February 2019 Quick Lit

I’ve read 3 more nonfiction books since last month’s quick lit update, and I’m about halfway through another one. My first 5-star read of the year was not nonfiction, but I’ll mention it at the end of the post anyway. I so rarely give anything 5 stars on Goodreads that I have to document the occasion on my blog.

Dreadnought cover

Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie is a classic history of the naval arms race between Britain and Germany during the years leading up to World War I. For years, my eyes would catch on the spine of this book whenever I looked for my next read on our shelves, but I was never sure I was up for 1000 pages of naval history. Massie doesn’t actually spend 1000 pages on naval history though, and his lively mini-biographies of key figures and anecdotes shared from their correspondence made this a relatively quick read for me.

The Circle of Seasons by Kimberlee Conway Ireton is a short book recommended in Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson. It’s an introduction to liturgical time or the church calendar. As a Christian who has never been part of a church that focuses on
a liturgical tradition, I enjoyed this brief guide.

Desiring the Kingdom by James K. A. Smith was a more challenging and denser read than I expected. When I was in the middle of it, I found out that he’s written a newer book, You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit, that revisits what he wrote in this book and the two other books in the Cultural Liturgies trilogy. It’s possible that book would be a better fit for me. I did enjoy this book though once I got into the academic writing about liturgical worship and pedagogy.

The Narnian by Alan Jacobs is the nonfiction I’m currently reading, and it’s a mix of a biography of C. S. Lewis with a literary analysis of imagination and enchantment in his works. I’m torn between rushing through it because it’s so interesting and wanting to slow down so I can savor the reading and the thinking that comes with it.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is the fiction I mentioned at the beginning of the post. It’s folklore and storytelling shared in a slightly magical, mysterious atmosphere. I immediately went back and reread sections I’d highlighted once I finished the book, and then I read some of those out loud to my husband. This is a new favorite and my first 5-star read of the year.

Nonfiction Quick Lit

Anne Bogel (Modern Mrs. Darcy) shares brief reading updates each month on her blog that she calls Quick Lit, and I’m joining the fun this month for the first time. We’re halfway through January with two full weeks finished, and I’ve managed to read three nonfiction books. I’ve read some fiction too, but I think I’ll use these kinds of blog posts to focus on nonfiction and the occasional outstanding fiction. With three books, I’ve found a new favorite, finished and rehomed a book that was on my shelf but ultimately not for me, and took advantage of a short waitlist at the library. I’ve also managed to write short reviews on all of them on Goodreads, and that’s another thing I’d like to continue this year.

I’m definitely the audience for Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson as a Christian woman who has loved books and stories in general as long as I can remember. I think the frequent mentions of Christianity probably wouldn’t work for a non-Christian. This is a memoir of a reading life along with inspiration and encouragement for other readers. The chapter topics are broken up in interesting ways as she shares books to broaden your world, shape your story, stir you to action, cultivate the imagination, foster community, open your eyes to wonder, deepen your soul, and impart hope. This was the perfect book to read at the beginning of the year as I think about my reading desires for the year ahead.

I admit the cover of The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson is what first caught my attention. How could I look away from those pretty overlapping feathers and the subtitle that looked like an old specimen tag? A combination of natural history, museum, heist, and niche hobbies/obsessions based on history sounded like the perfect mix to me. I was right for the first half of the book because it had all the old explorers and natural history angles I wanted. Then the book turned into a story about the author pursuing his obsession with the case, and that’s when I completely lost interest.

Maybe you have to be a Monty Python (or more specifically Eric Idle) super-fan to really enjoy Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by Eric Idle. The most interesting bits for me were about his childhood and schooling. The rockstar lifestyle anecdotes once he achieved success seemed like they were maybe supposed to be the highlight, but I didn’t care about that at all. I just don’t have much to say about this one.

My current nonfiction read is Dreadnought by Robert K. Massie, a book that’s been on our shelves for years. It focuses on the naval arms race between Britain and Germany and general tensions in Europe leading up to World War I, and in the last couple of years, I’ve developed a strong interest in military history from the first half of the 20th century. I blame it all on When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning.

