12 in 12 Reading Challenge: Some Thoughts on What I Read This Year

Warning: this is a word-heavy post and it's not about crafting! ;)

I have officially completed my 12 in 12 Reading Challenge for 2012. Just a recap, the challenge was to either read 12 books, each of 600 + pages, or to read 12 Classics. And I, of course, did a mix of the two.

Ultimately, I ended up reading 4 "chunksters" and 8 Classics.

Here are my books of 600 + pages: all fantasy novels.

Shadowplay by Tad Williams
Shadowrise by Tad Williams
Shadowheart by Tad Williams
A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

I read the Tad Williams books on the advice of a friend and I really loved them. (Thanks Wendy!!) They belong to the high fantasy genre, which is normally not my favorite fantasy genre, but this series is awesome. The characters, plot and overall writing style are well done and original, even if the overall arc belongs to the classic bildungsroman tradition (kingdom in peril, mysterious magic, teenage quest, etc,). In any case, that's a story arc I happen to like most of the time. :)

To give you a comparison of my fantasy taste, in terms of heroic fantasy, I read the first 6 or so of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and I gave up because I found them too repetitive and boring. (How many are there now, at least a dozen???!!). I loved the first 2 or 3 of the Sword of Truth series by Terry Goodkind, and then the same thing happened, I found that the following books became repetitive and cliche. By contrast, I love the entire Pug the Magician series by Raymond Feist and the Belgariad by David Eddings.

I haven't read any other Tad Williams books, but he's definitely on my short-list for future fantasy reading.

As far as the latest George R.R. Martin tome: whew. Tome. That word says it all. It was looong to get through. I enjoyed it but he has so many characters and plots that it can be hard to keep up. In fact, he previously established so many characters and plots that some of the chief characters (Sansa, Jaime, etc.) barely make an appearance here, or not at all. I'm still a big fan and I still want to follow this thing to the end, but I'd prefer it if he released several smaller books more regularly instead of one gargantuan novel every few years. But, I'm not complaining too much.

Here's the list of Classics that I read (and btw, I don't know why I'm capitalizing Classics, I guess I think it's fun):

La fille du capitaine by Pushkin
The Hound of Baskerville by Arthur Conan Doyle
A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
I,Claudius by Robert Graves
Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Eloge de la Vieillesse par Hermann Hesse
Poems by Lord Rochester (Everyman's Library)

If I read the novel in French (regardless of its original language), I put the title in French.

Overall, the English authors dominated this part of the challenge. I only read one female author in the entire challenge. Shame. On. Me. I'll do better next time. (The challenge doesn't represent my entire reading for the year though, in my defense). The 19th century definitely dominated here as well. Next time I'll try to mix it up more, because I do plan on repeating this challenge next year.

Basically I really enjoyed everything that I read. I had already read a ton of Elizabeth Gaskell, so I knew in advance that I would love Cranford. The only thing left that I haven't read by her is her biography of Charlotte Brontë. OK, there's other stuff too that I haven't read, but I've already read probably 6 novels by her.

Elizabeth Gaskell as a young woman:

I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes stuff, although I forgot that I had previously read The Hound of Baskerville. I'm counting it nevertheless because I did re-read it. :P

I was already a fan of Hesse, so I didn't really challenge my tastes with that selection. My favorite of his thus far is still Steppenwolf, the first work that I read by him.

And I knew I would enjoy the Lord Rochester's poems because I had already read a few, so no big risk there.

So the books that were real discoveries for me were the Pushkin, I, Claudius and Tropic of Cancer. I liked Pushkin; too bad I don't read Russian.

I loved I, Claudius and I'm putting the sequel on my short-list too. I find that in the last 5 years or so I've really gotten into Roman-antiquity-themed things. For example, one of my favorite all-time novels is Mémoires d'Hadrien by Marguerite Yourcenar.

Finally, that leaves me to talk about Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller. Needless to say, this book is not for everybody simply because he constantly describes sex in a graphic and somewhat callus way. And he's often overtly sexist and homophobic. But if you can overlook that, at least some of the time, the book does have interesting aspects.

Henry Miller, image taken from the Banned Books blog:

In my opinion, the book is extremely navel-gazing, to say the least, and rather whiny, but I liked his thoughts about the creative process and about being a marginalized American ex-pat in France. And I appreciated that the book reads more like a journal than a traditional novel. However, I don't really see myself reading any other works by Henry Miller...not any time soon at least.

And how about you, have you read any of the books on my list? Are you participating in any official or unofficial reading challenges this year? How do you make time for both reading and crafting? Sometimes I have trouble making time for both!


  1. Wow! that is some list! Congratulations on completing the challenge :)
    I've only read a few of those; the Raymond Feist and David Eddings series are some of our all-time family favourites too; and I agree, all of Arthur Conan Doyle are great reads too.
    I belong to a bookclub and we read a book a month, taking it turns to choose. I'm a fast reader, but I can only read in English! I am so impressed you read in French! Our last book was the Dinner, by Herman Koch. A terrific read :)

    1. Do you know what you'll be reading next month?:)

  2. I haven't read any of these, but they all sound interesting!! I'm working my way through Storm of Swords slowly ... so slowly ... but I think George R.R. Martin is trying to kill me with all of his words.

    1. He does not skimp on the words, that's for sure!

  3. I command you to RUN! and get "The Name of The Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss, and get his second book while you are at it because you won't be able to stop reading either until done.

    Also, I can't stand "The Wheel of Time" series. UGGG. Just. Ug. Oh, though you would probably really enjoy anything by Anne Bishop and Jacqueline Carey. Um.. yeah. So congrats on finishing your reading list!

  4. Wow. Ok, I am not going to show you my Goodreads list while you are reading real big people books! Other than the Doyle, I've not read any of these- does it count if I skimmed the Miller looking for smut once?

    1. Oh I read tons of "fluff" too! I did this challenge specifically to force me to read some Classics, but I love me some fantasy and adventure novels. :)

  5. I have read the ones by Arthur Conan Doyle, but none of the others. I need to learn to knit and read at the same time! :)

    1. I tried that, but I can only do it with hardbound books because they're easier to keep open. :)

  6. This sounds like the best challenge ever! I am totally doing this next year. I feel like I need to brush up on my classics. :\ I am so impressed that you are reading books in two languages!

    Also, I AM TOTALLY WITH YOU on the the Sword of Truth books. Oh. Em. Gee. Terry Goodkind, please stop telling us the same story over and over again. Thank you for understanding the tediousness of that series, Donna!

    1. I felt a little blasphemous saying that because so many people seem to adore it. I'm glad I'm not alone in the world. :)

  7. Wow - I am impressed by your list. "I Claudius" is the one that appeals most to me on there....I find ancient Rome wierdly fascinating. I read much smaller books! xx


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