New Reading Projects! (Join Me?)

It’s only one week since we announced the Not the Wellcome Prize winner, the culmination of a month-long project that was months more in the planning. I don’t think I’ll be coordinating another blog tour anytime soon, as it was a lot of work finding participants, working out a schedule and keeping on top of the publicizing via social media. Still, it was a lot of fun, and already I’m missing the buzz and ready to get stuck into more projects.

I’d love it if you joined me for one or more of these. Some could be combined with your 20 Books of Summer or other challenges, too.


Ongoing buddy reads

It would have been Richard Adams’s 100th birthday on the 9th. That night I started rereading his classic tale of rabbits in peril, Watership Down, which was my favorite book from childhood even though I only read it the once at age nine. I’m 80 pages in and enjoying all the local place names. Who would ever have predicted that that mousy tomboy from Silver Spring, Maryland would one day live just 6.5 miles from the real Watership Down?!

My husband is joining me for the Watership Down read (he’s not sure he ever read it before), and we’re also doing a buddy read of Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. In that case, we ended up with two free copies, one from the bookshop where I volunteer and the other from The Book Thing of Baltimore, so we each have a copy on the go. Lopez’s style, like Peter Matthiessen’s, lends itself to slower, reflective reading, so I’m only two chapters in. It’s novel to journey to the Arctic, especially as we approach the summer.

I plan to take my time over these two, so tell me if you have a copy of either and feel like picking it up at any point over the next few months.


Bibliotherapy self-prescriptions

The other day I got out my copy of The Novel Cure by School of Life bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin and browsed through the categories for some prescriptions that might feel relevant to the current situation. I found four books I own that fit the bill:

From the list of “The Ten Best Novels to Lower Your Blood Pressure”: Your Presence Is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman & The Waves by Virginia Woolf (and I’ve read another three of them, including, recently, Crossing to Safety).

One of several prescriptions for Loneliness: Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.

The cure for Zestlessness: Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow.

If you have access to one of these, or have a copy of The Novel Cure and are keen on following up on another of the prescriptions, let me know.


And now for two memes that I (think I) have created. Although I’m sure something similar has been done in the past, I couldn’t find any specific blogs about them. I don’t know about you, but I always need encouragement to pick up books from my own shelves – even though libraries are currently closed, I’m still working my way through a library stack, and I’m tempted to make another order of new books from Hungerford Bookshop. It’s great to support libraries and independent bookstores, of course, but there could be no better time to mine your own bookshelves for treasures you bought ages ago but still have never read.


Journey through the Day with Books

I enjoyed picking out 18 books from my shelves that refer to particular times of day or meals or activities associated therewith. Four of these are books I’ve already read and four are ones I’m currently reading. You can piggyback on my selections if you wish, or find your own set.

Here’s my full list:

Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

Up with the Larks by Tessa Hainsworth

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell

The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński

Eventide by Kent Haruf

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler

Talk before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg

When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray

Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys

Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay

Sleeping Arrangements by Laura Shaine Cunningham

The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe

Bodies in Motion and at Rest by Thomas Lynch

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez


The Four in a Row Challenge

I’ve been contemplating this one for quite a while. It’s inspired by Phyllis Rose’s The Shelf –from LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading (one of Simon’s favourite books – see his review), for which she picked a shelf of the New York Society Library, eliminated duplicates and repeat entries from the same author, and read the remainder – whether she’d heard of them or not; whether they were awful or not. (“Hands down the worst book on the shelf is Le Queux’s Three Knots, a mystery that reads as if it were written by an eight-year-old on Percocet.”)

This is a variation in that you’re looking at your own TBR shelves and picking a set of four books in a row. For many, that will be four novels whose authors’ surnames all start with the same letter. But if you organize your books differently (especially within nonfiction), you may find that the set of four is more arbitrary. You never know what they might have in common, though (book serendipity!).

I’m no strict challenge host, so if you want to engineer your shelf order, or if you decide to swap a book in later on, that is no problem at all. My one firm rule is only one book per author.

I’ve picked out a few appealing sets, all from my fiction shelves. F, G, L and M had particularly rich pickings. I’ll report back as I finish each set, while the “Journey through a Day” may well take me the whole rest of the year.


Still ongoing (more here): Projects to read as many Bellwether Prize, Wellcome Book Prize and Women’s Prize winners as possible, as well as Wellcome long- and shortlistees.


Can I tempt you to take part in any of these reading projects?


