Thursday, October 08, 2009

Reading Non-Fiction, and YA Dystopian Fiction

I had a slow start to the Non-Fiction Five Challenge, which ran for five months starting in May, as I didn't actually read any non-fiction until August, but I did manage to complete five books by the end of September when the challenge ended. Four of those were on my original list of possibilities and are all ones I'd been wanting to read for some time.  With the exception of Nick Hornby's essays on reading, these were primarily the personal stories of women in very different countries and circumstances, from Japan to Iran to Darfur, and it was quite fascinating to read about their lives. 

Books completed:
(clicking on the title will take you to my review)
1. Goodbye Madame Butterfly: Sex, Marriage and the Modern Japanese Woman - Sumie Kawakami
2. Shakespeare Wrote for Money - Nick Hornby
3. Polite Lies: On Being a Woman Caught Between Cultures - Kyoko Mori
4. Embroideries - Marjane Satrapi
5. Tears of the Desert - Halima Bashir & Damien Lewis (review pending)

Best book(s) I read for the challenge?
I don't think I could possibly choose.  They were all very good, and I found them all interesting, and informative.  Living in Japan as I do, Goodbye Madame Butterfly and Polite Lies were especially interesting to me as they discussed life for women in modern Japan.  Nick Hornby's columns on his reading adventures are always amusing and this collection was no exception.  Then, it was wonderful to revisit some of the people in Marjane's life that I'd first been introduced to in Persepolis, and finally, Tears of the Desert was a very touching, courageous, important story in putting a human face on the tragedy occurring in Darfur.

Book(s) I could have done without?
None.  They were all very worth reading, and then some.

Any new authors? Will I read them again?
Since I'd previously read a short article by Sumie Kawakami, I suppose technically the only new authors for me were Kyoko Mori and Halima Bashir but I'd very much like to read something else by all of these authors. 

Best thing about the challenge?
I know I've mentioned it before, that I do enjoy reading non-fiction when I get down to it but I seem to need a virtual kick in the butt to get me going.  So a big thank you to Trish for hosting the challenge and motivating me to read these books that I'd been intending to for some time.  I have a whole shelf of unread non-fiction just waiting to be read, so you can definitely count me in for next year's challenge. 

With the exception of Shakespeare Wrote for Money, I counted the other 4 for the World Citizen Challenge as well. I originally signed up for the Minor Level with a goal to read 3 books from 2 different categories (of the 6 defined for the challenge:  politics, economics, history, culture or anthropology/sociology, worldwide issues, and memoirs/autobiographies).  Looking at the books I've read I figure I've got sociology, worldwide issues and memoirs covered.  Although this challenge officially runs to the end of the year, my reading looks like it'll be pretty fiction-centric over the next couple of months so I'm going to consider this challenge completed and wrapped-up as well.  Thank you Eva for organizing this challenge.

Speaking of finishing challenges, I've decided to concede defeat on one of the ones I signed up for this year. I've only read one story that qualifies since this round of the 1% Well-Read Challenge started in March, and it's highly unlikely that I'd be able to read 9 more by the end of the year. I like the idea behind the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list, and I'm sure I'll read some more of them at some point, but it's not my priority at the moment. So I'm going to humbly withdraw and focus on the other challenges that I do have a good chance of completing.  Thanks so much for hosting though 3M and good luck to everyone else who joined the challenge this year. I hope you're all becoming a little bit more well-read in the process.

However, even though I've completed two challenges and am bowing out from another, I've decided to join two more! But really it's only one more since they are essentially the same challenge. Bart of Bart's Bookshelf set up a YA Dystopian Reading Challenge, and then shortly thereafter, Books on the Nightstand launched their own DystopYA Reading Challenge. I guess you could call it great minds thinking alike!  As for the requirements, Bart asks us to read between 1 and 4 Dystopian YA novels between October 15th and the end of the year. Whereas according to Ann and Michael (Books on the Nightstand), we are "hereby commanded to read 3 works of dystopic fiction that were written or published primarily for young adults" between October 5, 2009 and December 31, 2009. (Click on the buttons for more info on each challenge.) I'm up for trying to read 3 books by the end of the year, and will most likely choose from the following:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
or anything else that crosses my path in the next couple of months and becomes irresistible.

What other YA Dystopian fiction would you recommend?


