Tag Archives: reading challenge

20 in ’20 : 5-Star Predictions

Yep, you read that right. TWENTY five-star predictions! I’m sure there will be plenty of readers doing various “20 in ’20” challenges next year, so I doubt I need to explain what I mean there. Since 2019 was a subpar reading year for me in terms of not loving what I was reading, and not feeling like I was making any headway in any of my longer-term reading goals (2019 wrap-up and 2020 goals coming soon), I decided to theme my 20 in ’20 list around books that I think have a good chance of being 5-star reads for me. Since this is going to fit in with some of my other 2020 reading goals as well, it’s doubling as a list of backlist books that I already own, some of which have been sitting on my shelves for YEARS, and quite a variety of genres and topics. Essentially, these are popular books I feel like I’ve been missing out on even though I already own them and expect to love them!

Disclaimer: I have never done a 5-star predictions post before, so I have no idea how I’ll turn out with accuracy, but this seemed like a fun way to try and improve my reading experience for the new year, so here we go!

 

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh – Literary fiction about a woman who endeavors to escape her life and hibernate for a year with the help of prescription drugs. I think this is the most recent addition to my shelves from this list, and it’s also the book I’m most confident about being a 5-star read for me.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation

The Idiot by Elif Batuman – Literary fiction about a young woman from a family of Turkish immigrants embarking on the US College Experience at Harvard. This was a 2018 shortlister for the Women’s Prize that has been on my TBR since about that time. It seems like a hit-or-miss book, but I’m guessing it will be a hit for me!

The Idiot

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara – Contemporary/literary fiction (with an LGBTQ+ element) about a group of friends through the ages, one of whom is holding on to a tragic past he can’t let go. I wasn’t interested in a long sob-fest when this first came out, but have a better sense of my reading taste now and think I’ll actually really appreciate it, even (especially) if it makes me cry.

A Little Life

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado – Short story collection that seems to stray into a wealth of different genres, including fantasy, magical realism, and horror. It’s been nominated (and won!) quite a few prizes and awards, and looks very up-my-alley.

Her Body and Other Parties

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Horror about a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This one’s also won quite a few awards. I love weird and creepy books, so this seems like it’ll be an obvious win for me.

House of Leaves

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison – Horror about a garden of kidnapped women tattooed with butterflies- one survivor is discovered. I bought this because it seems to be a horror staple, though I’m leaning toward reading it as a standalone because it sounds like the rest of the series is less impressive. Nevertheless, I have a good feeling about this first book!

The Butterfly Garden (The Collector, #1)

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins – Horror and fantasy elements in a novel featuring a secret library and a missing god. This sounds like a wild ride, bookish but not too bookish (exactly my taste), and just my brand of bizarre. I hope!

The Library at Mount Char

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – A YA fantasy about a slave and a soldier, inspired by ancient Rome. I used to love YA fantasy but lately have been reading a lot less of it. However, there are still a few titles firmly on my TBR, and this is one of them. It’s got great ratings, which hopefully bodes well for me.

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake – YA contemporary about a set of twins; the boy has been accused of raping a friend of the girl’s, and so the girl must decide whom she believes and where her loyalties lie. When I make the occasional dip into YA contemporary, I want it to be hard-hitting, the only kind that seems to work for me now that I’m beyond the target age for YA lit. This sounds like it’ll fit the bill perfectly.

Girl Made of Stars

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – Myth retelling of the Trojan War, featuring a strong m/m relationship between two of the main characters. Though I didn’t love Circe quite as much as expected, I did love Miller’s writing and am fond of The Iliad, so I think this story will ultimately work better for me. It also won the Women’s Prize a few years ago, which seems like a good sign!

The Song of Achilles

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – Classic romance about a set of sisters in early 1800s England who must learn to balance societal expectations and love. I’ve been slowly making my way through Austen’s novels and mostly loving them; I only have two novels left to read, and of those I think this is the one I’ll like the most. (The other is Mansfield Park.) I did see the film a while back, but I only remember broad strokes of the plot now and expect I’ll enjoy rediscovering the story.

Sense and Sensibility

East of Eden by John Steinbeck – A classic family saga that’s a sort of reimagining of the Adam and Eve biblical narrative. I liked the only other Steinbeck book I’ve read so far (Of Mice and Men) and feel like my failure to read more of his work is a hole in my reading life. I’ve also been recommended The Grapes of Wrath, but East of Eden is the one that I think I have the best shot at loving.

East of Eden

Dracula by Bram Stoker – Classic supernatural vampire narrative. Vampires are my favorite supernatural creature to read about- there’s usually plenty of plot, and complicated morals! And usually weird romance as well. What’s not to love? I’m already somewhat familiar with the story so I’m fairly confident about this being a 5-star read as well.

Dracula

Vicious by V. E. Schwab – Science fiction about a couple of college roommates who turn a research project into super powers. I think this is supposed to be like a comic in novel form, which sounds excellent, and I already know I like Schwab’s writing- I’ve been meaning to read several of her books, and this is the one that appeals most at the moment.

Vicious (Villains, #1)

The Martian by Andy Weir – Science fiction set on Mars, when one member of an exploratory team is left behind in a storm. I’ve already seen and loved the film and have been waiting to forget enough of it, because I hear the novel is fantastic as well. I think now’s a good time to return to this story!

The Martian

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – Back to Earth with an investigative nonfiction account of one woman’s chase after a California serial killer. I like true crime and this one’s held up as one of the best, so I’m assuming I’ll love it as well!

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer

Columbine by Dave Cullen – More nonfiction true crime, this one an exploration of the infamous school shooting in 1999. I was too young them to have much of an idea about what was going on when this actually happened, but as school shootings seems to be tragically rising as an occurrence I think I’ll appreciate this look back at the beginning of the phenomenon.

Columbine

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – Historical fiction about the life of an adopted Irish boy beginning in the 1940’s (with an LGBTQ+ element). I liked but didn’t love Boyne’s A Ladder to the Sky last year, though I appreciated his writing enough that I’ve been wanting to give him another try. This was also the BOTM book of the year winner in 2018, so I’m hoping I’ll be among the many who love this one!

The Heart's Invisible Furies

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – Historical fiction with SFF elements (time travel / reliving a life). This seems so much to my taste: reality with a twist; I bought it back in 2016 when I started blogging (I think), and I don’t think my chances of loving it have decreased even though other aspects of my reading taste have definitely changed in that time.

Life After Life (Todd Family, #1)

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee – Historical mystery revolving around the Paris Opera. This sounds like a longer, updated Phantom of the Opera, which is a story I love. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Chee’s writing, so I don’t know why I wouldn’t love this!