[Journey through the Day: Sunrise in Pieniny, Poland (Pudelek / CC BY-SA ( / Sunset (Alvesgaspar / CC BY-SA (

Four in a Row: Four pelicans in a row (Sheba_Also 43,000 photos / CC BY-SA ( / Phone boxes, Market Place, Ripon (Tim Green from Bradford / CC BY (]

45 responses

  1. Well actually, there’s rather a lot that tempts me here. I’ll have a think and get back to you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hurrah! Enough options that people should have at least a couple of these on their shelves, I hoped.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Your Journey Through the Day Through Books is a clever idea, and I’m always pleased to see Elizabeth Hay mentioned as you know. Tales of the City is a wonderfully positive read although things turn darker in the series as HIV/AIDS rears its ugly head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They chose the Maupin so you can feel part of a gang of old friends. They also say it’s “as close to watching television as literature gets” with the episodic format. I only have the first book.


      1. Spot on description!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely ideas. I must dig out my copy of The Novel Cure and find some reading prescriptions – wish it had review writing prescriptions too – my pile is getting tall due to avoidance measures! I’ve come up with a “rule-bending but still in the spirit of” way of doing my 20 Books of Summer, which I’ll blog about soon, and that can definitely encompass 4 in a Row, I hope.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s no shame in doing one-paragraph mini-reviews!

      Intrigued about your Books of Summer idea. I’ve got a food and drink theme planned.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great ideas! I will I suppose be doing four in a row as I’ve decided my 20 Books of Summer theme this year will be Eliminate 2018 so I’ll be trying to read those laggards that have been at the start of my shelf (as you probably recall, I keep my TBR in order of acquisition) for ages while I’ve done review books and challenges and the like. I need to pick off a couple first (I don’t want to read two books on Tolkien in 20 Books and I want to read both Blue Door Theatre books I have TBR if I read one) but once I’ve done that, I will attempt to do the first four one after another, if I can. Or one four out of that first line.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah yes, 4 in a Row is an easy one for you, then! I’ll be intrigued to see what coincidences people’s quartets contain.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hm, the most likely one for me is old travel book, book about old travel, book about birdwatching, book about the British landscape, which seem to tie together nicely!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I didn’t pick any sets of four from my nonfiction shelves, but if I do well with my fiction selections maybe I will later in the year.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t add any more books at the moment as I’m fighting to get my TBR pile down to 20 so it’s suitable for 20 Books of Summer! But I’m definitely continuing with reading the past Women’s Prize winners and looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No worries! You are admirably disciplined with your TBR pile. Mine is out of control, both physical (hundreds) and virtual (thousands). If you find later in the year that you have a book or two that fit one of the challenges, let me know 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Ooooh, interesting set of challenges! I’m tempted to pick up The Waves – haven’t read that in decades. And I like the idea of four in a row. Trouble is I’m rubbish at sticking to challenges. I shall have a think. I find it encouraging that your TBR is as mad as mine! ;D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a Woolf I’ve never read. I find her very challenging, but perhaps The Waves could be read slowly alongside lots of other books.

      You would be permitted as many swaps and cheats as necessary for the 4 in a Row 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I’ve got a copy of Watership Down, though I reread it not that long ago! I love the idea of going back through The Novel Cure to find titles relevant to the present moment, and journeying through the day with your reading choices is a brilliant idea too! At the moment, there are a little over 30 unread books in my house, and I’m choosing them mostly through the random number generator at (as well as by demanding my boyfriend pick a random number). Obviously I’m letting myself off the prescribed choice if it doesn’t feel quite right for the moment, and I’m trying to maintain some balance (eg old-ish and new-ish); I haven’t read a proof copy of a new release since last month, for instance, so really feel I should pick one up next (though I’m not feeling enormously enthused about it, tbh!) The isolation has helped me get through a load of things that would definitely have been crushed under the weight of new arrivals under other circumstances…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember you reread WD recently. How fun, letting a random number decide your next read! With 400+ unread books in my house, though, I don’t know how I’d manage that. I find that particular reading projects, by themes or whatever, are the best way to get myself reading the books I own. If I were you, I might be starting to panic at having only ~30 around!

      I noticed my library system has now extended the due dates to 31st July, so it looks like I might have to see out the summer without any new books coming in that way. I have 3 print proofs for June, 2 for July and 1 for August. There might be a few more coming in, and I have a handful of e-ARCs as well. Then I’m pondering an order from my local indie, of all NF this time, mostly nature books.


      1. To be fair, several of them are BIG bastards–I’m not going to start genuinely worrying about running out until I’ve finished Don Quixote, The Stand, and Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory! XD

        Oooh. No new books sounds HARD even with 400+ unread volumes on the shelves… I think a bookshop virtual trawl might well be in order, in that case!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Ha ha, those doorstoppers should keep you going for a while 🙂 Are you getting any new proofs in via your connection to the shop?

      I especially have my eye on Wild Child by Patrick Barkham, Notes from an Apocalypse by Mark O’Connell, and Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake (on fungi).


