The I Spy Book Challenge

I  opened a new post from Bookish Beck‘s book-based blog.  She’d taken up a challenge, which she’d read about  here.  I’m hoping at least one of you may pick it up too and give it a go (I’m looking at you, Sandra...)

The idea is to take the list of twenty themes and find a book on your bookshelves that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example in each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, be as creative as you want and do it within five minutes (or maybe a bit longer if you have too many books on too many overcrowded shelves, and you photograph them on the way).  The original challenge also contains the initials TBR, and it only later occurred to me that of course this means To Be Read.  So I’ve failed at the first hurdle, as I’ve read thirteen of my list.  Tough.

Food: Like Water for Chocolate: Laura Esquivel.  I still haven’t read this.  Put it on the TBR pile.

Transport: Stranger on a Train: Jenny Diski.  Am I going to read this?  You tell me.

Weapon: Where Poppies Blow: John Lewis Stempel  Not a weapon in the title or on the cover.  I think we can agree there were weapons involved in WWI.  This is a wonderful book putting the Great War in an entirely new context.

Animal: A Tiger in the Sand: Mark Cocker.  I love this man’s writing.  So I’ve enjoyed these essays.

Number: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: James Shapiro. Scholarly, readable social history.

Something you read. The Seabird’s Cry: Adam Nicolson.  There’s a reason for choosing this.  My friend Penny gave me this.  My friend Penny introduced me to Becky’s blog.  Perfect. This is a wonderful book: nature writing at its best.

Body of water: Caught by the river.  A good anthology for dipping into.

Product of fire: Rumi, the fire of love: Natal Tajerdod.  TBR.  

Royalty: Prince of the Clouds: Gianni Riolta.  I can’t remember if I’ve read this.  So I guess I haven’t.

Architecture: Invisible Cities: Italo Calvino.  This wasn’t an easy read.  But it was short and stimulating.

An item of clothing: Woman in White: Wilkie Collins.  It’s not an item of clothing.  But it is clothing.  And in my case, another TBR classic.

Family member: Daughter of Fortune: Isabel Allende.  How come I haven’t read this yet?

Time of day: How to stop time: Matt Haig.  A weird (in a good way!) and original time-travelling yarn.

Music: Music and Silence: Rose Tremain. I haven’t read this for years.  I know I enjoyed it.

Paranormal being: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams.  What would I have come up with if I hadn’t found this book that Tom must have left behind, all those years ago?  We used to listen on the radio together.

Occupation: The Shepherd’s Life: James Rebanks. A shepherd from a family whose occupation it’s been for generations.  This shepherd has been to Oxford.  He works for UNESCO. A realistic and illuminating  look at the realities of rural life in Cumbria.

Season: Hawthorn Time: Melissa Harrison.  A good story, with believable characters, with the countryside coming in at top spot.

Colour: The Red Notebook: Antoine Laurain.  A vairy Frainch little mystery.

Celestial body: Paradise: Toni Morrison.  An eloquent, poetic though quite difficult book, read a long time ago now.

Something that grows: The Tulip: Anna Pavord.  Though not a tulip fan, I like Anna Pavord’s writing.  Fascinating stuff.


Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

44 thoughts on “The I Spy Book Challenge”

    1. I remember one of the trickier things about living abroad was having no easy access to a constant supply of fresh books – though I dare say Paris is easier than le fin fond (‘l’Ariège? Où ça?’ As someone from Paris once asked me….)

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      1. For the good of my language skills I avoid the English language bookshops in Paris and read a lot in French from the local library but then I’m tempted by the Hatchards shop at St Pancras whenever I’m passing through with time to spare!

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  1. This looks a fun challenge, you’ve done well. For me, however, as most of my books are still in boxes I thought I’d scan the list and see what I could remember – ha ha. The only book which instantly fitted a category (weirdly Paranormal being) was ‘The White Goddess’ by Robert Graves. I suspect I had been prompted by seeing ‘The Woman in White’ in your list! 😊

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    1. Ah, boxes of books, post moving. As tasks go it hovers for me in a sort of nether world in which it sometimes feels as though it’d be fun to see all those old friends again, and at other times, a crushing burden. Good luck.

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  2. I’m glad you got it to work in the end! I see several books here that we have on the shelves and I keep meaning to read: Stranger on a Train (saving up for a long train journey), A Tiger in the Sand, Music and Silence, and At Hawthorn Time (signed, no less — she came to speak on the campus where my husband works). And I’m very keen to find The Seabird’s Cry. I tried to make mine a TBR-only post but had to cheat with two I’d already read.

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  3. Isn’t it funny – not ha ha funny but just ‘interestingly funny’ how many of my blog-friends share many of my loves AND although not having English as my first language, I’ve read quite a number of your listed books too…. As I devour ANYTHING by Rose Tremain that title would probably have attracted me in the first place. Now that I think, that very book might even have been the trigger to my new love of Rose 🙂
    I also read THE TULIP (again, triggered by the both the theme & cover – although we shouldn’t, we all judge a book ((also)) by its cover unless we’re already totally hooked on the author), Hitchhiker’s Guide, Fortune’s Daughter and LOVED LOVED LOVED Like Water for Chocolate. Read that one years before the film. Aaah, this was one of the books I’ll never be separated from, so precious it is to me.
    Sad to read that you were unwell, hope you’ll be better and ready for summer now that spring finally has surprised us with full force! Was away and slowly, slowly, will dive into the backlog of blog posts.

