Names, numbers and the Stacks


A while back, I was cogitating about how to make novel-reading in 2009 a fun game, as well as the soul-sustaining activity it has been since before I discovered Anne of Green Gables at the age of five, and I stumbled upon Annie's What's in a Name? readalong, which I promptly joined. Then I started looking around a little bit, and what do you know? There are a zillion of these things. As familiar as I am with the online world of knitalongs, fibercraft games, contests and mutual support societies, it never occurred to me that a similar things might exist in the world of reading. The internet: what a place.

Anyway, after trawling through all the various options, I'm signing up for three. I think they'll provide a good mix of fiction and nonfiction, old and new, fun game-style hijinks without so much structure that I'll stop enjoying the freedom of curling up with a good book. These also allow some overlap, so they won't interfere with my ability to just pick up a lovely novel and curl up with it guilt-free.


I already wrote about my plans for the What's in a Name? challenge, which asks for six books, each featuring a specific element in their titles: a profession, a time of day, a relative, a building, a body part, and a medical condition. I haven't settled on a for-sure list yet, but I did go on a pre-Christmas, save-the-Portland-bookstores rampage, and may have purchased a copy of Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride (hey, "robber" is totally a profession), Haruki Murakami's After Dark, and José Saramago's Blindness. I've also been wanting to read Balzac's Cousin Bette for ages now. So we'll see what happens.


The Nine Books for 2009 challenge focuses on reading books from one's To Be Read shelf - a noble goal, considering that magnanimous but expensive shopping spree I mentioned. I like Isabel's organizational scheme, because it's a little more structured than just "decide on how many books you want to read and then do it," but it's still flexible enough to allow lots of variation among the tomes people already own. She suggests that folks read a book in each of nine (loose) categories, including:

  • Long (defined as "longer than the books you usually read)
  • Free (you didn't pay money for it)
  • Dusty (it's been sitting on the shelves three years or more
  • Used (it had previous owners, and you bought it)
  • Letter (its title shares a letter with your first name or blog name)
  • Strange (outside your normal comfort zone)
  • Cover (the prettiest or ugliest cover)
  • Alive or not (a work by a prize winner, or, failing that, a book whose author is dead, and
  • Distance (a book whose setting or author's birthplace is more than 1000 miles from your current location)

I have several possibilities for most of these slots, but in one category there was no question: I just started Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which has been sitting on my various to-be-read shelves since the middle of HIGH SCHOOL. I am coming up on my ten-year anniversary of high school graduation, so it's a safe bet that this novel has been waiting unread for over a decade. I'd say it qualifies as "dusty." I wonder what the record will be for longest delay between acquisition and reading; ten years is a long time, but I bet someone will have waited longer.


To top things off, I was thrilled to find the Dewey Decimal Challenge. I've been reading more nonfiction over the last few years, and this will support that trend while motivating me to stretch a bit. The goal is to read one book from each of the ten Dewey "centuries":

  • 000: Generalities
  • 100: Philosophy/Psychology
  • 200: Religion
  • 300: Social Sciences
  • 400: Language
  • 500: Natural Sciences & Math
  • 600: Technology
  • 700: The Arts
  • 800: Literature and Rhetoric
  • 900: Geography and History

Right now, I have waiting books that fall into three of the categories (Social Sciences, The Arts, and Geography/History), and a few other slots should be easy to fill with a jaunt down to the library. Others, primarily "technology" and "religion," may be a challenge. But what are these "challenges" supposed to be, anyway, if not challenging? And I like how this particular one lends itself to just wandering around a given section of the library until something leaps out at me. That it may also force me to actually check books OUT of the library may be a blessing or a terrible, terrible curse; we'll see at the end of the year what kind of late fees I've accumulated.

I'm excited for the year of reading and knitting ahead! I hope everyone starts out 2009 on a good note.


  • I like your reasoning and agree that it's a good plan. I have found, however, that any plans I seem to make fairly regularly are thrown to the wind because I touch a book and it seems to speak to me . . . and I can't resist it. At the end of the day, I must say that my reading list is pleasingly diverse--religion, literature (Russian, British, American, etc.), history, science, biographies, fiction, non-fiction!! I have to say, though, that my favorite book is one that impresses me differently every time I read it: Crime and Punishment. A tough read the first time through, but so worth it. I was so impressed, then, when I worked with someone several years ago who shared my favorite--so much so that when she was married, she and her husband honeymooned in Moscow and followed the path of the main character of Crime and Punishment. Wow. I was so jealous and impressed! I just looked over and saw "Blindness" gathering dust. You've inspired me to get it out and read it. Hope I love it. I love your knitting designs, so I'm likely to love what you design for your reading path this year. A happy and bountiful new year to you, David, and Mr. Bingley.

  • I love this idea! I already have a goal of books to read or get rid of this year, but I think I may work it into the second challenge. How fun! Thanks for the inspiration.

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    link to Wolves 2011 reading list
    link to more disgust bibliography