The Queen of the Night

 

And that’s all twenty! All cover images reflect the editions on my shelf that I’ll be reading from. I hope to get to them all, but honestly the main goal is just to find more 5-star reads and make my reading more enjoyable in 2020, so as long as that’s happening I’m not going to be heartbroken if I don’t complete the entire list.

20in20.jpg

Let me know which of these titles you’ve already read and loved!

And of course, merry Christmas, happy holidays, and a great end of the year to all! ūüôā

 

The Literary Elephant

2018 Reading Challenge: Final Update

The year is over, so it’s time to look at how my reading challenge wrapped up! Spoiler: it was a fail in all but spirit.

Bold means I’ve completed the task. None of this indicates that I’ve particularly liked or disliked these books, just that I read them. Check out my 2018 favorites or disappointments lists if your looking for something more than a checklist.

Here is the first set of challenges: individual books.

  1. A book you didn’t get around to in 2017 =¬†Lady Midnight¬†by Cassandra Clare
  2. A book with a blue cover = Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  3. A Stephen King book = Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
  4. An illustrated Harry Potter book = did not read. I wanted to, but I hardly ever reread and did not leave myself much time for that in 2018. I’m still planning to read all of the illustrated editions at some point.
  5. A book you’ve loved in the past = Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  6. A book at least 1000 pages long = It by Stephen King
  7. The last book in a series = The Last Letter Home by Vilhelm Moberg
  8. A book recommended by a friend = Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  9. A prize-winning book = Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  10. A non-fiction book = Night by Elie Weisel
  11. A book picked up on a whim from the library = Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard T. Chizmar
  12. A book at the bottom of your to-read list = did not read. I meant to read the very bottom book, the oldest added to my Goodreads TBR,¬†Sense and Sensibility. I didn’t get around to it, and I’m not counting anything else that came close because I’m stubborn.
  13. A book with a strong female lead = The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  14. A book from the staff recommendations display at a bookstore = did not read. Several books that I read this year have turned up on these displays, but I did not discover a new recommended book and read it for that reason the way I meant to for this challenge, so I’m not counting it. Again, I’m stubborn.
  15. A book in which a beloved character dies = The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  16. A Shakespeare play = did not read. I bought two this year to fit this challenge, but did not pick them up. I do still intend to read them.
  17. A book that takes place in space = Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  18. A book by a new-to-you author = The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
  19. A new book by an author you already love = Providence by Caroline Kepnes
  20. A book of short stories =¬†You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
  21. A memoir = The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  22. A true-crime book = In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  23. A book with a five-word title = A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
  24. A book set in another country = The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  25. A book of poetry = The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Reaction: 21 out of 25 is not bad. I didn’t quite make it, and was hoping I could catch up on those last 4 books in December, but I decided to pursue other goals instead.

Now the second set: the big categories. I’m allowing myself to count books in multiple slots across sets, so you’ll start seeing a few repeats here.

  1. Twelve classics
    1. Emma by Jane Austen
    2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    3. 6 Penguin Moderns by Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Camus, Shirley Jackson, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, and Betty Friedan (these books are very short so I’ve been buying and reading them in sets of 6 rather than counting them each individually)
    4. 6 Penguin Moderns by Daphne du Maurier, George Orwell, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, Vladimir Nabokov, and Wendell Berry
    5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    6. The Iliad by Homer
    7. A Room of One’s Own¬†by Virginia Woolf
    8. The Emigrants by Vilhelm Moberg
    9. Unto a Good Land by Vilhelm Moberg
    10. The Settlers by Vilhelm Moberg
    11. The Last Letter Home by Vilhelm Moberg
    12. Night by Elie Weisel
    13. It by Stephen King
  2. Twelve books within a month of their US publication dates
    1. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
    2. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
    3. The Philospher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    4. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    5. Red Rising Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell
    6. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    7. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
    8. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
    9. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
    10. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
    11. The Girl From Blind River by Gale Massey
    12. The Line That Held Us by David Joy
    13. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
    14. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
    15. Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
    16. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
    17. November Road by Lou Berney
    18. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
    19. Elevation by Stephen King
    20. A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
    21. Milkman by Anna Burns
    22. Normal People by Sally Rooney
    23. In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne
  3. The rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series
    1. did not read. I’ve been partway through¬†A Storm of Swords¬†for over a year now (I had to put it down during a month when my life got very busy at the end of 2017), and I massively regret not picking it back up. At this point, I will probably want to start the book over so I don’t miss anything I might have forgotten. I still intend to finish the series.
  4. All of my unread Book of the Month Club books
    1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    2. The Power by Naomi Alderman
    3. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King
    4. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    5. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
    6. The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    7. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    8. The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
    9. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
    10. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
    11. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
    12. The Girl From Blind River by Gale Massey
    13. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
    14. The Line That Held Us by David Joy
    15. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
    16. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
    17. The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
    18. A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
    19. There are currently twelve unread BOTM books on my shelves that I did not read this year, so even though I read 18 BOTM books in 2018 I have to count this challenge as a fail. I believe I started the year with 11 unread BOTM titles, and I did read 4 from that list, but I’ve picked up a couple of extras throughout 2018 that I haven’t read yet, and I haven’t gotten to my December selections at all yet either. I will eventually.
  5. Nine books by Victoria/V. E. Schwab
    1. I did not read any. I still plan to, although without this challenge I’ll be more inclined to see how they go and decide which ones most interest me rather than just blindly pushing through all of them. All I know so far is that I like Schwab’s writing; I read one of her short stories in 2017 and¬†need to check out her novels. When the time is right.

Reaction: I’m 2 for 5 from these categories. I honestly did not expect that I would meet the cut-off on classics, but even though I didn’t read the twelve books I had picked out at the beginning of the year, I discovered that some of the books I read throughout 2018 are considered classics that I wouldn’t have thought about if I hadn’t gone looking for them. But I almost doubled the new releases goal without even trying, so that one I’m proud of. I tend to read way more backlisted books than recent releases, so it’s a pleasant surprise to start breaking that habit. I’m very happy with the ratio of new and old releases I read in 2018. But I’m disappointed by my complete failure with both George R. R. Martin and V. E. Schwab. They’re both authors that I expect to love novels from, so I don’t know why I’ve resisted picking them up this year? Fail. Also a fail with BOTM, although I think I could be a lot worse off- even though I didn’t meet the goal of reading¬†all¬†of my unread BOTM books (which admittedly was always going to be difficult as the number grew each month), I did read 19 selections this year, which is more than one book per month, and more than the 12 selections I read in 2017. Other than December, I did read my main selection every month this year, and this challenge helped me stick to fewer add-ons in my monthly boxes. So a fail, but I’m okay with where I’m at. 2 for 5 is… not great, but generally better than I expected.

