Tag: Literary Exploration Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Goals

Posted December 21, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Literature / 9 Comments

With 2014 so close, it is time again to start thinking about what my reading goals will be for next year. Firstly I want to have a quick look at how I went with my 2013 Reading Goals. First of all I went on a semi book buying ban which lasted most of the year but didn’t do much to reduce my TBR (To Be Read shelf) but it did get me to use the library more (see my post Book Buying Bans Don’t Work). Secondly there was the reading goal of 150 books (on Goodreads) which I did complete. I stated in my 2013 Reading Goals post that “I would just take the time and read some bigger books and some non-fiction” which I feel I failed. I did read some bigger books and non-fiction but not enough to satisfy myself. Lastly there was the Literary Exploration reading challenge, which was a lot of fun and I did complete.

What does that mean for 2014? Well I would like to move away from a reading goal, I like the idea of trying to hit 100 or 150 books in the year but I want the freedom. I don’t want to pressure myself to read x amount of books a week or year, I want to read bigger books and with no reading goal I might be able to achieve this. I’m not sure if I will achieve this, I’m sure I’ll cave and set my reading goal on Goodreads to 150 books.

I do want to read more non-fiction, maybe I can put pressure on this and set a 2 book a month goal on myself. I’ve recently enjoyed more non-fiction and might have finally caught the (non-fiction) reading bug, especially books about books. I want to try and nurture this and hopefully I’ll find a passion towards biographies and non-fiction as well as fiction. As for reading more big books, I’ll continue working on that, but I’m not going to force anything.

Finally the Literary Exploration reading challenge is back for another year. I will be doing the ‘Insane challenge’ again, that is 36 books in different genres. I might even get cocky and try and do two books from the 36 different genres, but I will see how I go. I like that I’m willing to explore all genres and want to make sure I read more in some of the genres I don’t normally read. I will continue to advocate the joys in reading more widely and I hope the Literary Exploration reading challenge will help more people discover this.

What are other people planning for next year? Are any trying something a little bit different? I’m interested in learning more about other people’s reading goals and hopefully discover some new ways to challenge myself for 2015. Hope everyone enjoys the holiday period and are excited for 2014’s reading challenges.


First Steps: Cyberpunk

Posted August 17, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 0 Comments

literary stepsFirst Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. Each week or two, we look at books from different themes, genres or maybe authors and suggest some that are worth trying. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture to.

Cyberpunk is a genre I have found many people struggle with, especially in the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. I’m not sure if this is a lack of recommendations or they just not sure what this genre is all about. Cyberpunk is a futuristic world that focuses on “high tech and low life[s]” (according to What is cyberpunk? From Cyberpunked: Journal of Science, Technology, & Society 2009). Think post-industrial dystopian worlds with advanced technology and cybernetics; science fiction normally with a touch of thriller, mystery or pulp.

Movie examples would include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, Tron, The Matrix and Surrogates. On TV think Dark Angel or Dollhouse and in video games there are heaps of examples but the best two are; Deus Ex or Watch Dogs. This is a genre that is almost dying out, technology advancement has been accepted by most and often used in science fiction or dystopian novels, but it does leave behind a couple of new sub genres; steampunk and dieselpunk.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

This book is big but lots of fun; it follows two protagonists hunting down a virus in the not so distant future. A world where the United States has yielded most of its power to private organizations and entrepreneurs. Everything has been franchised, from armies, highways to even suburbs.

 
 

Daemon by Daniel Suarez

Technology controls almost everything in our modern world, from remote entry on our cars and the flight controls of our airplanes to the movements of the entire world economy. But what if some computer designer has been planting a dormant daemon in everything that he creates that will take full control of everything connected to a computer when he dies.

 

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

In the twenty-fifth century, technology has advanced so much that human personalities can be digitally stored on what is known as a Stack. These stacks can be downloaded into new bodies or sleeves, so when you die your stack can be stored indefinitely and you can be resleeved and continue living. Death is impossible, or is it?

 

Neuromancer by William Gibson

This is a seminal cyberpunk novel by the legend himself; William Gibson. The first novel to ever win the “Triple crown” in science fiction (winning the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award). This follows the story of a low-level hustler, hacker and thief in the dystopian underworld of Chiba City, Japan.

 
 

When Gravity Fails by George Alec Effinger

A new kind of killer roams the streets of the Arab ghettos of Budayeen, a madman whose bootlegged personality cartridges range from a sinister James Bond to a sadistic disemboweler named Khan. The unique blend of Middle Eastern culture and religion and cyberpunk noir makes this highly recommended.


First Steps: Graphic Novels

Posted August 3, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 11 Comments

literary stepsFirst Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. Each week or two we look at what books from different themes, genres or maybe authors and suggest some that are worth trying. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture to.

