At the beginning of the year I committed to three main goals:
1. More reading. In particular, I committed to the A-Z challenge.
2. More running. Hah.
3. More writing. Ugh.
I haven’t done so well on 2 and 3 which might explain why I finished the challenge in the first half of the year. Below are my reflections, stats (ooooh, pie charts! pretty!) and the list of books I’ve read this year. I don’t generally write reviews, but I do rate them on Goodreads.
Alarcón, Daniel: Lost City Radio
Allende, Isabel: Of Love and Other Shadows
Bolaño, Roberto: The Savage Detectives: A Novel
Cisneros, Sandra: Have You Seen Marie?
Corpi, Lucha: Black Widow’s Wardrobe
Danticat, Edwidge: Breath, Eyes, Memory
Eggers, Dave: What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng: A Novel
Eugenides, Jeffrey: The Virgin Suicides
Flynn, Gillian: Gone Girl
Gilb, Dagoberto: Before the End, After the Beginning: Stories
Green, John: The Fault in Our Stars
Hayasaki, Erika: The Death Class: A True Story About Life
Ishiguro, Kazuo: Never Let Me Go
July, Miranda: No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories
Kozol, Jonathan: Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools
Lahiri, Jhumpa: The Lowland
Marra, Anthony: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Novak, B.J.: One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories
Ondaatje, Michael: Anil’s Ghost
Ozeki, Ruth: A Tale for the Time Being
Palacio, Melinda: Ocotillo Dreams
Quick, Matthew: The Good Luck of Right Now
Rodriguez, Luis J: Always Running: La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.
Senior, Jennifer: All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
Tobar, Hector: The Barbarian Nurseries
Urrea, Luis Alberto: Into the Beautiful North
Vowell, Sarah: Unfamiliar Fishes
Wiehl, Lis: Snapshot
Wolitzer, Meg: The Interestings
X, Sulayman: Bilal’s Bread
Yañez, Richard: Cross Over Water
Zambrano, Mario Alberto: Lotería
I’m glad I committed to this challenge and would be up for a second round. Thanks to the challenge, I found several new-to-me writers, rediscovered my love for reading, found a new-ish hobby to do in my “me time” and passed the time on my bus commute.
Naturally, the best part of the challenge was finding new writers and branching out. I mainly read fiction but I tried to mix it up with the familiar and the new. Most of the books below (75%) were written by new-to-me writers. I found some books by just scanning the bookshelves at the library and others through blogs or message boards. Melissa, la Feminist Texican, indirectly contributed to the list with her reviews. I picked a quarter of my reads after reading her reviews. I added other novels such as The Fault in Our Stars and Gone Girl since they’re currently bestsellers and I wanted to see what all the hype was about.
I found a number of new-to-me writers I’ll keep on my radar. Namely: Anthony Marra, Ruth Ozeki, Mario Alberto Zambrano and Meg Wolitzer. I’ve already found a couple of Ozeki and Wolitzer’s other novels at the library and added them to my reading list. Marra doesn’t have other novels published but I added novels that influenced him which is how I ended up reading a few novels about wartorn countries, torture and disappearances (see: Anil’s Ghost and Lost City Radio).
As with anything called a “challenge,” there are downsides. First, I slogged through at least one book I would’ve put down much earlier if I didn’t need that letter (looking at you, Bolaño). The silly thing is that some of the books I liked least were letters I didn’t even need. I either forgot that or was stubborn. Second, I put off reading books on my list because I didn’t need that particular letter.
STATS AND STUFF
Favorite book overall: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Books that made me cry:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
The Death Class: A True Story About Life
Never Let Me Go
A Tale for the Time Being
The Interestings (maybe, I forgot now)
Toughest letter to find: I. Surprisingly, letters like Q, X and Z weren’t tough to find. I found my X author by just scanning books on the shelf when I went to get Richard Yañez’s Cross Over Water at the library. I checked out Feminist Texican’s A-Z archive for I authors and found Kazuo Ishiguro.
Type: Mainly novels and fiction. At least one book straddled the technical line between fiction and nonfiction. What is the What reads like a memoir but “novel” is in the title.
I read the most books in the late spring/early summer. I think this was because I wanted to finish by the start of July and I stopped picking longer books.
Average number of pages: 304. Longest: The Savage Detectives at 577 pages. Shortest was Have You Seen Marie? by Sandra Cisneros at 101 pages, which reads like an illustrated poem. I added Black Widow’s Wardrobe by Lucha Corpi since I felt like a picture book didn’t really count and I still needed a C.
Format: 21 books (15 borrowed from library), 10 e-books, 1 read in both formats
Most disturbing: Bilal’s Bread. This needs all the trigger warnings. It’s also the most niche book being about Kurdish immigrants, Muslims, and gay teens. Runner up: What is the What. Can’t Valentino Achak Deng catch a break?!
Funniest: One More Thing. I laughed out loud at some of the questions for discussion that Novak includes at the end.
Most enlightening: All Joy and No Fun. So much of the chapters on being a new parent rang true.