And now the final set: some specific titles I wanted to read in 2018.

  1. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  2. I did not read the other 9 books that were originally on this list. This set was built in a beat-the-backlist way, and actually I did very poorly this year about picking up older titles from my TBR shelves. Which isn’t to say I didn’t read backlist books, just not the ones that I already owned. The one title from this list that I read was the one title that was released in 2018, that I had pre-ordered at the time I compiled this list.

So here’s where I stand:

  • I filled 76 slots throughout this challenge. 20 of those slots are repeated books, two books are used 3 times for different sets. Which means I read 54 different books in 2018 that counted for this challenge.
  • There are 37 slots left open at the end of the year and the end of the challenge. The slots left are so specific that I don’t think I would have been able to repeat any more books– I would have needed to actually read 37 more books, specific books, to complete the entire challenge.

Full reaction: I don’t mind at all that I didn’t complete this challenge from top to bottom. The completionist in me regrets it a little, but the purposes of the sets were mostly met: for the first set, I was meant to pick up books outside of my comfort zone, or books that would just push me a little in some new direction, whether it be a reread (Harry Potter) or something I just hadn’t gotten around to yet (Sense and Sensibility) or a genre I’ve overlooked in the past (In Cold Blood, for true crime). Though I didn’t meet each specific task, I definitely pushed myself outside of my reading comfort zone this year. I tried so many new things, and found some surprising favorites. I read some classics, which I usually love but struggle to reach for, and I almost stayed even with BOTM, which I didn’t even come close to doing in 2017. I read tons of new releases, breaking old habits to do so. So I didn’t read some specific books that I thought I really wanted to read at this time last year, but I definitely challenged myself in 2018, and I’m really happy with the reading year I had. It wasn’t my top reading year ever, but it ranks. 2018 was a solid reading year for me, and in part I can thank this homemade challenge for that. Which is why I started this post by saying that I completely failed it… but not in spirit. And I think spirit is the most important element of any challenge.

Based on these results, I’ve decided not to assign myself a specific reading challenge for 2019. (You can check out my 2019 bookish goals here if you’re curious about what did make the list.) I feel like I’ve learned to read a good variety and take chances, and I want to be able to do that without holding myself to such specifics. I do have some other reading goals that will influence what I read in 2019, but I want to do a lot of impulse reading instead of following a list. If it doesn’t work, maybe I’ll come back to a structured challenge. We’ll see!

And with the reading challenge wrapped up… I think I’m ready to post my year wrap-up for 2018 next!

(Thanks for sticking with me this far, by the way. This has been a long post.)

Do you like following strict challenge lists? Do you prefer to challenge yourself without a list? What works to push you outside of your reading comfort zone? Let me know below!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

2018 Reading Challenge: Update 3

There are 3 months left of 2018 (how did we get here already?), which means we’re getting down to crunch time for yearly reading challenges. My priorities have definitely changed as the year has progressed, so I’m pretty sure I will not be completing every part of this challenge this year, though I still have high hopes for some aspects of it. But it’s time to take a look at where I stand so I can make some decisions about my reading plans for the end of the year.

Bold means I’ve completed the task, (parentheses) means I’ve designated a book for the slot but haven’t finished reading it yet.

Here is the first set of challenges: individual books.

  1. A book you didn’t get around to in 2017 =¬†Lady Midnight¬†by Cassandra Clare
  2. A book with a blue cover = Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  3. A Stephen King book = (Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King – currently buddy reading)
  4. An illustrated Harry Potter book = (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling)
  5. A book you’ve loved in the past = Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  6. A book at least 1000 pages long = It by Stephen King
  7. The last book in a series = (Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)
  8. A book recommended by a friend = Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  9. A prize-winning book = Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  10. A non-fiction book = Night by Elie Weisel
  11. A book picked up on a whim from the library = Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard T. Chizmar
  12. A book at the bottom of your to-read list = (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)
  13. A book with a strong female lead = The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  14. A book from the staff recommendations display at a bookstore = (Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan)
  15. A book in which a beloved character dies = The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  16. A Shakespeare play = (King Lear by Shakespeare)
  17. A book that takes place in space = (The Martian by Andy Weir)
  18. A book by a new-to-you author = The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
  19. A new book by an author you already love = Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  20. A book of short stories =¬†You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld
  21. A memoir = The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  22. A true-crime book = In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  23. A book with a five-word title = (The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clematine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil)
  24. A book set in another country = The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  25. A book of poetry = (The Long Take by Robin Robertson)

And for the second set: the big categories. Books that count for this part of the challenge can also be counted for a category in the set above or below.

  1. Twelve classics
    1. Emma by Jane Austen
    2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    3. 6 Penguin Moderns by Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Camus, Shirley Jackson, Italo Calvino, Jack Kerouac, and Betty Friedan
    4. 6 Penguin Moderns by Daphne du Maurier, George Orwell, Gertrude Stein, John Steinbeck, Vladimir Nabokov, and Wendell Berry
    5. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    6. The Iliad by Homer
    7. (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide by Robert Louis Stevenson)
    8. (6 Penguin Moderns by Patrick Kavanagh, Audre Lorde, Chinua Achebe, Susan Sontag, Jorge Luis Borges, and Truman Capote)
    9. (The Waves by Virginia Woolf)
    10. (Dracula by Bram Stoker)
    11. (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)
    12. (King Lear by Shakespeare)
  2. Twelve books within a month of their US publication dates
    1. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
    2. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
    3. The Philospher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    4. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    5. Red Rising Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell
    6. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    7. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
    8. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
    9. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
    10. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
    11. The Girl From Blind River by Gale Massey
    12. The Line That Held Us by David Joy
    13. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
    14. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
    15. Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
    16. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
    17. November Road by Lou Berney
    18. (Washington Black by Esi Edugyan Рcurrently reading)
  3. The rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series
    1. (A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin)
    2. (A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin)
    3. (A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin)
  4. All of my unread Book of the Month Club books
    1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    2. (Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich)
    3. (Artemis by Andy Weir)
    4. The Power by Naomi Alderman
    5. Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King
    6. (Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng)
    7. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    8. (Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane)
    9. (One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul)
    10. (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood)
    11. (Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller)
    12. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
    13. (The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne)
    14. The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    15. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    16. The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
    17. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
    18. (The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya)
    19. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
    20. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
    21. The Girl From Blind River by Gale Massey
    22. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
    23. The Line That Held Us by David Joy
    24. The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
    25. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
    26. (The Lies We Told by Camilla Way)
    27. (The Clockmaker’s Daughter¬†by Kate Morton)
    28. (November selection)
    29. (December selection)
  5. Nine books by Victoria/V. E. Schwab
    1. (The Archived)
    2. (The Unbound)
    3. (This Savage Song)
    4. (This Dark Duet)
    5. (Vicious)
    6. (Vengeful)
    7. (A Darker Shade of Magic)
    8. (A Gathering of Shadows)
    9. (A Conjuring of Light)

Final set: some specific titles I wanted to read in 2018. These can also count in the sets above.