2019 Reading Plans

My most obvious (and least important) reading goal is the numeric goal set at Goodreads. I set that at 120 again this year because 10 books a month is a minimum that encourages me to read daily but is not such a big number that I feel like I’m falling behind all year. I usually end up reading somewhere between 150 and 200 books a year, but the number hasn’t really mattered to me since my childhood days in the summer book club at my local library many years ago.

A number that matters to me a little more, especially in recent years, is the percentage of my overall reading that is nonfiction. A horrible graduate school experience sent me running from nonfiction for a few years, but after setting a goal (and achieving it) to read one nonfiction book every month in 2015, I’ve read more nonfiction each year. Last year, I read 46 nonfiction books, which was about a quarter of my reading, and it’s the nonfiction that seems more likely to stick with me and engage my mind well past the time it takes to read the book. For that reason, my major reading goal this year is to read 50 nonfiction books. In my mind, I’m thinking of it as one a week, but a goal of 50 gives me a little more wiggle room and just seems like a nice number for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2019 from Doing Dewey.

Instead of slotting my nonfiction around my fiction, I’m prioritizing the nonfiction and then fitting in fiction as I have the time. I think this will decrease the overall amount I read because reading nonfiction is usually a slower process for me. I’m perfectly fine with that possibility because I want to focus on each book and be more intentional with my reading choices even though I continue to be happy with being a mood reader for the most part.

A related goal is that I want to be more intentional about all my reading selections rather than simply going from one new shiny object to the next. I’ve written fiction and nonfiction priority lists for the first half of 2019, and I’ll revisit those at the end of June to see how I’ve progressed. This will have me reading more of the books on my shelves so that I can then decide if I’ll keep them or pass them along to someone else. I’m not making myself stick to just those lists, but they are a good reminder of the books I’ve saved in part because I assume I will really enjoy them and want to savor them.

My final goal for 2019 is not a numerical one. I simply want to include room for rereading in my reading life. I thought about saying I wanted to reread at least one book a month or coming up with a list of classics that I haven’t read since my teens, but I want more flexibility than that. If I think to myself at any point this year that I’d love to read a particular book again, then I want to actually do that instead of pushing the thought aside.

Here’s to a 2019 filled with daily reading and learning!

My 2018 Reading

From Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman on January 1 to Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend on December 31, I read 180 books in 2018. I was happy to see that about a quarter (46 books) of what I read this past year was nonfiction, and after a few years of comfortably doing that, I may try to increase that percentage in 2019.

My favorite nonfiction from 2018:

  • Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
    This reads more like a dramatic novel than a politically-focused presidential biography that is heavily tilted to an examination of James Garfield’s death.
  • Booked by Karen Swallow Prior
    I wanted to do nothing but absorb classic literature after reading this book-focused memoir.
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
    An investigation into the never-solved 1986 fire that incinerated much of the Los Angeles Central Library turns into a love letter to libraries.
  • Factfulness by Hans Rosling
    The subtitle “Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” sold me on this one.
  • I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell
    I started this one thinking that I probably wouldn’t love it, but I knew my first impression was wrong within a couple of pages.

In an unusual turn of events, two of my top fiction reads in 2018 were middle grade books, and if I went past the top five, I’d add a sequel to one of those books as well. I’ll insert a relevant (and much loved) quote here:

“It is usual to speak in a playfully apologetic tone about one’s adult enjoyment of what are called ‘children’s books’. I think the convention a silly one. No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally (and often far more) worth reading at the age of fifty–except, of course, books of information. The only imaginative works we ought to grow out of are those which it would have been better not to have read at all. A mature palate will probably not much care for crême de menthe: but it ought still to enjoy bread and butter and honey.”

C. S. Lewis, “On Stories”

My top fiction reads in 2018:

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    I finished this story with its themes of isolation and loneliness feeling much more uplifted than I would have expected from the synopsis.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller
    I avoided this one because of the hype and then couldn’t put it down once I started reading.
  • Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
    This is a gritty urban fantasy with a Native American heroine, and it is glorious!
  • Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
    An adorable bookish heroine is sent away to a hotel over Christmas break and solves a series of mysterious puzzles.
  • Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
    Morrigan Crow has been told she is cursed, but she begins to believe that isn’t the full story when she is whisked away to compete to be part of the Wundrous Society. The sequel to this was my final book of 2018 and was just as good!

