Musings on Book Challenges

I have never been able to commit to book challenges. It seems like every time I attempt to collect my To Be Read (TBR) pile into a coherent and organized entity – I instantly become bored and start to look longingly at any books that aren’t going to meet the book challenge criteria. The struggle is real.

But here I am again, embarking on another book challenge. I am calling this one the Doorstop Challenge. The rules and criteria are simple: from now until December 31st, I will only be reading fiction books that clock in at 900 pages or more. Since editions can alter the page count, the criteria is that the book must have some edition that comes in at 900 pages or above. These books must be single-volumes, the Lord of the Rings trilogy wouldn’t count since it is technically made up of three volumes in a series.

There’s a lot of genres and books to choose from, and the suggestions from friends have been extremely helpful. There are classics: War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, etc. There are horror novels: The Stand, It, Carrion Comfort, etc. Fantasy: Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, etc. Then there is the more avant-grade doorstop novels: Miss Macintosh My Darling, The Instructions, 1Q84, Jerusalem, etc.

I won’t run out of reading material for this challenge.

Over the last couple days, as I pour over the copies of doorstop novels that I already own and scour the Google for suggestions, I have devised a plan of attack. It isn’t a strict plan because I do not want to burn out before I have even begun. Just a strategy to keep me from feeling like I am drowning in too many words and too many pages.

My plan is to switch it up however and whenever I can. Never read two novels in the same genre back to back. You won’t find me reading War and Peace and then picking up a copy of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. That would doom me to failure. Currently, I am reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty. Its such a beautiful and amazing classic and I highly recommend it to everyone. I am about 3/4 of the way through it. I plan to follow it with the classic women’s novel …And the Ladies of the Club. It was a New York Times Bestseller back in the 1980s. After that, I may have to switch to horror. I have a copy of Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour on order.

I haven’t decided how I will track my progress. I am thinking a Google Sheet. I have to track it somehow, because if I don’t gather some data, why even do a challenge. I am curious to see how many pages I end up reading by the end of the year.

Of course, I’ll track those books on here. I’m sure I will have many opinions about these doorstop novels.

Here’s some of the novels in the Doorstop Challenge that I am most excited about (finally) reading:

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

I have owned various copies of this novel but have never read it. The plot intrigues me: Edmund Dantes is confined in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. There is buried treasure and the violence and existential dialogues about the morality and nature of revenge are deeply explored. At least, I assume they are going to be deeply explored. The book is a whopping 1312 pages.

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

This is a reread for me. I read it when I was in my early 20s, and have always thought that I missed something the first time around. A rare book to find in mass market paperback, I own a copy that clocks in at 992 pages. This is definitely a horror book and the plot revolves around vampires that suck souls instead of blood. There is also an intriguing and emotional plot that involves the Holocaust and its survivors. I have important plans to dig this one out of the boxes of books in my parent’s basement.

Jerusalem by Alan Moore

I bought this book when it first came out several years ago. It has sat on my bookshelf ever since and managed to survive the move across the country. It is a massive tome with great cover art. I am thankful that I had the hindsight to buy the copy that was split into multiple volumes – the hardcover edition looks like a beast at 1184 pages. Alan Moore is an enigma writer. His comics and his essays have never made much sense to me and the text of his grand opus looks completely unappealing. Set in a weird alternate Northampton of the author’s youth, the novel attempts to merge and combine various literary styles and themes. Honestly, it sounds like a mess. But reviews are good and there are bits in the summary that sound batshit crazy: like a toddler choking on a cough drop for eleven chapters.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

I am really lucky that this book clocks in at 992 pages, since it is one of my anticipated releases of the fall. The last book in an amazing young adult fantasy, I cannot wait to see how Maas ties up the loose ends and the character arcs that I have followed for the last five books. There’s sure to be lots of battles and magic and violence and romance. I already ordered my copy!