I posted a few weeks ago about the 2017 Reading Challenge from modernmrsdarcy.com and invited you all to join me in the challenge. I thought since we are about a third of the way through the year, that I would update you on my progress and give you my book reviews so far. I’ll update this page as I continue reading. Remember, your comments are always appreciated. I would love to hear about your 2017 Reading Challenge books. I’ve updated the ones I plan on reading and I’ve included my reviews on the books I’ve finished (those are the ones with the check marks).
Reading for Fun List
Choose a book just because you like the cover. I chose a book called H2O. The cover is simple but kind of creepy and it seems like the book will be right up my alley.
✔️Choose a book with a reputation for being unable to be put down.
I just finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I love the magical realism element of this one. You’re never certain what’s real and what isn’t. Gaiman weaves an incredibly intricate story that is absolutely not about what you think it is about. The end is shocking, but not in the way you would expect. This is a book about the difference between good and evil, and how sometimes the line between the two is very hard to find. The premise of the novel is enlightening and it says a lot about our culture (and not all good things, either). This novel forces you to ask yourself what atrocities are you willing to turn your back on and ignore for the sake of your own selfishness and well-being?
Choose a book set somewhere that you’ve never been but always wanted to go. The Birth of Venus is set it Italy, which is one of the places I’ve always wanted to go. I’m not 100% sold on this one yet, but for now it’s the only option I’ve got for this category.
✔️Re-read a book you loved.
I chose to re-read Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’m considering teaching this novel in my AP Lit class next year and I thought it would be a good idea to brush up on it. I love the subtle change in Dorian from the beginning of the novel to the end. He is the epitome of the “frog in a pot of boiling water.” He is slowly corrupted, first by Lord Henry and then by his experiences in the world until he can no longer recognize the difference between good and evil. This book was used as evidence against Wilde in his trial because of all the horrible things Dorian does that it alludes to. For our day and age, it’s barely worthy of a PG rating, but for Oscar Wilde’s time it was quite scandalous. I love the degradation of Dorian’s character and the warning the novel poses to those who want to do what they want without any consequences.
✔️Read a memoir.
This book was difficult to read for a couple of reasons. First of all, the way it’s written is incredibly formal. Solomon Northup had to be extra careful to sound as educated as possible, because he was a black man living in a time when people believed black people were lesser, and they looked for reasons to distrust black men. Solomon Northup needed people to understand what happened to him, and he needed people to believe him. Any kind of colloquial language could have ruined that. Of course it was also difficult to read because of what he went through. This story of his life is so terrible and uplifting all at once. I love how positive his attitude was throughout. He never gave up hope. He was consistently looking for a way out, and he always trusted God to pull him through.
Choose a book about books or reading. I’m thinking about reading Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s not exactly about reading but it is about books and the writing of books and I’m interested to see his take on the subject.
✔️ Choose a book in a genre you usually avoid.
For this category, I chose a book called Dead Wake by Erik Larson. I really hate reading nonfiction and this is a nonfiction book. And I’ve got to say, for someone who hates nonfiction I was totally enthralled by this story. I can’t even imagine the amount of time and research that went into it. It reads like fiction and the storyline was intense. The only downside was that there weren’t a lot of characters to get invested in, but I think that’s just because of the genre. This book is the story of the sinking of the Lusitania before the US entered World War I. It was an unprecedented event because the Lusitania was basically a cruise liner. The Germans sank it knowing it was full of civilians. The story is captivating and I highly recommend it.
Choose a book you don’t want to admit you’re dying to read. I’m ashamed to admit I want to read Outlander because I’m afraid it’ll be more erotica than actual storyline, but it gets such great reviews I’ll give it a shot. Although, I would like it to be noted on the front end that I am skeptical.
✔️Choose a book in the back list of a new favorite author.
I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseni, and it was marvelous. I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns and this novel has everything that one did, but it gives it to you through a male perspective instead of a female one. Hosseini’s writing is heartbreaking, but in all the best ways. I love how this book forces me to try to grasp a perspective and lifestyle so far outside of my own.
✔️ Read a book recommended by someone with great taste.
One of my co-workers recommended the book Station Eleven to me after we came back to school from Christmas break. She and I don’t have the same taste when it comes to what we read (she loves nonfiction), but she does have great taste in literature. So, when she recommended Station Eleven I ordered it immediately and started reading it as soon as I got it. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a dystopian future novel that is slightly different from most novels in this genre currently. It’s very realistic and chilling and I highly recommend it.
✔️ Read a book you were excited to buy but haven’t read yet.