Nonfiction November: 2018 So Far

Nonfiction November 2018

I seem to keep coming back to my blog whenever this time of year rolls around because I enjoy Nonfiction November so much. It’s a wide open reading challenge that fits in well with my own desire to read and share more nonfiction. This year’s hosts are Katie at Doing Dewey, Julie at Julz Reads, Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves, Katie at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and Rennie at What’s Nonfiction?. Each week, one of the hosts will provide a link-up post with questions. For this first week, the host is Katie at Sophisticated Dorkiness, and we’re looking back at the year so far.

As November starts, I’ve read 26 nonfiction books (20% of my total books read), and most of those have been ebooks I’ve borrowed from my library through Overdrive. At the beginning of the year, I had a loose goal to read at least a couple of nonfiction books each month, and I’m happy to see that I’ve done that. My reading overall dipped quite a bit this summer, but I’ve been back to more typical reading the last couple of months. I’d like to end the year with about 25% of my read books being nonfiction, so that’s probably my main goal for Nonfiction November.


Cover for I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell

I have to say I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death by Maggie O’Farrell has been my favorite nonfiction so far this year simply because it’s the only one I’ve already read more than once. I don’t normally listen to many audiobooks, but I happened to see this one available at my library right when it was released without a waiting list on Overdrive, so I grabbed it until I could get my hands on either an ebook or physical copy. I listened to all six hours over two days and then read the ebook in one sitting a few weeks later. Some of those stories still pop up in my mind in certain situations, and I go back to my notes to reread passages. I heard of Maggie O’Farrell because of her fiction, but I would definitely recommend this over This Must Be the Place, the only novel of hers I’ve read.

We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.

Rounding out my top three so far are Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard and The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Both of these books highlight my love of nonfiction that weaves several threads into one story. It’s always fun to see how the different parts will come together as the book progresses.

Most Recommended

The world cannot be understood without numbers, and it cannot be understood with numbers alone.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund is a great book for making you think about how you think about the world and why you think that way. I recommend it not because I think Hans Rosling had all the answers but because I think we’re all better when we think critically about how we take in and use the information thrown at us from every side.

People often call me an optimist, because I show them the enormous progress they didn’t know about. That makes me angry. I’m not an optimist. That makes me sound naive. I’m a very serious “possibilist”. That’s something I made up. It means someone who neither hopes without reason, nor fears without reason, someone who constantly resists the overdramatic worldview. As a possibilist, I see all this progress, and it fills me with conviction and hope that further progress is possible. This is not optimistic. It is having a clear and reasonable idea about how things are. It is having a worldview that is constructive and useful.

Personal Trends

My nonfiction reads this year have been from several topics of interest, but I guess one general trend has been numbers. I’ve read about personal finance, world economics, behavioral economics, and big data statistics though none of those reads have been favorites. The idea of those books seemed to interest me more than the actual content, but I have read and loved books of that type before and will continue to pick up any that sound interesting. I just might need a bit of a break from them right now.


I haven’t read nearly enough nature writing in recent months. I’m craving some memoirs that share personal observations about the natural world and big books about natural history. If it’s about plants and/or animals, then I want it!

Favorite 17 Reads from 2017

From Lab Girl by Hope Jahren on January 1 to Valiant Ambition by Nathaniel Philbrick on December 31, I read 162 books in 2017. I’ve tried to read more nonfiction in recent years, and I was happy to see that about a quarter (40 books) of what I read this past year was nonfiction. As I looked through my 2017 reads to pick out my favorites, I noticed that about half of them were nonfiction! I intended to go through my initial list of favorites to get a top ten list for the year, but when I saw that I had 17 books, I decided to keep them all for a top 17 in 2017. If I’d shortened the list to 10, I think I probably would have ended up with even a higher percentage of nonfiction.