  8. Your Journey Through the Day list reminded me of the list I’m trying to create for reading through the year. Made up of books that have chapters that are broken down into days of the week. For example Ian Rankin’s book The Naming of the Dead covers the period 1-9 July.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, fun! That sounds very difficult to compile — hats off to you.


    2. If it’s a gap you need to fill, Carys Bray’s When the Lights Go Out is set on 15-24 December. I just finished it last night so that detail happens to be fresh in my mind!


  9. Memes–very fun! Just miles from the real Watership Down, now that is something. I think I need to read that one to my boys; would be a nice read-aloud, and I’m always working on my accents (wonder what rabbits “talk” like). The four books in a row challenge sounds fun, too. So many good ideas, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, they’re English rabbits, so I’d recommend a range of English accents, from posh on down to Cockney 😉 My husband is plotting a cycle ride and/or walk from our house to Watership Down.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m currently reading to my guys The War that Saved My Life, which is a really enjoyable MG novel, even for me. So, I’ve been working on my English accents–London lane to more countryside posh. Such fun, even if my guys roll their eyes at me! Love the idea of your little trip to Watership Down–enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I am always happy to see a reference to Phyllis Rose’s The Shelf. I just happened upon that book a few years ago and it’s terrific! Also happy to hear that Crossing to Safety is a book “to lower one’s blood pressure.” Totally agree!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to admit that I only skimmed the Phyllis Rose book, but I was intrigued by her project.

      I don’t normally think of Woolf as being stress-relieving (because she’s so hard to read!), but we’ll see if The Waves also does that job.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. buriedinprint | Reply

    What a lot of fun! I’ve been working on a set of new reading projects myself and have just gotten around to thinking about posts for them, but I love the sounds of these (and of course we share some pet projects already). So I’ll have a look at my shelves and see about #DayJourneyBooks (I don’t have m/any of yours, those I have, I’ve read) but #4BooksinaRow would likely work. I have some very organized shelves which might make that project rather dull (or predictable, at least) but also some hodge-podge shelves arranged by size, which could be intriguing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ooh, it will be fun to see what combinations come off of your random shelves!


      1. buriedinprint

        I looked for #DayJourney options last night but couldn’t spot any fresh reads (and was diligently not looking at rereading possibilities as I’ve got too many of those underway right now). Maybe tonight I’ll check for 4s! (I can’t look for both at the same time apparently, it’s hard enough with all the distractions as I “rediscover” items of interest which, yes, have been there the entire time.)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. I hope the 4 in a Row challenge is generic enough that anyone can find a set that appeals (and it can of course encompass rereads, Books of Summer, other challenges, etc.).


      1. buriedinprint

        You’re quite right: it *is* a very generous approach, so that anyone can find a suitable quartet. I suppose it’s more a question of narrowing down the options and finding “the ONE”, errrrr, the FOUR.


      2. Any and all substitutes will be allowed should something go wrong with one’s Perfect Four 🙂


  12. All your projects sound like fun. I love reading projects! (Even when it takes years to finish, or I never finish at all!)
    Funnily enough, I just read The Shelf a few weeks ago (review to come eventually), and was also intrigued by her idea. When the library was open, I used to scan the stacks with that type of project in mind, but have never actually done it. Your adapted idea of 4 in a row is tempting, though…
    The project I started when the pandemic began is to read through my stack of books about books. I have quite a few, but never seem to get to them. So far, I’ve read three (The Shelf being one of them). I’m also working on some recent Atlantic Canadian reads with the Atlantic Book Awards in mind. (Shortlist announcement coming soon!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fun! I do love reading with prize lists. I think I’m all caught up on my books about books (it’s only a partial shelf), but they are such cosy fun; maybe I’ll find one to stick on the rereading pile.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m very intrigued with the Four in a Row TBR Challenge and have been perusing my shelves trying to decide where to pull the books from. Now that my library isn’t notifying me every other day that I have new books in, I can concentrate on my own shelves.

    I’m just trying to finish up Fictionophile’s Challenge ( and then I’ll let you know!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It would be great to have you join in 🙂 It’s a very adaptable challenge that should suit anyone’s shelves, no matter how they’re organized.


  14. Journey through the Day is a great idea. But one I must save for the moment. Unless I upend my 10 Books of Summer list entirely!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not to worry! I’ll be at it all year, so if you spot some relevant titles on your shelf a few months from now, feel free to join in.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Brilliant! Another list is forming in my head already! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  15. […] sisters novel, and the first book in my Journey through the Day with Books challenge. Meghan Fitzmaurice is a household name as the host of America’s most popular morning […]


    1. Well done for completing this challenge before I did; I’ve not even read 2 out of my chosen 4 from the M’s yet. Expect mine at some point later this year!


  16. […] back in May 2020, including a Four in a Row Challenge (see the ‘rules’, such as they are, in my opening post). It only took me, um, nearly 11 months to complete a first set! The problem was that I kept […]


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