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I am not one for backing down on a challenge.  Right before I went off to grad school I decided I needed to refinish and reupholster some dining room chairs.  It was right in the middle of packing and preparing to move to D.C. for grad school. It isn’t like I had the time, but the challenge was

  1. do something creative and make beauty out of crap
  2. do something that you’ve never done before
  3. do something that is so far removed from the stress of life as you know it so that you can escape and have more control over your crazy and chaotic life.

Most challenges I do have something to do the above reasons. Sometimes they arise because of a third, forth, or fifth option, namely:

  • do something because your brain is bored
  • do something because people told you that you couldn’t do it
  • do something because hardly anyone has ever done it.

This is why I should never be allowed near any lists that say anything like “most people have never ” or “things you should do before” or “best <fill in the blank with subject> ever”. They become challenges to me.

Challenges are not always a good thing.  I triple dog dare you to lick that icy pole in the middle of winter springs to mind.  Challenges can sometimes be to do the things we know better than to do.  However sometimes those challenges can be good things. My chairs were good things. They still are.

List in my Kindle CaseHowever, there is no whitewashing this challenge.  I set it for myself in the first month after starting grad school.  I was feeling out-of-place, and freaked out, and a lot like I couldn’t do it.  So when I stumbled upon this list on Flavorwire I knew that it was a safe haven. There is precious little I do better than read.  Combine reading and a challenge? WOOT!  I calculated out of the 50 books I had read about 17, leaving 33 that I needed to complete. I wrote the list out in my Kindle cover, and embarked on the mission.  I will read all 33 before I graduate from George Washington.  For an ongoing record, the list will follow below.  The ones I had read to begin with will be in Blue. The ones I haven’t read yet will be in grey. When I complete them I will change them to Green, complete with a rating. I have a goodreads shelf completely dedicated to this challenge. If you have any that you love, please let me know and perhaps that can influence my choice of next in line.

