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The Challenge of Second Read

Teresa is signing up for the 2nds Challenge, hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages…. The goal of the challenge is to go back for seconds of an author you’ve only read once or a series in which you’ve only read once. Inspired by Teresa’s list of authors that she hopes to give a second chance, I have decided to compile my own list, except I’ll be including authors which I have read 3rd, or 4th …. time. I won’t be signing up for the challenge but I like to keep this post for future reference. As I write this, it occurs to me that my reading has not expanded in scope because I am a series fanatic. That’s right, I am a series fanatic, even when there is no series involved.

What it means is that as soon as I fell in love with an author, I’ll go hunting for his or her books and read 3 or 4 within a short period of time. It happens to Jason Webster (Read 3 books of his) who writes about his life in Spain, Jhumpa Lahiri, Harry Potter, Stephenie Meyer (all her published work), Tahir Shah in Morocco, Christina Lamb etc. I don’t necessarily like the series. It is just that when I start something, I hate to think that I can’t finish it. So it serves as no surprise when I try to put all my favourite authors in a collage and try to get them up to top 25 according to my definition, I failed. The reason I failed is because I didn’t get around to read a second of my favourite author to confirm that they are really my favourite; or I read too deep into a series that I haven’t got the time to read a 2nd from an author that I liked!!! 😦

If you don’t want to get caught up with my boring “I have read this and would like to try this book next” kind of monotonous rambling, skip this post now and I’ll understand. 😉 What would really make my day is if you could drop me some ideas, about your preferred books for my next read or mention any of your favourites, it would be greatly appreciated!


Lets start with non-fiction, shall we? Non-fiction surely deserves an important place in a reader’s life, certainly for me.

John O’Farrell:If you are interested to read about the history of Britain but put-off by mundane history books, pick up An Utterly Impartial History of Britain — Or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots In Charge by John O’Farrell and laugh and learn about Britain’s early formation years. History can be fun. So it is without a doubt I do want to read the 2009 publication of An utterly exasperated history of modern Britain : or 60 years of making the same stupid mistakes as always. On a throes of a country recovering from recession and introduction of major reforms, I am interested to know if what have been proposed recently, were actually repeat of the history’s mistakes or triumph?

Levitt, Steven D., Dubner, Stephen J: Whether you like it or hate Freakonomics, I am interested to read more about the duo’s juxtaposition of two remotely unrelated things. Superfreakonomics: global cooling, patriotic prostitutes and why suicide bombers should buy life insurance is high on my list.

Dave Eggers writes the sort of journalism books that I love to read. Did I tell you I read every book that is ever written by Christina Lamb (except Waiting for Allah: Pakistan’s struggle for democracy and Small Wars Permitting: Dispatches from Foreign Lands) and thoroughly enjoyed it? Eggers’ books look promising and received many accolades, both fiction and non-fiction alike, so A heartbreaking work of staggering genius would be next.

Elizabeth Gilbert: The book Eat, Pray, Love ranked amongst my favourite non-fiction for 2008, the sequel Committed: a sceptic makes peace with marriage however gets a lot more negative reviews. Still, this will not stop me from following up what happened to Gilbert after she found her Mr. Right.


  • David Mitchell: I enjoyed Ghostwritten and would like to read every single one of his book down to his recent The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
  • Lionel Shriver: I was crazy about The Post-Birthday World, not so for We need to talk about Kevin and Game control. I hope to read So much for that, despite negative reviews about it.
  • Scarlett Thomas: Enjoyed Our Tragic Universe, I think I will like The End of Mr. Y.
  • Jeanette Winterson: I like The Oranges is not the only fruit a lot, and hope Sexing the Cherry does not disappoints.
  • Ali Smith: I read Girl Meets Boy this year and love it. She together with Jeanette Winterson, she seems to offer a refreshing look on girl-girl relationship, and I would like to read The Accidental next.
  • Sarah Waters: I read The Little Stranger and felt Waters best book should be read before I make my mind up about her, so I’m going for The Night Watch next.
  • Margaret Atwood: I have read The Handmaid’s Tale, The Penelopiad and Wilderness Tips, I like the last two best but I really like to read something from Atwood that blows me away, what would it be? Alias Grace?
  • George Orwell: Love Animal Farm, love 1984, I want to read Burmese Days.
  • Graham Greene: I read 4 of Graham Greene books and wonder if there is any novel of Greene that I should read next? Greene is very atmospheric in the places that he set his story against. One Man in Havana might appeal to me, Brighton Rock is another.
  • Daphne de Maurier: I have read Rebecca and Rebecca only, which is pathetic because I own another 9 of her books, so I better start cracking!
  • Kazuo Ishiguro: Sigh… what is it with Ishiguro that make me feel indifferent about his books? I read Nocturnes and Never Let Me Go, and I will read The Remains of Days, I’ll let this famous work that defines his career be the judge if I will read anymore of his books in the future.
  • David Nicholls: Romance is not my cup of tea, but One Day was nostalgic but with a disappointing end. Starter for Ten may provide a few more laughs and warmth.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald: I’ve only read The Great Gatsby and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The next one should be Tender Is the Night.
  • Nicole Krauss: I kind of like The History of Love, but can’t make my mind if I really like it, perhaps The Great House will help me decide once and for all.
  • Linwood Barclay: Love No Time for Goodbye very much and would like to read another one of Barclay, based on Bernadette’s recommendation, Never Look Away would be next.

European (Books translated from other European Languages)

  • Jostein Gaarder: It is interesting to note that after loving his Sophie’s World so much in 1998, I haven’t had the chance to read a second book from Gaarder. I think The Castle in the Pyrenees, is a good chance to revive that love.
  • Albert Camus: After raving about The Outside by Albert Camus (other title : Le E’stranger, The Stranger) I hope to read The Plague as second read.
  • Herman Hesse: A 5-star for Siddhartha earlier this year, The Glass Bead Game is on my shelf as we speak.
  • Milan Kundera: The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera scores a high enlightening read about relationship, but will The Joke or Immortality feels the same?
  • Henning Mankell: I was entertained by The Man From Beijing, I have Italian Shoes with me and hope to be thrilled by it.

Middle Eastern

While I do read a lot of Middle Eastern books, somehow it seems like a sporadic account by Western author about the region. While the more famous authors like Mahfouz or Al-Aswany and other famous Arab authors are under my essential reading list, most of them will be my first intro or new-to-me authors. I would count these three authors as one that I would like to go for, meanwhile I’ll wreck my head thinking of more:

  • Elias Khoury: Famous Lebanese author. Read Yalo, love it and would like to read The Gate of the Sun.
  • Tahar Ben Jelloun: Read two of his books: The Blinding Absence of Light and The Last Friend. I was so impressed with the former and disappointed with the second. I have Leaving Tangier on my shelf, and that will make or break for me to decide if I want to read anymore of his books.
  • Malike Oufkir survived through 20 years in incarceration in Morocco because of the crime of her father; a heart rending, courageous account in La Prisonniere. Upon release in 1998, I would like to follow her Second Life of Freedom to know how she actually copes with the world that has changed while hers has stopped.


  • Haruki Murakami: Read so many books of Murakami, I still can’t get enough of him, book titles that will give me a good feel of Murakami’s various writing styles and titles down my alley are Blind Willow Sleeping Woman, After the Quake or Birthday Stories (Short stories), Underground (Non-fiction), Pinball (His first novel), and Dance, Dance, Dance (fiction).
  • Xinran: Her books are such an easy read, after reading Miss Chopstick, Messages from Unknown mother and Sky burial, I like to read all her books. I do like the journalism writing of Xinran about people of China, so The Good Women Of China : Hidden lives has to be next.
  • YiYun Li: her first short stories A Thousand Good Years of Prayers impressed me, I think her recent The Vagrant should be good.
  • Xiaolu Guo: ranked as one of my favourites, after The Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, UFO In her Eyes and Love in the Age of Indifference, Village of Stones has to be next to finish all her backlist.
  • Yukio Mishima: my recent favourite author. So far I have read After the Banquet, The Sailor who fell from Grace from the Sea and The Temple of Golden Pavilion, and The Sea of Fertility which count as the 1001 books you must read before you die, will be read.
  • Banana Yoshitomo: Have read Hardboiled Hard Luck, Goodbye Tsugumi and Kitchen, I think it’s easy to finish her back list, Amrita, NP or Lizard.
  • Lisa See: I am meh about Peony in Love, but will find out if I like Snow Flowers and Secret fan better.
  • Tash Aw: Map of the Invisible World gave me a meh feeling too, but I think Aw should be given a chance in The Harmonic Silk Factory, before I make my mind up about him.
  • Salman Rushdie: And how can I not read another of Rushdie’s? We are currently still reading-along and I have enjoyed Midnight’s Children. Now that I have overcome the Rushdie’s fear factor, The Satanic Verses, The Moor’s Last Sigh, Shalimar the Clown are all possible next.
  • And anything that Jhumpa Lahiri and Yoko Ogawa have to publish next, I’m reading them!

Well! compiling this list was a revelation! I think I should be careful about going down the same route for the coming years. The objective is to read as widely as possible and rein in the impulse to read too many backlist of a favourite author! Easier said than done. 😦

What about you? Are you the same? Do you tend to chase down backlist of your favourite authors? Or do you move on to other books by new authors?


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


13 thoughts on “The Challenge of Second Read

  1. Very interesting challenges! And I love your lists (I love lists! :D) and am curious whether reading more works of some authors will make you change your mind!

    Posted by Bina | December 4, 2010, 1:48 pm
  2. I know, I’m always disappearing lately. Time and technology are working against me 😉

    I decided to read Jamaica Inn for my next DuMaurier, I hope I won’t hate it because of ridiculously high expectations! N.P. was my first Yoshimoto, I hope you’ll enjoy it lots!

    Posted by Bina | December 4, 2010, 1:59 pm
  3. Lots of great authors on your lists. I’m the opposite, I read a book and then forget about the author and miss out on their other stuff, there are only a few authors whose work I have read a number of books from, such as Jane Austen, Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman and Sarah Waters.
    Enjoy your reading

    Posted by katrina | December 4, 2010, 4:20 pm
    • Katrina, thanks for your first comment. It’s nice to meet people different from me. I think that way you will discover more new authors have a lot more to say about any authors that may be featured in the blogosphere. 😉

      Posted by JoV | December 4, 2010, 9:30 pm
  4. I try to read backlists even in cases of authors I wasn’t thrilled with. I like seeing the diversity within an authors catalog. This seems like a great idea, though. A good, organized way to further explore familiar authors.

    Posted by Biblibio | December 5, 2010, 11:54 am
    • Biblibio,
      Thanks. It was my intention to compile a list to organise my thoughts about reading backlists of authors I would like. Come to think of it, sometimes I do read authors I don’t like but highly regarded in the literary world, just to give a 2nd or 3rd … chance to change my mind. I’m at awe with authors who display diversity, but not many do. 😉

      Posted by JoV | December 5, 2010, 10:04 pm
  5. When I discover a new author I seem to either go on a binge and read lots (I did that with Kate Atkinson and Sarah Waters in the last couple of years), or else I make a mental note to read more by that author and then never get around to it.

    From your list, for Atwood, I’d recommend Robber Bride or Cat’s Eye–they are among my favorites of hers. Alias Grace is the only Atwood book I didn’t like much, but I think I’m in the minority there.

    And for Nicole Krauss, I only thought the History of Love was ok, but I LOVED Great House.

    Posted by Teresa | December 5, 2010, 12:15 pm
    • Teresa, ahh… at least I am not alone in this. 😉 I wanted to read novels written by Atkinson and I have read Sarah Waters but didn’t quite like The Little Stranger. I will make a note, Robber Bride and Cat’s Eye it is. I’ll leave Alias Grace for the time being. oh and Great House too! Thanks for all the recommendations Theresa. 😉

      Posted by JoV | December 5, 2010, 10:06 pm
  6. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I don’t share the same obsession to read books in the series or books by the same authors as you Jo. There are a few authors that I want to read more of or all their backlist but I wouldn’t do it just because. The books need to interest me as individual books, if that makes sense. Loved checking out your list!

    Mmm the one author that I feel missing from your list is Gabriel Garcia Marquez! Have you read any of his books? Should we try to read The Harmony Silk Factory together? Will keep you in mind when I get to it!

    Posted by mee | December 6, 2010, 2:26 am
    • Mee, I am embarrassed to say I haven’t read anything by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, although “Love in the Time of Cholera” was bought the same time as Midnight’s Children 2 years ago! I am happy to read The Harmony Silk Factory. I made one false start of the book, perhaps I need some company to persevere with it.

      Posted by JoV | December 6, 2010, 8:42 am

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
Share book reviews and ratings with JoV, and even join a book club on Goodreads.

Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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