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Topic: 2011 Contemp. Lit. reading challenge...?

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Subject: 2011 Contemp. Lit. reading challenge...?
Date Posted: 11/9/2010 11:44 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 260
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There's been some discussion in "classics" about a contemporary literature reading challenge akin to the "classics challenge"...so here's a possible list (brainstormed & borrowed liberally from "classics"). Please reply if you're interested in the challenge (or "lite" version thereof) & if you have suggestions for/feedback on the list.


  1. contemporary political issue: (terrorism, immigration, etc)
  2. work by one author that alludes to an earlier work
  3. book/author you keep hearing about but haven't yet read
  4. non-fiction
  5. science fiction/fantasy
  6. book by an author from a "developing" country
  7. work made into a film
  8. work by a country's greatest living writer
  9. work by a contemporary author that takes place in another century
  10. "non-novel" (short stories, play, poetry, essays)
  11. work translated into English
  12. on a high school reading list (hadn't been written when you were in HS)
  13. a literary prize winner

Last Edited on: 11/10/10 10:12 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 11/10/2010 12:19 AM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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Hi Kristin, thanks for starting this! 

The only category suggestion I can think of off the top of my head would be a book that has won a major prize, like the Booker Prize.


Date Posted: 11/12/2010 9:07 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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Last Edited on: 1/17/11 4:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: re:
Date Posted: 11/13/2010 4:14 PM ET
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Great question! I wish I could say I have a definitive answer, by the list really was just a brainstorm. I suppose I was thinking of authors of whom we hear regularly and who, often, are considered for major literary awards, etc. (I also used to teach in a literature program that actively encouraged internationalism; as such, it sought to include quality writing from all over the world, so some of my knowledge comes from their booklist.)

I also decided, after reading your question, to look this up (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_novelists) and scan for familiar, oft-touted names. It was a fun exercise (much better than cleaning my house, which is what I really should be doing.)

In retrospect, the category probably should be "one of a country's greatest contemporary authors" (or something to that effect), especially since several listed below are now deceased (some quite recently). Please add recommendations!  

 A few who come to mind:

 Peru: Vargas Llosa

Brazil: Cuehlo; Lispector; Amado

Colombia: Garcia Marquez

Chile: Allende

Trinidad and Tobago: Naipaul

Mexico: Paz; Fuentes

Portugal: Saramago

South Africa: Gordimer; Coetzee

Nigeria: Achebe; Emecheta; Soyinka

Egypt: Mahfouz

Algeria: Assia Djebar

Senegal: Ba; Sembene

Lebanon: Hanan Al-Shaykh

India: Rushdie; Mistry; Narayan

Japan: Murakami

Canada: Atwood; Ishiguro (b. Japan); Ondaatje (b. Sri Lanka); Davies

"Cosmopolitan:" Kundera; Rushdie

Last Edited on: 11/14/10 5:39 PM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 11/13/2010 5:03 PM ET
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Sorry to be nit-picky, but I wouldn't consider Kazuo Ishiguro to represent Japan. He was born there, yes, but emigrated to England at the age of 5 and writes in English. May I suggest Haruki Murakami instead?

I think Kundera is from the Czech and not the Slovak part of what was Czechoslovakia.

Date Posted: 11/14/2010 5:34 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
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re: Sorry to be nit-picky

Not at all. I am not an expert and I did request input, so your feedback is appreciated. I did debate a little re: "where born vs. where raised," especially knowing that more than one country often "claims" the same artist and that writers themselves often state a "preference.' Also, there was a "Cosmopolitan" category in wikipedia that included, for example, Kundera. I'll make changes as I receive input.

Last Edited on: 11/14/10 5:34 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/14/2010 7:51 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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Kristin, can you give some examples of a novel that alludes to an earlier novel?  I'm not sure how I'm going to find one of those.  I can probably think of some that mention a few of the same characters (Barbara Pym does this in several of her novels) but it's not much more than a mention or a brief meeting.

Some of these categories are going to fun to choose!


Subject: Works that allude to another
Date Posted: 11/14/2010 8:17 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
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Another category that's open to loose interpretation. :-) ("Alluding to" might just be a reference in the title, for example. Pretty much a matter of personal choice.)

A few that come to mind are The Brothers K, Ahab's Wife, No Country for Old Men, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel, and most of Maguire's novels. I know there are others that I'm forgetting. I will add them as memory permits, and I hope others will share their knowledge as well. (Btw, I cannot attest to the quality of any of the aforementioned other than Wicked, which I enjoyed even though it was a little weird and just "good," in my opinion.)


Slaughterhouse Five;Gertrude and Claudius;Grendel;Arabian Nights and Days;Was;Wide Sargasso Sea;Lavinia

New discoveries: Alice I Have Been; Peter & Max; The Lost Books of the Odyssey


Last Edited on: 2/2/11 9:56 PM ET - Total times edited: 11
Date Posted: 11/26/2010 10:45 PM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2008
Posts: 6,567
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Was would also be a novel in the category of a novel that alludes to an earlier novel.

contemporary political and/or legal issue: (terrorism, immigration, Adoption, divorce and child custody, plural marriage, religious topics, drugs, epidemics, euthanasia.                What do you think of these additions to the list?  I would never read something about terrorism, so it got me thinking about expanding that topic. 

Subject: contemp. political issue
Date Posted: 11/26/2010 11:35 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
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Thanks, Pamela (Pam?)! I added Was to my "PS" above.  (Btw, would you recommend it? It looks disturbing.)

My parenthetical note for the "contemp. political" topics just included suggestions that popped into my mind, and many options that you listed above (marriage, adoption, epidemics) easily fit the category. I'm going to leave the topic as is at this point so as to prevent myself from tinkering too much, but there's flexibility, of course, and you definitely should read something you'll enjoy. I don't expect anyone to start challenging others' reading selections -- I definitely won't -- but if that were to happen...well, I guess that's what the "ignore" button is for.  :-)    

Remember to add your choices to this thread:

2011 Contemporary Lit challenge: CATEGORIES and LISTS

Date Posted: 11/27/2010 11:15 AM ET
Member Since: 6/21/2008
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I realize now that this group is not quite as, how do I say, ready to debate as the Sci Fi reading challenge group, LOL.   And I mean that kindly.  I realize also that the conversation about the topic categories is late in the game, so I am going to start reading.......

Was is pretty dark, much like The Reliable Wife by Gorlich, a book I really hated, but if you have read it you will know what I mean.  I thought Was was well written and it sure made me think.  It was written by an angry man in the height of the AIDS epidemic and is worth reading.    I don't recommend it to everyone, but it does fit the category as it is a retelling of the Wizard of Oz story with a dark twist.  Disturbing is a good word, like The Kindness of Strangers by Kittle disturbing.

Last Edited on: 11/27/10 11:16 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Mary (mepom) -
Subject: Lite version
Date Posted: 11/29/2010 10:44 PM ET
Member Since: 1/23/2009
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I am in several challenges. What is the lite/light version of this challenge?



Subject: challenge "lite"
Date Posted: 11/29/2010 11:04 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
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Choose any 6 of the categories for the "lite" challenge.

Btw, which other challenges are you doing?

Date Posted: 11/30/2010 9:36 AM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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For the contemporary political issue, I wouldn't have thought I'd consider a book about terrorism either, but I ran across a book in my thrift store that I may use for this topic.  It's 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton.  Here's the blurb from the back cover "Jonas is isolated in a New York apartment and on a devastatingly confused path toward violence.  His mother and his girlfriend have just 31 hours to reach him."

Sounds pretty good.


Date Posted: 12/15/2010 12:15 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
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Quick question - for the Non-Fiction portion of this challenge, does this mean a non-fiction book written within the past 50 years, or a a non-fiction book written in the past 50 years ABOUT the past 50 years.....?



Subject: Non-Fiction portion--response to question
Date Posted: 12/18/2010 8:11 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 260
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Just written within the past 50 years.

Last Edited on: 12/21/10 8:46 PM ET - Total times edited: 1