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What‘s in a Name Reading Challenge: List of all categories from the beginning

The What‘s in a Name reading challenge has been running since 2008, but I have only participated three times. I think it's one of the best reading challenges out there because it's not too big or involved, it's fun to do and some of the categories can be interpreted creatively.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the categories for the years I didn‘t participate and see if I have enough TBR books to set myself a little private TBR challenge to complete all the categories ever used in the challenge.

It took a bit of searching to find the first two lists, but I managed it in the end (or at least I hope they’re the right ones). I figured this research might be of interest to others, so I‘m posting a list of the entire run of the challenge, including the lists for the years when I did participate.

There are several categories that are repeated: e.g. a color, a relative/family, a profession, a plant, and I decided I would do the repeats. Then I checked to see if I actually had TBR books that fit all the categories, and guess what: I do, and it's enough to complete even the repeats, although I had to use my imagination for one of them.

Below is the list, containing some titles for each category, excluding the years I participated, i.e. this year and 2011 and 2012. In some cases these are just a sampling of what I found, while in other cases the books listed constitute all the applicable books in my possession. You will also see some of them in more than one category, e.g. Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, which appears under the categories "a profession" and "a first name".

It remains to be seen how I will eventually choose the titles I actually read, but I might make a book jar or maybe I'll fill a shelf with books to choose from like I have done once before for my perpetual TBR challenge, or I might take a look at which ones I have owned the longest and read those first.

And now, I give you the lists:

  • a country
  • an item of clothing
  • an item of furniture
  • a profession
  • a month of the year
  • a title with the word ‘tree’ in it

  • a word including ‘ing’ in it (Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zore Neale Hurston; Death in the Dining Room by Kennteh L. Ames; Running with the Moon by Jonny Bealby; Breaking Point by Susanne Brockmann; Shaking a Leg by Angela Carter (already reading this, need to finish); Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski; several more)
  • a colour (Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood, several more)
  • a familial relation (including by marriage) (
    The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany)
  • a body of water (Courage at Sea by Naomi James; Southern Seas by Manuel Vazquez Montalban)
  • a city (The Cambridge Murders by Glyn Daniel; Athens Encounter by Victoria Kyriakopoulos, several more)
  • an animal (The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

  • a reference to time (The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern
  • a position of royalty (The Emperor's Assassin by T.F. Banks; King and Joker by Peter Dickinson; The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany)
  • a number written in letters (Billion Year Spree by Brian Aldiss; A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards)
  • a forename or names (The Devil's Delilah by Loretta Chase; The New Sonia Wayward by Michael Innes, a couple more)
  • a type or element of weather (Under a Monsoon Cloud by H.R.F. Keating; Thunder on the Left by Christopher Morley; The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón)

  • up or down (or equivalent) (Wings Above the Diamantina by Arthur Upfield; The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck; A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards; Over the Edge byJonathan Kellerman)
  • something you'd find in your kitchen (A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway; Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry; Appetite for Murder by Cecile Lamalle; A Knife at the Opera by Susannah Stacey; John Saturnall's Feast by Lawrence Norfolk)
  • a party or celebration (Dancing at the Victory Café by Helene Wiggin; Big Night Out by various)
  • fire (or equivalent) (Frostfire by Lynn Viehl; River of Fire by Mary Jo Putney; How to Build a Fire by Erin Bried)
  • an emotion (Maigret a Peur by Georges Simenon; The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck; The Love Department by William Trevor)
  • lost or found (or equivalent) (Lost Worlds by Michael Bywater; Lost in the Barrens by Faley Mowat; 1491: The Year China Discovered the World by Gavin Menzies)

  • a topographical feature (land formation)
  • something you'd see in the sky
  • a creepy crawly
  • a type of house (Brahmins and Bungalows by Kavita Watsa)
  • something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack
  • something you'd find on a calendar 

  • a number
  • jewelry or a gem
  • a size
  • travel or movement
  • evil (bad, wicked, etc.)
  • a life stage

  • a food (The Mystery of Swordfish Reef by Arthur Upfield; The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury)
  • a body of water (A Girl and a River by Usha K.R.)
  • a title (The First Detective by Andrew Morton)
  • a plant (The Tulip by Anna Pavord)
  • a place name ( The Brooklyn Follies by Paul Auster, Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving)
  • a music term (Farewell the Trumpets by James Morris (first I must finish Pax Brittanica); Piano Shop on the Left Bank by Thad Carhart; A Piano in the Pyrenees by Tony Hawks; The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey )

  • a profession (Adventures of a Cameraman by Wallace Kirkland; Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams)
  • a time of day (Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier; After Midnight, The Blue Noon, Night Crossing or Early One Morning by Robert Ryan)
  • a relative (May You Be the Mother of a Hundred Sons by Elizabeth Bumiller; Our Grandmother's Drums by Mark Hudson; The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany)
  • a body part (Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zore Neale Hurston; In the Teeth of the Evidence by Dorothy L. Sayers; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (double points!))
  • a building (Rome and a Villa by Eleanor Clark)
  • a medical condition (The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddharta Mukherjee; Hvað er til ráða gegn þunglyndi by Sue Breton; Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown; )
  • a  colour (My Name is Red or The Black Book by Orhan Pamuk, several more)
  • an animal (The Lambs of London by Peter Ackroyd; Coyote by Linda Barnes; The Leopard by Giuseppe de Lampedusa; Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés)
  • a first name (Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams; Maurice by E.M. Forster, several more)
  • a place (The Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd; Murder on the Verandah by Eric Lawlor; Casanova in Bolzano by Sandor Marai; East of Eden by John Steinbeck; After Babel by George Steiner)
  • weather (The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón; Windy City Blues by Sara Paretsky)
  • a plant (The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)


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