2016 Reading Challenge

I know it’s early but I can’t wait. I read incessantly, and most of the time I feel not one whit of guilt for it, but having a formal challenge makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something.

“Book Worm” by Craig Sunter, Flickr/Creative Commons license.

1. A funny book.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman. I’d never imagined this as a funny book before, but it’s right there on all of the lists, and I’ve laughed my way through the movie and live performances. I hope this is another case where I love the book even more.

2. A banned book.

This book came to my attention when I was writing a post for Banned Books Week, and happened to read about the Tennessee mother who thinks she has the right to decide what everybody’s children should be allowed to read, not just her own: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot.

Because you can.

By the way, ignoramus Tennessee mom, when you make a big kerfuffle about something, you just draw attention to it. This book might never have blipped my radar if not for you, so thank you.

3. A book with more than 500 pages.

I haven’t gotten around to this one yet, so it’s time: The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

4. A book with bad reviews.

Because sometimes books piss people off by jabbing at the comfort zone, and that can be a good thing: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.

5. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

From 2009, Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. It’s also another exercise in stepping out of my comfort zone, since I’m picky about short stories.

6. A book that was published the year you were born.

As I pored over book lists, I was surprised at how many old favorites were on them. I guess it’s a good thing, to be a contemporary of so many good books.

I loved Lonesome Dove, book and movie both, so that will be a hard western genre act to follow. It’s possible Elmore Leonard can do it, with Hombre.

7. A book based on a true story.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed. Just deciding to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, with no experience and no preparation, because your life is completely wrecked — that’s the kind of thing I’d do if I wasn’t a chickenshit at heart. Although there was the time I was frustrated with life and took off barefoot for San Francisco for dinner with a man I barely knew, and almost got knifed on the Embarcadero. I guess that’s close. I learned my lesson: Wear shoes.

8. A play.

Let’s go with a classic: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams.

9. A book based on/turned into a television show.

I suspected this one would be difficult, as I’m not a fan of most television. Scanning the list of books on Goodreads, I saw I’d read pretty much everything on it: Sookie Stackhouse, A Song of Ice and Fire, Madeline, Pride and Prejudice, Pippi Longstocking, even Outlander. The Walking Dead, more paranormal, forget it.

What I was really hoping to find was Firefly, alas.

But. Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard actually looks interesting.

10. A book by an author under the age of 30.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. It looks like she may have done all of her best writing before 30, because after 30 she was preoccupied with horrible marriages and alcoholism and various degrees of suicide and having strokes. I’m not trying to be flippant. Tortured writers often produce the best stuff, and this title has been on my TBR list for a long time.

11. A book published a century ago.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Lost Continent looks interesting. My mom loves Burroughs.

12. A book set in the future.

Lately I’ve been catching up on a lot of the dystopian classics I’d never read. I want something a little more modern now, and I’ve already loved The Hunger Games and been underwhelmed by Divergent.

Final choice: I’m in the mood for more of Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk: Snow Crash.

13. A book with a love triangle.

It’s hard finding a list of such books that aren’t 100% romance (I dislike pure romance) without also being YA/paranormal. Not that I have anything against YA or paranormal as separate genres, but the whole teeny-bop vampire/werewolf thing needs to just stop now. Like an NA member admits to having used, I admit to having read the Twilight series — but not where anyone could see me doing it, and only after I’m rehabbed and clean. And it’s like former users have told me: you know you’re being stupid for trying it the first time, but you just have to see what all the fuss is about, and after that it’s not your fault because while it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever and is horribly bad for you, it’s still just that addicting. Twilight is about as much YA/paranormal/love triangle as I can take.

But this YA/paranormal stuff is all I can find!

Fine. I’m going with City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, just for the wild disparity in the ratings. Reviewers either love love love it or hate hate hate it. I’m intrigued by a book that can stir that much feeling, either way.

14. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit.


I adore The Iliad and all things Troy. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is described as an alternate take on the fall of Troy, from the point of view of Patroclus.

I was recently very disappointed by The Lost Sisterhood. If The Song of Achilles doesn’t turn out to be everything I want in a novel of ancient Greece, I’m going to be so pissed.

15. A book you own but have never read.

Many years ago I fell in love with The Bridges of Madison County (yes, I dislike the romance genre, but that doesn’t mean I dislike well-told love stories; big difference), so I bought a couple more books by Robert James Waller. A few years back I read and loved one of them, Puerto Vallarta Squeeze, but I’ve never gotten around to the other.

Reading challenges can be a good way to clear things out of TBR piles. For this category, I’m reading Waller’s Border Music. Finally.

16. A book by an author you haven’t read yet.

I’ve yet to read anything by Jodi Picoult. Nineteen Minutes got my attention, with the timely themes of teen dating violence, bullying, and mass shootings.

17. A popular author’s first book.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I’m qualifying this one, since Gaiman’s first published works were mini-series, graphic novels, comics, and television scripts. Also, his first published novel was a collaboration with Terry Pratchett. Stardust is his first published plain-old-novel novel, written solo.

18. A nonfiction book.

I don’t know why I’m fascinated with Mt. Everest, given that I’m not the slightest bit athletic and heights terrify me and I hate being cold, but there you have it. I’m choosing John Krakauer’s account of the 1996 Everest tragedy, Into Thin Air.


Author: Deborah Lee

I like trees, dreaming, magic, books, paper, floating, dreaming, rhinos, rocks, stargazing, wine, dragonflies, trains, and silence to hear the world breathe.

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