In no particular order, here are my favorite nonfiction books that I read this year:

  • Blessed are the Misfits – Brant Hansen
    If you’re a Christian who has ever felt too introverted or too analytical or too skeptical for today’s church culture, do yourself a favor and read Brant Hansen’s books. I also recommend his podcast.
  • Hillbilly Elegy – J. D. Vance
    I wouldn’t read this as a way to understand Trump voters, and I’m glad I read this memoir that felt both familiar and foreign to me before I heard that political rationale.
  • Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
    This was my longest book of the year, and I could have read twice as many pages about Lincoln and his Cabinet. This is one I’ll definitely reread in future years.
  • H is for Hawk – Helen Macdonald
    I kept hearing this was a book about learning the art of falconry, and I had no interest in it. Then I saw some quotes from the book on social media, and I decided to give it a try. The falconry bits are beautifully shared, and the rest of it being grief memoir mixed with some bits of a T.H. White biography and thoughts about our relationship with nature somehow worked perfectly for me.
  • Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult – Bruce Handy
    This is a nostalgic tumble down the rabbit hole with classic children’s literature. It had my name all over it and lived up to the promise of the subtitle.
  • The Guns of August – Barbara W. Tuchman
    My interest in the world wars came out of nowhere the last few years, and I’m glad I finally read this book about the beginning of WWI. This is one that people always suggested to me when they found out I hadn’t read it.
  • West with the Night – Beryl Markham
    Read this for vivid descriptions of Africa in the early 1900s from a female aviator who was ahead of her time.
  • The Undoing Project – Michael Lewis
    My inner psychology nerd geeked out throughout this study of a friendship that produced research that changed the way we think about how we think.
  • The Vanishing American Adult – Ben Sasse
    I’ve seen this touted as a parenting guide or a way to explain what’s wrong with millennials, but for me, it was more of a reminder to think about why we do what we do and thoughts on how to live intentionally. I enjoyed the entire book, but his section on learning from books and choosing books to revisit throughout life made me think about how I can get more out of my reading.

My favorite fiction reads of 2017:

  • Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson – Lyndsay Faye
    I love Sherlock Holmes, and this book captures him perfectly as far as I’m concerned.
  • The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne
    I had no idea I’d enjoy this epic about an Irish gay man’s life so much when I started it.
  • Lure of Oblivion – Suzanne Wright
    I grabbed an advance copy of this before realizing it was the third book in a series. I read it anyway and enjoyed it so much that I then went back and read every book I could find by the author. They were all really good!
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
    I keep reading Taylor Jenkins Reid and never understanding what others love about her books, but this one won me over. I fell in love with Evelyn Hugo and her reflections on the old glamour of Hollywood.
  • Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel
    The author describes this as “traveling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America”, and that pushed me to finally read it. I loved the way multiple viewpoints were linked together in part through a comic.
  • Radiance – Grace Draven
    This is like someone plucked the perfect fantasy romance template from my brain. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!
  • Kulti – Mariana Zapata
    This is a romance about professional soccer players, which doesn’t really seem like something I’d like, but it grabbed me with the slow burn romance and grumpy,
    slightly mysterious hero.
  • Making Faces – Amy Harmon
    This romance is sweet and bittersweet with lots to say about appearances, sacrifice, mortality, and friendship.

I spent a good chunk of the year feeling like I wasn’t reading nearly enough books that really spoke to me, but I felt like things got better in the last quarter of the year. My numbers seem to support that feeling because about half of my favorites were read in the last two months of the year. I really need to work at making time for books that sound like ones I’ll love rather than holding off on them and saving them for some other day. Often, the more a book sounds like something I’ll love, the more likely I am to hold it back for years before reading it. It’s like I think I’m prolonging the enjoyment, but I end up irritated because the book doesn’t live up to my long-term anticipation or because I do love it and wish I’d read it sooner.

2017 Reading Goals

Each year, I like to reflect on what did and didn’t work for me the year before, and based on that analysis, I think about some guidelines I want to follow for the upcoming year. At the beginning of 2016, I shared four book-related goals to guide my reading for year. Let’s see how I did.

I set my Goodreads goal at 120 books and thought reducing the number that never really mattered to me anyway would make me focus more on quality over quantity. I wanted to read more of the books I keep saving for a rainy day rather than be distracted by the free books on my Kindle or the latest big thing. This goal was only partially successful because while I read 126 books (less than half what I read in 2015), I’ve managed to finish yet another year without getting to some of the books I still really want to read after years of having them on my shelves. My bad habit of waiting for the perfect time to read and enjoy highly-anticipated books continues to leave me with unread books.

Even though I reduced the overall number of books I wanted to read, I still wanted to read at least one nonfiction book every month, and with the help of Nonfiction November, I can check off that goal. I read 17 nonfiction books in 2016, and two of those (Trace by Lauret Savoy and When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning) were among my favorite books of the year. I’m glad I 100% achieved this goal and enjoyed doing it because my final two goals for 2016 were not successes. I wanted to write more reviews on the blog and thought I’d start by reviewing every book I rated 4 or 5 stars on Goodreads, but I had 22 books in that category and only managed 1 review on the blog. I also wanted to be more active on social media to go along with the increased blog activity (Ha!), and though I now participate in Litsy, Twitter, and Instagram a bit more often, it’s really not enough to call this an achieved goal.

So what will I change in 2017? Not much. I still want to read at least 120 books, read at least one nonfiction book each month, and interact more with other readers. Those basic goals haven’t changed over the past year, but I want to focus more on how I meet those goals. No matter how many books I read, I want to get through more of the books I already own and take the time to read the books I’ve been holding back for some mythical perfect reading time. I’ll also focus on reading more nonfiction that goes a bit deeper into the topics I enjoy. Although I haven’t had great luck writing reviews here on the blog, I will write at least a sentence or two on Goodreads for every book I read, and I’ll post some of those to the blog. I’ll continue to figure out how I want to use social media to talk about books, and I’ll post on Litsy, Twitter, and Instagram when I have something to share.

Looking Back at 2016

You may have noticed that I disappeared about halfway through November. There are lots of reasons for that, but the biggest one was my mom. She spent over twice as many days in the hospital in November than she had been in the hospital in all of her previous 67 years. It was a big shock for all of us, and getting two phone calls from my dad in which he said things like “if she makes it through the night” were the worst moments of the year for me. She is still dealing with lingering issues, but the outlook is definitely more positive now than it was a month ago.

A trip to California took up about half of December, and planning for the trip felt like it took up the other half of the month. It was good to see family we hadn’t seen for a while, but it was a little stressful, and I felt some guilt about not being with my side of the family so soon after Mom’s illness.

We’re now in a new year and in one of my favorite months of the year, so I want to briefly touch base on where I was at in 2016 before I share my plans for 2017. I left off while still participating in Nonfiction November, and I’m happy to say that I did read 4 nonfiction books during the month as I’d planned. As an aside, I’ve decided to discontinue participation in the winter book challenge that I’d been planning to do at that time.

The 4 nonfiction books I read in November were not the same ones I listed in my November challenges post. I read Victoria by Julia Baird for the New category, The Way to the Spring by Ben Ehrenreich for the Controversial category, Trace by Lauret Savoy for the Important category, and Good Prose by Tracy Kidder for the Fascinating Category. Those were all thanks to my local library system’s use of Overdrive as I traveled back and forth between my current town and my hometown multiple times. Trace was a total impulse choice based on the pretty cover and ended up being one of my favorite books of the year.

Even before the last two months of the year, I noticed that most of the books I was reading were perfectly fine and enjoyable but not standing out in my mind once I put them down. Perhaps because of that, I read about half as many books in 2016 as I did in 2015. My Goodreads goal was 120 books, and I went a bit past that by reading 126 books, but as I mentioned, few of the books stuck with me. Two of my top reads of the year were rereads, which is unusual for me, and I’ve starred both of those in the following list of my top 10 reads.

  • * Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen
  • When Books Went to War – Molly Guptill Manning (nonfiction)
  • The Sea of Tranquility – Katja Millay
  • * Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery
  • A Curious Beginning – Deanna Raybourn
  • The Obsession – Nora Roberts
  • Rooftoppers – Katherine Rundell
  • Trace – Lauret Savoy (nonfiction)
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

My next post will be a look at how well I did with my 2016 resolutions and what I’m planning for 2017.

Nonfiction November: Book Pairing

This week’s prompt for Nonfiction November comes from Sarah at Sarah’s Book Shelves.

Pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

I’ll start with one of my favorite books, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. The World State has create a stable global society by making citizens so happy and superficially fulfilled that they don’t care about personal freedom. Henry Ford has become such an important figure because of the popularization of assembly lines that people use Ford in phrases the way some people in our society use Lord, such as the year of our Ford. Interestingly, Henry Ford tried to create a colony called Fordlandia in Brazil just a few years before Huxley wrote his novel, and you can read about Ford’s attempts in Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin. As a bonus nonfiction pick, Aldous Huxley wrote a collection of essays under the title Brave New World Revisited about 25 years after writing Brave New World in which he took a look at how society had either moved away from or toward the society he imagined in his fiction.

My next pairing is another in which the same author wrote both works. If you only know John Steinbeck’s fiction, I recommend reading his nonfiction. East of Eden is a fictional story about the intertwining lives of the Trasks and the Hamiltons in Salinas Valley in California, and Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters is a collection of daily letters he wrote to a friend as he was writing the novel. Getting a glimpse into Steinbeck’s life and his writing process adds a lot to the experience of reading East of Eden.

Another favorite of mine is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I first read it years ago as a teenager, but I had no idea that part of it may have been based on the life of the author’s own father until I read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Alex Dumas, the father of Alexandre Dumas, was born in Haiti, the son of a marquis and a slave, and he was briefly sold into slavery by his own father before eventually being brought to France and enlisting in the army. This biography is a fascinating look at both the man and the country for which he fought.

images of book covers for Nonfiction November Book Pairings

I recently read The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, which is a collection of essays about society and government in the early 20th century before World War I, and it reminded me so much of Fall of Giants by Ken Follett. I guess any novel about the start of the 20th century would pair well with The Proud Tower, but Fall of Giants covers a lot of the same ground because it’s an epic story about five families from the United States of America, Germany, Russia, England, and Wales.

Last week I posted about the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge 2016, and one of the categories for the challenge is a nonfiction/fiction pairing, so I thought I’d also include my selections for that. I’ll be reading The Golden Age of Murder, a history of a network of crime writers known as the Detection Club, by Martin Edwards and The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the first book featuring Hercule Poirot, by Agatha Christie, one of the members of the Detection Club.

Winter 2016 Book Challenge: The Preliminary List

Last year, I participated in a winter book challenge to finish out the year and really enjoyed it, so I thought I’d do the same thing this year. The Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge includes 10 categories with assigned point values, and because a couple of categories include 2 books, there’s a total of 12 books to read between November 1, 2016 and January 31, 2017.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.
My selection: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

10 points: Read a 2016 finalist (longlist or shortlist) for one of the following literary prizes: National Book Award, Man Booker or Man Booker International.
My selection: Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russell Hochschild (National Book Award finalist for nonfiction)

10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017).
My selection: Faithful by Alice Hoffman (release date: Nov. 1)

15 points: Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you.
My selection: Nirzona by Abidah El Khalieqy (Muslim Indonesian) and translated by Annie Tucker

15 points: Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you.
My selection: Iron Cast by Destiny Soria (One of the characters is biracial, with Portuguese and Swahili parents.)

20 points: Read a modern retelling of a classic.
My selection: Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid (This has mixed reviews, but I just reread Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen a couple of months ago and enjoyed it so much that a retelling of that story appeals to me. I quite like Val McDermid’s mysteries/thrillers, so I’m hoping this will work for me even though it sounds like it didn’t work for a lot of readers.)

25 points: Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title.
My selection: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

30 points: Read a book with a character that shares your first or last name.
My selection: Lady Brandy by Claudette Williams (This was a hard one! I was saved by my mom who happened to find this book at a thrift shop and picked it up as a surprise for me because of the title. Otherwise, I probably would have gone with the first book in the Brandy Alexander mystery series by Shelly Fredman because that seemed like the only option.)

30 points: Read two books: a nonfiction book and a fiction book with which it connects.
My selections: The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards (This is a book about the Detection Club, the world’s most famous social network of crime writers, that included Agatha Christie as a member.) and The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (This is her first published novel and introduces Hercule Poirot.)

40 points: Read two books: one by an author whose first name is the same as the last name of the author of the other book.
My selections: A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas and Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell