These are things I have about lots of things. I have good intentions about housework….I’ll devise a schedule and stick to it. My house will be super spotless. I love how it looks when it’s clean, when I’ve just finished making a huge effort but it lasts so little time I get disheartened and think why exhaust myself when cyclone children sweep through and turn it upside down? On eating – less carbs, chocolate and coke. More vegetables and lean proteins. On exercise – I will get out and go for that walk/run/etc today and not just laze on the couch eating the aforementioned carbs and chocolate.
And about reading. There are so many books I want to read, for many different reasons. Obviously there are books that I want to read because I like the way the blurb sounds, because I’ve heard good things about them. But often there are books that I feel that I should read, also for many different reasons. Because they’ve been deemed to be historically important, because they examine important themes, because they address diversity, equality, etc. There’s only so much time we have to do things and so I can’t really read every single book that I want to, it’s just not possible.
Prize longlists make up rather a large portion of books that I have good intentions about. Every time a list gets announced, I think yes I am going to read this longlist this year for sure. And then, time. Time is a problem so I think ok, I’ll just read the shortlist then. And so often my good intentions come to nothing. Last year I think was probably the best I managed in terms of lists, I read almost all of the Stella Prize shortlist. I participated in a few discussions on twitter on several of the books and found them very interesting. I figure if I managed that last year when I was barely blogging and all that, surely I can do a bit this year too?
Wednesday was International Women’s Day and the Bailey Prize announced it’s longlist. Every year I curiously read the longlists to see how many books I’ve already read (generally I’m rather astonished if I find one). Here’s this year’s list:
Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo
The Power, Naomi Alderman
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
Little Deaths, Emma Flint
The Mare, Mary Gaitskill
The Dark Circle, Linda Grant
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
Midwinter, Fiona Melrose
The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan
The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso
The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill
The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry
Barkskins, Annie Proulx
First Love, Gwendoline Riley
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain
Unsurprisingly this year it’s a 0 on books I’ve read. I actually am unfamiliar with quite a few of them but I’ve had intentions to read several others. I’ve read three authors listed in the past – Margaret Atwood, Annie Proulx and Rose Tremain and if I were to attack this longlist, I’d probably start with the books by those three authors.
Out of curiosity, I looked up the entire longlist in my local library’s catalogue. They’re a pretty good library, four branches and offer a good selection but obviously it’s not inexhaustive. I wanted to see how much of an issue it would be to source the 16 books here. The first one, a search of the author returned zero results so I struck out there. The second search returned a book for Naomi Alderman but not the one listed here, a previous book published several years ago. As I expected, Hag-Seed returned a result but it was currently checked out. When I searched for Little Death I got a hit on the eBook and also the audiobook but the library didn’t have a hard copy. There was one copy of The Mare by Mary Gaitskill but it was checked out and not due back for a month. A search for Linda Grant revealed a few of her earlier books but not The Dark Circle. I finally hit paydirt with The Lesser Bohemians by Eimer McBride which the library has and it was checked in. It was also located at my closest branch – I was about to place a hold so I could go and pick it up when I realised it was an audiobook and that wasn’t a format I wanted. There was no hard copy for that one either. Midwinter by Fiona Melrose also only returned an audiobook option. Nothing for The Sport Of Kings, nothing for The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso, nothing for The Essex Serpent, but surely there’d be a hard copy of Barkskins? Yes! There was. But it was checked out. Nothing for Gwendoline Riley, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien exists but was also checked out. On the last book…..I finally found not only a hard copy in the system but that it was also available at a local branch.
The Stella Prize also announced their shortlist, which consists of:
Between A Wolf And A Dog by Georgia Blain
The Hate Race by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Poum And Alexandre by Catherine de Saint Phalle
An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire
The Museum Of Modern Love by Heather Rose
Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor
I’ve actually read one of these! An Isolated Incident by Emily Maguire, which I thought was amazing. I’ve read quite a few of Emily’s books now and loved them all. I’ve also read Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clarke just this week actually and I really want to read The Hate Race. I’m familiar with Between A Wolf And A Dog and I know the author passed away quite recently, as has Cory Taylor. The other two I’m not familiar with other than having heard them announced as part of the longlist but I looked them up and I really want to read Poum and Alexandre. My local library had copies of 3 books from this list on their catalogue, two of which were available to be borrowed and one that was checked out with a few holds placed on it as well. Unfortunately for me, Poum and Alexandre was not one of the books they had.
So sometimes the best of intentions go astray because of availability. I can’t really afford to buy entire longlists or shortlists – or if I can, it’s hard to do knowing that by the time some of them arrive the winner will be announced anyway and maybe I should just read that? Sometimes I choose a few books that interested me – last year I bought half of the Stella shortlist (I’d already read one other and I skipped a book that wasn’t really my sort of thing) but it’s a big undertaking to attempt to read an entire longlist of 16 or so books, as is the case with the Baileys Prize. It’s a goal I’d like to achieve one day though.
Classics are another area where I also have good intentions that sometimes (ok, often) fail to pan out. In fact I just recently noticed that the Classics Challenge I joined five years ago now wraps up this year. I committed myself to read 50 classics in five years and I have…….not done that. In fact, the challenge ends today. This challenge seemed doable when I started it but five years are up now and I’ve read 10 books off the list and reviewed 7 of them.
That’s pretty poor. I chose the list! I picked books I really want to read, plenty of which I own, sitting on my shelves, waiting to be picked up. They’re there. Accessible. I have no excuse really other than the fact that I’m distracted by new, shiny books. I think I also forgot this challenge even existed for about three years of it. I’m just going to leave it there as an open-ended challenge and hope that I knock a couple off each year. As poor as my progress was in this challenge, it was still progress and those 10 books are probably 10 more than I would’ve read had I not signed up for this.
This year the Australian Women Writers Challenge, which I have participated in every year of its being, has a strong focus on classics and I challenged myself to read 3. I didn’t want to go too crazy, knowing my average track record with classics. I have yet to really decide what those classics are going to be, although I did pick myself up a copy of The Thorn Birds with the intention of counting it. Is it old enough? It’s certainly iconic. I also have My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin and The Watch Tower by Elizabeth Harrower on my shelves so it would make sense to finally tackle those.
Let’s hope that my good intentions pan out – perhaps small goals are the answer.