For the past couple of years now I have set a goal on Goodread’s annual reading challenge. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve yet to meet my goal. However, I’m once again making the attempt with the modest target of 25 books (that’s one every two weeks, how hard can that be?!)

In high school I would have blitzed this goal (partly because I was painfully shy and spent every morning and afternoon on the school bus reading a book instead of speaking to people). However, in recent years the lure of the DVD boxset and streaming has taken over and I more often than not find myself watching a screen the last thing before bed instead of reading a book. Hence, one of my 2017 resolutions: Less Screen Time, More Read Time.

And so here we are at the Goodreads reading challenge. This year, however, I’ve decided to give it a twist. I’ve a bad habit of accumulating books that I never actually read. Each time I look at my bookcase, they stare back at me, guilty reminders of opportunistic purchases at garage sales or second-hand bookshops or the Readings bargain table. When I’m looking for something to read I inevitably pass over them in favour of something lighter and/or newer and/or shorter. And yet, I can never quite bring myself to get rid of them; at some point in my life something about them connected with me, and I’m loathe to let them go without giving them a chance.

So, this year, I am going to work my way through those unread books. I will start with fiction authors surname ‘A’, and work my way through the alphabet. If I get through those, I will move to nonfiction. To make it a little more fun, and to ensure that I don’t go the whole year without reading a new book, I will allow myself to pick something new and not from the shelf for every fifth book.

Now, so that I can’t back out of this, I’m going to list all the unread fiction books currently on my shelf. Please don’t judge me: I make no apologies for having acquired the books in the first place, or, having acquired them, not having read them. There are some classics on there, the kind that, as a literary studies major, I’m ashamed to admit to not ever having actually read. And there are also some shockers; the kind that, as a literary studies major, I’m ashamed to admit to having ever wanted to read.

But this is the nature of the challenge: I hide nothing!

So, dear Reader, judge me not. Here goes:

  1. When the Legends Die, Hal Borland
  2. Ragnarok, AS Byatt
  3. Still Life, AS Byatt
  4. The Outsider, Albert Camus
  5. The Rebel, Albert Camus
  6. Birds of Passage, Brian Castro
  7. North West by South, Nancy Cato
  8. Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen
  9. The Secret Sharer, Joseph Conrad
  10. Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe
  11. Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
  12. The Disappeared, Kim Echlin
  13. The Idea of Perfection, Kate Grenville
  14. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
  15. The Iliad, Homer
  16. Jacko, Tom Keneally
  17. Changing Places, David Lodge
  18. Johnno, David Malouf
  19. Inland, Gerald Murnane
  20. Suite Francaise, Irene Nemirovsky
  21. Alanna: The First Adventure – Song of the Lioness I, Tamora Pierce
  22. Bad Dirt, Annie Proulx
  23. Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts
  24. Boori, Bill Scott
  25. Richard the Third, William Shakespeare
  26. Saint Joan, Bernard Shaw
  27. Death Kit, Susan Sontag
  28. The Volcano Lover, Susan Sontag
  29. Decline and Fall / Black Mischief / A Handful of Dust / Scoop / Put Out More Flags, Evelyn Waugh (in one of those deluxe six-books-in-one collections, which I bought for the purpose of reading Brideshead Revisited).

Quite a list! Let’s see how many I get through… Currently, however, I am reading Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites (pure delight) and am part-way through A Friend of the Earth by TS Boyle (also a book that had been long-neglected on my shelf). On my Kindle app I am also struggling through Don Quixote (I started reading it while in Spain six months ago and now read a few chapters every now and then. Fortunately there are so many stories-within-stories [or rather, chivalric tales within chivalric tales] that it doesn’t seem to matter where you pick it up and leave it off – Don Quixote is still adorably delusional and Sancho endearingly ridiculous).

Wish me luck!