Read Harder Challenge: Update

Earlier this year, I chose to participate in Book Riot’s 2015 Read Harder Challenge. I let this list of challenges guide me in making some reading decisions, but I didn’t read solely to check things off the challenge list. I’ve managed to complete 18 out of 24 challenges for the year, and I am pretty pleased with that. I really enjoyed participating in this challenge because it helped me become aware of all the different kinds of books I chose to read throughout the year. This is definitely proof of the different genres and styles of books that I’ve explored this year. There are a few challenges on this list that I did not complete, but I plan to complete soon.

  1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 – White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 – Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  3. A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) – Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
  4. A book published by an indie press – On Immunity: An Inoculation by Eula Biss
  5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own – American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  7. A book that takes place in Asia – Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  8. A book by an author from Africa – Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
  10. A microhistory – Stiff by Mary Roach
  11. A YA novel – Say What you Will by Cammie McGovern
  12. A sci-fi novel – Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  13. A romance novel
  14. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, or Pulitzer Prize winner – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
  16. An audiobook – Grace’s Guide: The Art of Pretending to be a Grown-up by Grace Helbig
  17. A collection of poetry
  18. A book that someone else has recommended to you – Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  19. A book that was originally published in another language – One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez
  20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind – Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona
  21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, then realize that good entertainment insetting to feel guilty over) – Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  22. A book published before 1850
  23. A book published this year – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
  24. A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

Did y’all participate in this challenge? Let me know how you did in the comments below!

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Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015

TTT

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week they post a new Top Ten list and everyone is welcome to join. This week’s theme is “Ten Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015”. This year was full of new authors for me, so this list was pretty easy. In no particular order:

  1. Chimamanda Negozi Adichie (I read Americanah & Half of a Yellow Sun, can’t wait to read Purple Hibiscus)
  2. Neil Gaiman – American Gods
  3. Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
  4. Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood
  5. Reza Azlan – Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
  6. Roxane Gay – Bad Feminist
  7. Zadie Smith – White Teeth (looking forward to reading On Beauty next)
  8. Mary Roach – Stiff
  9. Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude (planning to read Love in the Time of Cholera next)
  10. Marilynne Robinson – Gilead (I need to finish the trilogy)

There were a few more authors that I read for the first time this year, but these were the ones that stood out to me the most. I’m pretty happy with this list and I plan on exploring many more authors in 2016. What authors did you read for the first time this year? Let me know in the comments below!

Books as a security blanket.

As a young reader I was always fascinated by historical fiction and books that took place in different time periods from the past. I loved reading about travels in The Magic Treehouse series, learning things about different wars and historical events through the American Girl and Dear America books, and I very much loved reading the Little House on the Prairie series.

Although I still enjoy reading books with a strong historical background, I’ve been exploring so many different authors, genres, and styles this year that I don’t feel like I have a “favorite genre” at the moment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I really enjoy reading new things and expanding my comfort zone, but it’s alway nice to have that certain kind of book you know you can fall back on when you’re going through a reading slump or are having a bad day. I’m just not sure what book(s) that is for me now. I’m not worried about it though, I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon.

What books or genres would you consider your “security blanket”? Let me know in the comments below!

Book club newbie: Part 2

I attended another book club meeting on Tuesday. I found this book club by searching the Austin Public Library website for clubs that met near me and had chosen books that I would be interested in reading. This was my first time attending a meeting with this book club. The book chosen for this month’s meeting was The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I had never read Margaret Atwood before, so this was a pretty good excuse to start. The Handmaid’s Tale was fascinating and frightening.

When I arrived at the meeting I immediately noticed that I was the youngest person in the room. I would guess that everyone else in the room (there were 5 others) was between 40-65 years old. I noticed this right away because the meeting/brunch I went to a couple of days before was comprised of 5 people in their 20s & 30s. When I walked in the room, the facilitator said, “you’re new”. Through the introductions I learned that they had all been meeting for at least 3 years.  I felt a little intimidated by this but they were all very friendly and said they really enjoyed this book club because of the great book choices and great discussions. The discussion we had that night was indeed very political and complicated both because of the nature of the book and because the members were drawing on their own experiences, especially from the 80s when the Internet was becoming a thing. I felt a bit awkward because I was born in 1989 and could not always understand their references. I did my best to participate in the conversation with my own experiences and knowledge of the Internet & social media. I think I was able to connect the story to today’s society.

Overall, I enjoyed the discussion and the members of the book club all encouraged me to come to future meetings. The book they’ve chosen for August is Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. I think that each of the two book clubs I’ve joined offer different experiences and both will help me expand my reading choices. I’m glad I decided to try these two book clubs out and I can’t wait to see what kind of friendships I develop through them.

Book clubs & making friends.

I’ve lived in Austin for 3 years now and I’ve only made a couple of friends. This is mostly because I was busy working several jobs and going to graduate school throughout these past few years. I’ve realized that making friends is a lot harder than when I was in high school or college. It doesn’t help that I’m an introvert and shy at times. Now that I’ve graduated from grad school and have a steady, full-time job, I was trying to come up with ideas to meet people and finally make some friends in this city.

Since I’m spending more time reading now, I realized book clubs should be a good way to meet people who have at least one similar interest as me. After doing a bit of research I found two book clubs I’d like to try out. One is hosted by my local public library, and the book they’re reading for July is Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I found the second book club through a website called Meetup. It’s called “The Breakfast Club – Brunch, Books, and Adventures”, and the book they have chosen to read for July is Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. These are two books I am definitely interested in reading so I’m going to give it a try.

I’m curious about the kind of people I’ll meet at these book cubs. I’m not even sure that these particular clubs are well attended. I’ve also never been part of a book cub before, so I’m not sure what kinds of expectations exist other than reading the chosen book. I’ll just read the books for July and write down some questions or discussion points. I’ll give an update once I attend both meetings. Wish me luck!