Classic Books · Reading Challenge 2016

Updated – Reading time: The When Are You Reading? Challenge

The When Are You Reading? Challenge invites participants to read one book in 12 time periods. Lends new meaning to the phrase reading time, doesn't it?My first year participating in the When Are You Reading? challenge hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words is officially completed. And I’m happy to report I was able to read books set in or written in each time period represented in the challenge.

When I joined it in June, I had three time periods left to cover. I had great ambitions to read books written during those times. But … for two of the three (1500-1599 and 1600-1699), I ended up reading historical fiction instead of books written at that time. For 2017, I’m aiming to read books written during each period since my goal is to read more classics this year.

My final tallies are down below. When I originally wrote this post, I included every book I’d read this year as a way to figure out what I still needed to read. I haven’t included all my 2016 titles read since then, only the ones that completed time periods. If you’re interested in more about the books I read this year, I keep monthly lists here.

If you’re interested in participating in 2017, Sam has a description and sign up here.


When, as a kid, I was in danger of taking life too seriously, my dad would invite me to reflect on my concerns by asking, “How much will this matter in 100 years?” At the time, I assumed his rhetorical question was meant to show me how our fleeting obsessions hold little consequence in the grand scheme of the universe.

But that’s not quite right, is it? Without access to knowledge of future events, we cannot possibly know whether this (whatever “this” is) will matter in 100 years. Life is made up of tens of thousands of millions of seemingly inconsequential choices whose cumulative effects can be world changing.

We study history for this reason, don’t we? To study the actions and reactions that have lead to outcomes we want either to replicate or avoid. But even that doesn’t really work. Evidence suggests we make the same mistakes over and over again; it’s the one thing about human nature and experiences that’s predictable. Conclusion: All we can do in the moment is our best.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last week after discovering a reading challenge hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Reading time: The When Are You Reading? ChallengeCalled When Are You Reading? the challenge invites participants to read one book written or set in 12 different time periods. Lends new meaning to the phrase reading time, doesn’t it? It being almost June when I first encountered the challenge, I figured it was too late to participate but, out of curiosity, compared the books I’ve been reading this year to the 12 time periods. Guess what happened? During the first five months of this year, I’ve read books in nine of the 12 categories! It seems I’m interested in the past and our relationship to it, in choices and consequences, in actions and reactions.

What’s more, several of the books on my to-read list this year fall into the three time periods I have yet to read:

Pre 1500: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court *, The Canterbury Tales *, Beowulf *, and The Odyssey. *

1500-1599: A Midsummer Night’s Dream *

1600-1699: Don Quixote

I’m putting an asterisk next to the books that I already own since I’m also doing the Read My Own Damn Books Challenge hosted by Andi at Estella’s Revenge.

Here’s how things shaped up in the final tally:

Pre 1500

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles *

Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney *

1500-1599

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodie Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

1600-1699

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton *

1700-1799

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens *

Give Me Liberty by L. M. Elliot *

1800-1899

The Unmapped Sea By Maryrose Wood *

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson *

1900-1919

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay

1920-1939

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (I’m not entirely sure – it takes place after WWI, so I’m putting it here instead of the previous section) *

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

A Traveller in Time by Allison Uttley

Roman Fever by Edith Wharton*

1940-1959

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff *

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah*

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein *

1960-1979

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle (another one that’s hard to place)

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang *

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson *

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole *

1980-1999

On Cats by Charles Bukowski

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling *

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling *

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling *

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling *

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi *

Death of a Prankster by M. C. Beaton *

Death of a Snob by M. C. Beaton *

Death of a Hussy by M. C. Beaton *

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff (tough one because it covers 25 years. Put it here because I’m assuming that a good chunk of it happens before the present.)

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (because it was first published in January 2000)*

2000 – Present

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

How to Write a Novel by Melanie Sumner *

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins *

El Deafo by Cece Bell

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty *

Help for the Haunted by John Searles *

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George*

The Future

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (May) *

Other books I’ve read that don’t immediately lend themselves to the above categories, for one reason and another:

The Marvels by Brian Selznick (takes place across multiples time periods) *

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (a lovely allegorical story set during an indeterminate time)

Baker’s Magic by Diane Zahler (a fairy tale-like story also set at an indeterminate time)

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti (nonfiction)

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero (nonfiction)

Writing Alone and With Others by Pat Schneider (nonfiction)

Why Read Moby-Dick? by Nathaniel Philbrick (nonfiction)

8 thoughts on “Updated – Reading time: The When Are You Reading? Challenge

  1. I’ve seen this challenge floating around on the web. It looks so much fun! I hope it will be around next year. And I’ll be very interested to see how you do with this challenge.

    1. Thank you! 🙂 I’m so excited for it. I’m going to concentrate on those three periods I haven’t read yet this year.

  2. Awesome!! Welcome to the challenge, so glad you could join. I usually don’t worry about filling time periods until October because, like you, I tend to fill them naturally. Good luck and happy reading!

    1. Thank you! It was quite the eye opener discovering I’d read so many of these periods already. And now I have inspiration to read the books I own that fall in the earlier periods.

  3. What a cool idea for a reading challenge! Even if a person doesn’t participate, it can open their eyes and maybe make them think about the time periods they seem most drawn to – and least drawn to – and maybe try to diversify. Thanks for sharing this. I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it anytime soon, for a number of reasons, but it will definitely have me thinking – as so many of your posts do!

    1. Exactly! I’d never thought about which time periods I read most often, whether through classics written during or fiction set in a particular time. Other than WWII, I don’t seek out particular time periods. I wouldn’t have guessed that I read as many different times as I did, so that was quite the eye opener. I’m interested to see what I’ll learn through this experience. 🙂

  4. Looks like you crushed it this year! Nice. Are you considering joining in for 2017? I have the page set up (check it out here) if you want t take a look but nothing has changed in the description, just a fun new image. I’ll add you to the participants if you want to join in. Happy reading!

    1. Thank you! I still have to update this post on the final stats, but I’m so happy to be able to say I read a book written or set in each time period. I’m in for 2017 as well – it’ll be a great complement for my intention to read more classics this year.

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