2012 To Be Read (TBR) Challenge

It’s that time of year again – time to set reading goals for the coming year. Last year, I read 11 of my 12 listed books, and have actually started the 12th, but just haven’t had time to finish it. I am disappointed, and was stressing over this last week – until I realized that because of the challenge, I checked 11 books off my long-term reading wish list. I think that’s pretty impressive.

This year, I want to be more strategic with my list. I have decided that 1/3 of the books will be non-fiction (I continually buy and never finish non-fiction books), 1/3 will be classics, and 1/3 will be modern fiction.

My Twelve Chosen:

  1. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
  4. Payback by Margaret Atwood
  5. Dubliners by James Joyce
  6. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  7. The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klien
  8. A Short History of Progress by Ronald B. Wright
  9. The Town That Died by Michael J. Bird
  10. Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
  11. The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston
  12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

My Two Alternates:

  1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  2. A Fair Country by John Ralston Saul

Here’s how the TBR Challenge works:

The Goal:
To finally read 12 books from my “to be read” pile, within the next 12 months.


1. Each of these 12 books must have been on my bookshelf or “To Be Read” list forAT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later. Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

2.  Every listed book must be completed and must be reviewed in order to count as completed.

3. List must be posted by Saturday, December 31st, 2011, at the Roof Beam Reader website (Challenge host). I will also be posting there periodically, and linking to my reviews of the 12.   Every person who successfully reads his/her 12 books and/or alternates (and who provides a working link to their list, which has links to the review locations) will be entered to win a $50 gift card from The Book Depository. Incentive is always good.

Do you have a reading challenge for 2012? What’s on your list?


Lost on Brier Island by Jo Ann Yhard

Fourteen-year-old Alex is reeling from the death of her twin brother Adam. Her parents’ marriage is falling apart. She is shipped off to spend the summer with her aunt on Brier Island, and is not pleased. She spends most of her time imagining plans to sneak onto the ferry and away – until the operator of a local whale watch invites her to join him on a cruise. That’s the day Alex meets Daredevil – a baby humpback whale whose friendliness and spontaneity reminds her of Adam.

Through her bond with Daredevil, Alex finally learns to confront her pain, let go of her guilt, and help rather than blame her parents – a lesson hard to learn at any time, but especially at her young age. Alex is a complex and imperfect character – just like most teenagers you know. Viewing the adult world through her eyes was a poignant reminder of the angst, confusion and naivety of those young years.

It is hard to imagine a more idyllic setting for a  book than Nova Scotia’s Brier Island – a small island at the tip of the Digby Neck, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. With a great balance of personal, social and ecological lessons, Lost on Brier Island is a fantastic and inspiring read for the young or young-at-heart reader on your list.

Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Nimbus Publishing (September 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1551098199
ISBN-13: 978-1551098197

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Balram Halwai is a modern-day Indian hero, a successful entrepreneur, and a confessed but unrepentant murderer. He is also the narrator off this fascinating but off the wall tale and Aravind Adiga’s first novel, The White Tiger.

Over seven late night letters written to a visiting Chinese premier (don’t ask, I’m not sure I could explain), Balram tells his life story, including: how he came by his many names, the teacher who first called him “the White Tiger,” his first job in a tea house, learning to drive and becoming a chauffeur, and finally, stealing his master’s money and killing him by the side of the road.

In the process, he also introduces you to modern-day India, and the contrast between the lives of the few rich and the many poor, between life in The Darkness and life in The Light. (This portrayal of the country did not win him many friends at home it seems.)

Balram is not an easy character to like. He is at times downtrodden and pitiable, but mostly harsh, moody and selfish, with an unending stream of justifications for the bad things he has done. Yet his story is as engaging as it is provocative.

I was gifted a copy of this novel in the Fall of 2008, on a train from Winnipeg to Churchill, MB. I had just made friends with another young, solo traveller and we compared notes on what we were reading. Having just completed and enjoyed The White Tiger, she offered me her copy. I thanked her and had every intention of starting it when I finished whatever I had brought with me, but as it turned out, we spent most of our 4 nights in town together, sharing a drink at one or another of the town’s two “bars” and I read very little. The book came home, went on my shelf, and was continually passed over for other choices until I added it to my 2011 TBR list. I can’t believe it took me this long to finally read it. Shame on me.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Canada; 5th edition (Oct 14 2008)
ISBN-10: 1416562605
ISBN-13: 978-1416562603

The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje

Eleven year old Mynah is alone on a ship travelling from Colombo to London, where he will reunite with his mother. Assigned to take his meals at the “cat’s table,” with a motley collection of eccentric and socially unimportant passengers, Mynah prepares for a long, dreary 21 day voyage – but what he gets is a life changing adventure.

