30-Day Book Challenge in One Day

I found this book challenge at a really great blog. Since I’m such an instant gratification person, I will not spread the challenge out over an entire month but will simply cover it in its entirety in one post. If people want me to expatiate on any of the answers, feel free to say so in the comments.

Day 1: Favorite book.

As a voracious reader, I find it very hard to answer this question. Still, I thought about it and realized that such book exists. I have read it over 15 times and destroyed two copies of it. They simply fell apart because I used them so much. I can recite entire paragraphs from it by heart. As an immigrant to the US, I find that it gave me incredibly useful insights into this country. I have also invented over a dozen of alternative endings to it.

The book I’m talking about is Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy.

Day 2: Least favorite book.

It says “least favorite book”, not “least favorite trash”, so I will go with an actual work of literature that I find hugely overrated: Tolstoy’s excruciatingly boring War and Peace.

Day 3: Book that makes you laugh out loud.

Ilf and Petrov’s The Godlen Calf is absolutely one of the funniest books in existence. It’s a masterpiece, people, and it’s available in English.

Day 4: Book that makes you cry.

I read E.L. Voynich’s The Gadfly five times. Every time, I didn’t just cry. I bawled. And it isn’t just me. Everybody who reads it cries. What’s really curious is that everybody cries for a different reason.

Day 5: Book you wish you could live in.

The answer to this question came to me instantly: The Oxford English Dictionary is a place where I want to go after I die.

Day 6: Favorite young adult book.

I’m not familiar with this genre.

Day 7: Book that you can quote/recite

There are dozens, and I can’t select just one. Right now I can recite the primary sources I use for my research. 🙂

Day 8: Book that scares you

Solzhenitsyn’s The GULAG Archipelago is terrifying because it’s all true.

Day 9: Book that makes you sick

Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata is a piece of vile, misogynist garbage that always makes me want to vomit.

Day 10: Book that changed your life

John Fowles’ The Collector. I already explained why in this post.

Day 11: Book from your favorite author

I have a new favorite author every week. Right now, I want to bring to your attention The Same Sea As Every Summer by Esther Tusquets. In the novel, a female professor of literature tries to escape from her ghastly patriarchal marriage and boring bourgeois existence through a lesbian affair with her student. Beautiful language, a very powerful narrative, and it’s based on true events, too.

Day 12: Book that is most like your life

Galdos’s That Bringas Woman hits home on a variety of levels. I don’t feel like being any more explicit right now but that’s my life.

Day 13: Book whose main character is most like you

I identify hugely with Fermin de Pas of Leopoldo Alas’s great novel La Regenta. It isn’t like there are any female characters anywhere one could identify with. Believe me, I’ve been looking forever.

Day 14: Book whose main character you want to marry

A character who is better than my N.? No writer has the kind of an imagination that could create a character that perfect.

Day 15: First “chapter book” you can remember reading as a child

I think it was Oliver Twist, one of Dickens’s weakest novels, which almost put me off the writer permanently.

Day 16: Longest book you’ve read

I think that would be Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa in 6 volumes. Make sure you read this unabridged version because there are many editions created by jerkwads who think they are entitled to mess with this beautiful text.

Day 17: Shortest book you’ve read

I have no idea. The shortness of a book is not as memorable as a book’s length.

Day 18: Book you’re most embarrassed to say you like

OK, this isn’t easy to confess, but I really dig Frances Hodgson Burnett, especially her A Little Princess. I discovered the author in adulthood, so it isn’t like I’m driven to like her books by warm and fuzzy childhood memories.

Day 19: Book that turned you on

I remember that 1,001 Nights had a huge erotic impact when I was a child. “What are you reading?” adults would ask. “Fairy-tales,” I would reply, although this book read like real pornography. Of course, you need a non-sanitized, original version.

Day 20: Book you’ve read the most number of times

Vivien by W. B. Maxwell. I blogged about it here. (There is something wrong with “the most number of times”, isn’t it? It doesn’t sound right to me for some reason.)

Day 21: Favorite picture book from childhood

There was this set of really cool books from a Soviet writer of children’s poems that I loved as a kid. And I just discovered that his books are available in English.

Day 22: Book you plan to read next

David Graeber’s Debt. A review is forthcoming.

Day 23: Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished)

It puts me to shame to confess this but I skipped huge chunks of James Joyce’s Ulysses. Which means that I lie when I say that I actually read it. God, I hate Joyce.

Day 24: Book that contains your favorite scene

It feels like some of these questions are aimed at people who don’t read a whole lot. Who has just one favorite scene in just one book?

Day 25: Favorite book you read in school

I really liked Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone. And when I say that I read it in school, it means that I would hide it under my math textbook and read it surreptitiously during science classes. Then, the teacher would catch me doing it and send an angry missive to my parents. I’d show it to my father who’d say that it made him really proud that I was reading in English instead of wasting my time on “all those pseudo sciences like the silly math, physics, biology, etc.” 🙂 After which, my father and I would both hide the teacher’s report from my mother, a math teacher.

Day 26: Favorite nonfiction book

Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique changed my life. Very highly recommended. That’s what feminism is supposed to be about, instead of the toothless “respect my choice to be a doormat in exchange for being kept.”

Day 27: Favorite fiction book

This has already been answered in Day 1.

Day 28: Last book you read

Just finished We Had Won the War by Esther Tusquets.

Day 29: Book you’re currently reading

Book 1 in the Hunger Games Trilogy because a blog reader whose judgment I trust recommended it. A review is forthcoming.

Day 30: Favorite coffee table book

Do I look like a person who is likely to have coffee table books? Let alone, a favorite one? Sheesh, people.

20 thoughts on “30-Day Book Challenge in One Day

  1. I would enjoy the most to read your thoughts on 2 books I read and loved too – “An American Tragedy” and Voynich’s “The Gadfly”, which made me cry a lot too and I cry very rarely. If you feel vicious on some day, Tolstoy’s “The Kreutzer Sonata” would be great too.

    At high school, when I became able to read in English well enough, I discovered some childhood authors too, Frances Burnett among them. “A Little Princess” was OK to read, but I recognized many banal tropes, “The Secret Garden” otoh was really great and original to me.

    2 Recs now:

    If you like Dreiser, you should try reading “Dawn”, which is the 1st part of his autobiography. “An American Tragedy” was good, his other novels started boring me, but “Dawn” made the best impression.

    As for Burnett, may be you too would enjoy several of my best loved books – Lucy Maud Montgomery’s (the author of “Anne of Green Gables”) Emily novels:

    Similar to her earlier and more famous Anne of Green Gables series, the Emily novels depicted life through the eyes of a young orphan girl, Emily Starr, who is raised by her relatives after her father dies of consumption. The series was less romanticized and more realistic than the Anne novels. Montgomery considered Emily to be a character much closer to her own personality than Anne, and some of the events which occur in the Emily series happened to Montgomery herself.

    The three Emily novels are Emily of New Moon (1923), Emily Climbs (1925) and Emily’s Quest (1927). The series follows Emily through her school years and her climb up the symbolic “Alpine Path” to becoming a successful author. The later books also follow Emily through several romances and adventures. Emily is a heroine with a love for the beauty in nature and art, loyalty to her friends, a thirst for knowledge, and a passionate dedication to her writing.


  2. The Emily Starr novels are creepy, IMO. The Dean Priest character gave me the shudders even as a pre-teen. The Blue Castle is for my money the best of her books, although that isn’t necessarily saying much. It’s superfically a romance, but the real theme is of the central character finding independence from her suffocating family and creating a life for herself.
    I will have to go away and think about the 30 book questions.


  3. Thanks for this interesting list! I really like to get recommendations for books.
    I read the Moonstone with a flu and I remember that flu fondly! The evangelist is especially hilarious.

    But I don’t know any other of the books, which is great! I will get ‘an american tragedy’ for my next holidays. I like the beginning.

    Btw, since you like long books, have you read ‘infinite jest’?
    Btw II, I’m looking forward to your review about ‘the hunger games’. 🙂


    1. “Btw, since you like long books, have you read ‘infinite jest’?”

      – No, I haven’t. I just looked it up and the blurb says it will appeal to fans of Pynchon. I detest Pynchon, so I don’t know how much I might enjoy this book.


  4. I love The Feminine Mystique. I first heard about it when reading a fictional diary of an American girl during the Vietnam war, and then immediately picked it up afterwards. After reading your post, I went through pages of quotations from the book, and it’s still as powerful today as it was to me back then, especially:

    “It is easier to live through someone else than to complete yourself. The freedom to lead and plan your own life is frightening if you have never faced it before. It is frightening when a woman finally realizes that there is no answer to the question ‘who am I’ except the voice inside herself.”

    “Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”


  5. Haven’t read The Feminine Mystique, but enjoyed Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex”. Has anybody here read it too? Don’t you already get the main ideas of The Feminine Mystique, if you read “The Second Sex” or is something very new to be gained? What is it then?


  6. I just think that if the book is about American housewives, it isn’t relevant to my life & family history. A life in which all women worked full time in FSU. May be to be a housewife became prestigious among “New Rich” in FSU, but we probably left before & weren’t “New Rich” anyway. And then, my mother, of course, had to work very hard after immigration in Israel. In my family there has always been a huge emphasis on getting education and a job, which most educated young men in Israel expect from their partners. If there are some bored housewives married to “New Rich” in FSU or to rich in USA, why should I care about them? In Israel I see middle class women studying & working. Some take half time job or search for a job with more flexible hours, when children are small, or (haven’t seen personally) stay for a couple of years out of workforce


    1. –continuation–

      but it’s a question of jobs having long hours. With 2 parents working from morning to night and 3 small children (a usual number among not religious Jews in Israel) aged f.e. 2, 4 and 6-7 years, it’s very hard and day care doesn’t last till 7-8 in the evening. Private care can, but it costs a lot for 2-3 kids.

      There are no good solutions to this, but I find the idea of working part time, while children are *small*, acceptable. There is a huge difference between this and being a housewife, imo. And workforce wouldn’t change just because somebody wishes for it. If you have a very exciting career OR earn a lot, you may send 2-3 kids to private care till 7-8, but many women (and in general, people) don’t have either. Am I a sell out to think thus? 🙂 What’s your solution, except have less kids?

      Also know of children of immigrants, who at age of 6 returned from school with a key from a flat and waited till evening untill both parents came from work. But you can’t do that with 4 or 5 (imo) year old.


    2. Want to add that my grandmother and mother worked full time because there were people at home (like a grandmother) to take care of child(ren). Then, of course, it’s free help and both parents may work till they drop.


      1. If you don’t have housewifery in your family scenario, then count your blessings and forget about Friedan. 🙂 You’ll do great as it is. 🙂

        The details of each specific childcare arrangement are not significant. Everybody works them out in some way. But the understanding that no child benefits from a house-bound parent with no career or professional interests is basic.


  7. Day 6: Favorite young adult book.

    I’m not familiar with this genre.

    Me either. I think I departed from young adulthood long before it was invented. Is the “young adult” category the same thing as the “teen self help” category?


  8. I love these lists!

    “Book you tell people you’ve read, but haven’t (or haven’t actually finished).”

    I have read Joyce’s Ulysses from A to Z. BUT to my great shame… I have never finished one specific classic Latin American novel…. THE classic contemporary Spanish American novel. I tried to finish that specific book on several occasions, but I disliked it every time… and because of that I have never finished it.

    A clue: the novel I am talking about is in Oprah’s bookclub.

    How awful is that, right?


    1. Is it 100 Years of Solitude?
      I’m no Hispanist, but I have a hard time finishing either of those, I think I need to widen my horizons and find other Latin American novels I could read, since I can’t seem to finish that one either.
      But for that day in the meme I am going to do Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (or, as I call it, “Extremely Dull & Incredibly Cloying”)


      1. I could not say it is 100YS because I am afraid that my thesis advisor would find out and take back my diploma. But…

        Clarissa: I am a contemporary latinamericanist and you are a contemporary peninsularist. Imagine if you had not read, say, Goytisolo? It is like a scar I hide on a daily basis.

        But the novel I am talking about is unreadable!

        And Rayuela pales in comparison to Cortazar (many) excellent short stories. I think that we agree on that.


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