- Alexander, Lloyd — The Black Cauldron
- Anthony, Piers — Letters to Jenny
- Cooper, Susan — Over Sea, Under Stone
- Proulx, Annie — Close Range: Wyoming Stories
- Kincaid, Jamaica — Lucy
- Christie, Agatha — The Unexpected Guest
- Dick, Philip K. — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
- Cooper, Susan — The Dark Is Rising
- Cooper, Susan — Greenwitch
- Shaffer, Peter — Amadeus
- Anonymous — Go Ask Alice
- Cooper, Susan — The Grey King
- Martin, Steve — Shopgirl
- Cooper, Susan — Silver on the Tree
- Gaiman, Neil — Stardust
- Gaiman, Neil — Coraline
- Le Guin, Ursula — A Wizard of Earthsea
- Le Guin, Ursula — The Tombs of Atuan
- Le Guin, Ursula — The Farthest Shore
- Le Guin, Ursula — Tehanu
- Merton, Thomas — The Seven Storey Mountain: An Autobiography of Faith
- Alexander, Lloyd — The Castle of Llyr
- Zelazny, Roger — Lord of Light
- Card, Orson Scott — Ender's Game
- Clarke, Arthur C. — Childhood's End
- Grahame, Kenneth — The Wind in the Willows
- Dahl, Roald — James and the Giant Peach
- Lewis, C.S. — Out of the Silent Planet
- Lewis, C.S. — Perelandra
- Milne, A.A. — Winnie-the-Pooh
- Card, Orson Scott — Speaker for the Dead
- Bester, Alfred — The Stars My Destination
- Greene, Graham — The Power and the Glory
- Gaiman, Neil — Neverwhere
- Ballard, J.G. — The Drowned World
- Ballard, J.G. — Crash
- Joyce, James — The Dubliners
- Le Guin, Ursula — Tales from Earthsea
- Le Guin, Ursula — The Other Wind
- Asimov, Isaac — The Robots of Dawn
- Dick, Philip K. — A Scanner Darkly
- Stewart, George R. — Earth Abides
- du Bois, William Pène — The Twenty-One Balloons
- Wells, H.G. — The Time Machine
- Toole, John Kennedy — A Confederacy of Dunces
- Silverberg, Robert — The Book of Skulls
- Bradbury, Ray — Something Wicked This Way Comes
- Blish, James — A Case of Conscience
- Russell, Mary Doria — The Sparrow
- Libreria Editrice Vaticana — Catechism of the Catholic Church
Whew! I didn't think I'd be cutting it this close. I thought I'd have well over 50 books read by now. But I wanted my 50th book to be something big, and I got what I asked for. It took me over a month to read number 50. I might be able to fit #51 in with all the commuting I have to do tomorrow, but we'll see.
I've been meaning to read the Catechism for a while…for the past 9 years, to be precise, ever since Father Francis gave me a copy in preparation for my Confirmation as a Catholic. I looked at it then and thought, it's so big and so dense and looks so dry—"I won't have time to read it all," I said as if I couldn't spare even a portion of the mind-numbingly empty hours as a third-shift police dispatcher to something other than surfing the web or watching Nick at Nite. So I only read a few passages Father Francis selected for me. This tome has been sitting on my bookshelf ever since, calling to me.
Most people who get to know me find out sooner or later that I'm Catholic and pretty serious about it. To some it comes as a surprise, as external appearances don't match people's expectations of what is stereotypically Catholic. I'm often hit with a barrage of questions about my faith: How can you believe this? How can you support that? And so on. And my answers often generate more questions, since, again, they sometimes don't conform to people's preconceived prejudices about Roman Catholicism. I have always felt that my statements were in line with Catholic tradition and teaching, that I wasn't espousing heretical or blasphemous ideas. But the truth was that I wasn't absolutely sure on a few counts. I felt ill-equipped to carry on any sort of informed dialogue concerning my religion.
Reading the Catechism was a good starting point. I was correct that none of my expressed opinions are inherently un-Catholic. (Certainly some of my behavior is, but those are faults I've recognized for a long time and strive constantly and prayerfully to overcome.) And I feel better prepared now the next time I am asked to don the apologist's hat. But I also realize that there is so much more I need to read. I've never read the entire Bible, and it's been a long time since I made a serious effort. And there are many spiritual writings by authors not named C. S. Lewis (such as Augustine, Aquinas, Newman, Thérèse of Lisieux) that I should examine. The more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn.
Since I just reached my goal of 50 books for the year and tomorrow is New Year's Eve, it's as good a time as any to look back on my reading for the year. Of the 50 books, only 3 were nonfiction: an epistolary collection, an autobiography, and an instructional text. There were 2 plays and 3 collections of short stories. Only 10 of the fiction books weren't children's books, science fiction, and/or fantasy. Repeat authors were Le Guin (6), Cooper (5), Gaiman (3), Alexander (2, assuming I don't finish a third tomorrow), Ballard (2), Card (2), Dick (2), and Lewis (2). It would be difficult for me to list a favorite (probably one of the Le Guin, Gaiman, or Card novels or Winnie-the-Pooh), but it's easy to single out the one book I hated (Go Ask Alice).
Would I do this book challenge again? Absolutely, but in modified form. I like that having set this goal two years running has dramatically increased my reading. I always have a book with me and am always on the lookout for new things to read. And I enjoy writing about what I've read (since I no longer have a book club to fill that need to discuss). But I did feel a bit pressured at times, especially early on when I wasn't sure I'd meet my goal (and was bogged down in the Merton, which was a great read but as slow-going as the Catechism). And I felt guilty anytime I picked up a children's book, especially the slimmer ones like James and the Giant Peach and Winnie-the-Pooh, concerned that they might not be considered legitimate books towards my goal. I stayed away from big books (until #50) because I didn't want something too lengthy keeping me from my goal, as Cryptonomicon did in 2005. (And I did have an urge to read another Stephenson novel earlier this year.) I should be able to read what I want, when I want, and not be worrying about little things like length and reading level.
What I think I'll do in 2007 is continue to read voraciously and continue to track my reading on LJ. However, I'll keep track of the number of pages as well as the number of books. Figuring an average novel is maybe 250 pages long, I think I'll make my goal for 2007 12,500 pages. Maybe I'll adjust that up to 13,000, to stretch myself a little bit. That way I might enjoy some of the longer books on my shelf (Perdido Street Station, Book of the New Sun, That Hideous Strength) without compromising my goal or some of the shorter books (The House on Pooh Corner) without feeling guilty about counting them in the final tally.
Speaking of final, I'm going to be computerless for the next few days, so Happy New Year and Happy Reading!