We’re midway through another week. Happy Wednesday everyone! We are also midway through the last month of the year. While I am excited for what is in store in 2022, I am also filled with anxieties. But hey, the only thing we can do for now is hope and pray for a better year. As for the rest of 2021, I hope that we spend it healing from the pains of the past years. I also hope that all your prayers were already answered and that you have reached the stars you have been aiming for at the start of the year. I also pray that you are all doing well and are healthy amidst the threat of a new COVID19 variant.

As it is Wednesday, I am going to share a new WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday is quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

I just finished reading American writer T. Coraghessan Boyle’s Drop City. It is the tenth book from my 2021 Beat the Backlist Challenge, which means I am now down to the last two books in my last active reading challenge for the year. One of these two books is Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. After Jane Eyre, this is going to be my second novel by Charlotte, one-third of the famed writing trio of sisters. I originally planned to read Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle to align with the first books I read this month, all works of American fiction. But then I reminded myself that, with the year drawing to a close, my active reading challenges are my priority. However, I haven’t gotten far into the book yet, hence I can’t share my impressions yet. Do lookout for this week’s First Impression Friday update.

What have you finished reading?

Like Villette, Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep is part of my 2021 Beat the Backlist Reading Challenge. When I bought the book back in 2018, I barely had any iota on what it was about; Chandler was also an unfamiliar name. Nevertheless, I decided to purchase the book because it was listed as one of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and because my curiosity was piqued. Opening the book after it has gathered layers of dust, I didn’t know that it was a work of mystery fiction with Philip Marlowe, a sleuth as its nucleus. The story commenced when he was hired by the wealthy but elderly General Sternwood to deal with Arthur Geiger, a bookseller who was blackmailing his younger daughter, Carmen. Everyone was curious about his job, including the General’s older daughter, Vivian, who was locked up in a loveless marriage with Rusty Regan. Regan recently disappeared and everyone assumed that Marlowe was hired to track him. As Marlowe pursues Geiger, what ensued was an intricate web of mysteries and death. Marlowe found himself slowly being drawn into the affairs of General Sternwood and his wayward daughters. For my first Chandler novel, it sure was an interesting one. Marlowe was a personality that kept that story together.

Another book listed as part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is T. Coraghessan Boyle’s Drop City. Like The Big Sleep, it was a book I randomly purchased back in 2018, sans any iota of what the book was about. Boyle also did not ring any bell of familiarity but I bought the book notwithstanding this lack of familiarity. Besides, the book’s cover left so much to the imagination. The book’s premise is quite simple. Set in the 1960s, it follows the story of a group of hippies and free spirits who have established their own commune somewhere in California; they referred to it as the Drop City. Drugs and sex aplenty, Drop City was a haven for those who seek bliss and escape from the capitalistic and materialistic world. Led by Norm Senter, the denizens of Drop City are all brothers and sisters. However, the commune is often subject to the scrutiny of the authorities which eventually led them to desert their present commune and decide to move north, to the tundra of Alaska. In the town of Boynton, they re-established themselves. But the Alaskan landscape is foreign to them and the coldness can be uninviting. How will this group of free-spirits manage through even just a single winter?

Colson Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle, as I have mentioned above, was supposed to be my next read after Drop City. However, I am pushing it one book back. I was actually surprised when I learned that Whitehead was publishing a new work this year. I have devoured his two Pulitzer Prize-winning works, The Underground Railroad and The Nickle Boys. I enjoyed them in varying degrees but they both make me look forward to Harlem Shuffle. After Harlem Shuffle, I will be reading my 900th novel. As this is a special achievement, I have been contemplating which book to occupy this special number. Among the books I have considered are Villette, Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides, and even Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land. However, when I looked at my previous century mark reads, each book represented a particular region, from South America (Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, 500th read) to Asia (Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, 600th read) to North America (Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, 700th read) to Europe (Peter Nadas’ Parallel Stories). I then realized that I haven’t read a work of African literature. Because of this, I have lined up Nuruddin Farah’s Secrets. This is, however, not yet final.

Once I am done with my 2021 Beat the Backlist Challenge, my next goal is to read as many 2021 books as possible because I have quite a lot in the queue. Apart from Harlem Shuffle, I am also looking at reading Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway, Anthony Doerr’s Cloud Cuckoo Land, Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt, Kristin Hannah’s The Four Winds, and Rachel Cusk’s Second Place.

That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!