  1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak fits the definition given for a Dystopian work-
    "Dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, cackotopia, or anti-utopia) is the vision of a society in which conditions of life are miserable and characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence, disease, pollution, nuclear fallout and/or the abridgement of human rights, resulting in widespread unhappiness, suffering, and other kinds of pain. (Source: Wikipedia)"-from the blog of of the challenge host-

    It is a wonderful book-it has all of these things in it but for nuclear fallout-If you have not read it you should for sure consider it-I will look for Battle Royale-it sounds like a good way to expand my Japanese Literature horizans.

  2. Hi Tanabata, I'd love to participate and would need some recommendation too for dystopian fiction.

    I've read HUNGER GAMES and enjoyed it. I'm going to start on CATCHING FIRE now that the book has arrived in mail.

    You could also try THE GIVER (and the other 2 books in the series, GATHERING BLUE and MESSENGER) by Lois Lowry. I've enjoyed THE GIVER.

  3. Oooooh... I also looked up this link and found tonnes of books I'd love to read under dystopian fiction:

  4. I'm so glad you were able to finish the non-fiction Challenge, Nat. Congratulations!

    I definitely bought off more than I could chew challenge-wise this year. Sometimes letting go is the best choice we can make, especially when it's a challenge we know we won't finish.

    Good luck with your new challenges! They sound like fun. :-)

  5. Look at you reading 5 non-fiction books in two months! Congrats on finishing the challenges and hope you'll participate again next year.

    Just picked up Knife of Never Letting Go yesterday and can't wait to dive into it! Looks really intense.

  6. Last March, I joined Becky's "It's the End of the World" challenge, which is also about Dystopian fiction. Sadly, it ends tomorrow and I only managed to read one out of the four I've chosen, plus one other book that wasn't originally on my list.

    When I heard about Hunger Games, I immediately noticed the similarity it has with Battle Royale, which is why I didn't choose to read it. I watched the movie Battle Royale and it freaked me out. Watching kids kill each other was a little too much for me. But I have to say that the concept of the story is like a study in sociology. Rather deep for something that's labeled as YA. Though, of course, there are many YA novels that could have been labeled as literary fiction instead. Not sure how the movie compares with the book. I'm guess the book is better.

  7. Good luck with the dystopian challenge! I'm aching to join, but my ban says I can't unless I already have the books :P

  8. Congrats on finishing up the challenges! And thanks for doing the World Citizen Challenge. :)

  9. Great to have you aboard! You've got a great list of books there. If you read the Patrick Ness (and IMHO you definitely should!) , make sure you have got the sequel to hand!

  10. mel u - I have read The Book Thief and you're right, it's a wonderful story.
    I hope you enjoy Battle Royale if you end up reading it. I saw the movie a few years ago but have forgotten most of it now, plus I'm sure the book is a bit different from the movie, as is usually the case.

    Alice - I was going to reply to your first comment saying that Bart has a great list of YA Dystopian novels at his blog, but then I see that you've already found it.
    Thanks for the reminder about The Giver. It's one that's been on my mental 'should read someday' radar for awhile but I still haven't got to it.

    Wendy - Thanks! I know what you mean about over-doing it on challenges. I tried to be more selective this year but think I'll join even less next year. They're tempting but I have other reading priorities, like reading more Japanese literature, that I'd like to focus on more in the future. And yes, sometimes letting go is the best decision.

    Trish - I'm sure I wouldn't have read them so closely together if it hadn't been for the challenge but I really enjoyed them so I'm very glad to have had that little nudge. Thanks for hosting! I'll definitely be joining in again next year.

    Mark David - When I first heard of The Hunger Games, I thought of Battle Royale too. At first I wasn't that interested in reading The Hunger Games books but I've become curious despite myself.
    The book for Battle Royale is quite long, from what I hear, so I imagine it goes into more depth than the movie, and I'm thinking it might be interesting to compare it to The Hunger Games, but we'll see how it goes.

    Nymeth - Oh, it's totally your kind of challenge too! You're doing a great job on sticking with your book buying ban though so hang in there! :)

    Eva - Thanks, and thanks again for hosting. :)

    Bart - Thank you. I wasn't planning on joining any more challenges this year but I couldn't resist.
    I keep hearing that about the Patrick Ness series, but would really rather wait for the paperback of the second book. I guess we'll just have to see how impatient I am once I read the first one. :P


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