I finished the 2015 Reading Challenge! It was so much fun to do. I’m looking forward to the 2016 challenge, if there is one.
Here are the 52 books I read this year, the categories I fit them into, and a few brief words about what I thought of each one.
2015 Reading Challenge
1. A book with more than 500 pages
The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy – 5 stars
This is one of my all time favorite books. I think Maeve Binchy develops characters so well and the story is just beautiful.
2. A classic romance
The Princess Bride by William Goldman – 4 stars
Would you believe that I’ve never even seen this movie? Or maybe I’ve seen part of it but not the whole thing…? I dunno. Doesn’t matter. The book was good. Classic, romantic. And I love the supporting characters.
3. A book that became a movie
Paper Towns by John Green – 3 stars
I really love John Green’s writing. He has a talent for spinning a sentence. I debated between three stars and four stars for this book and ultimately settled on three stars because while I love the writing, I thought the ending was kind of weak.
4. A book published this year
A God In Ruins by Kate Atkinson – 3 stars
This is the “companion book” to Life After Life which I read last year and LOVED. It follows the brother of the main character in the Life After Life and it was good, but I think LAL is better – the books do stand alone though. You don’t need to read them in any particular order. And if you read A God In Ruins first, it wouldn’t surprise me if you like it better than Life After Life – the format of the stories are just so different.
5. A book with a number in the title
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes – 3 stars
This one was fine. I found the two kid characters very likeable and the two main adult characters a little grating. Pretty predictable but good story overall.
6. A book written by someone under 30
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – 4 stars
I’d never read this one and I wonder how my opinion of it would be different if I’d read it as a teenager rather than as a 30 year old. I think I was mostly struck by how…ordinary a good portion of the diary is. It’s typical 13 year old girl stuff…some of it is downright boring. But that is life – and that was life for her.
7. A book with nonhuman characters
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame – 3 stars
I borrowed this one from my mother in law who has a beautiful edition with the most gorgeous illustrations. I thought the story was sweet and whimsical.
8. A funny book
The Rosie Effect by Graeme C. Simsion – 4 stars
This one is the sequel to The Rosie Project, which overall I liked better. But Mr. Simsion’s writing is still so engaging and I can’t help but think of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory when I read it. The main character is so likeable.
9. A book by a female author
Anne of Ingleside by LM Montgomery – 4 stars
Anne is always a good idea. This one follows the adventures of Anne and Gilbert and their five children.
10. A mystery or thriller
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn – 4 stars
Creepy. Super creepy. From the author of Gone Girl but I thought it was even more disturbing. I liked it, in a weird way though.
11. A book set in a different country
Rumor Has It by Jill Mansell – 3 stars
I read this one at the beginning of 2015 and it just happened to fit this category. Pretty cute and funny. Very light, very predictable. Set in England, and I think it technically may be “Rumour” rather than “Rumor”.
12. A book with a one-word title
Son by Lois Lowry – 5 stars
The final book in The Giver quartet. Ties the other three books together. I really liked it.
13. A book of short stories
Single, Carefree, Mellow: Stories by Katherine Heiny – 3 stars
The first few stories were funny, but then I realized they’re all pretty much the same storyline. And there was a lot of cheating and other behavior that I don’t necessarily approve of in the stories.
14. A nonfiction book
Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Pamela Druckerman – 4 stars
I thought this book was great! The author was very “I’m not saying French parents are better than American, I don’t even like Paris all that much, these are just a few things I’ve observed about the differences.” There were ideas that I’m excited to try with my own child(ren) including the French “way” to get babies to “do their nights” and be open minded about food and regulate themselves and entertain themselves.
15. A popular author’s first book
Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty – 4 stars
Pretty cute. Not my favorite Liane Moriarty book, but light and easy to read.
16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
Anne’s House of Dreams by LM Montgomery – 3 stars
I ranked this one 3 stars but as I look back on it I remember it more fondly than that, so maybe I was a little harsh with the three stars? I liked it for sure. Loved the new characters like the neighbor girl and the Captain. I think this is the book where I thought Anne was kind of…self-obsessed. She just seemed much more interested in herself than anything else. I don’t know…I should have jotted down my thoughts right after reading it.
17. A book a friend recommended
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – 3 stars
Okay. I think I was too harsh with the three stars on this one too. The story was wonderful – excellent. I was so annoyed with the format though. Long run on sentences in the diary part, etc. It was hard for me to read – I guess I’m too simple minded for that depth!
18. A Pulitzer Prize winning book
John Adams. by David McCullough – 5 stars
This is one of Kevin’s favorite books, and it is really, really great. I tend to prefer fiction to non-fiction, but David McCullough is a great author and this was so easy to read. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes history. Also, I’m convinced that there should be a John Adams memorial or monument somewhere. He was instrumental in the formation of our early government and so much more! Underrated! He’s underrated.
