A Challenging Year: 2012 Guardian 1000 Reading Progress

tree with books2012 is come and gone and I’m evaluating my progress towards reading the Guardian 1000 best novels.

How did I do?

The facts:  104 titles read.

Don’t be impressed:  only 14 were read this year.

When I started the Challenge in early 2012 I decided to give myself credit if I had read the book and remembered it so well that I could have written a review if I wanted to.

So, more on the titles I’ve given myself prior credit for in a minute.  What about the 2012 reads?  Here’s a quick summary of my impressions:

  • Most surprising:  probably the two books by Elizabeth Gaskell.  North and South and Cranford were both wonderful, modern, fresh and totally unexpected.
  • An author I’d never heard about but loved:  definitely David Lodge.  All three of his books were witty and wise.  I always judge a book by how much it makes me think and I’m still thinking and smiling about Nice Work.  Angela Thirkel was also unknown to me.
  • Most overrated:  Lucky Jim  Maybe it just hasn’t aged well.  An unlucky choice by the Guardian editors.  I also felt a little of the P.G Wodehouse novels were over the hill at this point.  Oh, well.
  • Books I’m glad I read but struggled through:  both the E.M. Forsters.  I have great trepidation about A Passage to India.

So, on the whole its been a good year but I really need to step up.  If I only read 14 titles a year, I won’t live long enough to finish the list.  Is this even doable?  Is it worth it?  This year has brought real delights when I read a book that I never would have except for the Challenge, but is that a good enough reason to carry on?  I might be having a moment of darkness in my soul for the Challenge, so bear with me.

As I mentioned above, I have given myself credit for the following titles from the Guardian list:

  • Read in School :  Great Expectations (Dickens), The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner), The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Joyce), Pride and Prejudice (Austen), Jane Eyre (Bronte), Wuthering Heights (Bronte), The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne), A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway), The Plague (Camus), Les Miserables (Hugo), The Jungle (Sinclair), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Twain), The House of Mirth (Wharton), Heart of Darkness (Conrad), Lord Jim (Conrad), The Red Badge of Courage (Crane), For Whom The Bell Tolls (Hemingway), The Call of the Wild (London), All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque).
  • Yes, I was a Weird Kid Who Read A Lot:  The Wind in the Willows (Grahame), And Then There Were None (Christie), To Kill a Mockingbird (Lee), Little Women (Alcott), Villette (Bronte), Rebecca (du Maurier), Gone With the Wind (Mitchell), Oliver Twist (Dickens), Animal Farm (Orwell), Black Beauty (Sewell).
  • I Read Because I Wanted to Read “Everything” By the Author: Breakfast of Champions  and Slaughter House Five(Vonnegut), Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden (Steinbeck), Of Human Bondage (Maugham), The Man of Property (Galsworthy), Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Hardy), Babbitt, Elmer Gantry and Main Street (Lewis), The Great Gatsby, Tender is the Night (Fitzgerald).
  • I Hid These From My Parents:  The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Spark), The Godfather (Puzo), Rubyfruit Jungle (Brown), Love Story (Segal), Valley of the Dolls (Susann), The Painted Bird (Kosinski), Sons and Lovers (Lawrence).
  • Laugh Out Loud Funny:  The Uncommon Reader (Bennett), Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding), Cold Comfort Farm (Gibbons), Catch-22 (Heller), The Confederacy of Dunces (Toole), The Witches of Eastwick (Updike), The Loved One (Waugh), The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (Weldon), The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Age 13 3/4 (Townsend), The Shipping News (Proulx), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Kesey).
  • Made Me Cry or Made Me Mad:  A Time to Kill (Grisham), The Secret History (Tartt), The Daughter of Time (Tey), Middlesex (Eugenides), The God of Small Things (Roy), A Suitable Boy (Seth), The Color Purple (Walker), The Mill on the Floss (Eliot), Madame Bovary (Flaubert), Anna Karenina (Tolstoy), Vanity Fair (Thackeray), The Corrections (Franzen).
  • War Books:  Cold Mountain (Frazier), The Tin Drum (Grass), The Kite Runner (Hosseini), From Here to Eternity (Jones), Andersonville (Kantor), Confederates (Keneally), Tales of the South Pacific (Michener), Suite Francaise (Nemirovsky), A Town Like Alice (Shute), Maus (Spiegelman), Sophie’s Choice (Styron).
  • Weird Stuff:  Jurassic Park (Chrichton), The Bell Jar (Plath), The Bluest Eye (Morrison), The Golden Notebook (Lessig), Quarantine (Crace), The Human Stain (Roth).

For now,  I’m definitely going to carry on with the Challenge.  Thanks for reading this blog this year and please send me any thoughts — even if you just think I’m crazy to try this.

Happy New Year to you and may you find your Challenges — planned and unexpected — fulfilling in 2013.

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6 thoughts on “A Challenging Year: 2012 Guardian 1000 Reading Progress

    • Thanks for the like, MC. Good luck on your challenge and maybe I’ll do one on Goodreads, too (although of the Guardian books, natch’). I’ll check that out.

  1. At the rate at which I read, it would take me 20 years to get through this list so I admire you for even trying. And if you don’t quite make it well you’ll still have had a rich experience reading some of the finest literature in the world

  2. So happy that you enjoyed Things Fall Apart! It’s one of my favorite books. I read it in high school and have loved it ever since. I too was surprised at how much I enjoyed North and South.

    14 books in a year is more than some people read in 5 years! Be proud of yourself. Even reading 1 book a year is better than not reading at all! Keep up the good work.

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