  1. (The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien)
  2. (Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng)
  3. (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah)
  4. (The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern)
  5. (Dracula by Bram Stoker)
  6. (The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett)
  7. (Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor)
  8. (The Martian by Andy Weir)
  9. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  10. (Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman)

So here’s where I stand:

  • I’ve filled 56 slots in this challenge. Some of those are books that counted in more than one category, and some of those (the books within a month of publication) are superfluous, more than I needed to complete the category.
  • There are 47 slots left to fill to complete the challenge. But some of those can be doubled up by single books that count for multiple slots.
  • I’m predicting I’ll fill 31 of those 47 slots by the end of the year. I can probably finish the first set, the 25 books with specific prompts. I’m really hoping to finish the classics, and it seems possible, but I’m not entirely sure it will happen. I’ll probably only read one George R. R. Martin book before the end of the year rather than 3. I’m still intending to finish my BOTM backlog, but again, I’m not entirely sure it will happen. I’ll probably only read one V. E. Schwab book before the end of the year. And there are only a couple more from the 3rd set of specific titles that I’ll likely read, titles that will double up to fill other slots also.
  • But I’m happy with what I’ve read this year, and whether I finish this entire challenge or not, it has served its purpose– I’ve branched out and tried new things, and I’ve read some unread books from my physical TBR, even if not the exact same titles I thought I would at the beginning of the year. And perhaps not finishing the challenge proves that I’m meeting my overall reading goal for 2018: quality over quantity. I’ve read books I expected to love or learn from instead of reading for numbers.
  • I have no idea what this challenge will look like at the end of the year, but I already have a simpler idea for next year’s challenge and I’m looking forward to seeing where I end up by the end of December!

Are you working through a 2018 reading challenge? Do you expect to complete it or have your goals changed over the course of the year?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

2018 Reading Challenge: Update 2

Halfway through the year means time for another challenge check-in. I don’t think I’ve been paying enough attention to crossing things off this list, so as I’m starting this off I have no idea where I currently stand. Let’s find out.

Strikethrough font means I’ve completed the task, (parentheses) means I’ve designated a book for the slot but haven’t finished reading it yet.

Here is the first set of challenges: individual books.

  1. A book you didn’t get around to in 2017 =¬†Lady Midnight¬†by Cassandra Clare
  2. A book with a blue cover = Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  3. A Stephen King book = (The Outsider)
  4. An illustrated Harry Potter book = (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling)
  5. A book you’ve loved in the past = Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  6. A book at least 1000 pages long = It by Stephen King
  7. The last book in a series = (Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)
  8. A book recommended by a friend = (Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi- currently reading)
  9. A prize-winning book = Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  10. A non-fiction book = Night by Elie Weisel
  11. A book picked up on a whim from the library = Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard T. Chizmar
  12. A book at the bottom of your to-read list = (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)
  13. A book with a strong female lead = The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
  14. A book from the staff recommendations display at a bookstore = (Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan)
  15. A book in which a beloved character dies
  16. A Shakespeare play = (King Lear by Shakespeare)
  17. A book that takes place in space = (The Martian by Andy Weir)
  18. A book by a new-to-you author = The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
  19. A new book by an author you already love = Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  20. A book of short stories
  21. A memoir = The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  22. A true-crime book = In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  23. A book with a five-word title = (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor)
  24. A book set in another country = The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  25. A book of poetry = (Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur)

And for the second set: the big categories. Books that count for this part of the challenge can also be counted for a category in the set above or below.

  1. Twelve classics
    1. Emma by Jane Austen
    2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    3. (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide by Robert Louis Stevenson)
    4. (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
    5. (The Odyssey by Homer)
    6. (The Waves by Virginia Woolf)
    7. (The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    8. (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas)
    9. (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle)
    10. (Dracula by Bram Stoker)
    11. (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen)
    12. (King Lear by Shakespeare)
  2. Twelve books within a month of their publication dates
    1. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
    2. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
    3. The Philospher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    4. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    5. Red Rising Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell
    6. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
    7. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
    8. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
    9. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
    10. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
    11. (The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager)
    12. (Dark Age by Pierce Brown)
  3. The rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series
    1. (A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin- currently reading)
    2. (A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin)
    3. (A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin)
  4. All of my unread Book of the Month Club books
    1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    2. (Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich)
    3. (Artemis by Andy Weir)
    4. The Power by Naomi Alderman
    5. (Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King)
    6. (Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng)
    7. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    8. (Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane)
    9. (One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul)
    10. (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood)
    11. (Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller)
    12. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
    13. (The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne)
    14. The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    15. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    16. The Oracle Year by Charles Soule
    17. Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall
    18. (The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya)
    19. Still Lives by Maria Hummel
    20. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
  5. Nine books by Victoria/V. E. Schwab
    1. (The Archived)
    2. (The Unbound)
    3. (This Savage Song)
    4. (This Dark Duet)
    5. (Vicious)
    6. (Vengeful)
    7. (A Darker Shade of Magic)
    8. (A Gathering of Shadows)
    9. (A Conjuring of Light)

Final set: some specific titles I definitely want to read in 2018. These can also count in the sets above.

  1. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  6. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  7. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  8. The Martian by Andy Weir
  9. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  10. Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman

Finis. So here’s where I stand:

  • I’ve read 38 books that count for this challenge.
  • I would need to read at least 92 books to fill every slot in this challenge.
  • That’s about 41% completion at this point.
  • I’ve read 61 books so far this year, which means
  • I’ve read 23 books that don’t count for this challenge.
  • I need to read at least 54 more books to fill every slot left.

I can work with that. Looking at these numbers, it would technically be possible to complete this challenge still by the end of the year. But I know I’m going to be reading more books that don’t count here.

And honestly, I’m okay with the fact that I might not read all of these books within the year. I chose the books I did to push myself to pick up unread titles from my shelves, and I have been. But I’ve also been focusing on reading quality over quantity this year, which means reading books that inspire me and teach me about the world instead of just reading a ton of titles that are easy to cross off a list. Overall, I’ve been really happy with the change in my reading this year as far as quality goes. I’ve been taking chances on trying new things, and I’ve been finding some phenomenal titles that I didn’t necessarily know to look for when I first constructed this challenge. I dont want to change the way my reading has been going this year just to finish this challenge, because in the end enjoying what I’m reading and learning from what I’m reading is more important to me than crossing titles off a list.

