I am thrilled that over 70 readers have signed up for the Eclectic Reader Challenge so far this year, and several already have already gotten started and shared reviews. Sign ups are open until December 1st 2014. The challenge asks participants to read 12 books over the year, each from a variety of different categories. These are:
- Award Winning
- True Crime (Non Fiction)
- Romantic Comedy
- Alternate History Fiction
- Graphic Novel
- Cosy Mystery Fiction
- Gothic Fiction
- War/Military Fiction
- Medical Thriller Fiction
- Travel (Non Fiction)
- Published in 2014
One of the things I have noticed in several sign up posts is a request for reading suggestions. I encourage participants to look for recommendations from other bloggers who they read and follow or browse Goodreads Listopia but I thought I might offer a few of my own gleaned from my own browsing.
I’ve covered the first six categories last month which you can view HERE, and here are some ideas for making your choices for the last six.
A gothic novel is most commonly defined by a combination of elements including a closed, eerie setting, such as a crumbling castle, mansion or institution; a mystery complicated by series of inexplicable, perhaps supernatural, events; psychological, and sometimes physical, terror; and a doomed romance, or close relationship. Well known classics of the genre include Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Woman in White by Wilkie Collins and my favourite, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is a popular modern gothic title, as is The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill. The Flowers in the Attic series by Virgina (V.C) Andrews are currently receiving renewed attention after a recent television adaption and really any of her works would be suitable for this category. I have previously read and reviewed a handful of contemporary gothic novels including Amanda Stevens Graveyard Queen series, The Fairwick Chronicles by Juliet Dark and most recently Thornwood House by Anna Romer, but its not a genre I read a lot in so I’m still looking for something to suit.
I’m widening the rather narrow definition of this genre to include any novel where a war or ‘armed conflict’ has a significant impact on the story and its characters. This means you can read novels set on the battlefields such as the historical World War classics, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway or the wonderful The Book Thief by Markus Zusak or The Boy in The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, though neither include combat. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, set during the Vietnam War, comes highly recommended by my father though he prefers military thrillers such as those by Tom Clancy, Fredrick Forsyth and W.E.B Griffin. Fiction regarding the current conflict in the Middle East is sparse, but titles that are set in the midst of the action such as The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers and Fobbit by David Abrams are popular, and there are several which focus on the returned soldiers such as Billy Lynn’s Long Half Time Walk by Ben Fountain and Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter. I could only find reference to a single title written by an Iraqi with regards to the war, a short story collection called The Madman of Freedom Square by Hassan Blasim. On my review pile I currently have The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan which is a story of a POW on the Thai-Burma railway, Be Safe I Love You by Cara Hoffman about a returned female soldier struggling with PTSD and The Wives of Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit- Alamos being the birthplace of the atomic bomb.
An anthology is a collection of selected writings by various authors , usually in the same literary form, of the same period, or on the same subject. I’ve highlighted the key word in the definition because often short story collections by a single author are erroneously referred to as an anthology. This is a category that gives you scope to read within a familiar, well loved genre or you can challenge yourself to try something new. Almost every genre is represented in anthologies from science fiction to mystery to romance and even poetry. I’m determined to read The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S Beagle and Joe R Landsdale because it has been sitting on my shelf for more than two years. A search on Goodreads or Google for ‘mammoth book of’ will give you some options across genres like The Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction or The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance edited by Trisha Tulep. Horror, erotica, historical whodunnits – there is something for everyone!
I find medical thrillers so disturbing because you are so vulnerable while in hospital, hostage to the whims of doctors and nurses who know far too many ways to kill you. I read Robin Cook’s Coma the day before I was scheduled for surgery when I was 14 – a bad, bad idea, and though I eventually went on to read much of his backlist, I haven’t read anything of his for a while. I know Tess Gerritsen is a popular author in this genre, Harvest is the first of her Medical Thriller series, as is Patricia Cornwell for her Kay Scarpetta series, beginning with Post-Mortem and Jefferson Bass for his Body Farm series focusing on forensic medicine. Ken McClure writes a series featuring an ex-Special Forces medic Dr Steven Dunbar which has piqued my interest but if you are looking for a stand-alone, Harlan Coben wrote Miracle Cure early in his career , or try Critical Judgement by Michael Palmer, Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla or the Andromeda Strain by Michael Chricton.
Unlike most people, I’ve never been that interested in traveling but I do enjoy travel memoirs. Bill Bryson is probably the most well known author in the genre, who has chronicled his travels with laugh out loud humour and a keen eye for absurd details, if you are curious about my life in Australia, try his In A Sunburned Country. Personally I couldn’t stand Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love but it has certainly attracted a lot of attention and would be an appropriate choice for the category as would Wild by Cheryl Strayed or 360 Degrees Longitude by John Highham. The Best American Travel Writing series has been published annually since 2000 or you might prefer a travel guide like National Geographic’s Journeys of a Lifetime or Lonely Planet’s The Travel Book. The only stipulation for this category is that the book you choose should be non fiction.
Published in 2014
The choice here is yours, you can read any genre you like, as long as the book is published between Jan 1st 2014 and December 31st 2014. Maybe your favourite author has a new book coming out this year – the challenge gives you a great excuse to make sure it gets read. Stephen King has announced the publication of Revival in November, JK Rowling’s first prequel to the Harry Potter series may also be available later this year. Type ‘most anticipated books 2014’ into any search engine and plenty of recommendations are available, the website The Millions also has a long list of previews for the first half of 2014 releases and Publishers Weekly a list for Spring debuts.
Which is your favourite book in any of the categories above, what would you recommend?