Have you ever participated in a reading challenge? I don’t think I have since grade school, but I’m diving in this year!
Reading and travel go hand in hand, in so many ways. Books are an incredible thing to gain inspiration from. They’re full of adventure, charming characters, cultural information, and so much more. Whether you’re into romance novels or historical fiction, there is inspiration to be gained from any story. Inspiration that could propel you to follow your dreams, travel the world, or simply try something new.
The other great thing about reading is that it’s a great hobby to have while traveling – whether you travel full-time, occasionally for work, or just once a year, it’s something you can keep up on while on your adventures. You can pick up and put down a book whenever you fancy and decide to read a new one halfway through your current book without hurting anyone’s feelings. My favorite thing about reading, though
, is that it’s a great stress reliever. Whether you are feeling homesick, stressed with work, or just under the weather, it’s an incredible experience to immerse yourself in a story. To become a character or play out the book like it’s a move in your head.
Kelly’s 2017 Reading Challenge
Our friend Amy at Two Drifters announced that she was doing the 2017 PopSugar Reading Challenge and it immediately piqued my interest. One of my main goals this year is to spend more time reading and less time on my computer – it’s a bit hard to turn away from the screen when I work full-time and want to work on A Pair of Passports in my spare time, but it’s so refreshing to read a bit before bed. And it’s my favorite feeling in the world to finish a good book (well, second to visiting a new country, that is!).
This reading challenge seems like a great way to encourage myself to read more this year, while having a bit of fun in the process. I have a few books at the top of my Want to Read list that may not fit in one of these categories, so it’s possible I won’t get through them all. However, I will track everything I read here so you can follow along!
I am breaking down the books by their current status – currently reading, to be read, and already read. I’ll try to leave some comments on the ones I’ve already read, but you can check out my reading status/occasional review on my Goodreads account. In each category, I have also included possible alternatives – mainly because a) I don’t decide which book to read until the moment I’m about to start it, so I’m still considering most of the prompts and b) everyone deserves options! For a blank template, visit PopSugar.
Challenge Progress: 10/40 Books Read
A book by a person of color: Hidden Figures, by Margot Lee Shetterly
Alternatives: Born a Crime; The Color Purple; Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina
A book about an interesting woman: Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
Alternatives: That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor; Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, My Life in France
An audiobook: Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist (read by Shauna Niequist)
Alternative: The Boys in the Boat
Next Up – Join Me!
These books are next in my line up. Let me know if you’d like to join me in reading them – for a little motivation and then a little discussion at the end. It’s like your own personal book club!
A book written by someone you admire: Talking as Fast a I Can by Lauren Graham
What can I say? Gilmore Girls = LIFE.
Alternatives: Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success; Scrappy Little Nobody
A book with a subtitle: Forty Autumns: A Family’s Story of Courage and Survival on Both Sides of the Berlin Wall by Nina Willner
Alternatives: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing
To Be Read
Here are all of the “to be read” prompts. There are a couple of options for each prompt, and I feel like I add/change them daily. I got way too excited when I decided to do this challenge and researched for hours, perusing other readers’ lists, searching on Amazon, and going through my reading wishlists to see where things might fit. If you’re looking to start the challenge, feel free to start brainstorming your list here!
- A book recommended by a librarian: A New York Christmas (from the NYPL Librarians’ Blog); Pretty Girls (Goodreads Reader); The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Goodreads Reader)
- A book that’s been on your TBR list way too long: All The Light We Cannot See; The Spectacular Now
- A book of letters: 84, Charing Cross Road; My Dearest Friend: Letters of John and Abigail Adams; Letters from Skye; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society*
- A book with multiple authors: Rebellious Daughters; Let it Snow; America’s First Daughter
- A book with a cat on the cover: A Man Called Ove; The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me
- A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: The Cuckoo’s Calling; I’ve Got Your Number
- A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read: Dark Money (Business); Between the World and Me (Politics); Neverwhere (Fantasy)
- A book published in 2017: Palm Trees in the Snow; In the Shadow of Lakecrest; Crimes Against a Book Club*
- A book involving a mythical creature: The Essex Serpent; At the Water’s Edge; Uprooted
- A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile: The Book of Luke; Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
- A book with career advice: Leave Your Mark; Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur
- A book from a nonhuman perspective: A Dog’s Purpose*; Three Bags Full
- A steampunk novel: Timekeeper; Soulless
- A book with a red spine: The Improbability of Love; Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All
- A book set in the wilderness: Serena*; To the Bright Edge of the World; The Girls of No Return
- A book you loved as a child: Little House in the Big Woods; Dear America; anything by Shel Silverstein
- A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Evelyn, After; Mrs. Dalloway
- A book with an unreliable narrator: The Silver Linings Playbook; We Have Always Lived in the Castle
- A book with pictures: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children; Scrappy Little Nobody
- A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Hidden Figures; The Mothers; The Girl with Seven Names: A North Korean Defector’s Story
- A book with a month or day of the week in the title: Tuesdays with Morrie; Thursdays at Eight
- A book set in a hotel: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet; A Gentleman in Moscow; The Dollhouse
- A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Glass Castle; Live by Night
- A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: Rules of Civility; A Long Way Down; The Easter Parade
- A book you bought on a trip: TBD
I found that most of the books I read for this challenge easily fit into more than one prompt. Therefore, I recommend taking the prompts with a grain of salt and instead focusing on my reviews of the books below to determine whether you would like to read the books or not. I have also included a link to purchase each book if it interests you!
A book set in two different time periods: Sisters One Two and Three by Nancy Star
Sisters One, Two, Three is one of those novels that I can’t really put into words. I didn’t particularly like or dislike the characters. I also didn’t find myself unable to put the book down, but I still stayed up wanting to finish it. Average would be the best word to describe it. The story follows three sisters who go down three completely different paths after a tragic accident.
