2015 Literary Birthday Challenge

I’m wary of committing to too many book challenges — that I might find it chafing against what I want to read, or that I simply won’t follow through… but I think I’ll give this one more a try. I signed up for the event hosted by You, Me and a Cup of Tea because it sounded easy enough and rather fun. Chasing down birthdays for the authors of books I want to read this year provided me with plenty of opportunity to procrastinate when I could have been doing things like folding laundry or, say, actually reading.

The idea is that each month I will read one book by an author who was born during that month. Goodreads has a group page set up  and there are links on that page to lists people are compiling of authors who would meet the criteria. I am planning to come back and update this page with each relevant entry.


January     The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien  1/10/15

February    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark  2/25/15

March    The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol  3/30/15

April     Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington  4/19/15

May      Casino Royale, by Ian Fleming  5/4/15

Now, I think that should be the end of the challenges I enter. Sometimes I have already found it confining to keep up with 2-3 book clubs, although I certainly read enough books to do so if I would just choose those which I am “supposed to read.”

I can’t believe that a new reading year is about to begin! 2014 has had quite a few delightful reads, so I will close this post by listing what I wound up deciding were my ten favorite new-to-me books of the year.

1  How the Light Gets In: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel by  Louise Penny
I’m just not sure books get any better than this one, though one must have read the preceeding books to fully appreciate it.
2 The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir
I laughed my way through this whole book. I loved the sciency nerdy stuff and thought there were a lot of good insights into media coverage, human resourcefulness and the value of persisting.
3 The Golem and the Jinni (P.S.) by Helene Wecker
From the description, this would not seem like my kind of book at all, but I simply loved it. Beautifully written, and very much a charcter-driven book. I will be re-reading this one in the near future.
4 We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I knew nothing whatever about this book when I read it (inhaled it, really). I’m glad for that, because if I’d known more I couldn’t have enjoyed it as much.
5 Twelve Angry Men (Penguin Classics) by Reginald Rose
I’d seen the (great) movie long ago, but had never read the play. I highly recommend it.
6 The Return of the Soldier Rebecca West
A surprisingly powerful novella on the effects of shellshock in the aftermath of WW1.
7 Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
This one was very painful to read. The author put it all out on the page – her raw emotions and golden memories. Gradually, one sees her find her way forward after her nearly unthinkable loss.
8 The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli by Lisa Abend
I loved this book about the workings at one of the world’s most famous restaurants, and the lives of the apprentices who were a part of it for one season.
9 Station Eleven by Hilary St. John Mandel
More than post-apocalyptic, this reads as a literary novel that follows human nature in the wake of a worldwide flu pandemic. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I was going to.
10 The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

In the end, I had to put this one on my list because it was just such a fun read.

I had to leave off several that could have qualified but perhaps were just nudged out by one or more of the above.


Book Riot’s “Read Harder” Challenge

Here is another challenge in which I will be participating over the coming year. I thought it would be a fun way to nudge me into some specific areas I might not otherwise drift with my reading. I will come back and update this as I check things off the list during 2015.

There are 24 tasks in the Read Harder Challenge (or roughly two per month). You can tackle them in any order, make any changes, do them all in a month or spread them out over the year. Make the challenge yours!

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65   As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust  1/14/15

A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) One More Thing: Stories and More Stories  3/8/15

A book published by an indie press  All the Dancing Birds  1/2/15

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ  A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara 3/29/15

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own   The Lord of the Rings  1/10/15

A book that takes place in Asia  The Great Zoo of China  4/4/15

A book by an author from Africa  The Handsome Man’s Deluxe Café by Alexander McCall Smith  1/22/15

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)

A microhistory  Proof: The Science of Booze  4/21/15

A YA novel

A sci-fi novel   The Book of Strange New Things  1/3/15

A romance novel

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade   The Narrow Road to the Deep North  2/9/15

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)

An audiobook   Sheep-Pig  2/1/15

A collection of poetry

A book that someone else has recommended to you  Winter Garden  1/13/15

A book that was originally published in another language  A Doll’s House  1/23/15

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)  Home of the Braised, by Julie Hyzy  1/25/15

A book published before 1850  The Inspector-General, by Nikolai Gogol 3/30/15

A book published this year  The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins 1/17/15

A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

The original post on Book Riot can be found here

As of 4/21/15 I have completed 17 of the 24 assigned tasks.