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    1. Well, as we clearly share quite a lot of the same tastes, I’ll definitely move Like Water for Chocolate up the list. Thanks for the hint. The one advantage of being ill is that I DID read – a lot.

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      1. It’s on my ‘to get when I’m in UK next’ too….. I think there is ONE book I didn’t ‘just love’, all the others I treasure deeply.

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  4. Thank you. I was up early, saw your post, and began to read and be inspired. I am a bibliophile a disease my father passed on to me, and have more books than time to read them. I was able to read three books over spring break because it was a) spring break and b) the books I chose were short series of graphic novels for young adults – but there was significant learning involved. I was intrigued by the book, Where Poppies Blow by John Lewis Stempel. I ordered the book which is not available until 5/8 – I look forward to taking time to read it while sitting outside when spring or summer arrives and I have more time to read than I do at present. It snowed again last night and the ground id covered with a clean lovely white sheet, it will be gone by noon, but it is there a reminder that winter was. have a wonderful day.

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    1. I do hope you’ll enjoy ‘Where Poppies Blow’ Clearly the natural world did much to keep some soldiers sane in that dreadful conflict. I’m amazed you get any reading done with your busy life. Summer soon? Despite that snow…. Have a good weekend!


  5. Oh, this made me laugh!! 😀 And I’m quaking in my boots now at the thought of that steely stare. So much so, that despite resisting this meme on a number of other blogs, I promptly rushed to the bookshelves and yup – I have my choices! Which will appear in due course. After the other meme that I succumbed to yesterday….


    (I am supposed to be getting together a little collection of posts from our trip away in February. That shows how far behind I am. If I wasn’t so easily distracted I may have finished them by now!)

    (I’ll be back tomorrow to actually comment on your delightful list here. For the moment though, the evening sunshine is calling. That and the washing which needs to be brought in…)

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    1. Sandra, you don’t have to take any notice of me. Nobody else does. Seriously, I’m delighted you’re taking up the challenge. But no pressure from me. Honest.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, Margaret, I’m not feeling pressured – I promise 🙂

        It was great fun matching books to categories. The room where most of my books are currently looks like it’s been visited by an earthquake! 😀

        (Still chuckling…. And washing still not yet retrieved…)

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  6. Failed miserably 🙁 if you stay here Margaret I suggest you bring your own books. There are 43 on the shelf and 16 of those are cook books. I did Ok with body of water, used Peaches for Monsieur Cure to cover something that grows and occupation, and Andrew’s grandfathers ‘A history of architecture’ from 1919. Clothing was a children’s book of mine from 1963 ‘Merry’s New Hat’. Could I use ‘A sting in the tale’ as a weapon?

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  7. I’m back and enjoying looking at your selection, today, Margaret. I read and enjoyed At Hawthorn Time. (Have you read Melissa Harrison’s Clay, which I enjoyed even more?) You have several I’m familiar with which might eventually get to the top of my list but also several new to me, such as Mark Cocker; I think I would love his stuff. And The Seabird’s Cry is a must – definitely need to read that one. I’m also rather tempted by the Rumi novel… Thanks for the fascinating glimpse into your reading life 🙂

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    1. The Seabird’s Cry was right up there on my personal shortlist of Book of the Year 2017, so yes …… Thanks for recommending Clay. And yes, I must get on and read the Rumi.

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  8. How interesting. I’m completely with you on the Matt Haig and Jeremy enjoyed Where the Poppies Blow. Reading on Kindle would make this difficult for me but Christopher bought me a real book for Mothering Sunday which I can recommend for Something that grows: Penelope Lively, Life in the Garden.

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  9. Thanks! I’ll look out for it. Though not on Kindle. I can’t get to grips with reading anything but Real Books, even though I know it makes sense when travelling.


    1. The problem with books is that when your other half turns out the light you can’t see what you’re reading!! P Lively is very well read and en passant while reading Life in the Garden I came across the Gardening Year by Karel Capek ( translated from the Czech). This anti Nazi Czech journalist writes about gardening and gardeners with a very keen eye. I find him very funny.

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      1. Yeah, but since I’m such a terrible sleeper, I’m mindful of the advice not to use devices near bedtime. Can’t win. The Capek definitely looks worth a hunt for.


  10. I’m probably too lazy to go about and find books and do this list myself but it was fun thinking about it, and reading what you’ve selected. But was one of the rules really that you had to do it in 5 minutes? I could spend days on this, I think!

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  11. In truth I was longer than five minutes, but I didn’t take long. On the whole I allowed myself no second thoughts. It worked in the main, and already I’ve started on the ‘unread’ pile.


  12. I love reading book lists and this challenge is so tempting! So many good titles here and a few authors I know and love. Unfortunately, I have so little time for reading these days (I’m lucky to get a page a day done). I have an enormous TBR heap that I really ought to read before succumbing to new books but….. My husband is waiting for my non-fiction books (on my bed-side table) to topple over and smother me one day! Did you watch the first part of new BBC ‘Woman in White’ yesterday? I didn’t.

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