With that in mind, there are some categories here I’m sure I’ll finish before the end of the year, and some I probably won’t. The first set, with 25 individual books, should be fairly easy. Even if I don’t stick to the titles I’ve been plannnig, I’ve been having fun matching what I’m reading to the categories of that set, and I’m over halfway through that bunch.

The second set, the groups of books, I’m not so sure about. I’m way behind on classics, but I’ve been reading a lot of modern classics from the Penguin Modern collection; at some point I’ll decide how many of those short volumes equal one classic, and I think I’ll end up close to my 12-book goal.

I’ll definitely read more than 12 books within a month of publication; I’m not going to stop reading new publications when I reach that goal.

I don’t mind extending my Song of Ice and Fire read into next year, as long as I make some progress this year.

I would really like to catch up on my BOTM selections; that list is going to keep growing as I acquire more of their books throughout the year, but I think at some point (maybe this fall) I want to do a BOTM marathon to try to finish off that list.

And then we have Victoria Schwab. 9 of her books now seems a bit excessive, when really I just wanted to push myself to get started on reading them. I read one Schwab short story last year and I think I’m really going to like her books, but as long as I try a couple I really don’t mind not reading all of the Schwab books I’m interested in within 2018.

And finally, the last set, the specific books. I really wanted to be able to cross these ten off my TBR this year, but I just keep not reaching for them. My priorities have changed in the last 6 months, and I have no idea if I’ll be able to get to all of these or not. Some of them are more tempting than others at this point.

But whether I can complete the challenge or not, I think it’s accomplishing what it was meant to: I’m reading unread books from my shelves, and I’m reaching for books I think I’ll really enjoy instead of books that I can finish quickly. I’ll update again in three months, and your guess is as good as mine as to where I’ll stand at that point. But so far, I’m having a great reading year, and I’m not going to let any lists bog me down.

Are you working through a reading challenge this year? How’s it going? Have your interests changed throughout the year?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

2018 Reading Challenge: Update 1

A quarter of the year is gone (what?! where?), and it’s time to check in. In case you missed it, I assembled my own personal reading challenge for 2018 full of goals and titles that fit my tastes and my reading aspirations for the year. I haven’t been very systematic about tackling the challenges yet, so I’ll be as surprised as you about where I stand and what my plans will be moving forward. Let’s take a look – – – >

Strikethrough font means I’ve completed the task, (parentheses) means I’ve designated a book for the task but not completed it yet.

Here is the first set of challenges: individual books.

  1. A book you didn’t get around to in 2017 =¬†Lady Midnight¬†by Cassandra Clare
  2. A book with a blue cover = Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
  3. A Stephen King book
  4. An illustrated Harry Potter book = (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling)
  5. A book you’ve loved in the past = Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
  6. A book at least 1000 pages long = It by Stephen King
  7. The last book in a series = (Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff)
  8. A book recommended by a friend = (Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi)
  9. A prize-winning book
  10. A non-fiction book = Night by Elie Weisel
  11. A book picked up on a whim from the library = Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard T. Chizmar
  12. A book at the bottom of your to-read list = (Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)
  13. A book with a strong female lead
  14. A book from the staff recommendations display at a bookstore = (Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew J. Sullivan)
  15. A book in which a beloved character dies
  16. A Shakespeare play = (King Lear by Shakespeare)
  17. A book that takes place in space = (The Martian by Andy Weir)
  18. A book by a new-to-you author = (Vicious by V. E. Schwab)
  19. A new book by an author you already love = Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  20. A book of short stories
  21. A memoir = The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  22. A true-crime book = (In Cold Blood by Truman Capote)
  23. A book with a five-word title = (Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor)
  24. A book set in another country = The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
  25. A book of poetry = (Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur)

And for the second set: the big categories. Books that count for this part of the challenge can also be counted for a category in the sets above or below.

  1. Twelve classics
    1. Emma by Jane Austen
    2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    3. (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide by Robert Louis Stevenson)
    4. (A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
    5. (The Odyssey by Homer)
    6. (The Waves by Virginia Woolf)
    7. (The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    8. (The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas)
    9. (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle)
    10. (Dracula by Bram Stoker)
    11. (Mansfield Park by Jane Austen)
    12. (King Lear by Shakespeare)
  2. Twelve books within a month of their publication dates
    1. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
    2. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
    3. The Philospher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    4. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    5. Red Rising Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown, Rik Hoskin, and Eli Powell
    6. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  3. The rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series
    1. (A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin)
    2. (A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin)
    3. (A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin)
  4. All of my unread Book of the Month books
    1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
    2. (Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich)
    3. (Artemis by Andy Weir)
    4. (The Power by Naomi Alderman)
    5. (Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King)
    6. (Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng)
    7. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
    8. (Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane)
    9. (One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul)
    10. (All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood)
    11. (Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller)
    12. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner
    13. (The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne)
    14. The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller
    15. Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan
    16. (The Oracle Year by Charles Soule)
    17. (Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall)
    18. (The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya)
  5. Nine books by Victoria/V. E. Schwab
    1. (The Archived)
    2. (The Unbound)
    3. (This Savage Song)
    4. (This Dark Duet)
    5. (Vicious)
    6. (Vengeful)
    7. (A Darker Shade of Magic)
    8. (A Gathering of Shadows)
    9. (A Conjuring of Light)

Final set: some specific titles I definitely want to read in 2018. These can also count in the sets above.

  1. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  6. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  7. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  8. The Martian by Andy Weir
  9. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  10. Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman

And that’s that. So far I have completed 23 challenge tasks, and I have at least 72 challenge tasks left. When I set this challenge for myself, I made it large because I really wanted to push myself this year, but I had no idea if I would actually be able to complete it within a year. Some of the tasks are designed to make me read more than one book, but being able to count some books more than once across the three sets might help even that out. Right now, it looks like if I keep going at the same rate I should have a chance at finishing. I haven’t been trying very hard yet to meet any of these challenges– I did well when I set these tasks because they are fitting pretty well with what I’m reaching for naturally, and even the bigger tasks (like reading all of my BOTM books) are things I want to work toward just because I feel I should, which means I’m not feeling bogged down by the restrictions of the challenge. At least not yet. I’m happy with where I’m at, I’m hopeful about my chances of completion, and I’m excited to watch my progress as the year progresses.

