Thursday, April 2, 2015

2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge - First Quarter Update

For the last several years, I've set a goal for the number of books I wanted to read during the year, but this year I tried something different as I decided to participate in the BookRiot Read Harder Challenge

I'm so glad I took on this challenge as it's pushed me to read different types of books and new genres that I wouldn't have checked out otherwise!  It's been so fun to research books to read for the different categories.  Here's a summary of the tasks I completed during the first quarter of the year and my thoughts on the books I read!

Tasks Completed in the First Quarter:
A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25: Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - This book was difficult to read as it deals with the difficult topics of domestic abuse and child abuse.  I felt a pit in my stomach while reading this but it's a book that I am glad that I read. I can't believe the author was under the age of 25 when she wrote this as the writing was SO good.  This book would also count for the category of a book written by an author from Africa.

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65:  Runaway by Alice Munro - I read this for my local book club and did not care for it.  The stories were just sort of depressing.  We ended up having a good book club discussion about it but we all agreed that we just don't really get the hype around this author (she's a renowned short story author).  This could also count towards a collection of short stories.

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own:  The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion - I read and loved The Rosie Project so had to check out this sequel.  I did not like it as much as the first book but still enjoyed it overall.  When reading it, you sort of have to get over the fact that the insensitivity of Don, the main character, makes him come off as a jerk but it's sort of out of his control given the fact that he has Asperger's.

A book by an author from Africa: Americanah by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie - When we were in Jamaica, another friend in our group was reading this book and raved about the author.  After reading and loving Purple Hibiscus, I decided to check this book out and I am so glad I did.  It's about the experiences of a woman from Nigeria that immigrates to the U.S. during college.  It opens your eyes to how hard it is to assimilate to a foreign land.

A YA novel:  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - I loved this book!  I read it in one sitting and found the story so engaging.  I never would have guessed that it was a young adult novel, so if that is a genre that you typically avoid, don't let that classification keep you from reading this book!

A sci-fi novel:  The Martian by Andy Weir - This book is an example of why I love this challenge.  I probably wouldn't have checked out this book if it wasn't for the read harder challenge as I typically don't read science fiction books but I am so glad I read this book.  It's fast-paced and entertaining and they will be making it into a movie this fall starring Matt Damon.  I'll definitely be going when it's in the theater!

An audiobook:  Yes Please by Amy Poehler - I'm not a huge Amy Poehler fan (I'm not opposed to her, I'm just sort of ambivalent) nor do I follow Saturday Night Live closely so I am probably not the target audience for this book.  That said, it was interesting and enjoyable to listen to - for the most part.  I did feel like it jumped around a lot and there was a lot of name dropping but I loved her mantra of saying, "good for you, not for me."

A collection of poetry:  Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson - This book is classified as a middle-grade book but I think adults will get something out of reading it. It's a memoir written in verse about the author's experiences growing up as an African American in both the south and in New York.  It's hauntingly beautiful at times.

A microhistory:  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot - This was a fascinating read for me.  It's about a young African American woman who battled cervical cancer.  Her cells were unknowingly taken from her, multiplied, and used for research.  In the book they said that there are so many of her cells made that if you placed them end to end, they'd circle the earth 3 times!  How crazy is that?  The author weaves together the sad story of Henrietta Lacks and her descendants while tackling the issue of bioethics. 

A book published this year:  Girl on the Train by Paul Hawkins - This book is being heralded as the next "Gone Girl" and I can see why that parallel is being drawn because this book is a page-turning thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.  It's definitely worth all of the hype!

A book published by an indie press:  The Empathy Exam by Leslie Jamison - This is the first book that I read for this challenge that I really did not care for.  It was published by a local press here in Minneapolis that has a good reputation but this book just fell totally flat for me and came off as very pretentious.

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure:  Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod - Of course I had to pick a memoir set in Paris for the "guilty pleasure" task. This book was delightful.  It made me ache for Paris!

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture:  The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman - This is a book that I have owned for years.  It's about the medical treatment of the daughter of a Hmong family.  The book focuses on the challenges doctors and patients face when they come from different cultural backgrounds but the author also weaves in the history of the Hmong people.  The Hmong people have been through so much so it was a sad, eye-opening read.