The Fate of the Tearling is the third and final book in the Queen of the Tearling trilogy. I pre-ordered this one immediately after I finished book 2: The Invasion of the Tearling. It sat on my bookshelf for several weeks after I finally got it because I was so excited to read it and I wanted to make sure I could spend time on it and really enjoy it. I certainly was not disappointed. Kelsea Glynn is such a perfect heroine. She’s a badass but she’s not perfect and her flaws make her so easy to relate to. Think if Hermione Granger, Katniss Everdeen, and Danaerys Targaryen all melded into one person and you’ve got Kelsea Glynn. This one had an ending that still has me reeling. I legitimately think this is the best book series I’ve read since Harry Potter; and if you know me, you know that’s saying something.
✔️Choose a book over a topic that you already love.
I chose to read C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I’m ashamed that it took me 27 years to read it. This is now one of my favorite books of all time. I love how he manages to make a solid and logical case for faith in Christ. One huge problem in defending faith is the fact that those who don’t believe tend to not believe what the bible says as true. That makes it hard to make a case for Christ using only the bible as a source. I like how C.S. Lewis uses logic and reasoning to make his case. He recognizes that some people need that before they will accept the bible as truth. He makes a case for that in and of itself and he does it brilliantly. I would recommend it to Christians and non-Christians alike. In fact, I would love to get an atheist’s perspective on it.
Reading for Growth List
Newbery Award winner or Honor book I have no clue about this one yet. I don’t usually read children’s books that aren’t Harry Potter, so I’m not even sure where to start. I’m working on it.
A book in translation. I’m between Signs Preceding the End of the World and The Shadow of the Wind.
✔️A book that’s more than 600 pages.
I loved The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, so I thought The Woman in White would be a good one as well. I was right. I liked this one better than The Moonstone. It’s long, so there are some places where the pace slows down, but the action speeds up enough in several places so you aren’t ever bored. This is a classic “who-dun-it” story where you’re trying to figure out who did it and what exactly the “it” is that they did. Every time I thought I had it figured out something else would pop up and I would have to re-think my theory. Wilkie Collins has mastered the modern “detective style” novel. If you like the classics (and even if you don’t, really) then you will love this one.
✔️A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection.
I have never been a huge fan of poetry, so this on was a stretch for me. A lot of people have been talking about this book, Milk and Honey, so I decided to give it a try. I devoured it in one sitting, partially because I enjoyed it and partially because it was such an easy read. The poems are very raw and real and I loved the honesty of the author. I will add a disclaimer that there are a lot of sexual themes throughout, so it isn’t for the young’uns. Also (and this is coming from the English teacher in me) I kept getting distracted and annoyed by the fact that the word “cause” was used in place of “because” throughout the whole book. I know there was a reason – the author is trying to be authentic and real and she does a lot of spoken word poetry so she’s writing like she speaks. I get it. It just annoyed me.
✔️An immigrant story.
I devoured this book in just a couple of days. I can’t recommend it enough. It follows the story of a young Korean girl who gets herself in trouble when a man she’s in love with gets her pregnant but won’t make an honest woman of her. A Japanese missionary comes and stays at her family’s boarding house and decides that he likes her family enough to save them shame and marries her. They move to Japan and the rest of the story follows their family as it grows. This is a touching and heartbreaking story. The prejudices that are covered are reflected across all societies, races, and time periods. It’s timely and honest and just a beautiful story.
A book published before you were born. Pilgrim’s Progress. This is another one of those that I feel like I should’ve read before now.
3 books by the same author. I think I’m gonna go with Jane Austen for this one. I still haven’t read Emma, Persuasion, or Sense and Sensibility. Also, I happen to have a copy of each of these books in my classroom already, so I won’t have to borrow or buy them.
A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author. Six of Crows. My little sister reads as much as I do and she recommended this one. We usually like the same books so I’m excited to read it.
A book with an unreliable narrator or an ambiguous ending. Atonement. I’ll admit, I’m worried about this one. I tried to read it a long time ago and I couldn’t get through it. But I like to think I’m older and wiser now, so maybe I’ll enjoy it more.
✔️A book nominated for an award in 2017.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction literature this year. Whitehead tells the story of Cora, a vivacious and strong-willed slave girl who decides to take her life into her own hands and runs away on the Underground Railroad. Only in this rendition of American history, the Underground Railroad isn’t just a metaphor – it’s an actual subway-like system of rails and cars. Cora’s journey is fraught with action, danger, and touching moments. This book won the Pulitzer for a reason. You should read it.
✔️ A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner.
I chose The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. We are thinking about teaching this novel next year in AP Lit instead of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness – which I’m totally on board with because I absolutely hate Heart of Darkness. It’s the worst. The Grapes of Wrath is somehow simultaneously heart-wrenching and hopeful. The story will break your heart, especially when you realize that the kinds of things mentioned in the book actually happened. Here. In America. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Comment and let me know if you have any ideas for any of these book categories. I’m not opposed to changing my mind on a few. I would love to hear what’s on your 2017 book list.