Falling Forward: A Girl & Her Lists

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Posted by in Books, Projects

I’ve been a member of Goodreads for about five years now, I think? At least. I love tracking my books over there – they give you all sorts of nerdy stats if you’re into that (which I totally am) but there’s also a really lovely community there. I get to see what all my friends are reading (mostly great stuff!) and sometimes something super fun pops up in my feed, like this.

My friend Jess joined a group called “Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge” and I was intrigued. Essentially, the idea is that you read at least one book from 24 different categories over the year. You guys, this is 100% my jam. Books? Good. Lists? Good. Challenges about books? Goooood.

I thought I’d repost the list here in case anyone fancies joining in. If you need some inspiration for any of the topics check out the Goodreads group or the original Book Riot post, there’s plenty in there!

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

  1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
  2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
  3. A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)
  4. A book published by an indie press
  5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
  6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
  7. A book that takes place in Asia
  8. A book by an author from Africa
  9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
  10. A microhistory
  11. A YA novel
  12. A sci-fi novel
  13. A romance novel
  14. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
  15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
  16. An audiobook
  17. A collection of poetry
  18. A book that someone else has recommended to you
  19. A book that was originally published in another language
  20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
  21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)
  22. A book published before 1850
  23. A book published this year
  24. A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

Book Riot have even created a cute hashtag: #ReadHarder. Share your books, share your challenge plan, share your recommendations! :) I am excited. In fact, because I’m a massive overachiever 3 of the 5 books I’ve read so far this year already fit into some categories! Score. I’m going to track them on my Books 2015 page if you want to follow along with my progress :)

Let me know if you join in!

Books: January Update!

Posted by in Books, Projects

1. RR David Levithan – The Lover’s Dictionary
2. NEW Stephen King – Joyland
3. NEW Douglas Coupland – Worst. Person. Ever.
4. NEW Tom Holt – Someone Like Me
5. NEW F Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
6. NEW Patrick Ness – The Crane Wife
7. NEW William Gibson – Johnny Mnemonic
8. NEW Haruki Murakami – The Elephant Vanishes
9. NEW Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
10. RR Mitch Albom – Tuesdays with Morrie [30 for 30]
11. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 08 The Hostile Hospital
12. NEW Jennifer E Smith – You Are Here
13. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 09 The Carnivorous Carnival
14. NEW Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 10 The Slippery Slope
15. NEW Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 11 The Grim Grotto
16. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 12 The Penultimate Peril
17. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 13 The End
18. RR Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife [30 for 30]
19. NEW Jon McGregor – This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You
20. NEW David Levithan – Every Day
21. NEW Ernest Hemingway – Big Two-Hearted River
22. NEW Matt Haig – The Dead Fathers Club
23. NEW Janet Evanovich – Takedown Twenty
24. NEW John Steinbeck – The Pearl
25. NEW Joe Hill & Stephen King – Throttle
26. NEW Truman Capote – Breakfast at Tiffany’s
27. NEW Alice Munro – Away From Her
28. NEW Julie Otsuka – The Buddha in the Attic
29. NEW Muriel Spark – The Driver’s Seat
30. NEW Muriel Spark – The Abbess of Crewe
31. NEW Truman Capote – Summer Crossing

So! I inadvertently set myself a crazy challenge in January to read a book a day, because I read three in three days and then I was on a streak and I didn’t want to quit… (did I mention I am stubborn? I am stubborn). So yes, I read 31 books in January and if you’d asked me if it was possible to do it I would have said no, which shows you just how little faith I have in my own abilities I guess. Next step, the world!

My friend Lola challenged me mid-way through January to read more books by women than men in 2014, to which I said a resounding “HELL YES”. I cannot name enough amazing female authors and that definitely needs to change.

Away from Her The Buddha in the Attic were two completely different books but both fantastic, as was The Driver’s Seat (although deeply disturbing with it). I also re-read the rest of the Series of Unfortunate Events and discovered that I actually hadn’t read them all – bonus. The Graveyard Book was fantastic, as was Joyland. Johnny Mnemonic and The Dead Father’s Club less so.

I also managed to tick off two more from my ‘30 for 30 favourite re-reads‘, so now I only have one more to go, whoo hoo! I do want to try to read more new books than re-reads this year tho, I’m never going to reach my 1000 new books if I keep on just re-reading my favourites ;)

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List. I started tracking those in 2011 and I’m up to 248.

December Book Update + 2013 Reading Roundup

Posted by in Books, Projects

01. NEW William Gibson – Spook Country
02. RR Judy Blume – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
03. RR Judy Blume – Blubber
04. NEW Lauren Weisberger – Last Night at Chateau Marmont
05. RR Judy Blume – Starring Sally J Freedman, as Herself
06. NEW Haruki Murakami – After the Quake
07. RR Toby Litt – Exhibitionism
08. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona the Pest
09. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona The Brave
10. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona & Her Father
11. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona & Her Mother
12. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona Quimby, Age 8
13. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona Forever
14. NEW Beverly Cleary – Ramona’s World
15. NEW Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy
16. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ersatz Elevator
17. NEW Caroline Smailes – Freaks
18. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Vile Village

I read a lot of childrens’ books in December because it was like snuggling under a warm duvet after being outside in the cold. I love childrens’ books, a lot. I thought I’d read the whole Ramona series but actually I think I must have just watched the TV series, because these weren’t familiar to me at all. Throw in some Judy Blume and Lemony Snicket and you’ve got yourself a perfect December in my eyes.

On the adult side, I’d forgotten just how good Exhibitionism was – really hoping that Toby Litt releases a new book soon now! Last Night at Chateau Marmont was complete and utter tosh, definitely not worth reading. After the Quake was the usual gentle Murakami weirdness (which I love) and Freaks missed the mark for me for the most part, but I’ve heard good things about Caroline Smailes so I’m willing to give her another shot. Onto the round up! :)

Best of 2013

Best new book in:

January: James Smythe – The Explorer

February: There were no standout new books in February. I only gave two 5* ratings and both of those were to re-reads.

March: March was the same. Lots of 3* ratings – nothing to write home about.

April: Hans Fallada – Alone in Berlin

May: LJ Smith – The Forbidden Game 1-3

June: Gillian Flynn – Sharp Objects

July: Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls

August: Jenny Lawson – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

September: David Sedaris – The Santaland Diaries

October: John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

November: Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451

December: The whole Ramona series.

Best book overall:

John Green – The Fault in Our Stars

I zipped through this in a couple of hours. It was beautiful and heartfelt, painful and gut wrenching and ultimately a book I think I’ll re-read again and again. Bravo, John Green. Bravo.

Worst book overall: 

Jonas Jonasson – The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

God I hated this book. My mother liked it, the rest of our book group liked it but I absolutely couldn’t stand it.

Favourite re-read:

The Time Traveler’s Wife. Always.

2013 Reading Stats

Number of books read: 126

Number of new books read: 73

Number of re-reads: 53

Number of pages read: 37,270

5* rated: 20

1* rated: 2

Fiction vs Non-fiction: 125 fiction, 10 non-fiction

Adult vs Childrens': 77 adult books, 49 kids books

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List, I started tracking those in 2011 and I’m up to 224.

November Book Update

Posted by in Books, Projects

01. NEW Mitch Albom – Have a Little Faith
02. NEW Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 [November goals]
03. NEW Jojo Moyes – Honeymoon in Paris
04. RR Scarlett Thomas – The End of Mr Y [30 for 30]
05. RR Christopher Pike – Road to Nowhere
06. RR Christopher Pike – The Visitor
07. RR Francine Pascal – My Mother Was Never a Kid
08. RR Francine Pascal – My First Love & Other Disasters
09. RR Francine Pascal – Love & Betrayal & Hold The Mayo [30 for 30]

November was a funny month for reading. I didn’t finish a book until almost mid-way through the month (which is unusual for me) but it picked up towards the end after a visit home to my mother and the collection of all my old Point Horror books, ha.