A collection of short stories:  Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri - Sometimes short stories feel inaccessible and I struggle to feel connected to the characters since they are somewhat brief but that was not the case with this book.  For the most part, the stories all made me feel something and I was sad to see each one come to an end.

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade:  Redeployment by Phil Klay - This book won the 2014 National Book Award so I had high hopes for it but unfortunately it just did not work for me.  The author's writing style felt detached at times which was likely intentional given the subject matter (war) but that detached style made it difficult for me to connect to the characters in the stores.  Also there was so much technical military language, I feel like you'd need to be in the military to understand some of the context of the stories.

Tasks completed =15

Tasks To Be Completed:

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
A book that takes place in Asia
A romance novel
A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
A book that someone else has recommended to you
A book that was originally published in another language
A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
A book published before 1850
A self-improvement book

What is the best book you've read so far this year?  It's hard for me to choose, but from the books I read for this challenge, my favorites were We Were Liars, Interpreter of Maladies, and Girl on the Train.


Becky said...

What a great, diverse set of books you've read - which is kind of the whole point!

I haven't read as much this year as I normally have, but I would say my favorite has to be Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

It's hard to pick just one favorite so far this year, which I guess is a good thing! I've enjoyed Big Little Lies, World Gone By, The Last Bridge, Necessary Lies and The Long and Faraway Gone. I'm about to read a total vacation read, The Last Girls, about a bunch of friends who take a raft down the Mississippi.

Marlys said...

I so enjoyed these reviews! Thanks for all the reading you do and for recommending books you enjoyed.

Nora said...

way to go you on accomplishing 15 of the tasks already! That's awesome.

I don't know if I can pick a favorite yet this year; maybe Dog Crazy as it really spoke to me!

Jeanie said...

This is an impressive list, both in quality and quantity. I recognize a few favorites of mine. And I appreciate your reviews. They help with future decisions.

Stephany said...

Wow, girl! You are zipping through this challenge! Nice work!

I’m only reading 2 books a month for the challenge, so I’m at 6 books read so far. I think the favorite book I’ve read for the challenge is Momo by Michael Ende, but overall, Everything I’ve Never Told You and In The Blood have been my favorite reads.

Emily Ward said...

Amen! I always finish books even if I do t really like them but Alice Munro was a DNF for me, just ugh. Same thoughts on Yes Please, way too much name dropping. And Jhumpa Lahiri <3!

I'm loving the Read Harder challenge. A side effect though is that I've slipped down the rabbit hole of graphic novels. I can't pull myself away from the Runaways series--though I guess it is more comic book than novel, I'm not sure what the difference is. I think these will now count for my guilt pleasure too!

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

WHOA, you have been killing this challenge! I swear your reading speed never fails to amaze me. I know you make a lot of time for it, but even during my crazy up all night with newborn/reading days I don't think I was cranking them out like you do :) I have read many of the same books but I need to go through the rest and add some to my possibles for each section.

I am in the middle of The Martian now and it is SO good. I am totally going to see that movie... and that says a lot because I honestly do not think I have watched a full movie in...years? So not a movie person.

missris said...

For a book that takes place in Asia, can I recommend something? I just finished Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler and it was fascinating! I highly recommend it (and anything else) he's written :)

Kyria @ Travel Spot said...

Wow, you really are cracking along on this challenge! I think sometimes I read books in these categories but just don't think about it. For example, I have some recommendations for you:

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ: David Sedaris has some funny ones (more so the earlier ones than the more recent ones.) I suggest Naked

A romance novel: Captain Corelli's Mandolin. One of my favorite books, set in WWII Greece + there is romance!

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.): Wicked

A book that someone else has recommended to you: See above and below (or..I am reading All The Light We Cannot See right now and it's really good!)

A book that was originally published in another language: Try Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have not yet, but have heard great things!

Good luck! I can't wait to hear what else you have chosen!

Amber said...

You are absolutely rocking this challenge! So far I have read 9/24 books for the challenge. I read A LOT in January and February but the last couple of months I haven't been reading as much so I need to pick it up again to stay on track for the challenge. I've read some great books this year. I would say it's a tie between Station Eleven and Wonder for the best book I've read so far in 2015 -- both of them surprised me by how much I enjoyed them!

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

That's fun!! I had a list like that that I was going to tackle over the summer (it was a challenge with co-workers). I ended up reading half of two different books, and not finishing either. They just were not good at all :-( I might try again this summer.