19. A book based on a true story
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – 3 stars
This was a pretty good one. I haven’t seen the movie, but I like Reese Witherspoon, so I’m sure it’s great.
20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach – 4 stars
This was at the bottom of my to-read list because I’m just not into baseball, so I didn’t think it would be that interesting. It was more about the people though and was really quite good.
21. A book your mom loves
Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind by Suzanne Fisher Staples – 3 stars
My mom loves this book (as the category would suggest). And it was interesting – about a different culture, set in a different part of the world. But it made me sad – especially the ending so I couldn’t give it more than three stars.
22. A book that scares you
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 4 stars
I think this one received so much hype that I had my expectations too high when I read it. It was really good, but it wasn’t as thrilling as Gone Girl, which it is often compared to, I think. It is a really interesting concept for a book! I think that made me like it more than the characters (none of whom I found very likeable) did.
23. A book more than 100 years old
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – 5 stars
I actually had never read this one, which is crazy. I also haven’t seen the movie. I know, I know, who am I? But the book was awesome. I can see why it is still popular, over 100 years after the original print date.
24. A book based entirely on the cover
Rules of Civility by Amor Towles – 5 stars
I bought this book a few years ago based entirely on the cover. Read it, loved it. Decided to read it again this year and since I bought it because of the cover, decided it counts for this category.
25. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell – 4 stars
Technically I was never assigned to read a book in high school that I didn’t read. But this is one that most people read in high school, and I never had, so I decide that was close enough for the category. A classic – I’m not too into the dystopian society, futuristic genre, but Orwell did a great job with this one. So scary, that Big Brother.
26. A memoir
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen – 3 stars
I found this one on a fluke and thought it was really cute. It’s written in 2013 (I think) by a 13 year old girl after she finds a book from the 50’s about how to be popular. She decides to document her attempts to follow the rules of the book in her southern Texas middle school. An easy read and a fun idea.
27. A book you can finish in a day
Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation – George Washington (Francis Hawkins’ translation) – 4 stars
This is found at the end of the Rules of Civility that I mentioned for the book based on cover category. Some of the tips are less applicable today (Spit not in the Fire, nor Stoop low before it neither Put your Hands into the Flames to warm them, nor Set your Feet upon the Fire especially if there be meat before it.) but there are so many more that are just as true today as they were then (Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.). If it was good enough for George Washington, it’s good enough for me. Here’s a complete list – they’re worth a glance: Rules of Civility.
28. A book with antonyms in the title
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty – 3 stars
Liane Moriarty is always fun to read. Her books are all of a similar vein, but good. This one was no exception. It follows the lives of three women and their intertwining stories. It had a nice twist at the end!
29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit
The Rosie Project by Graeme C. Simsion – 5 stars
I loved this book! I basically read it in Sheldon’s voice (from the Big Bang Theory). The chapter where Don and Rosie are tending bar at the reunion event is one of my all time favorite scenes I’ve read. Hilarious!
30. A book that came out the year you were born
Beaches by Iris Rainer Dart – 4 stars
I have heard of this movie (never watched it though), and didn’t know there was a book until I Googled “Books that came out in 1985”. The book was good, and from what I’ve heard of the movie, I think it must follow the book well. Two girls from very different worlds with very different personalities become friends as children, and through better or worse, their friendship survives time and distance and even death.
31. A book with bad reviews
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell – 4 stars
Did you know that this one was received with bad reviews when it first came out? It has stood the test of time though. I hadn’t read it since college so I decided it was time for a re-read. It really is a great book. Scarlett is so not-likeable…but I root for her all the same. I had forgotten what a relatively small portion of the book actually is spent on Scarlett and Rhett’s relationship. Hollywood really played that up, but there is so, so much more in the novel.
32. A trilogy
The Selection by Kiera Cass – 4 stars
The Elite by Kiera Cass – 4 stars
The One by Kiera Cass – 4 stars
This was definitely Young Adult Fiction – dystopian society meets The Bachelor. But they were fun and easy reads. I’m excited to read the fourth book – The Heir.
33. A book from your childhood
Christy by Catherine Marshall – 4 stars
I read this book when I was around 12 or 13, so I decided to read it again as an adult. It has a very strong female lead, which I always love.
34. A book with a love triangle
Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophie Kinsella – 4 stars
Sophie Kinsella books always bring a smile to my face. This one was really good! Predictable but good.
35. A book set in the future
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness – 3 stars
This is the first book in a dystopian society based trilogy. The main character is a 12 year old boy who lives in a world where thoughts are “noise” that can be heard by everyone else. I liked it and will probably finish out the trilogy at some point.