I’m coming to the end of my 30 for 30 reading lists, meaning that only the big and hard to source books are left, eek. I ordered these Francine Pascal books and books two and three came a week before the first one, which was a little torturous. I only have 11 left to read (meaning I’ve read 49 of them since the end of June, gosh) and I’m looking forward most to re-reading The Time Traveler’s Wife in January – it is my favourite book after all.

I loved those Christopher Pike books when I was younger but sadly they didn’t live up to my memories – very few books you read as a teenager do I suppose. The Victoria Martin Trilogy was a happy exception to the rule – I remember loving this more that the Sweet Valley series when I was growing up and it was a delight to re-read them (I powered through all three in two days, so eager was I for a reminisce).

Elsewhere Scarlett Thomas is still baffling me even with a second read of The End of My Y (although I think PopCo is still my favourite of hers), Mitch Albom seems to be back on form (I much prefer his non-fiction writing, apparently) and Fahrenheit 451 wasn’t at all what I was expecting but was really rather fantastic.

I hit my 100 books target in November, so I upped it to 110 just to keep me on my toes. I’m up to 108 already so I’m fairly sure I’ll make it but you never know ;)

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List, I started tracking those in 2011 and I’m up to 212.

October Book Update

Posted by in Books, Projects

01. RR Philip Pullman – The Amber Spyglass [30 for 30]
02. RR Maggie O’Farrell – The Hand That First Held Mine [30 for 30]
03. NEW David Mitchell – Ghostwritten [30 for 30]
04. RR Stephen King – Duma Key [30 for 30]
05. NEW Zadie Smith – NW [book club]
06. NEW John Green – The Fault In Our Stars [30 for 30]
07. RR Joe Dunthorne – Submarine [30 for 30]
08. NEW Scarlett Thomas – Our Tragic Universe [30 for 30]
09. RR Arthur Golden – Memoirs of a Geisha [30 for 30]

Oof, October felt like a short month. I started a lot of books but didn’t finish them, oops. I’ve mostly been plugging away at my 30 for 30 books, and am pretty close to finishing my lists. I think I should have one of them done by Christmas, certainly by the end of January they’ll be done and dusted. I have 13 books left to read from the two lists combined, which is fun. I’ve read so much since my birthday!

This month was a bit of a mixed bag – the re-reads were, as always, enjoyable – I don’t think I’ve adjusted any of the ratings that I gave originally, which is nice. It’s comforting to know that the books that I loved continue to stand up against a second read.

Ghostwritten was a little odd but I liked it (altho I do think the very, very last chapter was perhaps a bit out of place, but hey, what do I know, I’ve never written a book). Our Tragic Universe was my least favourite of the Scarlett Thomas book’s I’ve read so far – the ‘storyless story’ perhaps a genre that I’m not destined to enjoy. NW was a book club pick but not a stand out one for me to be honest. A little bland, a little “what’s the point?”. I know people rave about Zadie but I’m not sure if I’ll ever love her books.

The stand out for me this month was The Fault in Our Stars by John Green which was beautiful, funny and so, so readable. I devoured it in a day and a half and was sad for it to be over – always the best kind of book in my opinion.

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List, I started tracking those in 2011 and I’m up to 209.

Want to see all the books I’ve read this year? I’m currently up to 99!

September Book Update

Posted by in Books, Projects

01. NEW David Sedaris – The Santaland Diaries [book club]
02. RR William Gibson – Pattern Recognition [30 for 30]
03. NEW James Smythe – The Machine [30 for 30]
04. RR Bill Bryson – The Life & Times of the Thunderbolt Kid [30 for 30]
05. NEW Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of the Island [30 for 30]
06. NEW Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter – The Long War
07. NEW Joan Didion – The Year of Magical Thinking [30 for 30]
08. RR Terry Pratchett – Reaper Man [30 for 30]
09. RR Erin Morgenstern – The Night Circus [30 for 30]
10. NEW Emma Donahue – The Woman Who Gave Birth To Rabbits [30 for 30]
11. NEW Cheryl Strayed – Wild [30 for 30]
12. RR Philip Pullman – The Northern Lights [30 for 30]
13. RR Philip Pullman – The Subtle Knife [30 for 30]

September was a solid month for reading. We jetted off to Paris for our anniversary and then spent four days in Devon with nothing to do but read, which, not gonna lie, was pretty glorious. The Santaland Diaries is the bookclub pick for December, but it came already so I read it out of sync. Very dark, very amusing and pleasingly short.

