If you’re interested in joining in for the 2017 Reading Challenge, check out the two different options Anne is offering — Reading for Fun as well as a Reading for Challenge! I’ve started the Reading for Challenge list, and it’s already gotten me diving into an essay collection and a Pulitzer prize winner. Let me know if you’re joining the 2017 challenge!
Here are the books I read for the 2016 challenge. I found some real winners among them! I’d love to hear about your picks for these categories as well.
A Book Published This Year:
To the Bright Edge of the World – by Eowyn Ivey
Eowyn Ivey’s book The Snow Child is one of my favorites of all time, so I knew I had to read her newest book as well. It’s set in Alaska, in the era of white explorers discovering the Alaskan interior and meeting with native tribes. The story is told in a combination of letters, diary entries, and photos — I loved the way that this format allowed the reader to understand the thoughts and feelings of so many different characters. The book didn’t quite live up to my expectations from The Snow Child, but was still quite compelling and enjoyable.
A Book You Can Finish in a Day:
Nimona – by Noelle Stevenson
I read this graphic novel in one sitting, and absolutely loved it. It’s snarky and irreverent in its humor while still providing a compelling adventure.
A Book You’ve Been Meaning to Read:
Binti – by Nnedi Okorafor
I’ve been meaning to try out a book by Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor for a while. She writes African-based science fiction, and I was utterly captivated by Binti. It’s an intriguing tale of a girl who leaves not only her village, but also her planet, for the first time in order to attend university.
A Book Recommended by Your Local Librarian:
Hillbilly Elegy – by J.D. Vance
This book is an unusual combination of memoir and sociological commentary on Appalachian culture. As a memoir, I found it to be compelling and thoughtful. Having grown up in Appalachia myself, I found much of the author’s experience familiar and understandable. Aspects of the sociological commentary sections of this book seemed a bit universalized — I prefer reading about people’s own experiences rather than reading a single experience extrapolated to explain an entire culture. Yet I still found it to be a moving and worthwhile read, which left me contemplating my own culture and roots in a new way.
A Book You Should Have Read in School:
Beezus and Ramona – by Beverly Cleary
I can’t believe I made it all the way through childhood without having read Beverly Cleary. I’ve read the Ramona books and the Henry Huggins books aloud to my son this year, and we’ve both fallen in love with the characters.
A Book Chosen for You by Your Spouse:
Starship Troopers – by Robert Heinlein
My husband and I tend to stretch each other in our reading recommendations for one another. When he recommended Starship Troopers to me, I knew it wasn’t one that I would have picked out on my own. Yet I found it intriguing and it turned out to be an enjoyable read.
A Book Published Before You Were Born:
Emily of New Moon – by L.M. Montgomery
I grew up on the Anne of Green Gables books, but hadn’t read the Emily of New Moon trilogy until this year. I’ve heard that Emily is a more autobiographical character than Anne, and I particularly enjoyed the sections of the book that spoke to her growing love of writing, and the way that the act of writing informed her way of living. These books made me want to spend more time with my own pen and paper.
A Book That Was Banned At Some Point:
Fatherland – by Nina Bunjevac
This memoir, told in the format of a graphic novel, tells the story of the author’s parents. Nina’s mother flees a difficult marriage and takes her children from Canada back to her own homeland of Yugoslavia; Nina’s father, a violent Serbian nationalist, is part of a terrorist group that plans to bomb homes of Tito supporters. The illustrations are excellent, the storytelling is gripping, and the historical setting is one that was completely new to me.
A Book That You Previously Abandoned:
The War That Ended Peace – by Margaret MacMillan
My favorite period of history to study is 1870-1945, the fin-de-siècle and the two world wars. This book sits firmly in that area, covering the late 1800s through the start of World War I in fascinating detail. Margaret MacMillan is a superb researcher — I thoroughly enjoyed her book Paris 1919: Six Months that Changed the World as well — and this book shows off her talents well. It’s not a short book — I think that’s why I abandoned it last time I started it — but in the end, it’s well worth the effort.
A Book You Own But Have Never Read:
Uncle Tungsten – by Oliver Sacks
I don’t know of anyone who writes quite like Oliver Sacks. He’s a neurologist, yet writes about people with an empathy and understanding that I don’t usually associate with scientists. His memoirs are clear, pithy, and memorable. This one had been sitting on my shelf for a while, before I decided to pick it up. It focuses on Oliver Sacks’ childhood — growing up in London during WWII, surrounded by brilliant and interesting aunts and uncles who introduce him to different realms of science, and experimenting on his own with chemical compounds that are no longer available to 11-year-old boys for home chemistry sets. This book ties in well with Oliver Sacks’ more recent memoir, On the Move, which focuses more on his adult life.
A Book That Intimidates You:
The Three-Body Problem – by Cixin Liu
I found this book a bit intimidating, both because of its size and the amount of theoretical physics involved in the plot. But I was intrigued, and had never read science fiction by a Chinese author before, so decided I had to dig in. I’ve now read the whole trilogy, and found the books to be fascinating — particularly the cultural aspects that are so clearly non-western. Science fiction is so much about how we imagine the future might be, and it seems that our imaginings of the future often rely heavily on our cultural expectations and context. The second book was my favorite — my husband and I ended up reading the library’s copy at the same time and vied with each other for the chance to read ahead!
A Book You’ve Already Read At Least Once:
The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe – by C.S. Lewis
I’ve read this book far more than twice. It was one of my absolute favorite books as a child, and it was a delight to read it aloud to my son for the first time this year.