The Cat’s Table has been described in numerous reviews as Ondaatje’s most approachable and accessible novel yet. Unlike his previous, heavier material (I can only compare towhat I have read:  Anil’s Ghost and The English Patient) The Cat’s Table flows easily and can be read quickly. But take my advice: don’t read it too quickly. Through Mynah, we see the complex and confusing world of adults through a child’s eyes, as he deciphers the desires, motivations and relationships around him. There is a lot more going on here than you initially see (you are reading Ondaatje, remember), and you will want to pay close attention.

In the second half of the book, the story is told more and more by Mynah as an adult – as Michael, a now successful novelist living in Canada and reflecting on his youth, and how the journey affected his life in ways he could never have imagined as a child.

While the story closely resembles that of Ondaatje himself, he insists it is not autobiographical, but simply using events from his life as a basis for a story.

Put this one on your Christmas wish list. A truly entertaining read.

Shortlisted for the 2011 ScotiaBank Giller Prize.

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: McClelland & Stewart (Aug 30 2011)

ISBN-10: 0771068646

ISBN-13: 978-0771068645


Book Review Blog Carnival – Late November edition

Book Review Blog CarnivalI was slated as the host to the November 20 edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival, but technical and personal glitches have made it very late. Here, at long last, is a roundup of book reviews from the second half of last month:



Zohar presents Thoughts on: Me, You by Erri De Luca posted at Man of la Book.

KerrieS presents Review: A LONELY DEATH, Charles Todd posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, “If you enjoy British crime fiction, then look for this series by Charles Todd featuring Inspector Ian Rutledge. Great reads set in England just after World War One.”

KAZBullet presents What I’m Reading: World War Z posted at Bullet’s Brain, saying, “This is a review of World War Z by Max Brooks. It’s more my reactions to it than a critique. Hope you enjoy, thanks for posting!”

Jon Welling presents Review: Between the Sea and Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore posted at Hippies, Beauty, and Books Oh My!.

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva posted at Man of la Book.

Jim Murdoch presents The Next Stop is Croy and other stories by Andrew McCallum Crawford posted at The Truth About Lies, saying, “`The Next Stop is Croy’ is a skilfully written collection of short stories revolving around the same set of characters that takes the reader straight to the bittersweet spot of the human condition. Exploring familiar terrains of shame, frustration and loss, the writer differentiates these stories by revealing those elusive, critical moments in life that knit together to make a boy into a man. The writer manages to distil a lifetime into the spoken (and unspoken) language of fathers and sons. Only available as an ebook.”

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Georg Letham: Physician and Murderer by Ernst Weiss posted at Man of la Book.

Sarah Ahmad presents The Three Musketeers posted at The Book Nook.

Sarah Ahmad presents Evil Under the Sun posted at The Book Nook.

Zohar presents Thoughts on: The Polski Affair by Leon H. Gildin posted at Man of la Book.

Skyler Reep presents Finishing The Leaves posted at Skyler Reep’s Blog, saying, “This book was so unsettling, so tangled, and so unnervingly powerful — that it took me seven months to work through it. Admittedly for most of the first four months, House of Leaves remained tightly closed with other, happier books piled on top of it. My lonely bookmark remained tentatively tucked into the start of the second chapter.”

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Life of Soul Searching and Self Discovery by Ann Atkins posted at Man of la Book.

KerrieS presents Review: A BREWSKI FOR THE OLD MAN, Phyllis Smallman posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, “This is #3 in a crime fiction series by an acclaimed Canadian writer. Worth looking out for in my opinion, and #1 in the series is highly acclaimed.”

KerrieS presents Review: THE SUSPECT, L.R. Wright posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, “Canadian crime fiction. A debut novel, beginning of a series, that won the Edgar Award for Best Novel.”

KAZBullet presents What I’m Reading: The Green Mile and Twilight posted at Bullet’s Brain, saying, “In this post I compare Twilight and The Green Mile. Thanks for looking!”

Clark Bjorke presents The Whiskey Rebels posted at I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!, saying, “My third David Liss novel review in a row. I guess I like the guy.”

children’s books

Read Aloud Dad presents The Caboose Who Got Loose: Phenomenal Picture Books posted at Read Aloud Dad.

Trudy Zufelt presents Book Review: An Accidental Adventure #2: We Dine With Cannibals posted at Boys and Literacy, saying, “Finding great books for boys one book at a time.”