It is that time again where I start discussing my 2017 Read Harder Challenge. My 2016 was completed with 45 minutes to spare last year and I was ecstatic to see the 2017 list come out. However, I am doing it a little different this year since I will be trying to complete the 2017 and 2015 lists (See list on my Pages sidebar or in the Books menu) since I have yet to do the 2015 list. Since this is only their third year of doing it, I will be all caught up.
As of Dec. 26, 2017, I am now finished the list in its entirety and have two books remaining on my 2015 list. I am very happy with my progress and my discovery of audiobooks, and yes, I proudly think that that does count in regards to a reading list. Here is my review of the 24 books that I took on this year to challenge and flex my reading muscles.
Read a book about sports – Playing for Pizza, John Grisham: For someone who usually sits on the side of legal thrillers, his simple story about an American football player who is finishing up his career by playing football in Italy, you wait for the mystery or the thrilling parts where the story takes a twist. However, this is just an enjoyable story about how someone comes to terms with a change in career and how someone changes their mindset regarding their dreams. When that change does happen, it’s one of those gradual changes where the character looks back and goes, ‘huh, I have come a long way and yet I’m still happy.’
Read a debut novel – What I was doing while you were breeding, Kristen Newman: Oh my god, if I could have her life of travel, her stories about travelling her own path are so fun to read. What has to be said before anyone reads this, and maybe I’m being a prude about this but she is very open about the sex she has, the men she knows, and the path that she ends up taking. What I love about Newman is the fact that, as the title implies, she proudly claims her own path and she chooses her own travels, both internationally and personally.
Read a book about books – The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett: I sat through this book, while it was a short read, wondering if this was true or not, and by the end it was more obvious that it is fiction. But the reason this was difficult to judge is because it was nice to think about Her Majesty the Queen of England in such a way as someone on their journey to become an avid reader. As any good story, she is fighting her own battle with that sense of a propriety that seems to plague royals according to the media. By the end, Queen Elizabeth takes on this theological discussion about the impacts of reading and her own legacy within the realm of literature.
Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author – Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto Che Guevara: Where I am right now, books about South America, other than non-fiction travel books, fiction or memoirs regarding political figures or South American stories can be difficult to find if you do not know what you’re looking for. This was an amazing read for someone who knows little about the history and culture coming out of South America but know I want to know more. Guevara, for those who do not know the story but may know his face, was a Marxist Revolutionary from Argentina. His travels around South America before getting involved in his revolutionary work shaped how he saw the plights of the impoverished. One story that sticks out in my mind after reading the book is one where he spends time at a leper colony and he sees people living their lives in happiness, even when living with such a terrible disease. A quote from an older man that Guevara speaks with near the end of his journey sums up his whole experience:
“The people need to be educated and they can’t do that before taking power, only after. They can only learn by their own mistakes, and these will be very serious and will cost many innocent lives.”
This is what Guevara was trying to do with his journey was educate himself.
Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative – My Paris Dream, Kate Betts: Again, this was a book about a woman choosing her own path over all the expectations that society and family place on her. Another side of this story that interests me is the fact that she is a journalist and forging this career in a new country. The reader sees her doubts and fears right there on the page, from almost being accosted on the street as she walks home at night to her fear about her career being unimportant compared to work being done by colleagues who are covering the Gulf War. This is one woman’s journey through a frustrating, and yet powerful time, where she is sticking on the path no matter the obstacles.
Read an all-ages comic – Calamity Jack, Shannon and Dean Hale: This is part two of two in the Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge series, the retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale where she is a superhero type. Both books have strong and spunky characters and a great story that steers away from the original story but creates their own adventures. Love both books.
Read a book published between 1900 and 1950 – A Brave New World, Aldous Huxley: This one was a slow start which, thanks to audiobooks (which are not cheating on a reading challenge), I was able to get through the slow moving beginning of excruciating detail in human reproduction in an artificially made society. However, getting into the meat of the book, we are a socially jailed society of bored, pill popping, class dominated sheeple. This should be on every reading list in schools and universities considering the content and discussion around the fully controlled populous under the illusion of freedom.
Read a travel memoir – Life is a Trip, Judith Fein: Typical travel memoir where it just makes me jealous of all the travel Fein does. Loved her stories of all her different journalistic endeavours.
Read a book you’ve read before – Voyager, Diana Gabaldon: Ask me anything about Gabaldon’s writing. Fully obsessed about her amazing book series. See the pages for my section just on Outlander, which is incomplete right now.
Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location – Insight from the Street: Ernie Louttit: It’s always strange reading stories where you get every corner reference in a city you once lived in. Love Louttit’s stories about his original form of policing in a city where they do have a race problem and in a lot of cases, Louttit was right in the thick of it being aboriginal himself. Just like his first book, it does need some more editting but that could have been a stylist choice to keep Louttit’s form, style, and voice.
Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location – The Mediator: The Ninth Key, Meg Cabot: This was a quick read, YA series I choose to offer some escape from the pressure of a 40+ work week. I thoroughly enjoyed Suze, a young woman trying to make it through high school, a new step family, and mediating ghosts. Cabot writes her as a spunky teen forced to live two lives and she is easy to like as she seems to navigate a double life better than most adults would. This was one that was just really fun to follow, especially when it comes to Suze’s relationship with sweet and sexy, Jesse, a 150-year-old ghost who lives in her bedroom. Tried to make the series fit as much as possible throughout the list so I apologize for the apparent “cop-out” if you so see it that way.
Also read for The Mediator series: Read a fantasy novel – The Mediator: Shadowland, Meg Cabot, and some books in the 2015 list requirements.
Read a nonfiction book about technology – Move Fast and Break Things, Jonathan Taplin:
Read a book about war – A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin:
Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+ – Boy Meets Boy, Darren Levithan: I absolutely loved this story with Levithan’s amazingly fresh and vibrant characters and story about navigating love and betrayal as a teenager on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. However, the story almost seems too fantastical and maybe this is what Levithan intended. Looking back on the story and the world in which Paul lives, Levithan could be creating this world as a possible and clearly obtainable future for LGBTQ+ kids. This could be a world where being gay or straight is not the life or death situation we are making it to be. Maybe this is a world in which Levithan wants us to strive towards when a transwoman can be the head quarterback on the football team and everyone gets to be apart of the pep-rally. This is a world the label exists and yet is normalized. Thank you, Darren for making this “fantastical” world a possible reality.
Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country – Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins:
Read a classic by an author of color – The Color Purple, Alice Walker: I have never read a book like Walker’s The Color Purple. While it is a small way of reading about African-Americans during a time of ignorance, poverty, and racism, I enjoyed going on Celie’s journey to becoming a powerful voice. The development of all the characters, especially Celie, is evident throughout the novel as Celie starts out the novel writing from a point of very little education. Growing both as a character and in education, her writing changes as she does.
Read a superhero comic with a female lead – Rapunzel’s Revenge, Shannon and Dean Hale: See Calamity Jack, Shannon and Dean Hale in the Read an all-ages comic category.
Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey – Boxers and Saints, Gene Luen Yang:
Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel – Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson:
Read a book published by a micropress – Revolution in Time, Monique Martin:
Read a collection of stories by a woman – Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay:
Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love – Narrative Poems, Alexander Pushkin trans. Mikhail Lermontor:
Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color – A Free Man of Color, Barbara Hambly: