Monday, November 7, 2011

300 Book Challenge

I did it. With all that is going on with my upcoming move, and working everyday of every week. I actually completed the challenge. I read 300 books in two years. Each one was a book I had never read and each one was longer than 250 pages (the longest was over 800). I really didn't think I could do it. The last book challenge I took had very similar rules, but it was 100 books in one calendar year. This was back in high school, and sadly I made it 98 books. These challenges are often impromptu dares, spurred on by friends and odd conversations. In fact this one started when I had realized how much my book intake had increased after purchasing my Kindle. When talking about it with a friend she jokingly dared that I couldn't read 300 books in a year. I of course replied with, "you're on!"
So I completed the challenge. Yet another strange and perhaps useless achievement to add to my list. So what did I chose to end the challenge with? That is what I wanted to end this post with. Many readers out there may already be familiar with the book, I am really surprised it took me so long to get around to reading it really. It has been suggested and tossed around at more book clubs and amongst more bookworms than I can count. I had been told to read it for many years. If I had read it at the times it had been suggested, I would probably interpret it differently each time. When I finally picked up a dog-eared copy and sat down and read was probably the worst time to do so.
The book I am talking about is Alex Garland's The Beach. Considered one of the greatest books for travellers, I have to wonder how many travellers started reading this amazing book right before a big trip and then were so consumed with fear they couldn't finish it, or worse, didn't go on the trip.
I won't go much into the plot, and this isn't really a review of the novel either. I will state plainly that it is one of the most amazing novels I have read. And it does more for Gen X literature than I think any other book I am aware of. But really it is about how this book altered some of my perceptions about my life, especially in relation to my upcoming life-changing move to Korea.
The novel revolves around the narrator and a french couple he meets in Thailand. After one horrible incident after the next, they find themselves with many young travellers on an island paradise. And like Lord of the Flies (really the only novel this could be compared to), what seems like Eden can easily become hell.
The horrific scenes weren't really what disturbed me in this novel, it was the more subtle underlying emotions. Written like a cooly composed memoir, even the narrator seems rather unaware of the nature of human behavior. Nothing seems unfeasible, and that is probably why it is so frightening. But at this point in my life, it was the elements of isolation, even within groups that got to me. Even in a strange world we can find people to be with, friends of sorts, but there will always be something there. They were together as a group before you arrived. And it is the element of the foreign that was frightening to me. That anything, and anyone can subtly be unwanted. It is hard to explain, and in my burnt brained, sleepless state, I care little to actually go into it, or even attempt to put it into words.
In closing, I am finished the challenge. And putting another achievement under my belt, great or small, is always a good feeling. And that feeling of achievement pushes me to strive for more. With my trip looming ever closer and the final crunch to get everything done, there is no end to the challenges that await.

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