Alternatives: How to be Both, The Secret Wife
A book that is a story within a story: Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
My friends recently decided to start a book club, and Luckiest Girl Alive was the first book choice – luckily, it fit into one of my prompts! After an incident in high school, Ani forms her life into one the is seemingly perfect – but is it real? This story goes back and forth between present day and Ani at age 14, where she tells the story of everything that happened in high school. It’s definitely a page turner (I wanted to know what happened!), but I can’t say I was satisfied with the way everything played out in the book. Some details just didn’t seem right!
Alternatives: The Lake House, The Eyre Affair, Wuthering Heights, The Thirteenth Tale
The first book in a series you haven’t read before: The Law of Attraction by N.M. Silber
Well, I intended to read Harry Potter for this prompt in hopes of finally getting on the bandwagon I missed out on throughout my middle school and high school years. Then, my friend picked The Law of Attraction for our book club read in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and it fit the prompt so I went with it! Let’s just say the two books are not similar in any way…
This book is 50 Shades of Grey meets Ally McBeal – it’s graphic, kind of funny, and not very well written. Naturally, I was hooked. I found myself (frequently) questioning why some of the things that were said out loud were said out loud, and why some of the decisions were made, but at the end of the day the book achieved what it needed to achieve. I’ll be chatting to my girlfriends about it throughout the month and will probably recommend it to a friend. If you like romantic comedies and enjoyed the 50 Shades series or something similar, like the Crossfire novels, then you’ll probably enjoy this. Just don’t expect much from it. It’s a quick, girly read and you’ll hate yourself for secretly enjoying it.
Now, will I read the rest of the series? TBD…
Alternative: Harry Potter
A book by or about a person who has a disability: Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed: Growing Up With Undiagnosed Autism by Jeannie Davide-Rivera
I’ve never read something like this before, but I’m so happy I selected it for this prompt. Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed is Jeannie Davide-Rivera’s first hand account of growing up with undiagnosed autism. There was so much she experienced in her life, so many signs that, today, point to autism. Yet, at her time, they were left unexplained. I couldn’t imagine living my entire life not fully knowing who I am, what it is that makes me slightly different. I highly recommend this book to anyone just looking for a new perspective!
A book involving travel: The Paris Effect by K. S. R. Burns
WARNING: This book may cause you to think about Paris non-stop for a week.
Amy has a rather complicated life; it’s not really something I can personally relate with. She’s not fully feeling her relationship with her husband, she has a rather complicated history with her best friend who just passed away, and she decides to go to Paris, alone, on a whim. And that’s where it becomes a book that you can’t put down. Because, well, Paris. There are a few story lines in this book that simply weren’t necessary, but at the end of the day I loved following Amy’s adventures in Paris. The Paris Effect allows you to follow Amy as she morphs into her own person, falls into some traps any seasoned traveler would stay away from, and decides what she is going to do next with her life. I can’t wait to read to sequel when it comes out and see what happens on Amy’s future adventures!
Alternatives: What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding; Under the Tuscan Sun
A book with one of the four seasons in the title: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
There will be tears, but this book is worth every. single. one. It took me a little while to get into the story, but at one point I became hooked. I was so hooked, in fact, that I didn’t put the book down until I finished it. Winter Garden is a story about love, family, sisterhood, motherhood, and so much more. Three totally different women come together at the deathbed of the man they all love most in the world. They start to learn about each other from that moment forward – all the way back to their mother’s childhood. The girls learn more about their mother and, in turn, more about themselves. Such a captivating read that will no doubt leave you with wet cheeks!
Alternative: The Winter of our Discontent
A novel set during wartime: In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen
I absolutely love the WWII time period, especially when it comes to romantic historical fiction. This book is that, mixed with English high society. It’s like Downton Abbey with a hint of mystery. There are spies thrown into the mix, a great cast of characters, and a mystery that needs to be solved with only the vaguest of clues. This was a very quick read for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it was a bit predictable. If you’re all about suspense, it’s probably not the book for you. Otherwise, I definitely recommend In Farleigh Field!
Alternatives: Marriages are Made in Bond Street; The Zookeeper’s Wife
A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: The Cozy Life: Rediscover the Joy of the Simple Things Through the Danish Concept of Hygge by Pia Edberg (Denmark)
As a lover of all things cozy, the concept of hygge has always appealed to me. I’ve had The Year of Living Danishly on my list for awhile and just never got around to reading it, so I wanted to give this one a shot for this prompt. While it was full of a lot of ideas for ways to make your life better and more relaxed on a day to day basis, it was a bit too frilly at times. I’m definitely still interested in the concept, but not sure if I would recommend The Cozy Life for a first time hygge read.
Alternatives: The Breadwinner (Canada); Big Little Lies (Australia); The Summer Book (Finland)
An espionage thriller: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth E. Wein
Ah, what is it about WWII books that draws me in so much? I loved In Farleigh Field and then I loved Code Name Verity even more! I’ll tell you – I’m normally good about predicting what happens in books and I didn’t see anything in this book coming. It took me a good while to really get into it (the first half of the book is a bit dull), but once the pieces all started falling together I couldn’t put this down. I’ll definitely be reading the follow up novel!
Alternatives: Red Sparrow; Trust Me, I’m Lying; Sweet Tooth; The Expats
A book about food: Pancakes in Paris: Living the American Dream in France, by Craig Carlson
Alternatives: Eat, Pray, Love; Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living
Join the challenge!
Grab a cup of tea, curl up under your favorite blanket, and join me in reading 40+ books this year. If you are participating in the challenge, I would love for you to share links to your lists, as well as any recommendations you have for any of the categories!
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