Gather in, bloggers and readers, I’m going to tell you a secret.
Are you ready? Here goes…
I love reading.
Ok, that was not a secret at all.
I’m actually going to tell you about the books I read for a book challenge I gave myself in 2017. I found this awesome little book on Amazon called A Year of Reading by Elisabeth Ellington and Jane Freimiller.
The book features a different theme each month with five options for what to read. What I loved about using this guide is that it includes diverse authors of various ethnicities as well as a wide variety of genres in its recommendations. Over the course of the year, I read a mix of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and prose, and even a few graphic novels.
It also includes discussion and reflection sections and extra credit opportunities with bonus book recommendations, interviews and videos to check out, and more!
Here’s a sample of what my year looked like using this guidebook to switch up my reading! I didn’t finish every book every month, because life gets in the way sometimes. But there were months I read more than one title for the theme too, so in the end, it evened out.
My Year of Reading
January: A Happier You
Book: The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
What I liked about it: This book is a collection of the author’s art, sketches, and photography. It includes story snippets and random musings. It’s different than any other book I’ve read. For more info about this book, check out my previous post here.
February: Classic Romance
Book: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
What I liked about it: A fascinating look at love and relationships across generations, geography, and social media.
Blog Review: Check out my favorite parts in my full blog review!
March: Focus on Justice
Books: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
What I liked about it: Easily one of my favorite reads of 2017. Incredibly well written, the book chronicles Stevenson’s journey toward working with wrongfully convicted death row inmates and juveniles who were tried as adults. The book discusses one case in detail throughout, but includes multiple examples of cases Stevenson worked on. From tampering with evidence to racial prejudices, the author and lawyer tackles what’s wrong with our justice system.
Blog Review: Read my full blog review of the book.
What I liked about it: So powerful. Congressman John Lewis joined with illustrators to tell his story of the civil rights movement to a whole new generation in this graphic novel series. Definitely read all three books! Another favorite that will make you think, make you learn, make you humble, make you crave change, do better, be aware!
April: Creative Spirit
Book: Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo
What I liked about it: Beautiful blend of memoir, prose, and poetry. It’s emotional, artistic, and rhythmic. This one deserves to be read aloud.
Blog Review: Read my full blog review.
May: Families in Fiction
Book: The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi A. Jackson
What I liked about it: Family dynamics are at full play in this story of sisters who move from Brooklyn to Barbados to live with their grandmother. It’s more than a coming of age story, that’s just a small part of the tale. There are family secrets and lessons to learn as the sisters create a new sense of home.
June: Families in Nonfiction
Book: Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
What I liked about it: A humorous and heartfelt graphic novel and memoir about caring for aging parents. As much as you’d think this was a quick, easy read since it’s illustrated, I had to take my time and read this slowly. With older parents of my own, there were parts I could identify with, and the unknown future and potential issues this book brings up made me emotional. It shares real feelings and concerns about what we do with the people we love as they get older.
Book: In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom by Qanta Ahmed
What I liked about it: I didn’t know a lot about the Muslim faith before reading this and it was interesting to have a woman’s point of view on the religion and its practices both in Saudi Arabia and the western world. Despite faith-based and gender barriers, the author and doctor was able to show the reader her deep love for the religion, the women who are making progress in unique ways, and how to be a strong, professional woman.
August: Starting Over
Book: The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord (did not finish)
September: This Digital Life
Book: The Circle by Dave Eggers
What I liked about it: Um, I didn’t care for this one personally. The storyline is interesting and brings up issues about social media, safety, and security. However, I was disappointed with the lead character and felt the author did not represent her very realistically. I think if a writer is going to write a main character that is a different gender or ethnicty than themself, they should make that character as real as possible. The numerous sex scenes that take place in public bathrooms did not do anything to move the story forward or seem true to the character. They very much felt written by a male for a male. This made my interest in the book lessen.
October: Reading About Reading
Book: The World Between Two Covers: Reading the Globe by Ann Morgan (did not finish)
November: Comfort Food, Comfort Reading
Books: Life From Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness by Sasha Martin
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
What I liked about it: Sasha Martin had a very difficult childhood, and despite moving around and many unstable moments, she’s created a memoir that revolves around food. From the unique, makeshift meals her mother made to family recipes to attending cooking school, Martin finds meaning in them all.
What I liked about it: Another graphic novel for my list! Knisley shares short stories of food memories in this graphic novel. From learning how to cook mushrooms with her mother to traveling the world and surviving on pastries, her passion for food will be felt.
December: Heartwarming Classics
Book: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
What I liked about it: I completed this one on audiobook and highly recommend the BBC radio production recording if you can get it. Excellent narrator and the story is infused with additional sound effects like the chains, the chimes of the clock striking the hour, and some instrumental music. I really enjoyed this classic and would read it again.
What reading challenges did you do or are you currently doing?
Do you think reading diverse books is important?
What do you want to read more of this year?