Earlier this month, POPSUGAR, an online media network geared towards women, posted a popular reading challenge that immediately swept through the literary circles of facebook, wordpress, pinterest, and other social media. The book babes here at DG can hardly resist a good challenge, so Kayla, Megan, and Carly have committed to reading a book in each of the categories listed during 2015. This is a fun way to stay motivated to read more books this year and to discover books you may have never read otherwise. Check out what books we are reading for each category, and get inspired to follow the challenge yourself!
A classic romance- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë — I wrote a lot about this book already. Bottom line, I loved it.
A book set in a different country- The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett — I read this book with my sixth graders and it blew me away! It tells the story of two Romani boys and their baby sister who are wandering Europe during WWII, and come across a zoo. The animals spend the night conversing with the boys. I loved the motherhood theme throughout the novel.
A book set in high school- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell– People have been telling me to read Rainbow Rowell for so long, and I’m so glad I finally did. This book was AMAZING. Want a strong female protagonist? Meet Eleanor. Oh, and she’s geeky?!? I love her. I listened to this audiobook while reading Jane Eyre, and I found a lot of similarities between the two women.
A graphic novel- Unwritten vol. 1 by Mike Carrey and Peter Gross– I had heard such amazing things about this series, not to mention it crosses over with the Fables universe. While I am really intrigued by the plot, it’s moving a little slow for me. We’ll see if volume 2 picks up the pace at all.
I signed onto this challenge a little late to get much done this month, and decided to sort of make my own rules for how I thought this reading challenge could fit into my own personal reading goals for the year. Firstly, since I knew there was no way I was going to get through 52 books this year on top of working full time, I’m counting books for up to two categories. Secondly, I’ve also committed myself to reading more books by authors of color this year, so as I go through this challenge I will be trying to keep an even mix of white authors and authors of color. If you have suggestions for books by authors of color to fill some of these categories, please let me know!
A book that became a movie – Divergent by Veronica Roth — This is the first book of the “trilogy” I’m counting for the challenge, but I’m also counting it on its own. I had put off reading this series for years, but when I watched the movie on Netflix about a month ago, I found myself sucked in and wanting to know more, so naturally I went and found the book! I find Tris to be an intriguing and complex heroine, who does, admittedly, remind me a little bit of Katniss from The Hunger Games (but in a good way that only makes me like her more). I’m curious to see how the story plays out in the rest of the trilogy.
A funny book – Bartimaeus: Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud — This is the long-awaited prequel to the Bartimaeus trilogy that I read back in Middle School. It has all of Bartimaeus’ snark with none of Nathaniel’s whining, so I like it even better than the original trilogy. Bartimaeus is a djinni, a mid-class demon called to earth to do his human master’s bidding. No one ever said he couldn’t do said bidding in the form of a hippo in a tutu, however, and he takes full advantage of this fact.
A book by a female author – A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz — I’m not necessarily recommending this book. I read it because I found it on my floor with a post-it in it that said “return to Kayla Farber,” so I decided I better hurry up and read it to give it back. It was a cute steampunk novel about a girl dirigible pilot who gets caught up in a war between the warlocks and the alchemists. It takes place in an alternate universe Victorian England where absinthe fairies and vampires exist alongside gear-filled gadgets and steam-powered carts. The writing wasn’t super and parts of it seemed very contrived, but parts of it were interesting enough to make me want to read the ending. Since I don’t think there’s anything too special about this book, I stuck it in my “free space” category; most of the books I read are written by women, so I could really put any book here.
A non-fiction book – Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay — In a departure from my usual reading list of all novels, I picked up this collection of essays by Roxanne Gay after hearing much about it in the feminist circles of the internet. Ms. Gay does a fantastic job of representing intersectional feminism in chapters that address thoughts she has on not only being a woman, but a larger woman, and a black woman. She talks about a lot of other topics, too, from her introduction to competitive scrabble (one of my favorite chapters) to thoughts on various movies and tv shows, to the realities of sexual assault. She is a good writer, and her unique, forthright voice comes through loud and clear in each chapter.
A memoir – Home is a Roof Over a Pig by Aminta Arrington — There should be a category for “a book recommended by a friend’s parent” because two of my books for this month would fit that category. (The other one is The Midwife of Venice.) I was at my friend’s house and her dad walked in and handed me this book, saying, “I hear you’re going to China. Here’s a book about an American woman who moved to China.” The book is a memoir by Aminta Arrington, a military wife who adopted a daughter from China, and then moved with her now retired husband, adopted daughter, and two biological children to live and teach in rural China. She details her experience adapting to a lifestyle so different from her own and her quest to connect her family to her daughter’s roots. The whole story is told through the lens of her fascination with Chinese characters, which gave each chapter a theme, and which leant an interesting perspective. Although I do not expect my experience in China to be much like hers, for I plan to be in a big city and to live there only temporarily, it was an enlightening insight into the joys and tribulations of being an expatriate in China.
A book set in the future – The Young World by Chris Weitz — I list this as a “book set in the future” because it takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, in which the world has been ravaged by a disease that affects the young and old, leaving only teenagers alive. In actuality though, the disease took only a few years to operate and the characters are all of the generation that were alive in the time before. So the book could take place in modern times, just in an alternate reality. People have all the same technology that we do now, including ipods, etc. Nevertheless, it definitely has a dystopian feel so I’m being flexible in my categorization. The book does a good job exploring the different ways in which adolescents would react to the sudden and violent extermination of all authority figures and societal order, and the very concept is intriguing. However, I find issue the author’s representation of female characters, preteens, and various ethnic groups throughout the novel. You can check out another Geekette’s critique of the novel here.
A book with magic – Ever After High: The Unfairest of Them All by Shannon Hale — This book is super cute. As you may or may not be aware, Mattel has a line of Dolls called “Ever After High” (in a similar vein as Monster High), in which all of the characters are children of fairy tale figures who are supposed to relive their parent’s stories. In addition to the physical dolls, there are animated mini-webisodes on Youtube and now a couple of short novels that tell their stories. This particular book is the second in the series, but if you watch the webisodes (each of which are about two minutes), you’ll be all caught up in the story line. One of the protagonists is Raven, daughter of the evil queen from Snow White’s story, who is reluctant to follow her destiny. She has inherited magic powers from her formidable mother, but she hopes to use her skills for good, not evil. This book is geared towards a younger audience, but anyone with a playful inner child will be charmed by the magical, sweet, funny, and often surprisingly thought-provoking adventures this new generation of fairy tales get up to.
A book by an author you’ve never read before – The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich — This historical fiction novel tells the story of a Jewish midwife named Hannah living in the ghetto of 16th century Venice. Although it is forbidden for Jews to give medical services to gentiles, an influential Conte comes in the dead of night to beg her to lend her services to his wife. Meanwhile, Hannah’s husband Isaac has been caught and sold into slavery as he made his way East to try his hand as a merchant. Despite the odds stacked against them, Hannah and Isaac strive to find success and find each other, to chase their dreams and do what is right. The book is well-researched and was an interesting insight into a part of history I knew little about.
Are you participating in the challenge too? Which books have you read for each category? Or which ones do you plan to read? Help us build our reading lists by giving suggestions in the comments!