24 Festive Tasks: Final Results — and Thanks to All Participants!

A big Thank You to everybody who joined the game and participated so actively: Collectively, we achieved the very respectable total score of


Go us — well done everybody!  Thank you so much from this year’s hosts: Murder by Death, Moonlight Snow (Reader), TeaStitchRead (Mrs. Claus’ Tea House), and me.  Once again, it’s been great fun watching the truly amazing things that everybody came up with to complete to the various tasks and the creativity that went into everybody’s posts.

And a special shout-out to Darth Pedant for stepping in and doing such an absolutely smashing job substituting for MbD as a host of the Melbourne Cup Day “pick your ponies” task!

Before moving on the stats of this year’s game, I wanted to share, at least once, the gorgeous 2019 festive calendar image “as such” — without being half hidden below all the calendar doors, open or closed.

Thank you once more to MbD for finding it — as MbD told us, it’s an illustration for Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol.

Thank you all, also, for playing along and reporting your completed tasks using the form that MbD created — even though RL interference didn’t let me get around to posting stats as frequently in 2019 as during the 2018 game, the form (and the Excel sheet it yielded) made tracking points just so much easier!

The Figures:

Number of active participants: 18
(“Active” = completed at least one book or other task for the game)
Average number of points collected: 28.06
Number of card blackouts: 4
(“Blackout” = completed at least one book or other task per square)

Results by Squares / Holidays:

With almost 28%, overall the book tasks were the most popular tasks of the game, followed by Task 1, with Tasks 2 and 3 almost on equal footing and Task 4 bringing in the rear (though not by a terribly wide margin).  (Well, this is a book site … 🙂 )

Almost 60% of all tasks completed were the second or further task completed for the square in question.

On a total of 8 squares, one or more participants completed all five tasks (book and other tasks):

* Día de los Muertos
* Japanese Culture Day
* Melbourne Cup Day
* International Day for Tolerance
* International Children’s Day
* World Philosophy Day
* St. Nicholas’ Day
* St. Lucia’s Day

Biggest individual point-earning square: Día de los Muertos — 46 points total
Runner-up: Melbourne Cup Day — 42 points total
Third Place: Japanese Culture Day — 40 points total

Seeing one of our newly-introduced holidays (Japanese Culture Day) scoring so well makes me very happy — and hattip to our new co-host TeaStitchRead / Mrs. Claus’ Tea House, who whipped out all four tasks for this square in absolutely zero time as one of her first hosting contributions.

Least point-earning square: Festivus — 9 points total

Average points per square (including bonus points): 21.04
Average points per square (excluding bonus points): 20.88

Breakdown of Books and Tasks per Square

The Books

Squares for which the highest number of participants read a book: Día de los Muertos and Japanese Culture Day — 10 participants
Runner-up: Guy Fawkes Night – 9 participants
Shared Third Place: Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and Christmas — 8 participants each

Fewest books read for: World Philosophy Day and St. Andrew’s Day — 2 participants each

Average number of book points accrued per square: 5.67

 The Tasks

Square with the overall highest number of points collected for all non-book tasks: Melbourne Cup Day — 37 points (including 2 bonus points)
Runner-up: Día de los Muertos — 36 points
Third place: Japanese Culture Day — 30 points

Excluding bonus points, Día de los Muertos and Melbourne Cup Day switcb places; Japanese Culture Day remains third.

Least number of non-book points: International Human Rights Day — 4 points

Most popular individual task: Día de los Muertos, Task 3 (epitaph for the year’s most disliked book) —  14 points
Runner-up, by points: Melbourne Cup Day, Task 1 (“Pick your ponies”) — 12 points (including 2 bonus points)
Runner-ups, by participants (= excluding bonus points): Japanese Culture Day, Task 4 (Japanese food), and Melbourne Cup Day, Tasks 1 and 3 (“Pick your ponies” and picture of favorite cup / mug)   — 10 points each
Third place: Melbourne Cup Day, Task 2 (“Roses are Red, Violets are Blue” poem) — 9 points

Least popular: Thanksgiving, Task 4 (postcard to a friend), International Human Rights Day, Task 4 (reconstitute a body of the UN), Hanukkah, Task 4 (food donation), Festivus, Tasks 3 and 4 (going “pole’mic on a book character, and “Festivus miracle” dialogue), Kwanzaa, Task 3 (corn dish), New Year’s Eve, Task 4 (holiday dinner with famous person as guest), and Epiphany, Task 2 (personal “epihany” experience) — all 0 points (sniff).  With one exception, these are all in the final weeks of the game … seems most of us just ran out of steam towards the end!

