The Rio 2016 Olympics are well underway and readers across the globe have been inspired by the sporting displays. If like me, you would rather not be too active, but still fancy a challenge, then why not try an Olympic Heptathlon? Rather than running 800m and throwing a javelin, curl up with 7 books that present a challenge to you. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
1. A Booker: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Start off with a worthy book that has won a prize. I recommend Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. It’s a bit of a hipster read these days, but the story of a group of children growing up against the backdrop of Indian independence is an inspirational one so there isn’t really a better choice for this event.
2. A classic: Orlando by Virginia Woolf
Take your pick with this event. A bit of Charles Dickens perhaps? Or Jane Austen? I’d go a little left-field and pick Orlando by Virginia Woolf. It’s a beautiful fairy tale of a boy who inherits an estate and goes off on an adventure across several centuries, changing gender along the way. Written as a love letter to Vita Sackville-West, readers get all of Woolf’s subtle observations with a healthy dose of whimsy.
3. A prolific author: Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
You might think Dickens again for this one, but I’m inclined to plump for Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series. Before his untimely death last year, Pratchett managed 41 novels set on a flat planet, carried on the back of 4 elephants, who themselves stood on a giant turtle swimming through space. Any one of these is guaranteed to bring laughs and wry observations of human life, although I always loved the witches best.
4. A childhood favorite: Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The difficulty here may be in tracking the book down, but hopefully your childhood favorite has inspired children for generations. You could choose a picture book here, but I’m going for Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved reading the tale of the early pioneer women, with their adventurous spirits and their knack for making a home wherever they found themselves. Clearly, this is long overdue for a re-read.
5. A subject you know nothing about: Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey
Books, both fiction and non-fiction, are excellent ways to learn about new things. I see this event as a non-fiction challenge, but it can easily be adapted for fiction if that is your preference. I know very little about plants, except that I like looking at them, but have heard good things about Richard Mabey’s Cabaret of Plants. The excellent title has drawn me to this botanical study, so it’s my choice for a difficult subject.
6. An opposite genre: The Rose Revived by Katie Fforde
We all have our favorite genres, and while I’ll read pretty much anything, I adore crime. As I like my whodunnits gritty, I thought a romance novel would be a good opposite. I recommend Katie Fforde’s novels for this one. Her stories have just the right amount of fluffiness, while still maintaining an interesting plot. The Rose Revived will also teach you about living on a narrow-boat, and it certainly got me hooked on the idea.
7. The one you have been meaning to read for ages: Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
There is a book that sits on the shelf and never quite gets read. War and Peace is famous for this, but my book is Gone with the Wind by Margeret Mitchell. I haven’t even seen the film. It’s high time I read about Rhett, Scarlett and the house at Tara.
Take my recommendations or build your own list and see if you can get a gold medal for reading this summer!
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