Are you taking part in any reading challenges this year, and if so how’s it going? Are there any tasks or specific titles on my list that you’ve read lately or are excited for me to get to?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Another Year of Classics

In my 2017 Wrap-Up I mentioned meeting my goal of reading at least 12 classics throughout that year. (Check out A Year of Classics for last year’s titles.) I want to do the same for 2018.

In 2017, I read 15 of 12 classics, although I only read 10.3 of the classics I originally designated. Nevertheless, having a classic planned for each month did help me reach that goal of 12, even if I did make some changes to it as the year progressed. So I’m here to designate another 12 classics for the months of 2018.

Here are the titles I’m hoping to read this year:

January- Emma by Jane Austen. (I read two of Austen’s books last year and loved them. Now I’m on a quest to read the rest of Austen’s novels– not too fast, because I want to savor them, but Austen is the only author with two books on this list.)

February- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. (My enjoyment of Jane Eyre last year sent me in the direction of this mysterious Gothic romance. It sounds like exactly the sort of intrigue I like to read to get me through the long tail-end of winter.)

March- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide by Robert Louis Stevenson.
(I read Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and it wasn’t my favorite, but I did enjoy the plot enough that I wanted to try another of his books. I’m hoping that I’ll like this one better.)

April- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.¬†(A Christmas Carol was the first and only Dickens novel I’ve ever read, but even though I knew the plot going in, the writing and the characters drew me in and made it such a fun experience– especially during the holiday season. I have no excuse to put off trying another Dickens title this year.)

May- The Odyssey by Homer.¬†(I haven’t finished¬†The Iliad yet, so putting¬†The Odyssey in the top half of this list is meant to encourage me to keep working at it in a timely manner. I always intended to read the two of these close enough together that¬†The Iliad is still fresh in my mind when I read¬†The Odyssey, so I’m aiming to wrap up the whole endeavor in 2018.)

June- The Waves by Virginia Woolf. (There are several Woolf titles on my long-term TBR, and while I’ve read lots of excerpts and shorter pieces of Woolf’s, I’ve never read any of her full-length books. If this one goes well, I’ll probably pick up more of them in the future.)

July- The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. (It’s been years since I read The Great Gatsby, and I still haven’t picked up any of Fitzgerald’s other works. My opinion of The Great Gatsby has fluctuated over the years, so I’m not sure what to expect from picking up another of Fitzgerald’s novels, but I’m ready to find out.)

August- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas. (I switched this one out of my classics list last year because I was starting A Game of Thrones again that month and didn’t want to read two really long books in a row. That’s a poor excuse and “epic revenge story” still sounds pretty fantastic, so I’m more determined to actually read this one this year.)

September- Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. (My knowledge of Sherlock Holmes is vague at best. I have yet to read any of Doyle’s stories, which means I also haven’t watched any corresponding films or TV shows or read any retellings. It’s time to change that, I think. From what I’ve heard, Sherlock sounds like someone I’d be very interested in reading about, so that’s what I’m going to do.)

October- Dracula by Bram Stoker. (This is the other title I switched out of last year’s classics list, and if I’m honest, I’ve been meaning to read it for several Octobers in a row now and always procrastinated until it’s too late. I don’t know why, but here’s to giving it another go.)

November- Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. (As noted above, this is my second Austen title of the year, which will leave only one of her novels for me to read in 2019. I like the idea of spacing them out a bit, to keep the stories and characters from melding together in my mind and also because it’s so sad when there can’t be forthcoming novels by an author you appreciate– I don’t want my first experiences with Austen’s books to be over too soon.)

December- King Lear by Shakespeare. (I wanted a short classic for the end of the year, in case I’m busy trying to wrap up other reading endeavors. It should prevent me from shirking on my classics. I picked this one specifically because it was recommended to me multiple times after I posted my review for Macbeth last month. I’m still on the hunt for my favorite Shakespeare play, and I’m hoping this one will be a contender.)

classics 2018

(p.s I know it’s Macbeth in the picture instead of King Lear. I haven’t bought my copy of King Lear yet but I’m planning to do that later in the year.)

I love classics, but I know I don’t reach for them as readily as I do modern works. A challenge like this helps me to pick up books that might take a little longer to read but will (hopefully) be worth the time they take in the end. I tried to assemble a good mix of genres and authors for 2018 while also selecting books that I genuinely believe I will enjoy. I’m looking forward to reading these, and I hope I’ll have just as much success (or more) with this challenge as I did last year.

Do you read classics? Do you see any favorites on this list?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

 

2017 Reading Challenge: Final Update

My first year with a reading challenge has now drawn to a close, but did I complete it? Drumroll, please…

I did! Sort of. I did finish my last book after midnight on the 1st, but I was so close and I’m counting it. To be fair, I won’t count that book for anything in 2018 even though technically I did finish it a few hours after 2017 ended. Maybe it’s cheating, but… I was so close. I’m counting it.

Here are the books I read for my 2017 reading challenge:

  1. A book with more than 500 pages: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  2. A classic romance: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. A book that became a movie: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. A book published this year: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  5. A book with a number in the title: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  6. A book written by someone under thirty: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
  7. A book with nonhuman characters: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  8. A funny book: A Million Junes by Emily Henry
  9. A book by a female author: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. A mystery or thriller: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  11. A book with a one-word title: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  12. A book of short stories: Because You Love to Hate Me by various, ed. Ameriie
  13. A book set in a different country: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  14. A nonfiction book: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. A popular author’s first book: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  16. A book you haven’t read before from an author you already love: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
  17. A book a friend recommended: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  19. A book based on a true story: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  21. A book your mom loves: Vows by LaVyrle Spencer
  22. A book that scares you: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  23. A book more than 100 years old: Persuasion by Jane Austen
  24. A book you picked up because of its cover: Faithful by Alice Hoffman
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: The Lover by Marguerite Duras
  26. A memoir: Talking as fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  27. A book you finish in a day: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  28. A book with antonyms in the title: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:¬†Lies She Told
    by Cate Holahan
  30. A book that came out the year you were born: The Alienist by Caleb Carr
  31. A book with bad reviews: Lucky You by Erika Carter
  32. A trilogy: The Grisha trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  33. A book from your childhood: The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
  34. A book with a love triangle: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
  35. A book set in the future: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  36. A book set in high school: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  37. A book with a color in the title: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  38. A book that makes you cry: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  39. A book with magic: The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  40. A graphic novel: Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  42. A book you own but have never read: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  43. A book that takes place in your home state: Some Luck by Jane Smiley
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language: A Man Called Ove by Frederick Backman
  45. A book set during Christmas: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  47. A play: Macbeth by Shakespeare
  48. A banned book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV Show: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
  50. A book you started but never finished: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

My stats –>¬† ¬† Completed Categories: 50/50

My favorites from the list: Six of Crows, A Million Junes, Dark Matter, The Color Purple, Persuasion, The Truth About Forever, The Female of the Species, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Jane Eyre.

Some of these books appear on my Favorite Reads of 2017 list!

Would I attempt a reading challenge in the future? Sure! In fact, you can check out the Literary Elephant 2018 Reading Challenge now! But here’s why I’m not in a hurry to pick up another challenge like this one:

It was fun at first, fitting books from my actual TBR into the confines of the challenge. There were even some fun surprises when the challenge pushed me to expand my TBR to include some new items. But as a whole, once I hit about the 2/3 mark, my challenge felt more like a chore. My reading interests change over time– not to say they’re ever “better” or “worse,” and they do change back sometimes too– but after several months I was less interested in a chunk of the titles that I’d eagerly filled into these challenge categories earlier in the year. I think a smaller challenge, or one more personally adapted to fit me would give me better results. Near the end of this challenge, several of the categories seemed so arbitrary that I wondered why I was trying so hard to finish the challenge. The categories just weren’t pushing me in the right way to reach the sort of reading goals I was interested in by the middle/end of the year. There were some books I was glad to have read because of this challenge, and I did cross quite a few books off my TBR as well, but it was easy to stay inside my reading comfort zone with these, which did end up boring me after a while. I want to make some changes in the material that I’m reading. So as I mentioned above, I’ve set my own reading challenge for 2018, and you’re welcome to join– even if you want to change some of the categories to tailor it to your own reading tastes, like I did.

All in all, I’m proud of myself for completing my first ever reading challenge, and it did push me to get some higher numbers this year, but in 2018 I’m aiming for quality above quantity, and I want to be reaching for more books that are out of the norm. I’m glad I participated in a reading challenge for 2017, but I’m even more excited about seeing what comes next.

Did you take part in a reading challenge last year? Were you able to complete it? Did it help you find any surprising favorite books?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

2018 Reading Challenge

I’m still fighting to wrap up my 2017 challenge before the end of the year, but as I’m focusing on that, I’ve also been thinking about what sort of reading goals I want to strive for in the new year. For a number of reasons that will be listed in a review at the end of my 2017 Reading Challenge Wrap-up (coming next week), I’ve decided to construct my own reading challenge for 2018.

As with many reading challenges, some of the categories I’ve chosen are much more specific than others because there are some books and some types of books that I really want to push myself to get around to this year. But there are also other categories that I left more open so that I can pick up unexpected books throughout the year without sacrificing progress on my challenge.

If you want to join me in this challenge, please feel free! Just link back to this page or any of my updates throughout the year so I have a chance to follow your progress, too. ūüôā I tailored this one to fit me, but it’s absolutely acceptable if you want to adapt it to your own reading needs– change author names, titles, or genres from my list to best fit your own reading goals of 2018. Anything counts!

Here is the first set of challenges: individual books.

  1. A book you didn’t get around to in 2017
  2. A book with a blue cover
  3. A Stephen King book
  4. An illustrated Harry Potter book
  5. A book you’ve loved in the past
  6. A book at least 1000 pages long
  7. The last book in a series
  8. A book recommended by a friend
  9. A prize-winning book
  10. A non-fiction book
  11. A book picked up on a whim from the library
  12. A book at the bottom of your to-read list
  13. A book with a strong female lead
  14. A book from the staff recommendations display at a bookstore
  15. A book in which a beloved character dies
  16. A Shakespeare play
  17. A book that takes place in space
  18. A book by a new-to-you author
  19. A new book by an author you already love
  20. A book of short stories
  21. A memoir
  22. A true-crime book
  23. A book with a five-word title
  24. A book set in another country
  25. A book of poetry

And for the second set: the big categories. Books that count for this part of the challenge can also be counted for a category in the sets above or below.

  1. Twelve classics
  2. Twelve books within a month of their publication dates
  3. The rest of the A Song of Ice and Fire Series
  4. My backlog of Book of the Month books
  5. Nine books by Victoria/V. E. Schwab

Final set: some specific titles I definitely want to read in 2018. These can also count in the sets above.

  1. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
  2. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  3. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  5. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  6. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  7. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
  8. The Martian by Andy Weir
  9. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown
  10. Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman

That’s the Literary Elephant Reading Challenge, 2018. There are 40 categories in total, and books can be used in multiple sets though not in multiple categories within the same set. If you like the structure, feel free to change titles, authors, genres, series, or whatever you like to create your own challenge list. I wanted to set goals that fit my own reading preferences, with challenges that will help me branch out of my comfort zone and work through some unread books on my shelves. Some of the categories will require reading multiple books, but I hope that allowing books to fill multiple categories will keep that from being too overwhelming. I don’t know if I will actually be able to read all of these books within 2018, but I did intend to challenge myself and I think this list will help keep me motivated and on track with what I really want to read this year. I’ll post updates on my progress every three months.

Are you taking part in any reading challenges for 2018? Which ones?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Challenge Update 3

My interest in completing a reading challenge this year was starting to wane because I was picking up different books than I’d planned early in the year, and I was becoming disheartened by my lack of progress. But I realized that even though I wasn’t necessarily reaching for the books I thought I would be to complete these challenges, I was still fulfilling some of the categories. So after re-examining my list and changing a few of my plans from earlier in the year, I’m feeling good again about my progress and the possibility of completing the challenge (or at least coming close).

User’s guide: the books in parentheses (and orange type) are titles I intend to read but haven’t yet. No parentheses means I’ve already read it and checked it off my list this year. I’m not providing links this time to my corresponding reviews, but if you’re curious about my thoughts on any of the books I’ve read from this list I’d be happy to talk about them in the comments, and I do have full reviews on my site for most of the books I’ve read this year. Stats will be listed at the end.