36. A book set in high school
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira – 4 stars
Fun fact: This book was written by one of Kevin’s high school classmates. I liked it better than I thought I would and it’s a book that kind of stuck with me – I still think of it on occasion. I cried harder reading this book than probably any other book I read this year. It takes place in the town I currently live in, which was interesting.
37. A book with a color in the title
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – 4 stars
A really interesting look at a story that isn’t explored in the Bible – that of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob. The turmoil’s of ancient womanhood really tugged at my heart. If you’re interested in midwifery, this would be a great one to read. Dinah is a strong female – which, as you’ve read about fifteen times in this post alone, I love.
38. A book that made you cry
Before I Go by Colleen Oakley – 4 stars
This book was so well written. It’s a heavy subject – a woman is diagnosed with cancer and there is no hope of treatment, so she sets out to find her husband a new wife. Somehow though, while reading it I laughed more than I cried.
39. A book with magic
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis – 4 stars
I read this book when I was a child and remember really liking it. It was just as fun to read as an adult. A nice escape from reality – via a wardrobe!
40. A graphic novel
Emily the Strange by Cosmic Debris Etc. Inc. – 2 stars
Graphic novels aren’t my thing. I found this to be weird. Definitely not my style. But Emily does like cats, so I liked those drawings…
41. A book by an author you’ve never read before
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare – 3 stars
A classic story. An orphan is forced into a Puritan society where she finds it difficult to be accepted. Her only friend is an alleged witch, and before too long, the young girl is accused of witchcraft as well.
42. A book you own but have never read
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – 5 stars
Kevin bought this one for me when he was away on a work trip, and I wanted an excuse to read it this year since it was all the rage, so I slipped it into this category. I really, really liked it. It mostly takes place during World War II, and the two main characters are so likeable. I know pretty much everyone has read it since it was THE book this year, but if you haven’t read it – I highly recommend.
43. A book that takes place in your hometown
No Life for a Lady by Agnes Morley Cleaveland – 4 stars
I grew up in a very small town in western New Mexico. What are the chances of finding a book that takes place there? Actually pretty high! My mom suggested a couple of options, and I settled on this one. It is basically a memoir written by this lady who grew up in rural New Mexico. It was really good – lots of funny stories about shenanigans she and her brother and sister got into. And it was fun to imagine the area that she writes about since I am from there.
44. A book that was originally written in a different language
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder (translated by Paulette Moller) – 2 stars
My least favorite book of the year. It is a philosophical analysis and got just plain WEIRD at the end. I guess I’m just not deep enough or philosophical enough to appreciate it.
45. A book set during Christmas
This Year It Will Be Different and Other Stories by Maeve Binchy – 5 stars
This was the final book I read in the challenge – just finished it today! It was a gift from Kevin’s aunt Andy when she came to visit last week. She knows I love Maeve Binchy! I loved these stories. Often books of short stories by the same author become repetitive, but this one didn’t. All of the stories were set during Christmas, so it was a great way to start the holiday season.
46. A book written by an author with the same initials as you
Simple Pleasures by Alfred Portale – 3 stars
This is actually a cookbook. Most of the recipes were too fancy for my kitchen, but I scanned a few and plan to try them. I thought it was a nice change of pace to read a cookbook cover to cover!
47. A play
4000 Miles by Amy Herzog – 3 stars
This play follows the story of a young man who has recently tragically lost a friend and he moves in with his grandmother. I think it would be interesting to see acted out in the theatre, but just reading the script didn’t captivate me.
48. A banned book
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – 3 stars
Less sinister than Nineteen Eighty Four on one hand, but still disturbing. I read this one during Banned Book Week, which was the last week of September.
49. A book based on or turned into a TV show
The Carrie Diaries by Candace Bushnell – 3 stars
Carrie before she was the lead in Sex and the City. It was fine. I’ve never watched the show The Carrie Diaries, and I doubt I will. But this book was easy and one of the first I read in the year (I think prior to when I decided to do this challenge) so I had to fit it in somewhere.
50. A book you started but never finished
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – 4 stars
I tried to read this one about a year ago and just couldn’t get into it. Then Allie read it and liked it and recommended that I try it again. I’m glad I did, because I couldn’t put it down by the end! A man and woman who live on a remote island, taking care of the lighthouse, save a baby who washed up on the shore in a boat that also contains a deceased adult male. They decide to raise the baby as their own, and it leads to tragic upheaval when the truth comes out. Since I had just had my own baby when I read this, I think I took a different perspective than I would have a year ago.
Check in numero cuatro –
# of books read: 52
# of books remaining: 0
What are you reading? Have you ever tried a reading challenge?