Dracula - 1897 - the earliest possible date for a retelling?).
 

Chris P

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Yes, retellings would include everything: fairy tales, myths (not only Greeks, more like world myths; the one I'm reading now is Hindu, for example), Shakespeare plays (there are lots of those, btw haha), and other classics like Dom Quixote, Dracula, etc. (Maybe make Dracula - 1897 - the earliest possible date for a retelling?).
Thanks! Once again, generalizing the topic and letting people interpret how they wish will win the day.

Someday I'm going to remember that.
 

Fi Webster

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Yes, retellings would include everything: fairy tales, myths (not only Greeks, more like world myths; the one I'm reading now is Hindu, for example), Shakespeare plays (there are lots of those, btw haha), and other classics like Dom Quixote, Dracula, etc. (Maybe make Dracula - 1897 - the earliest possible date for a retelling?).

Oooo... tell me about the Hindu one. Ramayana? Bhagavad Gita? I love me some Mahabharata action!
 
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Ink-Soul

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Oooo... tell me about the Hindu one. Ramayana? Bhagavad Gita? I love me some Mahabharata action!

Yup, it's the Ramayana haha The book is Kaikeyi, which as the name suggests, is the Ramayana (re)told through Kaikeyi's perspective :D It's a debut novel and I'm finding it really good so far. I also like the author's perspective on Hinduism as her religion, which led her to write this story.
 
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Fi Webster

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Yup, it's the Ramayana haha The book is Kaikeyi, which as the name suggests, is the Ramayana (re)told through Kaikeyi's perspective :D It's a debut novel and I'm finding it really good so far. I also like the author's perspective on Hinduism as her religion, which led her to write this story.

Cool. I'll check that out. Cartoonist Nina Paley made a Ramayana animated movie called Sita Sings the Blues. It's kind of insipid, but still entertaining.

I lived in India with an Hindu family for a brief while when I was an impressionable teenager. The religion stuck to me like glue. I still pray to Krishna, do puja for Durga, say mantras for Ganesh. I'm teaching myself Sanskrit so I can read the Gita in the original.

shānti shānti shānti OM
 
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Chris P

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Yup, it's the Ramayana haha The book is Kaikeyi, which as the name suggests, is the Ramayana (re)told through Kaikeyi's perspective :D It's a debut novel and I'm finding it really good so far. I also like the author's perspective on Hinduism as her religion, which led her to write this story.
I'm seeing this as a Cyber-Monday deal, and you've got me tempted. Do I need to be familiar with the original tale to understand this book?

I get it that being familiar would open more doors to getting more out of it, and what I know about this part of the world could use some development!
 

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I'm seeing this as a Cyber-Monday deal, and you've got me tempted. Do I need to be familiar with the original tale to understand this book?

I get it that being familiar would open more doors to getting more out of it, and what I know about this part of the world could use some development!

Cool! And no, you don't need any previous knowledge. As you said, if you knew the original story you'd spot the differences and might get more out of the retelling factor, but it's not needed to enjoy it. Though I know more or less the Ramayana, I never read it, and I'm having a good time!
 

Chris P

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Cool! And no, you don't need any previous knowledge. As you said, if you knew the original story you'd spot the differences and might get more out of the retelling factor, but it's not needed to enjoy it. Though I know more or less the Ramayana, I never read it, and I'm having a good time!
Cool! It's now downloaded 🙂