There are a couple of ways to approach this challenge (at least). The first involves setting a number of "Notable Books" you would like to make your way through before the end of 2007, and then allowing yourself the freedom to choose which books will make up that number as you progress through the list. The second (and the one, obsessive planner that I am, that I chose) involves outlining a list of specific works that you would like to cover over a twelve month period. Here is my list:
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Arthur and George by Julian Barnes
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
Twilight of the Superheroes by Deborah Eisenberg
Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala
All Aunt Hagar's Children by Edward P. Jones
Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
**Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky** - finished!
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Will this list change over the course of the year, as some books don't take and others seduce me away from my plans? Probably. If I finish all twelve (ha!), will I move on to others on the list? Perhaps. Will the reviews posted by other participants influence what I want to read? Definitely.
At any rate, I am currently at work on two works for the challenge, both of them none too jolly: Beasts of No Nation and The Road. Iweala's book was so massively, shatteringly grim that I had to take a break in the middle (it is not long, but it is densely, evocatively written). Why, despite all warnings about the unrelenting darkness of the McCarthy, I chose it to leaven my depression, is a mystery to me.
[Update from Saturday, Feb. 24: I wanted to add a few books from the NYT Non-fiction list to my goal, bringing the provisional goal to 15 books in 2007. The additions are:
THE WORST HARD TIME: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. By Timothy Egan
ORACLE BONES: A Journey Between China's Past and Present. By Peter Hessler
THE LOOMING TOWER: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. By Lawrence Wright]