Graphic Novels is something I have found many people struggle with in the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge; they often don’t know where to start or are just scared to try one. I got the impression that they thought they were more of a guy thing or they were not into superheroes. So I wanted to offer some suggestions that would cover both.

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

This graphic novel follows the story of a lonely and emotionally-impaired “everyman” who is given, at age 36, the opportunity to meet his father for the first time. Jimmy Corrigan is a self-conscious, mother-pleasing, middle-aged man with the angst of a teenage boy. An interesting and emotional story.

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

This quasi-autobiographical story follows the adventures of two teenage girls facing the prospects of growing up. The art style of this Graphic novel is amazing, even though it’s mainly in black and white there are shadings of green that come through as well.

 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis is the autobiography of Satrapi, growing up within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. Balancing the plot between her private and public life, in a country plagued by political upheaval.

 
 

Maus by Art Spiegelman

The only graphic novel I know of that has won the Pulitzer Prize. Maus is the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler’s Europe. The Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats, this is a brilliant way to tell this type of story.

 

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I love this series, it follows the story of Scott Pilgrim and how he has to battle his new girlfriend’s seven evil exes. Something he would never have planned on, but love makes you do funny things. While this is six short graphic novels, I highly recommend reading the entire series. Also there is a faithful movie adaptation that is well worth seeing too The only real difference is Michael Cera doesn’t look like Scott Pilgrim.

There are many more great graphic novels out there but I hope I’ve given you a good place to start. Feel free to suggest some more graphic novels and even recommend some to me that I should check out. I’m tempted to do a similar post with more of your superhero type graphic novels but we will see how that goes.


First Steps: Russian Literature

Posted July 27, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in First Steps / 0 Comments

literary stepsFirst Steps is a new segment that was inspired by the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. Each week or two we look at what books from different themes, genres or maybe authors and suggest some that are worth trying. Not necessarily all easy to read books but the ones that are worth the time and effort. My goal is to have First Steps guide you to some great books in places you don’t normally venture to.

I’ve been reading this amazing book called A Constellation of Vital Phenomena which is set in Chechnya and it got me thinking about Russian literature. I love reading books set in Russia and written by Russians, I don’t know why there is something about the books that draws me to them. They are often epic, slightly odd and the prose and character development are well worth reading, don’t get me started on symbolism and motifs. But it’s sad to think a lot of people are scared of reading Russian literature and while there are so many I haven’t read yet, including War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, Doctor Zhivago and anything by Anton Chekhov I thought I’d share five Russian novels I would recommend. I have left out Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart simply because they are Russian Americans and it’s hard to work out which country can truly claim them.

Day of the Oprichnik by Vladimir Sorokin

This weird and wonderful postmodern novel is quite frankly so bizarre you just have to check it out. I wanted to add something contemporary to this list and thought this was the perfect choice. Set in a futuristic Russia where the Russian Empire has been restored back to the draconian codes of Ivan the Terrible.

 
 
 

We by Yevgeny Zamyatin

If you are fans of the dystopian genre and you haven’t read We, you really need to get onto it. This book is often considered as the first truly dystopian novel and has inspired authors such as Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut. Zamyantin bases this future on his personal experiences during the two Russian revolutions (1905 and 1917) and the First World War.

 
 

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

Yet another weird and wonderful Russian novel, this time in the genre of Magical Realism. The whole book is based around a visit by the Devil to two passionately atheistic Russians. While this is an overly simplified synopsis it really is the basis of the entire book; if I really want to write a fully detailed overview of this book it would include a black cat, an assassin, a naked witch, Jesus and Pontius Pilate in one bizarre novel.

 

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Don’t let the size of this book scare you, this isn’t necessarily a hard book, just long and like most Russian classics it is worth the effort. The story of love, infidelity as well as a battle of classes and the fading out of an old society to make room for modern one. If you are a patient reader and love a story with well written characters that is beautifully written then this book is worth reading, it simply is a masterpiece.

 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I love this book so much. Before there were psychological thrillers and books like the Dexter series, there was Crime and Punishment. Raskolnikov is a conflicted character; he is showing a lot of interest in the classes and thinks he is of a higher class than others believe. But when he commits murders, guilt, remorse or regret plague him. This is a novel that focuses on the inner turmoil as well as the impact on his intellect and emotions. Beyond perfect and the type of book that you just want to read over and over again.

I know a lot of people avoid the Russian books but I’m drawn to them, I would love to know what people think and if they do avoid them, why. If you have read some great Russian novels, let me know as well because there are so many out there, I would love to know which ones are well worth reading.


Monthly Review – June 2013

Posted June 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As we close out the first half of 2013, I thought I might give a quick update on what’s been happening with the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. I’m really impressed with the book club’s efforts so far, with over thousand books being read by 144 participants with a 31% completion rate so far. This means we have a lot to catch up on; personally I’ve managed to complete 32 of my 36 books and almost tempted to go for another round. It’s been a lot of fun and I’m pleased to see how many people have enjoyed reading out of there comfort zone.

This month’s book club book The Dud Avocado had some really interesting reactions, not everyone liked it but it is one of the first books we read that many of us were reading for the first time. I don’t want to say too much about the book but it was fun being out of my comfort zone with the rest of the club members. It was an experience we don’t get often and I would like to experience more. Next month we return to an easier book when we read Kurt Vonnegut’s modern classic Cat’s Cradle.

I had a very quiet reading month and I’m not sure why, between everything else going on I just didn’t have the time. This has freed me out a little to try and write non review posts and I hope to have more of them in the not to distant future. I really enjoy the non review posts a lot more, I think they are more interesting and that I’ve been too review focused.

Monthly Reading


ArmchairBEA 2013: Blogger Development & Genre Fiction

Posted May 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in ArmchairBEA / 26 Comments

armchairBEADay two here at Armchair BEA and we are talking blogging and genre fiction. This could be interesting; I can’t wait to see what people say about both topics. When it comes to blogging I take this serious; it’s not that I want to become a professional and earn money (sure that would be nice but I want to treat this as a hobby, I’d love to get paid for doing what I love but I’m happy to have fun) I just like things organised and looking good. I’m not entirely happy with the way my blog looks but I think I lack the coding and graphic design skills to fix it so I leave it the way it is. Now when it comes to blogging platforms, I’m an elitist and think a self published wordpress blog is the only way to go; it is the only way to be flexible and professional. I’ve also recently discovered this amazing plugin thanks to The Oaken Bookcase which has been a book blogging lifesaver (after the hours spent going though older posts to fill in the information) so if you are on wordpress.org check it out.

Last year I wrote a Top Tips for Book Blogging post as part of Armchair BEA but think time I think I would just like to share my goals for this blog which should lead into the talking about genre fiction. This blog originally started as a way to document my reading journey, I’ve always thought my target audience is me and any other readers are just added bonuses. Now I want to be a literary explorer, I don’t want to get tied into only reading one genre, so before I started this blog I started a Goodreads book club also called Literary Exploration  in which we try to read different books in different themes and genres. Now this is all voted on so sometimes I think the book club can get a little stuck on reading cannon books but it is a lot of fun and still takes me out of my comfort zone. This led to the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge where we challenged people to read a book from different genres. This has had such a positive result that I think it will become a yearly challenge (with some fine tuning) and I hope it will continue to push people out of their comfort zones.

Now I like to read literary books but I do enjoy some good hard crime (hard-boiled and noir) but as a literary explorer I have to force myself to read all genres. I really struggle with Fantasy (not so much urban fantasy), Romance, Erotica, Chick Lit, Paranormal and Young Adult fiction but I really try. I think it is important to be willing to try other genres because there are always great books to experience and if we are not willing to try we end up missing books that could become our next loved book. A recent example of this for me was The People of Forever Are Not Afraid by Shani Boianjiu, I expected Young/New Adult but I got so much more for the book.

ArmchairBEA is a virtual convention for book blogger who can’t attend Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. Banner by Nina of Nina Reads and button by Sarah of Puss Reboots


Monthly Review – January 2013

Posted January 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

As the first month of 2013 comes to a close, it has been amazing to see how much excitement people are having towards both The Shadow of the Wind and the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here.

I’ve been off to a flying start this year, I’ve read twenty books, a feat I’m not sure how I managed, but I’ve had so much fun doing so. Nine of those books go towards the Literary Exploration Reading Challenge and you can find my own record of the challenge here. I’m thinking about trying to read two books for each genre this year and I’m keeping a record of every book and which genre it best fits into on that page as well, just to see which genres need more attention in my exploring.

Highlights of the month for me include; the highly talked about Wool by Hugh Howey, the bittersweet Big Ray by Michael Kimball and the existential The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. But the one I really thought deserves high praise is Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, a novel of great beauty, decorum and love lost. I haven’t reviewed these books yet but keep an eye out, they will come. So what have you been reading this month?

Monthly Reading

  • Big Ray by Michael Kimball
  • Black Vodka: Ten Stories by Deborah Levy
  • Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis
  • Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles by Paul Lieberman
  • In the Midst of Death by Lawrence Block
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding
  • Revenge: Stories by Yoko Ogawa
  • The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy
  • The Dark Winter by David Mark
  • The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists by Gideon Defoe
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Silver Linings Play Book by Matthew Quick
  • The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block
  • The Toe Tag Quintet by Matthew Condon
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
  • Wool by Hugh Howey