2016 Book Challenge- A Book Published Before You Were Born
Ten little soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were Nine.
Nine little soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were Eight.
Eight little soldier boys travelling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were Seven.
Seven little soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were Six.
Six little soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumble bee stung one and then there were Five.
Five little soldier boys going in for law;
One got into chancery and then there were Four.
Four little soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were Three.
Three little soldier boys walking in the Zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were Two.
Two little soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was One.
One little soldier boy left all alone;
He went and hanged himself
And then there were None.
—Frank Green, 1869
May is nearly gone, which means another strike-through on the book challenge list. I was late on figuring out which topic to cover this month, as I got sucked into a few different readings (11 books this month, my favorite being The Sympathizer by Nguyen Viet Thanh), none of which covered the topics I had left, but luckily, with a little over a week left in the month, I got an email from my oldest niece that pointed me in the right direction. She is going to be in sophomore honor’s English at Caldwell High School in the fall (Go Cougars!) and received her reading list for the upcoming year and wanted to know if I would use my Amazon Prime account (a near necessity of the Foreign Service lifestyle) to buy her books. On it were both the books she will be reading during her sophomore semesters, as well as the two she needs to read over the summer.
As a side note, I love that this teacher is suggesting that her students buy their own copies, as it sounds like she is going to teach them to annotate and hopefully do close readings of literature. I wish we had covered those skills when I was in high school! I would have found the much more useful to my future life than divining the difference between sine, cosine and tangents or learning to draw economic supply and demand curves. (I say that in semi-jest. It is true I don’t employ those skills on a daily or weekly or possibly even annual basis, but I am grateful for the way they helped me learn to think and to study. I get it. I get it. Learning to think is key. But, literature. That is where it is really at!)
Back to the reading list. Over the summer, Kels has to read And Then There Were None, the Agatha Christie classic, and then another mystery novel of her choice. My favorite part of this email was when she asked if I would pick her mystery novel, making it a true mystery! There is little I enjoy more than recommending books to people. I am ecstatic when I offer up a book suggestion or two and then hear back that it was a perfect fit. This may be what I miss most about teaching. (As a side note, if anyone knows how I can become a personal book shopper, let me know. I would be in heaven!) It took me an hour or two of browsing my GoodReads history and a few lists of best mystery novels of the last couple of centuries before I made a final choice. Mystery is not my go-to genre and I honestly don’t find a lot of literary merit in many of the current options, so I decided to throw Kels back to the beginning, the heart of the mystery novel and hook her up with some Sherlock Holmes. (I must admit this may also have been slightly influenced by my current Netflix binge: Elementary.) With The Hounds of Baskerville headed her way, she’s going to have a seriously fantastic time with her summer reading.
This is made a rather short story long, but the point is that my niece’s email last week pushed me to go back and reread And Then There Were None. I had not read it since I was a sophomore in high school, so it was a great opportunity to reread a true classic and bring me up to speed so we can go to coffee when I am home this summer and talk about her comparison/contrast paper that is due when the new school year kicks off in August. Plus, it was a perfect fit for the “a book published before you were born” category, as Christie’s masterpiece first came out in 1939 under a title that would now be considered highly offensive. (Look it up if you don’t know this history.)
If you haven’t read this foundation of the mystery genre and you’re playing along with the 2016 book challenge, mark it down for June and as “a book you should have read in high school.” It isn’t long and you’ll be sucked in from the epigraph. Plan a day with no distractions and follow along as the soldiers drop, one by one.
In Search of the End of the Sidewalk’s 2016 Reading Challenge
_____ A book published this year– (A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin)
_____A book you can finish in a day- (When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi)
_____A book you’ve been meaning to read
_____ A book recommended to you by a librarian
_____ A book you should have read in school
_____ A book chosen for you by your spouse/partner, best friend, child or sibling
_____ A book published before you were born (And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie)
_____ A book that was banned at some point (A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess)
_____ A book you abandoned previously
_____ A book you own but have never read
_____ A book that intimidates you
_____ A book you’ve read at least once (I am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali)