2017 Reading Challenge

2017 Popsugar Ultimate Reading Challenge

Here's the convoluted, ridiculous, crazy Popsugar Reading Challenge for 2017. Titles are subject to change.  Also here is a great list of suggested books to help motivate anyone interested in joining the fun. :) 

And a disclaimer---I have shifted books around in several categories over the guilt (oh, the guilt!) over not quite getting my goal.

Oh well! 

So far: 24/40.  I'm slowly but surely making my way through this list. My goal is to read at least 5o books in 2017, and with only a few weeks left, it's almost definitely a no-go. However, I do want to share what I've read. 

#1 (September 2017)

√1. A book recommended by a librarian Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (American-YA)
It took me forever to finally read this YA book that several secondary librarians have recommended---and it was worth the wait. Maybe this is my favorite book of 2017? We'll see. 
“Holding Eleanor's hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive.”
#2 (January 2017)

√2. A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long: Three Trapped Tigers by G. Cabrera Infante (Cuban)
"I laughed. (In English, that is. Ha-ha instead of ja-ja)" (404).

3. A book of letters

4. An audiobook

√5. A book by a person of color: Black White and Jewish: Autobiography of a Shifting Self by Rebecca Walker (American) 
July 2017---in a beautiful flowerbed in MS, 
the author's birthplace
I wanted to like this more. It's a difficult topic---being raised by divorced parents of two completely different backgrounds, never really feeling at home at any place, and the ways she lashes out at her parents to get her attention (which are self-destructive---but never get the effect she's trying to achieve). I wanted less back story and more on how she is dealing with her identity. She never really gets into it until the last 10% or so of the book. Too bad. There are several other books on this list by POC, and I highly recommend many of the others. This one just didn't live up to my expectations. 
"I am not a bastard, the product of a rape, the child of some white devil. I am a Movement Child."

6. A book with one of the four seasons in the title Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

7. A book that is a story within a story Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman

 √8. A book with multiple authors: Nanny Returns by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus (American)
Sometimes a book you can read in two nights is a guilty pleasure. I liked the first book (Nanny Diaries) and liked the sequel. Not great literature, but a good, quick read. 
#8: December 2017
9. An espionage thriller Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter H√łeg

10. A book with a cat on the cover Half Broke Horses  by Jeannette Walls

#11: February 2017

√11. A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: 
The Bridegroom by Ha Jin (Xuefei Jin) (Chinese)
Chinese-American writer tells stories of modern-day China that include revenge, blackmail, and punishment from the government. I found it difficult to read---not because the style wasn't good; in fact, it was very well-written. I just couldn't deal with story after story of people getting punished by their families, their work, their government. Maybe I'm just too sensitive. 
(The slippers have "little lion" embroidered on them. They were a gift to my husband from his father who spent time in Taiwan when he was a baby).

#12: September 2017
√12. A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read: a "beach read" (or "chick lit")---The Island by Elin Hilderbrand (American) 
Rich white women? Check. First world problems? Check. Check. Silly, WASP-y names? Check. Check. Check. 
However, this was anything but another cliched summer read (even though it is, technically, autumn) and I am happy I opened my mind and read it (and in only a few days). The characters and likable and 3 dimensional, and even though it won't win any great literary awards, it was perfect for a quick and entertaining read. The happy ending was predictable, but sometimes escapism is what you need. 
“Perfect happiness existed, but perhaps only in small increments.” 

#13 (Dec/Jan 2017)
√ 13 . A book by or about a person who has a disability ("locked-in syndrome"):  Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby (French)
Highly recommended (and very short). 

"My weekly bath plunges me simultaneously into distress and happiness. The delectable moment when I sink into the tub is quickly followed by nostalgia for the protracted immersions that were the joy of my previous life. Armed with a cup of tea or Scotch, a good book or a pile of newspapers, I would soak for hours, maneuvering the tap with my toes. Rarely do I feel my condition so cruelly as when I am recalling such pleasures."

√14. A book involving travel  Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigerian) 
#14: August-December 2017
I loved this one so much,
I took my sweet time reading it. And re-reading it. 
I'm not going to lie; I didn't want this book to end.
I read it slowly and deliberately, sometimes re-reading chapters. It's that engrossing and lyrically beautiful.

Ifemulu and Obinze are Nigerian high school sweethearts who struggle with adulthood, race, class, and identity. Ifemulu immigrates America, where she attends college and starts a blog called "Raceteenth;  or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black." Seriously. And it's brilliant.
Obinze becomes an undocumented worker in England and after a split from Ifemulu, settles for a loveless marriage.

How their lives intersect again (and not until the very end) is worth the wait.

Both characters are so alive, so likable (many faults and all), so REAL. I'm not African or African American or an immigrant, but I related to so much in this coming of age story. It's beautiful. And it's definitely my #1 book of 2017, hands down. Go read it!
“Dear Non-American Black, when you make the choice to come to America, you become black. Stop arguing. Stop saying I'm Jamaican or I'm Ghanaian. America doesn't care.”

#15 (April 2017)
√ 15. A book with a subtitle IV: A Decade of Cultural People and Dangerous Ideas by Chuck Klosterman (American)
Not quite as satisfying as another of his non fiction collections of essay, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, there is still enough about everyone from Brittany Spears to Dee Dee Ramone, from Morrissey's Mexican-American fans to Robert Plant. I admit, I read this mostly for "my" cultural references---meaning I skimmed over the sports stories. 
Some of the other articles of most nebulous matters---connections between Johnny Carson and a dead musician from the group Ratt, an article about the Olympics that bored me---kept me from thinking this is something I want to keep on my shelf. Plus there's that whole downsizing thing. It's dated (early to mid 2000s, mostly) and at 416 pages, it got quite repetitive. Get it at a used book store or thrift store (like I did) or check it out from a library. 
". . . males are better at hating things that can't hate them back (e.g., lawnmowers, cats, the Denver Broncos, et cetera). They don't see the big picture."---from the essay "Nemesis."

16. A book that's published in 2017
17. A book involving a mythical creature

#18: March/April 2017
√18 . A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller (Zimbabwean)
I read this several years back on a whim (okay, the picture on the cover and my love of dysfunctional memoir got me). I gave my parents a copy and they loved it. We also loved the sequel. 
Fast forward to this year. I was so psyched when, in the spring, I taught a reading class and chose this book to read with high schoolers. 
Alexandra (called Bobo by her family) is a white girl raised on her family's farm in Rhodesia during a tumultous time. There are dead babies, spitting cobras, packs of dogs, and the danger of war, death, raids, and the government taking over their farms. There is always the undercurrent of race and class, and Fuller writes with grace and humor that will makes you cry one minute, laugh the next. I think I've read this four times now, and I will probably read it at least once or twice more. Her family stays with you long, long after you are finished reading. 
“How you see a country depends on whether you are driving through it, or live in it. How you see a country depends on whether or not you can leave it, if you have to.”

19. A book about food 

√20. A book with career advice: Lives on the Boundary: A Moving Account of the Struggles and Achievement of America's Educationally Underprepared by Mike Rose (American)
Part memoir of a lower class young man from a working class family who was stuck in the "wrong track" at school until a teacher checked out his folder, figured out he should be in the college track, and gave him the education he needed; part history of education in poor and underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods; and part story of how Rose dedicated his life to helping other poor, working class students reach their potentials. I loved this work of non-fiction. 
Rose doesn't preach or even overtly give advice, but his book shows how working with the most marginalized of students can be a success story. 
". . . Achievement against odds can be fostered or further curtailed by public policy, by educational practice, and by the spirit of the times" (252).  

21. A book from a nonhuman perspective

#22: May 2017
√ 22. A steampunk novel Cinder by Marissa Meyer (American)
 More cyberpunk than steampunk, a cyborg mechanic named Cinder meets her prince in post WW IV "New Beijing." Smartly written with great dialogue/humor, and something both adults and young adults would enjoy for a quick read. This is part of a series and I want to finish it (but not until I'm done with some of the other books on this list!) 
“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.”

√23. A book with a red spine Push by Sapphire (American)

#23: June 2017
Read in one afternoon, a story of an incest and abuse survivor whose life is changed by a teacher is in turns depressing and inspiring. Lots of references to one of my favorite books, The Color Purple. Quick read---not really a feel-good book, but one that makes you root for a young adult who is struggling to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, welfare abuse, and sexual abuse.
“Listen baby, Muver love you. Muver not dumb. Listen baby: ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.

Thas the alphabet. Twenty- six letters in all. Them letters make up words. Them words everything.” 

#24: July 2017---with a map of Kenya
where this memoir and Paula McLain's
Circling the Sun took place

24. A book set in the wilderness: Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen (Danish)
Is Africa the wilderness? Of course it is. Why not. 
Karen Blixen (Dinesen's real name) was a character in the historical fiction Circling the Sun. Both women were vying for the affection of the same man, Denys Finch-Hatton, who died early in a plane crash. without committing to either. 
"Up in this air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be."

25. A book you loved as a child The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

√ 26. A book by an author from a country you've never visited (Nigerian): 
Blackass by A. Igoni Barrett
#26  (Feb. 2017)
“No one asks to be born, to be black or white or any color in between and yet the identity a person is born into becomes the hardest to explain to the world.” 
#29 September 2017

√29. A book with a title that's a character's name What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (Australian) 
I wanted to like this more. . . I loved Big Little Lies, but this one did not quite grab me like that one did. A mystery about a woman stricken with amnesia. . . unlike her other work I read this year, I saw the ending before I got there and it disappointed me. 
“Early love is exciting and exhilarating. It's light and bubbly. Anyone can love like that. But after three children, after a separation and a near-divorce, after you've hurt each other and forgiven each other, bored each other and surprised each other, after you've seen the worst and the best-- well, that sort of love is ineffable. It deserves its own word.” 