Average number of points accrued for non-book tasks per square, including bonus points: 15.3
Average number of points accrued for non-book tasks per square, excluding bonus points: 15.1

Average number of points accrued for individual non-book tasks, including bonus points: 3.9
Average number of points accrued for individual non-book tasks, excluding bonus points: 3.67

Congratulations, everybody, and thank you all so much again for making this such a fun and successful game!


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24 Festive Tasks: Door 4 – Guy Fawkes Night: Task 2

The one “revolution” I would like to see happening in the book world is that we all reconsider how we are thinking about books, and how we are treating them as a result.

In recent years, they seem to have become chiefly “products” — maybe not quite like clothing, electronics, or other forms of moveable goods, but not so todally different from them, either.  And of course, that is not entirely wrong — authors and publishers make money selling books; reviewers and purchasers are protected by consumer product standards … that is all as it’s supposed to be.

But books are so much MORE than just products:  They are, as Stephen King rightlly put it, a uniquely portable magic; a device that is able to transport us, with the flipping of a single page, to a foreign land, a sci-fi or fantasy world, or back into the past, and into the lives of characters we may never meet in person (though as a kid, I’ll own that in my mind I did), but who will nevertheless quite likely become dearer to us than many a real life acquaintance.  And, as XOX’s recent posts have reminded us, books are also catalysts of independent thought (and thus, the most potent weapen — at least long term — in combatting oppression and dictatorship).


Yet, large parts of the publishing and book mass merchandizing industry (chiefly, but not limited to Amazon) seem to be treating book mainly in terms of what they can or cannot contribute to the bottom line, and that, I feel not only does the books themselves an injustice, but it also misses out on opportunities which to miss might ultimately be more than merely a pity — it might be dangerous: most importantly, the opportunity to win over new readers, not by compelling them to read what somebody (advertising, teachers, literary gurus, whoever) has declared a “must read”, but by making them actually curious about books and reading, and by letting them explore the wonderful world hidden between the pages of a book all on their own.

Something that ties into this idea is the importance of libraries — because libraries, more than any other institution, are the catalysts of precisely this notion, of reading for the sake of the joy of literary exploration, rather than selling and owning books as a piece of merchandise or a possession used in order to show off (to demonstrate one’s own erudition, as a piece of interiror decoration, or for whatever other purpose).  It is no accident, in my view, that libraries are struggling for survival in so many places — and that publishers, sellers and distribution services are actively restricting the options made available to library users.  In my view, this is a classic case of shooting oneself in the foot — they’re depriving themselves of their own future customer base — but I do find it worrying that this is happening at all; in an industry, moreover, that really should make it its business not only to be concerned with the product they’re selling but also with the wider significance of that product.  (Of course self-publishing, the technical revolution and other factors have all got a role to play in this, but still — the fact remains that books aren’t just any old product, and we’d all do well to stop, take a deep breath, and refocus.)

(Task: Start a revolution: What one thing would you change about the book reading world? (Be it publishing, distribution, editing, cover art, bookstores – anything having to do with books.)

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 3 – Melbourne Cup Day: Task 4

I’m clean out of energy to prepare any (even simple) desserts or other dishes, so here, in lieu of a New Year’s Eve toast, is the remainder of my holiday goodies in the kitty mug / cup that my BFF gave me for Christmas, with her homemade “Stollen” (Christmas loaf) and a miniature Stollen that my mom obtained from her favorite tea shop.


(Task: Prepare your favorite dessert – in a cup!  Post a photo of it for us to enjoy vicariously.)

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 9 – World Philosphy Day: Task 3

My only salvation in stressful times: Creature comforts.  Lots of them.  And BookLikes!

2019 was a hell of a year in virtually every respect, and I don’t mean that in a good sense — I can only hope 2020 will be a LOT better.  BookLikes was my one happy place this year, so thank you all, the whole BookLikes community, for keeping me sane and happy whenever real life was getting a bit overwhelming.

And of course, the boys’ love helped as well …

… and, as I said, creature comforts.  Lots of them.

(Task: How do you stay zen / sane over the holidays or in other stressful periods?)

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2020 Reading Plans / Expectations & 2019 in Review

24 Festive Tasks: Door 22 – New Year’s Eve / St. Sylvester’s Day: Tasks 1-3 & Door 18 – Hanukkah: Task 1

2020 Reading Goals

Pretty much the same as this year: Read more books by women writers than by male authors, diversify my reading, and keep on exploring the world of Golden Age mystery fiction.

The Around the World reading challenge — which is also to be continued in 2020 — this year has taken me to places of the world that aren’t exactly part of my normal reading fare, and I think visits to 46 countries (8 in Africa, 10 in the Americas (11 if Puerto Rico were counted separately), 13 in Asia and the Middle East, 2 in Oceania, and 13 again in Europe) is a pretty decent tally for the first year. I hope things are going to continue in a similar vein next year.

My Golden Age mystery reading plans are probably going to cross the “diversifying” aims to a certain extent — they already did this year — for the simple reason that the vast majority of Golden Age mystery writers were Caucasian.  But that just can’t be helped, I suppose.


The 2019 Stats

Books begun: 250
Books finished: 247
Average Rating: 3,8

 Genre Breakdown by Subgenres

Mystery: 124
Golden Age: 89
Silver Age: 3
Tartan Noir: 3
Classic Noir: 2
Cozy Mystery: 2
General: 22

Thriller: 8
Espionage: 5
Humor/Satire: 1
General: 2

Historical Fiction: 31
Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 23
Mythology: 2
Magical Realism: 1
Humor/Satire: 1
General: 3

Fantasy: 11
Humor/Satire: 8
YA: 2
General: 1

Supernatural: 5
Short Fiction: 2
Historical Fiction: 2
Humor/Satire: 1

SciFi: 2
Steampunk: 1
Humor/Satire: 1

Horror: 3
Gothic: 1
Short Fiction: 2

Classics: 15
Short Fiction: 6
Anthology: 1
Espionage: 1
General: 7

LitFic: 16
Magical Realism: 1
Mythology: 2
Dystopia: 2
Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 2
ChickLit: 2
General: 7

Nonfiction: 32
Auto(Biography): 20
History: 3
Philosophy: 2
Science: 3
True Crime: 2
Anthology: 1
Cookbook: 1

















The key, obviously, is in the intersection of genres and ethnicity: 25 of the 27 books by non-Caucasian authors I read were something other than mysteries; or put differently, virtually all of the 124 mysteries were by Caucasian authors (including all of the 92 Golden and Silver Age mysteries, which in themselves account for 2/3 of all my mystery intake).  I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do much about those statistics — nor do I very much want to, as long as I manage to make decent progress with my Around the World challenge and manage to get in a fair amount of non-Caucasian books in all the other genres.

Favorite books of 2019: HERE
Least favorite books of 2019: HERE


 My question: Is 2020 going to be a good reading year for me?

Miss Austen’s Collected Novels are one of the larger volumes on my shelves, so I decided to seek my answer there.

The answer: “[impor]tance in assisting the improvement of her mind, and extending its pleasures.”

That sounds rather promising, doesn’t it?

(And I’m taking it as an additional good sign that the answer is from Mansfield Park, wich was the first novel by Austen that I read — and the book that made me fall in love with her writing in the first place …)


Dreidel Spin for First Book of the Year

This is a pick from some of the books that my BFF, Gaby, gave me for Christmas and my birthday this year:

נ (Nun) – Craig Adams: The Six Secrets of Intelligence
ג (Gimel) – Isabel Colegate: The Shooting Party
ה (Hei) – Preet Bharara: Doing Justice
ש (Shin) – Sarah-Jane Stratford: Radio Girls


… and the dreidel picked:

 So, Sarah-Jane Stratford’s Radio Girls it is!

Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford


Door 22
Task 1: Tell us: What are your reading goals for the coming year?

Task 2: The reading year in review: How did you fare – what was good, what wasn’t?

Task 3: Bibliomancy: Ask a question related to your reading plans or experience in the coming year, open one of your weightiest tomes on page 485, and find the answer to your question in line 7.


Door 18, Task 1: Spin the dreidel to determine which book is going to be the first one you’ll be reading in the new year.

Find a virtual dreidel here:



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24 Festive Tasks: Door 13 – Advent: Task 2

I don’t know if I have one particular favorite holiday tradition, but one of my favorite moments occurs on Christmas Eve, when we walk through the silent, festively-decorated night-time streets of our neighborhood on our way to church.  I am not a hugely religious person, but it’s not Christmas for me before I haven’t heard the story from St. Luke’s gospel, chapter 2, retold to me and sung the associated Christmas carols in church — and I love that contemplative walk, and finally having time to duly appreciate the love and creativity that some people put into their holiday decorations.  This year, alas, my mom wasn’t able to walk all the way (in fact, the way things are looking, those days may be over once and for all), so I only got to take my walk belatedly and after, alas, some of the decorations had already been removed again.  However, there was still plenty of loving care to admire and enjoy (including in the windows of some of our neighborhood’s tiny shops):


(Task: Tell us: What is your favorite holiday tradition?)


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24 Festive Tasks: Door 10 – Russian Mothers’ Day: Task 4 AND Door 15 – International Human Rights Day: Tasks 3 AND Door 16 – St. Lucia’s Day: Task 1




Famous first words — Harriet Vane upon being woken by the St. Lucia maidens on December 13:

“I say, Peter, what am I to do with all these ladies?  It’s one thing to be talking piffle about ancient girlfriends, but it’s really a bit much to bring them all here just so I can meet them, don’t you know.  After all, we have already had our honeymoon and one other holiday ruined by someone’s murder …”



(Door 10, Task 4: Forget-me-nots and handmade medals of honor are important Russian Mothers’ Day gifts.  Create a medal of honor (with or without the image of a forget-me-not) for a favorite book character or for a family member or friend of yours that you’d like to pay respect to.

Door 15, Task 3: Nominate a (fictional) character from one of the books you read this year for a Nobel Prize – regardless which one – or for a similarly important prize (e.g., the Fields Medal for mathematics) and write a brief laudation explaining your nomination.

Door 16, Task 1: Famous first words: Tradition has it that the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize are woken up by the St. Lucia maidens, as St. Lucia’s Day (Dec. 13) is just three days after the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony and many laureates stay long enough to be able to take in the St. Lucia festivities.

Imagine one of your favorite (fictional) characters had won that prize: How would you think (s)he would greet the maidens?  (If you’ve used the Nobel Peace Prize for Door 15, Task 3, this can be the same character, of course … or a different one, just as you wish.))

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 20 – Christmas: Task 4

I of course fondly remember my childhood Christmases — especially those that we not only spent with my grandparents but also with my my aunt (my mom)’s sister and her family, who for the better part of my life have been more my “immediate” family than my father and his second family (wife and my (half-)brother and -sisters).

However, both of the gifts that meant the most to me were not Christmas but birthday gifts: One from my earliest childhood friend, and the other from my “work family” during my clerkship year in New Jersey:

Within weeks of my birth, my mom had made friends with a lady who had also just given birth, and they started taking walks with us, tucked in in our prams, along a canal nearby their / our respective homes.  Thus, the other lady’s little son — Heiko — quite naturally became my first playmate, and as toddler friendships go, ours was a very close one; at least until my mom and I moved from Berlin to Bonn and, shortly thereafter, the other family moved to Tübingen (in southwestern Germany).  After that, though we never entirely lost touch, other friends claimed our chief attention, and it wasn’t until we were both adults that we met again — when Heiko, now a trained classical musician, joined Bonn’s Beethoven Orchestra.  For my first birthday after he had moved to Bonn, he gave me tickets for the Beethoven Orchestra and Bonn Opera’s concert performance of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, which at the time was my favorite piece of music theatre.  He hadn’t asked what to give me (neither me nor anybody else), and in fact I hadn’t even expected any gift from him — and he hit the nail straight on the head.  I was completely floored.  Of course the performance itself was a great one, but what I remember most about that birthday is his gift, and the time we spent together.

He left Bonn to join the Bamberg Symphonic Orchestra a few years later, so we’re back to less frequent contact now, but we’re hanging onto each other after a fashion — of course there are opportunities when the Bamberg Symphony come to Bonn, as they did for the annual Beethoven Festival a few years ago (one of the tickets pictured in that post is from their performance), and my mom and I have since also taken a trip down to Bamberg.

The other gift that I remember as truly special was also a complete surprise — in fact, I didn’t even expect anybody to take notice of my birthday on that occasion.  This was during the year I spent on the New Jersey coast, clerking (after having obtained my U.S. degree and before moving on to join the California bar).  My birthday was an ordinary working day, and since I wouldn’t have had anybody to spend it with, I hadn’t seen the point in taking time off work — imagine my surprise when I was told we’d be breaking early for lunch and was taken to one of the posher local restaurants, where the whole team came together for a birthday celebration … chocolate cake, candles, and all.  Again, I was completely floored; I wouldn’t even have thought any of them would have known or taken note of the date!

Later during my stay, they also took turns inviting me to their family Thanksgiving and Passover celebrations — which, of course, equally meant a lot.  (For Christmas, my mom came to visit me and we took trips exploring the state and visiting New York City.)  It’s the unexpected birthday dinner, however, that I remember most.

Left: Blowing out my birthday cake candles;
Right: (almost) the entire team, on the occasion of another party

(Task: What was the best Christmas / holiday present you ever received – the one that meant the most to you or gave you the greatest joy?  (This can be anything; objects / material gifts as well as something someone did for you, or anything else – whatever made that particular holiday especially memorable.))

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 17 – Winter Solstice: Task 4 (Soyal)

The Complete Grimm's Fairy Tales - Wilhelm Grimm, Jacob Grimm, Brothers Grimm, Joseph Campbell, Josef Scharl, Margaret Raine Hunt, Padraic Colum, James Stern The Complete Fairy Tales - Hans Christian Andersen Sämtliche Märchen - Wilhelm Hauff Aesop's Fables - Laura Gibbs, Aesop

My mom told or read me a good night fairy tale or fable almost every night when I was little — mostly from the Brothers Grimm’s collection, but also those by Hans-Christian Andersen and Wilhelm Hauff.  I generally preferred the Grimm tales over Andersen’s, chiefly because they could be relied upon to have a happy ending (which is also why witches and evil giants didn’t scare me one bit there — I knew their ultimate purpose in the narrative was to be vanquished by the hero(ine); whereas in Andersen’s tales that wasn’t a given, and if the ending was sad, it was very sad indeed).  The stories I liked best, though, were those by Wilhelm Hauff: many of them were set in oriental or otherwise exotic settings in the undifferentiated “past” and were mischievously funny — and those that had sad or serious aspects reached me much more forcefully than Andersen’s.

As I said in another post, fairy tales and fables also made for the first audiobooks I owned, in the form of vinyl records that I learned to play way before I had reached elementary school and “reading” age.

(Task (Zuñi & Hopi / Native American): While systems of written symbols and communication already existed with the Pre-Columbian Native American cultures, to many tribes even today (including the Zuñi and Hopi) the oral tradition is still important.  Have you ever had stories told to you (e.g., as children’s bedtime stories, or at night during a camping vacation)?  Or if you haven’t, try to imagine a “storytelling” situation you’d like to experience?

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24 Festive Tasks: Door 16 – St. Lucia’s Day: Task 3

Kokopelli: Casanova of the Cliff Dwellers: The Hunchbacked Flute Player - John V. Young


By far my favorite troll-like being is Kokopelli, the hump-backed flute-playing trickster god of the Hopi and the Anasazi.  Like many of his ilk, he is a bringer and protector of fertilty, a bringer of spring rains (and chaser-away of winter), as well as a god of music.  He is mischievous, but not truly evil — and who wants their supernatural creatures tame and docile all the time anyway?!

Another favorite, this one truly of the tug-at-heartstrings kind, is Dobby, the much-abused but finally liberated house elf from the Harry Potter books.  I mean, seriously, how could anyone not love him?

Other favorite supernatural beings (not troll-like):

* Witches

* Elves and fairies (of all incarnations) (Yes, I know, technically Dobby is an elf, too, but he looks much more like a troll or a gnome to me.)

* and of course, dragons!


(Task: Trolls, gnomes, dwarves and similar beings (some evil, some less so, almost all of them mischievous) are a staple of Scandinavian mythology and folklore, as well as other folklores and mythologies around the world and, of course, fantasy and speculative fiction.  Who is your favorite such creature and why? (No matter whether mythological, fictional or from whatever other source.))

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