20 for 20 Reading Challenge – March Status

Some of the books that have been in my TBR pile the longest are the big books, the tomes of intimidating size, that I keep meaning to read but never get to because of the time commitment involved, so I set myself a reading challenge to focus on them:

The 20 for 20 Reading Challenge

To Read twenty books from my TBR pile that are 600 pages/20 hours long or more.

Here’s how the challenge has gone in the first three months.

At first glance, it looks as if things are going well. I’ve read five books and started on a sixth. But I abandoned two of the books, so I’ve only really read three books end-to-end. And of the three books I finished only one had enough going for it to make it memorable.

“The Weight OF Ink” by Rachel Kadish was the book I enjoyed the most. It follows two passionately intellectual women, Ester Velasquez and Helen Watt, separated by more than three hundred years but connected by words inked on paper and a need to know what is true.

I found myself deeply immersed in the worlds of both women, fascinated by the connection between the two women and compelled to find out what would happen next. This was a long book where not a page was wasted. The length of the journey allowed time for me to lose myself completely in the book.

“Shadow Of Night” by Deborah Harkness, is the second book in her “All Souls” trilogy. I enjoyed the first book in series, “A Discovery Of Witches” but I found the second book to be a low-key, gently entertaining read with an uneven pace and very little tension. I’m hoping the final book will be better.

“Special Topics In Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessi was a unique, beautifully written book about that I fell in love with, got frustrated by and ended up being just good friends with.

For the first half of this book, I was in love. But it’s a very long book, nearly twenty-two hours of audiobook, and, just as with people, long exposure meant that, by the second half, some of the glamour rubbed thin, the erudition began to seem compulsive and irritating and I became hungry for the author to GET ON WITH IT.

By the end of the book, my admiration for it was more considered. I admired the depth of characterisation, the boldness and originality of the idea, the unashamed intellectualism of the delivery and the persistent vein of humour that kept everything human.

I can see why “Boy’s Life” by Robert McCammon is one of those well-loved books that people recommend. It is a beautifully told story of one boy’s life, eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson, in 1960s Zephry, Alabama. It tells of how he starts to unravel the mysteries of the adult world and to confront the darker things, hidden beneath the surface of his town, as he tries to help his traumatised father.

It’s clear to me that, if you have the right mindset and give yourself permission, this is a book that will transport you back to the childhood you might like to have had, where magical explanations of day-to-day things, especially frightening, not to be spoken about, day-to-day things seemed as likely to be true as any of the alternatives and spoke more urgently to your heart.

I abandoned the book at 23% because, as far as I can remember, I was never that kind of child, so what is meant to be a nostalgic, semi-magical, semi-spooky remembrance of life when you were coming of age is too far from my experience for my imagination to find traction.

.”The Nix” by Nathan Hill was a beautifully written, wonderfully narrated, filled with keen observations and credible interior monologues. 

I abandoned it, reluctantly at 41% because it was too painful to watch the broken people and learn about the things that broke them.

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