√28. A novel set during wartime All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (American) 
Lyrical, beautiful, haunting, and highly recommended. Two stories in one about life during WWII. 
“Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.” 
#28 June 2017
#29  May/June 2017

√29. A book with an unreliable narrator All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren (edited version by Noel Polk) (American)
Southern politics; need I say more? It's also edited by my favorite graduate school prof, the late, great Noel Polk. 
“The end of man is knowledge, but there is one thing he can't know. He can't know whether knowledge will save him or kill him. He will be killed, all right, but he can't know whether he is killed because of the knowledge which he has got or because of the knowledge which he hasn't got and which if he had it, would save him.” 

30. A book with pictures Hollow Children by Ransom Riggs

√31. A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you 
Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (Japanese)
I've had this book for about 10 years (seriously) and finally read it. . .and was greatly disappointed. It's about love and loss, unexplained and unprevented suicides, and unrequited love. In other words, some of the same themes as his other books but a more straight-forward narrative and it just didn't work for me. 
A great graphic for Murakami's work that's spot-on---I've read six of his books now, and I think I can make Bingo at least 3 ways so far. . . 
#31: March 2017
"What if there were a deus ex machina in real life? Everything would be so easy! If you felt stuck or trapped, some god would swing down from up there and solve all your problems. What could be easier than that?" (190)
#32: June 2017

32. A book about an interesting woman Circling the Sun by Paula McLain (American)
The historical fiction of Beryl Markham, a woman who broke barriers in horse training and aviation in British colonial Kenya. I wanted to feel empathy for her like I did for Hadley Hemingway in McLain's The Paris Wife, but alas, the book just didn't measure up. 
However, I am still obsessed with stories of British settlers in Africa (Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight is still one of my favs). I think I'm going to reread Out of Africa now. 
“We’re all of us afraid of many things, but if you make yourself smaller or let your fear confine you, then you really aren’t your own person at all—are you? The real question is whether or not you will risk what it takes to be happy.”
#33: February 2017

√33. A book set in two different time periods: South of the Border, West of the Sun  (Japanese) by Haruki Murakami (Japanese)
Another book I wanted to love more. I do still adore Murakami, but I think I chose the least likable of his oeuvre to read this year. 

“For a while" is a phrase whose length can't be measured. At least by the person who's waiting.” 

34. A book with a month or day of the week in the title
35. A book set in a hotel
36. A book written by someone you admire I am Malala

#40: January 2017
√37. A book that's becoming a movie in 2017   Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Australian)
Okay, this book was actually a mini-series on HBO, but I'm glad I read it BEFORE I watched it. And supposedly there will be a second season (although there isn't a second book---very interesting. . . )
“Every day I think, ‘Gosh, you look a bit tired today,’ and it’s just recently occurred to me that it’s not that I’m tired, it’s that this is the way I look now.” 

38. A book set around a holiday other than Christmas

√39. The first book in a series you haven't read before  Rabbit, Run by John Updike (American)
#39: April 2017
Bought this tetralogy (fancy word, I know) several years ago, thinking I'd eventually get around to reading it. I'm 99% sure my father-in-law had at least the first couple of this series on his bookshelf. I finished it in a day, and it described for me the hopeless feeling in your early 20s of being an adult, taking on adult responsibilities, but still not feeling like a "real" adult. Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom is not always a likable character, but Updike, for me, quite perfectly presents the dilemma of being an adult when you don't necessarily feel like one, and what it's like to be stuck in a life you didn't want. I'll be reading the other 3 in the series at some time---it ends on a heavy note, so I need a little time to prepare myself for Rabbit's follies again. 
"The fullness ends when we give Nature her ransom, when we make children for her. Then she is through with us, and we become, first inside, and then outside, junk. Flower stalks." 

#40: July/August 2017
√ 40. A book you bought on a trip (to Spain---purchased in the New Orleans/Louis Armstrong airport): The Girls by Emma Cline (American) 
"Poor girls. The world fattens them on the promise of live. How badly they need it, and how little most of them will ever get. The treacled pop songs, the dresses described in the catalogs with words like 'sunset' and 'Paris.' Then the dreams are taken away with such violent force; the hand wrenching the buttons of the jeans, nobody looking at the man shouting at his girlfriend on the bus.” 

This is a first person telling of a teenage girl's involvement in a Manson-family like cult. I'm not ashamed to admit that I was a little obsessed with Helter Skelter as a teen, so the topic and the fluid, image-filed writing style really appealed to me. I liked it but didn't love it---but still think there is an audience who will appreciate it. 

A book recommended by an author you love
A bestseller from 2016
A book with a family member term in the title  Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
A book that takes place over a character's life span
A book about an immigrant or refugee
A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of
A book with an eccentric character
A book that's more than 800 pages
A book you got from a used book sale

A book that's been mentioned in another book

A book about a difficult topic 

A book based on mythology

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