Friday, December 30, 2016

52 Book Challenge Wrap Up

When I started the Around the World in 52 books challenge at the beginning of the year, I never thought I'd actually read all 52 books. Surprisingly, I came much closer to completing this challenge than I ever expected. Out of the 92 books I've read in 2016, I found books to fit 47 individual challenges. None of the books are used more than once, and I'm currently reading books for three of the uncompleted challenges. 

This final list looks different than the one in my original, or even my mid-year, post. I decided it was more important to see how many challenges I could accomplish than it was to be true to the original list. For me, reading has never been about forcing myself to read specific books within a certain time frame, unless it was school related. Since this entire endeavor was only for personal gain, I tried hard to keep this challenge fun while also using it to expand on the variety of books I read throughout 2016. If my counting is correct, 33 of the books listed below were named in the original post. Some books have been moved around, while others were simply replaced.

1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't -- The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan *
2. A book set in a different continent -- I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak*
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated) -- The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins *
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015 -- The Dumb House by John Burnside*
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name --  Shrill by Lindy West*
6. The highest rated on your TBR -- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay*
7. A book about books -- The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Forde*
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages -- Candide by Voltaire*
9. A book that was mentioned in another book -- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee*
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now -- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll*
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge -- The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath*
12. A childhood classic -- The BFG by Roald Dahl*
13. Reader’s Choice -- Just Kids by Patty Smith*
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) -- Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling*
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago) -- Persuasion by Jane Austen*
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels -- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie*
17. A book with a beautiful cover -- Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (Vintage Classics Bronte Series edition)*
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list -- Bridget Jone's Diary by Helen Fielding*
19. A non-fiction book -- Sex Object by Jessica Valenti*
20. A book with a first name in the title -- Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery*
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page -- Fifth Avenue, 5 AM; Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman by Sam Wasson (currently reading)
22. The first book in a new to you series -- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments series)*
23. The next book in a series you are reading -- Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon*
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.) -- Four by Veronica Roth *
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you -- The Art Forger by Barbara A. Shapiro*
26. A book everyone is talking about -- The Girls by Emma Cline*
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion) -- When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi*
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir -- Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein*
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name -- Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling*
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own -- Angela Carter's Book of Fairytales
31. A work of young adult fiction -- Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins*
32. A historical fiction book -- Voyager by Diana Gabaldon*
33. The 16th book on your TBR -- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon*
34. A book about mental illness -- Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan*
35. An award winning book -- Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates*
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation -- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz*
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read -- Silver Linings Playlist by Matthew Quick*
38. A book about an anti hero -- A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess*
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list -- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead* (Read an Oprah Book Club book)
40. A novella from your favorite genre -- Animal Farm by George Orwell*
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction) -- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (currently reading)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel -- The Princess Bride by William Goldman
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night -- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness*
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public -- City of Glass by Cassandra Clare* (I wouldn't really say I'm ashamed of reading much in public but trying to describe this series to my family made me question myself)
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have -- Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter*
46. A crime story -- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote*
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title -- Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur*
48. A dystopia -- Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro*
49. A book with a great opening line -- 1984 by George Orwell (currently reading)
50. A book originally written in a language other than English -- Blindness by José Saramago*
51. A short story from a well-known author -- The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury*
52. A book published in 2016 -- The Yoga of Max's Discontent by Karan Bajaj*

All finished books are marked with *

The books on this list range from classics, new releases, translated fiction, non-fiction, children's books, YA novels, and historical romances. They're written by a mixture of authors spanning cultures, continents, times, genders, and races. 2016 has brought me some of my new favorite books written by truly brilliant authors and I can't wait to see what 2017 brings!


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Lists Are For Kids?

This is the first year I've gone without making a proper Christmas list. Ever since I was a small child I've made Christmas lists of epic proportion. Lists that were long, and detailed, and contained enough present ideas for five or more Christmases combined.

I'm no Dudley Dursley; I never expected my parents to buy me every present on the list, but I was particular. As the years go by the list has gone through several changes, from American Girl dolls and Barbies, to dance accessories and Pottery Barn Teen decor, to clothes and Apple products galore. When my parents started asking me last month what I wanted for Christmas this year, I completely blanked. For the first time ever I realized there was nothing I wanted that they could actually give me.

All the items I could think of this year were either too much for a Christmas gift, or just plain impossible. A spare $10,000 to help pay off my student loans faster. A trip to Scotland for my mom and I (or the whole family). A new car. Tickets to Hamilton: An American Musical. A significant other to love and spend Christmas with next year.

Maybe some people have the luxury of asking for, and receiving, a car for Christmas, but I know my parents can't afford a gift like that. Besides, what I really want is to be working a job that makes me enough money to afford my own car and gives me the ability to buy a new computer before this one gives out. I want financial freedom. I want my own tiny house. Unfortunately these aren't items for a Christmas list, more like Life wish list.

So I don't really want or need anything for Christmas this year, except maybe a couple pairs of socks. Is this what happens to everyone as they get older? Does this mean I'm officially an adult?

Have a very Merry Christmas and joyful holiday season!

- S

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Bell Jar

"I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet." - Sylvia Plath (The Bell Jar)

I tried reading Sylvia Plath's iconic novel back in high school, but gave up after fifty or sixty pages. The Bell Jar is often praised for Plath's progressive representation of feminism, and I always hoped to give the book another try. I've had this copy of The Bell Jar sitting on my shelf for a few years now, so I was excited to finally pick it up this month.

If you had asked me before why I'd given up on the novel back in high school, I would have told you the book was too sad for my taste. The truth is, the story just hit too close to home. In fact, I'm glad I waited until I was older to try again.

Now Plath's words don't trigger sadness as much as they trigger a sense of kinship, normalcy, and hope. I know it's a cliché to love Sylvia Plath, maybe that's another reason why I stopped reading her book in high school, but there's a reason so many women (and men) love her work. She spoke a language people can understand and connect to. Her writing would have seemed revolutionary when the book was first published, as it shed light on the feelings of discontent and uncertainty that often accompany the standards society sets for women.

Although women's rights have greatly increased in America over the last 60 years, we are still fighting against gender stereotypes today. Women are often held to a double standard when it comes to sex, and many women are forced to give up jobs due to lack of affordable child care and unpaid maternity leave. For these reasons, The Bell Jar is considered a modern classic and remians relevant today.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Knife and The Fork

A lot has happened since we last spoke. I got new glasses. I baked my first cheesecake. We elected a new President and I spent more than a bit of money on Black Friday sales. Life has been a little crazy lately and my anxiety levels have me wishing it was socially acceptable to spend all day in bed, but alas, it is not.

A week ago I had a moment of insight inspired by a fork and a muffin. I bought a muffin on my way to work and as usual, I asked for a plastic knife. I find that using a knife allows me to cut the muffin into bite sized pieces while making the least amount of mess. However, when I sat down with my latte at the bookstore, what I found in the bag was a fork.

Right away I thought, "A fork! What am I going to do with a fork? This isn't going to work. What a disaster!" Then I took a moment and realized how silly I was being because of course a fork would work. Maybe it's not what I thought I was getting, or what I normally use, but eating a muffin with a fork would work just as well as a knife. I don't know who was to blame for the mix up. Maybe the lady accidentally grabbed the wrong utensil, or I may have just said fork instead of knife. Either way all that matters is that I had a working untensil and a muffin to eat.

I couldn't help but see this fork/knife debocle as a metaphor for life. In life we're not always given what we want, or what we believe we're being given. Occasionally life gives you a fork instead of a knife. Maybe the fork makes more of a mess, but it's still a useful tool for getting the muffin into your mouth. Am I getting too deep into this metaphor now?

The fork was a reminder to always look at situations with an open mind. Next time I feel stuck, I should consider looking for an unexpected solution. Of course, I'd still like to get what I want (wouldn't we all), but life rarely works how I want it to.