For the fourth year in a row, I joined the Beat the Backlist Challenge in 2022. The challenge involves reading books published before the year of the challenge, i.e., books published beyond 2022. For the challenge, I set a modest target of 50 books, ten books higher than my targets in 2021 and 2022. I am that confident about hitting my target. As I have repeatedly mentioned, I am the backlist type of reader. It comes as no surprise that I went above and beyond my targets. I was able to hit all my targets in the past three years. Of the 103 books I read in 2022, 87 books were backlists, a whopping 84% of the books I read last year. For comparison, I read 71 backlist books in 2021 and 67 in 2020 for 77% and 72%, respectively of the total books I read,

My Beat the Backlist has two layers. I don’t simply set a target for the year. I also prepare a list of backlist books that I resolve to complete for the year. In 2019, the first year I participated in the challenge, I listed fifteen books. Unfortunately, I fell short of this target so I reduced my target to twelve books in the next two years. Thankfully, I managed to complete all these twenty-four books before the year ended. In 2022, I picked up a notch by listing fifteen books. I, again, was successful in reading all of these books although I had to cram again toward the end of the year. I generally enjoyed the books in my 2022 Beat the Backlist challenge list, such as Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Beautiful and Damned. However, there were some that fell short of my expectations. Nevertheless, I am glad that I came up with the list for I have crossed out several books that have been gathering dust on my bookshelves.

Here’s my 2022 Beat the Backlist challenge list:

For the first time, I also joined Beat the Backlist Bingo, particularly the 52 prompts. Unfortunately, I was not able to complete all the fifty-two prompts. Here was how I fared in the bingo.

  1. 2+ people on the cover The Accident by Ismail Kadare.
  2. 6+ words in the title – The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki
  3. A book about books – The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. It was the first book I read in 2022.
  4. A book in a genre you never/rarely readNights at the Circus by Angela Carter. I rarely read works of fantasy.
  5. A book set in the season you read it in – I can’t really recall if I had one because the books I read were set in different seasons.
  6. About or inspired by a historical event – I read a lot of historical fiction last year built around historical events. For this prompt, I will go with Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob. Touted by the Swedish Academy as her magnum Opus, the book chronicled the story of Jacob Frank,  a Polish Jew who claimed to be the Messiah. The changes taking place in Eastern Europe from the mid-18th century to the 19th century formed a vivid backdrop for the story.
  7. About food or food in the titleNone. Had this been in 2021, I would have an entry in Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate
  8. An unusual or unexpected petThe Day Lasts More than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov. I assume a horse can be an unexpected pet, especially one that was rogue.
  9. Author has a first, middle, and last name on the cover (no initials)The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
  10. Author has an active podcast or youtube channelSankofa by Chibundu Onuzo. The Nigerian writer has a Youtube Channel under her name, with the username @chibunduonuzo5530
  11. Book about siblingsThe Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles.
  12. Book featuring time travelNone. The only book featuring time travel I read in 2022 was Emma Straub’s latest novel, This Time Tomorrow, a book published during the year, hence, it does not qualify for this prompt.
  13. Book with chapter namesThe Dragon’s Village: An Autobiographical Novel of Revolutionary China by Yuan-Tsung Chen.
  14. Book written for an age group you don’t belong toAristotle and Dante Dive Into the Waters of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It is a book generally marketed for young adults.
  15. Classic novelThe Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  16. Co-authoredNone.
  17. Debut novelThe Prophets by Robert Jones Jr.
  18. Discovered via social mediaConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. The book was ubiquitous, especially in 2021 when I kept on encountering the book through online booksellers
  19. Everyone has read it but youWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. With millions of Goodreads ratings, this book by Owens was certainly a book everyone has read. It was also a book I keep encountering whenever I drop by the bookstore. All right, let me give the book a try.
  20. Features royaltyThe Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco. This should do, right? The title even has the word queen on it. HAHA. Kidding aside, the titular Queen Loana was a (fictional) African queen who was guarding a mysterious flame that is said to be able to grant long life, immortality even.
  21. Finish a seriesNone. I did plan to finish Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but alas, I failed. Maybe this year?
  22. First in a series you’ve been putting offPalace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz. More than six years after I acquired the first book in this renowned Cairo trilogy by the Nobel Laureate in Literature, I finally got around to reading the first book in the trilogy.
  23. Forgotten on your shelf or eReaderFunerals Are Fatal by Agatha Christie. Yeah. I have quite a lot of unread Agatha Christie novels on my bookshelf. This was a book I acquired in early 2017. It took me five years! And yes, I still have about two books from the same batch of purchases that are still unread.
  24. Graphic novel, manga, or web comicNone
  25. Indie or self publishedSwann’s Way by Marcel Proust. I just learned about this now.
  26. Involves family secretsCrossroads by Jonathan Franzen. This was my second novel by the American writer and I must say I liked this better than Freedom.
  27. Longer than 500 pagesA Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. At over 1,300 pages, A Suitable Boy is one of my all-time longest reads
  28. Murder, mystery, or both!Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie.
  29. Mushroom on the coverNone. I can’t find one, unfortunately
  30. New-to-you authorSecond Place by Rachel Cusk. I did have quite a lot of new-to-me writers in 2022. I even started and ended the year with two new-to-me writers, Sara Nisha Adams and Tara M. Stringfellow
  31. Non-fictionThe Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen. This was a three-part memoir by the revered Danish writer.
  32. NovellaNone
  33. Number in the titleThe Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. This was my second novel by Hannah and my first in over a decade.
  34. One word titleHeaven by Mieko Kawakami
  35. Picked by a celebrity book clubHeaven by Toni Morrison. This was the Nobel Laureate in Literature winner’s first novel since receiving the most prestigious literary award. It was picked by Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club in January 1998.
  36. Poetry or anthologyNone. I guess I am not the type to read anthologies or books of poetry
  37. Protagonist has a profession that twists the truthThe Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Top Ripley was a conman before he was given the opportunity of a lifetime
  38. Published in the month you were bornBerta Isla by Javier Marías. The Spanish version of the novel was published in September 2017 but its English translation was released on July 1, 2020. I was born in July.
  39. Reading for research, reference, or general interestNone
  40. Second or fourth book in a seriesThe Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino. The Baron in the Trees is the second volume in the fantasy trilogy Our Ancestors,
  41. Set in space OR on/in the oceanCloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr. One of the novel’s many strands was set in the future and in space
  42. Set on an islandOf Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia. Garcia’s debut novel was partially set in Cuba
  43. Set in the mountainsSoul Mountain by Gao Xingjian. The meditative novel by the Nobel Laureate in Literature takes readers across rural China.
  44. Story centered around a real or fictional holidayNone
  45. Superheroes/villains OR character in disguiseNone
  46. Title is an alliterationNone
  47. Translated into your native languageNone. I only read works translated into or written in English.
  48. “Wolf” or “star” in the titleWandering Star by Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio
  49. Women in the (fictional) sciencesThe Overstory by Richard Powers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel featured a female character, Patricia Westerford, who was heavily inspired by forest ecologist Suzanne Simard.
  50. You watched the show or movie firstNone
  51. Your favorite animal (real or fictional) on the coverMy Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises by Fredrik Backman. The book cover features a dog.
  52. Your favorite trope on the pageThe Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, if Greek mythology qualifies as a literary trope

That makes it 37 out of the 52 prompts. I hope I will have a better result in 2023. After all, I have several books on my backlist still. This is what my bingo card would look like. I bingoed three times. Last year, I did not even make one. So I am taking that as an improvement.