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As 2010 began, I was just getting back into reading again after years of research focused on French history and culture. As I mentioned back in my first blog post, I decided that it might be a good idea to challenge myself to read one book a month from those many lists out there devoted to what one should have read. I combed through a number of lists, and finally settled on twelve books of varied length. All in all, I’m quite pleased with my selections and happy to have read most of them. War and Peace has proved to be my white whale as there is no way I will finish it this year when I’m still working on Catch-22 and Le Comte de Monte-Cristo.

And now the awards!

Biggest Surprise: This is a tie between My Ántonia and Catch-22. I really wasn’t looking forward to either of these, but I was pleasantly surprised by both. My Ántonia reminded me of an adult, literary Little House on the Prairie while Catch-22 is just really funny and entertaining.

Longest: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. Although Don Quixote and War and Peace both run over 1000 pages, this unabridged French novel is two large paperback volumes of about 700 pages each. I had read the abridged English version last year, but nothing compares to the original. I haven’t finished it yet, but it is proving to be an easy, enjoyable read.

Most Disappointing: Macbeth. I recently wrote on the redemption of this play in my eyes, but, as a text, it still remains the one that I was most looking forward to but did not enjoy as I read it.

Biggest Accomplishment: Don Quixote. This is both because it inspired this challenge and because I wanted to hurl it across the room after a few hundred pages. The First Part is extremely repetitive and annoying; the fact that I continued on to the incredible Second Part is an achievement in itself.

Hardest to Finish: Two Years Before the Mast. I really liked this book, but it was far longer than it needed to be. Of course, the same could be said for the book it inspired, Moby-Dick. However, I don’t regret switching out The Education of Henry Adams for it.

The Book I Most Regret Putting on the List Wide Sargasso Sea. This book showed such promise. I loved the concept of a prequel to Jane Eyre that explores the background of Rochester’s first wife; however, I really hated the writing style and felt the author could have done much more with the concept.

The Book I Feel Everybody Should Read: The Handmaid’s Tale. The dystopian world presented in this story is both disturbing and chilling. Sadly, it is probably also more believable now than when the book appeared in the 1980s.

You can read my reviews of these and the other challenge books (The Awakening, Lord of the Flies, La Princesse de Clèves) on Goodreads.

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