September 01, 2011

Science-Fiction Free September VII, 2011

It's September 1 . . . and so it's time for the annual moratorium on reading science-fiction books. (Read that title again: "Science Fiction Free September Seven, Two Thousand Eleven." Just rolls right off the tongue. Plus, SFFS is a palindrome. What more could anyone ask?)

SFFS came about back in 2004, when (after keeping track of my reading for the previous year) I realized my literary input was woefully lacking in anything other than SF. I decided that I would set aside a month to read anything but SF (apart from finishing a book already in progress), and planned out a selection of works to read. That first experiment was a success, and it also led to my reading Yann Martel's Life of Pi—my review of which is still one of the most popular posts on the blog, at least according to the search engine hits I get. So SFFS was a success, and in subsequent years I would celebrate it with various themes: Canadian literature, Victorian literature, and so forth. I have two restrictions: no science fiction (and preferably no fantasy either), and it should be something I haven't read before (since the whole point, after all, was to broaden my horizons!).

Of course, success has been varied, and I don't think I've ever succeeded in reading everything I set out to. So this year, I'm setting my sights a little lower. I'm going to finish as many books as possible that I've started, before moving on to something else:

  • Dead or Alive, by Tom Clancy. This was given to me for Christmas. I finished about 3/4 of it by spring, then got caught up in some required reading and never got round to picking it up again.
  • Under the Dome, by Stephen King. Recently given to me by a friend as a "birthday" present (he didn't really know when my birthday was). For some reason, I have a real phobia about reading later Stephen King books. I have intended for years to read them all in order before starting on his newer books, but never got farther than Pet Sematary. The result is that with the exception of Dreamcatchers, I've never read any of King's books later than The Green Mile in 1996. And this is the guy I claim is my favourite author? Sheesh . . .
  • Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo. In a sense, I've both read this before and finished it—I was hospitalized for a week in 1996 and, with nothing better to do, read an abridged edition from the hospital library. (Frankly, it was the only book they had that I was even interested in, so I'm glad my stay wasn't longer.) However, I've not read the complete novel. I started it earlier this year and got as far as Hugo's description of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo.
  • Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Actually, this will turn out to be a re-read, since I started it about 12 years ago and only got about five chapters in. Still, the story intrigued me enough.

So there you go. I think I'll actually post a progress indicator of sorts in the sidebar, too. Wish me luck!