  1. UBIK -Philip K. Dick
  2. Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card.  Have read all of these. Multiple times. The Shadow series as well.
  3. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien.  Loved all of these since my dad read them to us as children
  4. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood Ouch.  Reading this just after the shooting in CA, and in the response to the #YesAllWomen campaign has been harsh.  This was a good, but definitely not an easy read.
  5. Dhalgren – Samuel R. Delany
  6. A Game of Thrones – George R. R. Martin. I didn’t love this as much as I think I should have.
  7. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley.  Not at all what I expected.  So philosophical.
  8. Gormenghast – Mervyn Peake
  9. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Robert A. Heinlein
  10. Kindred – Octavia E. Butler. So good. Everyone should read this book. Everyone. I cannot wait to read the rest of her catalogue.
  11. The Left Hand of Darkness – Ursula K. Le Guin. It grew on me.
  12. Nine Princes in Amber – Roger Zelazny
  13. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke * Currently reading
  14. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut. Jr.   My first Vonnegut.  I liked it a lot.  Odd. Quirky. Remarkable.
  15. The City & The City – China Mieville.  I had almost written him off after trying to like Un Lun Don.  Glad I gave him a second chance.  This book was very palatable.  A hard-boiled detective novel set in the most imaginative of circumstances.
  16. The Once and Future King – T. H. White
  17. The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley
  18. Zone One – Colson Whitehead * currently reading
  19. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – J. K. Rowling.  I came to this late, and have never let go.
  20. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle.  I have long loved this book, and series. It saw me through some dark times as a kid.
  21. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis.  I always check the backs of my wardrobes.  Just in case.
  22. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman.  I was very intrigued, and quite captivated.  The last in the series was a bit of a letdown though.
  23. The Female Man – Joanna Russ
  24. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – Jules Verne.  Meh.  I see why it was so important back in the day, but it wasn’t as imaginative as I expected it to be.
  25. Brown Girl in the Ring – Nalo Hopkinson
  26. Solaris – Stanislav Lem-Yeah This was ok, not BRILLIANT, but ok.
  27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams.  I read it at 11 and didn’t appreciate it much.  Came back to it as an adult and couldn’t get enough.  I understand it now.
  28. Dune – Frank Herbert.  I read this young too.  Liked it, but it wasn’t all that memorable to me.
  29. 1984 – George Orwell.  I read this during an election cycle, I think the second G.W. Bush presidential run.  Not wise.  It gave me the shivers.  I love how psychological this book was too.
  30. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson
  31. The Stars My Destination – Alfred Bester. I liked this book a lot.  I felt the rage and loved the fascination of the different worlds. The ending really got me.
  32. Neuromancer – William Gibson. Well. This was not the book I expected. What I did find was that this book was clearly in the DNA of the Matrix movies.
  33. American Gods -Neil Gaiman.  I loved, LOVED, this book.  I ate it up and chewed on it for days.  I like Gaiman most of the time anyway, but this made me think, and that is such a gift.
  34. Foundation series – Isaac Asimov.  Chaz G. has whet my appetite for Asimov, but I have yet to dive in.  I hope I like it. Good news, I did. I want to read the whole series now.
  35. The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett.  Sir Terry has a place in my heart.  I am working my way through his entire catalog. It is my goal to have all of his books on my shelf.  All of them.  He is a genius. That is all.
  36. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll.  I always found these fantastical, but Alice a bit insipid.
  37. Among Others – Jo Walton. I did not enjoy this much. It felt more of an homage to the love of Sci-fi than a groundbreaking novel. I actually felt like it was more the story of a traumatized little girl who had lost her sister and had an abusive, or perhaps mentally afflicted mother, and seeing fairies, and magic were her coping mechanisms, or the product of her very wounded psyche.
  38. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley *currently reading
  39. The Last Unicorn – Peter S. Beagle. I wish I had read it as a child. I think I would like it far more. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away.
  40. The Drowned World – J. G. Ballard
  41. Witch World – Andre Norton
  42. Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury. Savored every sentence.  This man writes so evocatively.  I have his Martian Chronicles on my shelves.  May read them soon. 
  43. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells. This book was intriguing, but it felt very preachy, and also very one sided.  I listened to the audio, so it went by very fast. 
  44. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro. Long ago Yuge told me to read Ishiguro.  I should have listened to him.  This book was heartwrenching.  Literally. Take your heart, tear it out, destroy it. Yet remarkably subtle.
  45. Little, Big – John Crowley *currently reading
  46. Dragonflight – Anne Mccaffrey.  I read this when I took my brother to Chicago.  We went to Shedd Aquarium, and brought it out when he wanted to see the dolphins.  I thought it would be boring and I would want to read.  I learned a lot that day.  McCaffrey is not better than dolphins.
  47. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe – Charles Yu. Innovative, but not brilliant. I think Jaspet Fforde would have done it better.
  48. Dealing with Dragons – Patricia C. Wrede
  49. Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones. Already purchased the next in the series. So good.
  50. The Giver – Lois Lowry.  Have read this several times.  Was convinced that the end was death.  I was wrong.  How glad I am.  Read the forth in the series, Son, earlier this year.  So very good.  Such a satisfying ending.  The whole series is so full of things to talk about and think about.

I’m sure you all have opinions.  There are books you think should be on this list, and they are not.  Also probably some you think should have been skipped. I am curious what your favorite sci-fi and fantasy books are. I really think The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell should have made this list.  We shall see if I can complete this challenge, or if it will best me.

Updated 7.3.15. Six months left to compete the task.

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This is what I've done these last few weeks of comparative radio silence.

-Filled out my FSAFA and sent feelers out to 3 Michigan Universities for going back to school and completing my degree.

-Fired someone.

-Hired a replacement, and am now working crazy!!! hours to train the replacement.

-read a lot

-mourned Gaeta on Battlestar

-held my breath as my mom went off her meds

-joined the leadership team of Momentum

-Skipped church 2 weeks in a row.

-Had a birthday

-Got older

-Realized how desperately I need to get away and see my family.

-Almost finished knitting a sweater, a birthday present, and a coat for an adorable kid.

-6 jigsaw puzzles

-destroyed my computer bag

-am contemplating using Walmart Gift cards on an Archos.

-realized how much I miss Becky.

-started an annual rewatch of Veronica Mars

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