Here’s where I stand:

  1. A book with more than 500 pages: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  2. A classic romance: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  3. A book that became a movie: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. A book published this year: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  5. A book with a number in the title: (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)
  6. A book written by someone under thirty: (The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon)
  7. A book with nonhuman characters: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  8. A funny book: A Million Junes by Emily Henry
  9. A book by a female author: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. A mystery or thriller: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  11. A book with a one-word title: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
  12. A book of short stories: Because You Love to Hate Me by various, ed. Ameriie
  13. A book set in a different country: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  14. A nonfiction book: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. A popular author’s first book: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  16. A book you haven’t read before from an author you already love: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
  17. A book a friend recommended: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: (All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr)
  19. A book based on a true story: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list: (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)
  21. A book your mom loves: Vows by LaVyrle Spencer
  22. A book that scares you: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  23. A book more than 100 years old: Persuasion by Jane Austen
  24. A book you picked up because of its cover: Faithful by Alice Hoffman
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: (The Lover by Marguerite Duras)
  26. A memoir: Talking as fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
  27. A book you finish in a day: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  28. A book with antonyms in the title: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit:¬†Lies She Told
    by Cate Holahan
  30. A book that came out the year you were born: (The Alienist by Caleb Carr)
  31. A book with bad reviews: Lucky You by Erika Carter
  32. A trilogy: The Grisha trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  33. A book from your childhood: (The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen)
  34. A book with a love triangle: Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
  35. A book set in the future: Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
  36. A book set in high school: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  37. A book with a color in the title: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  38. A book that makes you cry: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  39. A book with magic: The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  40. A graphic novel: (Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples)
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  42. A book you own but have never read: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown: (Still not sure about this one. There are no books that take place in my hometown. I’m still considering adjusting this prompt, but if I can’t come up with a nice compromise, I’ll concede this slot.)
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language: (The Iliad by Homer)
  45. A book set during Christmas: (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials: (The Wonder by Emma Donoghue)
  47. A play: (Macbeth by Shakespeare)
  48. A banned book: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV Show: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
  50. A book you started but never finished: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

My stats –>¬† ¬† Completed Categories: 37/50¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Undecided Categories: 1/50 ¬† ¬† Left to Read: 13/50

My thoughts on reading challenges have changed a lot over the course of this year, and my next (and final) update on this list will reveal those. For now, I’ve got 13 books to fit into the last three months of this year in order to complete this challenge for 2017. I feel like it’s possible, but also I know of several other books I’m going to be reading in these last three months as well, so it’ll be a surprise even to me whether I’m going to check off every item on this list or not.

Are you still working on a 2017 reading challenge? Have you read any of these books? Which of my unread titles here do you recommend I pick up next?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Reading Challenge Update 1

In case you missed my post about it in January, I’m participating in a reading challenge hosted by my local library for 2017. Well, participating is a loose term. I’m participating alone, since the library doesn’t have any sort of organizational system in place to unite the people who picked up the challenge. But that’s how I wanted it: an easy lead-in just for my own personal reference that I could fill with books from my TBR just to help motivate me to keep pushing through the books on my shelves and practice crossing books off a list so I’m prepared for a more adventurous challenge next year. For now, I’m doing my best to fill all 50 slots with books I already know I want to read. We’re a few months into the year now, though, so I’ve made some changes to my list as I’ve actually been reading through my TBR instead of just planning my year, so I wanted to check in with my progress and fill in some of the blanks that I left open last time around.

Some of the books have changed within the categories from what I originally planned because I fit in the books that I had actually read if they fit in somewhere, although I still plan to eventually read all the books I included in January’s tentative plan, even if they don’t end up fitting into this challenge. There are still a few holes, but here’s how I’m doing and what I’m still planning to read (unread books will be listed in parentheses):

  1. A book with more than 500 pages: City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  2. A classic romance: (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)
  3. A book that became a movie: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. A book published this year: (A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas)
  5. A book with a number in the title: (Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo)
  6. A book written by someone under thirty: (Unsure at the moment. I was going to use Iron Gold as my book for this category, but its release has been pushed back to January 2018, so I’ll have to find something else to fill this slot.)
  7. A book with nonhuman characters: All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  8. A funny book: (My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows)
  9. A book by a female author: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
  10. A mystery or thriller: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
  11. A book with a one-word title: (Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman)
  12. A book of short stories: (Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell)
  13. A book set in a different country: (The Wrath and the Dawn by Rene Ahdieh)
  14. A nonfiction book: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. A popular author’s first book: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
  16. A book you haven’t read before from an author you already love: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
  17. A book a friend recommended: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: (All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr)
  19. A book based on a true story: (Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie)
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list: (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)
  21. A book your mom loves: Vows by LaVyrle Spencer
  22. A book that scares you: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
  23. A book more than 100 years old: Persuasion by Jane Austen
  24. A book you picked up because of its cover: Faithful by Alice Hoffman
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: (The Lover by Marguerite Duras)
  26. A memoir: (Talking as fast as I Can by Lauren Graham)
  27. A book you finish in a day: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  28. A book with antonyms in the title: (Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott)
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: (The¬†Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney)
  30. A book that came out the year you were born: (Still not sure about this one. There are currently no books on my TBR that fulfill this category, so I’m not sure if later in the year I’ll pick up something anyway or if I’ll decide to skip this one.)
  31. A book with bad reviews: Lucky You by Erika Carter
  32. A trilogy: (The Grisha trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. Progress = 2 of 3 books read so far)
  33. A book from your childhood: (The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen)
  34. A book with a love triangle: (Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare)
  35. A book set in the future: (Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman)
  36. A book set in high school: The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  37. A book with a color in the title: (The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons)
  38. A book that makes you cry: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  39. A book with magic: The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  40. A graphic novel: (Orange by Ichigo Takano)
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  42. A book you own but have never read: (I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson)
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown: (Still not sure about this one. There are no books that take place in my hometown. I’m still considering adjusting this prompt, but if I can’t come up with a nice compromise, I’ll skip this one.)
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language: (The Iliad by Homer)
  45. A book set during Christmas: (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials: (Still not sure about this one. I haven’t extensively combed my TBR for this one yet, but I haven’t read anything by an E. A. D. and nothing jumps to mind. I’m still keeping an eye out, but I might skip this one if I can’t find anything. Do you know of any books by an E. A. or E. D. or even an A. D.?)
  47. A play: (Macbeth by Shakespeare)
  48. A banned book: (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)
  49. A book based on or turned into a TV Show: City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare
  50. A book you started but never finished: (Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte)–currently reading

 

My stats:

Finished categories = 20/50

Categories in progress = 2/50

Undecided categories = 4/50

I’m pretty happy with my progress so far. Several of these books are in my current monthly TBR (not to mention the fact that I’m currently reading one¬†of them at the moment, probably literally) so I’m still making forward motion on this list. I’ve read a ton of books already this year that have been piling up in my master TBR, but I’m discovering that no matter how many books I cross off there are always more to replace them. My master TBR hovers around 280 books all the time, so I don’t feel like I’m making much of a dent, but I am glad I’ve finally read lots of these books that I’ve been meaning to get around to. And in the end, what fun is an empty TBR shelf, anyway? I’ll keep reading, I’ll keep wanting to read more, and hopefully I’ll have some fun finishing some challenges in the meantime. I’ll check back in with you on this in a couple more months.

How are your reading challenges going this year? Are any of these books on your lists?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant