Monday, January 3, 2011

NYRB 50 Book Challenge Wrap-up. . .

Hooray, I did it!  Took a bit longer than I'd estimated, but if you only knew how many reading challenges I set myself up for and abandon halfway, I can't help feeling pretty chuffed with myself.  (List of books read is covered here.)

The worst thing about doing this 50 book challenge is that I've barely scratched the surface of NYRB's terrific backlist (and they keep churning out fanastic new books every year).  Including the NYRBs that I'd previously read, I estimate that I've now read about 75-80 in total.   But I now have over 200 at home in a bookcase. Sigh. And yet, I'd never want them to slow down, because of course the BEST thing about doing this challenge is all the great writers and books I've been introduced to, as well as finally being able to dust off a bit of the gargantuan to-be-read pile.  I was already full of admiration for their editorial and acquisition savvy and fifty books later, this has only increased. And wait until you see their spring list! The biggest surprise was how funny so many of the novels were and how distinctive and original the narrative voices were. My biggest regret is that I didn't tackle as much of their non-fiction list as I'd have liked to, especially some of the travel writing.  And I could have read more women writers - only managed twelve out of the fifty -  although the make-up of NYRB's list is certainly dominated by men. Nevertheless it's been a very worthwhile experience and of course I'll continue to read and blog about NYRB books, although it may be a while before I commit myself to another public reading challenge. Still, I've got my eye next on Melville House's novellas series, classic and contemporary (and another unread couple of shelves at home).
Here are my top ten favourites from this NYRB challenge with links to my reviews  (to add to my previous top ten listed here before I started)

1. Troubles by J.G. Farrell.  I was crushed when we lost Canadian rights on this terrific novel that also won the Lost Booker Prize last year.  You can still get it in Canada from Orion, just not the NYRB edition.  At any rate, regardless of the publisher, just read it!

2. The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G. B. Edwards.

 3. Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman, translated by translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler and Anna Aslanyan

4. Anglo-Saxon Attitudes by Angus Wilson

5. Cassandra at the Wedding by Dorothy Baker

6. The Jokers by Albert Cossery, translated by Anna Moschovakis

7. Skylark by Dezső Kosztolányi, translated by Richard Aczel
8. Wish Her Safe at Home by Stephan Benatar

9. Inverted World by Christopher Priest

10. Original Letters From India by Eliza Fay

And NYRB fans, stayed tuned for a contest and giveaway later this week!


Miriam said...

I read Cassandra at the Wedding this year as well, and it was in my top ten reads. I adored that book.

Sasha said...

I am incredibly thrilled for you. Congratulations! As you know, you have inspired me to go on an NYRB Reading Project of my own. :]

Now, what shall you read next? :]

Anonymous said...

And here I thought The Anatomy of Melancholy would have made the top ten... (good job done Maylin, cheers, RS@LBI)

Maylin said...

Miriam - yes Cassandra was so good wasn't it. You are immediately pulled in. I love a character that you both want to hug and shake, annoying and lovable and vulnerable and real and Cassandra was all those things.

Sasha - many thanks. And good luck with your own challenge. I've been following it too - I notice you've read several of the same books I have and your unread pile contains some real treasures - Cassandra at the Wedding and Stoner for sure. Enjoy!

RS - Ha! If I'd even tackled Anatomy, this challenge would have gone on for three more years!

Isabella said...

Congratulations! and thanks for inspiring me to explore NYRB myself. It's tough to pick a favourite. Currently I find myself addicted to Simenon, and I'm about halfway through the available titles...

Jim Miller said...

I'm looking for a short story. When I read it, in the early sixties, it was in an Ontario high school English anthology book. It is the story of the Romans either putting down a rebellion or have just conquered a small island nation. In order to keep the populace under control, the head Roman subverts their main opponent by giving me a job in governing his people. At the end of the story we find out that the roman is Julius Caesar. The book was quite thin, and in memory had an orangey-coloured cover. One of the other stories in it was Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery'.
Any and all help appreciated,
Jim Miller 

Maylin said...

Hmmm - nothing comes to mind. Anyone else out there?