The Top 10 Highlights of The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

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Assuming the #1 highlight of The Challenge will be finishing, topped off with my celebratory pie party, I give you the other 9 in all their glory:

#10. Finishing Tristram Shandy. No, Clarissa. No, Proust. There were many challenges within The Challenge, but some were more challenging than others.

#9. Working with Punchnel’s to publish a series of classic reviews adapted from this blog—not to mention my first-ever byline, 10 Reasons You Should Be Reading the Classics. (Yes, I cringe whenever I see this article and would rewrite every word if I could.) (Not to sound ungrateful, or anything.) (At least all the cringing means my writing has improved?) (Hopefully?)

#8. Learning to embrace book polygamy. Pre-Challenge, I was unable to avoid reading books simultaneously, but loudly and openly begrudged it. Now it’s unusual for me to read fewer than four books at once. I’ll probably scale back a little now that I’m reading mostly for “fun,” but I doubt I could ever be faithful to just one book again. It’s a two-book minimum for me from here on out, and my bookshelf doesn’t have any choice but to forgive.

#7. The many milestones along the way that served as motivation boosters: 50 books, 75 books, 80 books, and, especially, 90 books. I don’t know what I would’ve done without them beckoning me forward and cheering me on, except simmer in a stew of self-pity and resentment.

#6. Finally having my say, after years of silent frustration, on sexism in classic literature. Calling bullshit on this bullshit was more than satisfying. Just a few months later, I recorded a mini-podcast with SpareMin on bookish sexism and bookish feminism, because I hadn’t quite wrapped up my assault on the patriarchy.

Needless to say, I still have plenty of ammo left.

#5. Connecting with my fellow book bloggers, and trading views on everything from literary villains to logolepsy. Keep it up, blogosphere! I’m rooting for you.

#4. 2014. In 2014, I read Anna Karenina, Invisible Man, The Call of the WildDangerous Liaisons, and One Hundred Years of Solitudeall of which ranked immediately among my most favoritest classics. Every time I came across a Lawrence, or a Faulkner, or a Steinbeck on The List, I just had to remind myself that a Tolstoy, or a London, or a Márquez waited right around the corner. Discovering authors like these served as compensation for the suffering I endured at the low points of The Challenge.

Almost.

#3. Finding excuses to support indie bookstores like The Strand, McNally Jackson, Astoria Bookshop, Indy Reads, Trident Booksellers & CafeSherman’s, and Le port de tête. Bookstores are, by now, more of an addiction than a hobby. But I have no regrets.

#2. Starting the Quick Reviews series in an attempt to spread myself a little thicker. This may have literally saved my life, assuming a blog can kill you. (At one point, I was convinced it could, and very well might.)

#1. See above. 

The Challenge has had its ups and downs, most of which I’ve documented painstakingly over four years of blogging. YOU’RE WELCOME, INTERNET. And while I wouldn’t wish my bookshelf on anyone, we’ve been through so much together that friendship and affection were inevitable.

Just don’t tell it I said so.

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8 thoughts on “The Top 10 Highlights of The 100 Greatest Books Challenge

  1. Aw, thanks for linking to my logolepsy post!

    All this gearing up for the end of your challenge makes me both SUPER EXCITED FOR YOU and also so wistful! It feels like nearing a school graduation or something. Fitting that it’s the end of the school year right now.

    • Haha! It does feel a bit like graduating. Which seems fitting, five years later. :)

      Another blogger I’ve been reading/trading thoughts with (The Reading Bug) just finished a similar challenge and posted a very mature, low-key retrospective that started off with “I’m not going to make a big deal out of finishing my list of 100 classics…” I ended up commenting, by way of apology, that I would be making a VERY BIG DEAL out of finishing my list. The Biggest Fuckingest Deal. I can’t help it, after all this time!

    • That’s a very good question. I do think I’m a better reader — better at recognizing what an author wants to say, and why they’ve chosen to say it a particular way (in terms of style, structure, etc.). It’s also taught me to read outside my comfort zone. It turns out I’m not very good at predicting what books I’ll enjoy! And I’m trying to see that as a good thing — an excuse to explore.

    • Haha! That’s the best question anyone’s asked me all week. A friend of mine just recommended “My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry” by Fredrik Backman — she said it’s a funny and heartwarming story about a little girl and her grandmother. That would be a great addition to my bookshelf. :)

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