The Year of Magical Thinking was a lesson in grief and loss, as was Wild. Two very different schools of thinking which have left me with a lot to digest. Both would be good to re-read later, I think. The Long War was  bit of a disappointment, if I’m honest. It just felt like it didn’t go anywhere – no tension, no drama. A shame. Last and definitely least was The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits which I didn’t enjoy in the slightest. That’ll teach me to add books to my list without reading what they’re about, I suppose!

Our library finally has a bed (to snuggle up on) and bookshelves so hopefully the winter reading tally will continue on at a good pace. I’m aiming to break 100 books in October – we’ll see! :)

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List, I started tracking those in 2011 and I’m up to 205.

August Book Update

Posted by in Books, Projects

01. RR Douglas Coupland – Hey Nostradamus [30 for 30]
02. NEW Stephen King – ‘Salem’s Lot [30 for 30]
03. NEW Francine Pascal – Sweet Valley Confidential [30 for 30]
04. NEW Jenny Downham – Before I Die [30 for 30]
05. RR Jon McGregor – If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things [30 for 30]
06. NEW Jenny Lawson – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened [30 for 30]
07. NEW Matt Haig – The Radleys [30 for 30]
08. NEW Jennifer E Smith – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight [30 for 30]
09. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 01 A Bad Beginning [30 for 30]
10. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 02 The Reptile Room
11. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 03 The Wide Window
12. RR Judy Blume – Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
13. NEW Judy Blume – Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
14. RR Lemony Snicket – A Series of Unfortunate Events: 04 The Miserable Mill
15. NEW Kurt Vonnegut – Slaughterhouse Five [30 for 30]
16. RR Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables [30 for 30]
17. RR Suzanne Collins – The Hunger Games [30 for 30]
18. RR Terry Pratchett – The Colour of Magic [30 for 30]
19. NEW John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas [30 for 30]
21. RR Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire [30 for 30]
22. RR Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay [30 for 30]
23. NEW Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Avonlea [30 for 30]

Oof, bit late with the August update! I blame the two holidays we took in September (fancy) and the huge, huge amount of work we’ve been doing in the house. We’re almost done tho, so at least the end is in sight.

I managed an epic 23 books this month and ticked quite a few off my 30 for 30 lists too which is always a bonus. My favourite new book this month was without a doubt Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, which had me genuinely laughing out loud multiple times during reading. Sweet Valley Confidential was an absolute mess (perhaps unsurprisingly) and Salem’s Lot didn’t feel very King-like, although it was nice to finally piece together the story that continues on into The Dark Tower series, which are some of my favourites.

I re-read a lot of Lemony Snicket – they’re comfort read books, really, nice to pick up in between heavier reads. & I finally cried at the end of The Hunger Games trilogy, which I didn’t do the first time around. September is almost finished – I haven’t managed quite as many books but I’m definitely going to hit 100 before the end of the year, which is always pleasing :)

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List, I started tracking those in 2011 and at the end of August I was up to 198.

30 for 30: Read 30 ‘To Read’ – Books 1-5

Posted by in 30 for 30, Books, Projects

This post is an update on my 30 for 30 goal: Read 30 Books I’ve Been Meaning To Read. So far I’ve read 5 out of 30.

1. Pamela Ribon – You Take It From Here


Date Read: 29th June 2013
Rating:  3 stars

Mini synopsis: Bossy girl with terminal cancer wants her reluctant friend to take over her life once she’s gone.

Read it because: Pamela Ribon is a talented, funny writer. I personally couldn’t get along with the main character, but a lot of people like this one so I’d suggest giving it a chance.

2. Kim Edwards – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter


Date Read: 6th July 2013
Rating:  2 stars

Mini synopsis: The stigma of down syndrome causes a secret family rift.

Don’t read it because: it’s really not worth it. The premise is there but the writing is clunky at best, it’s about 50 pages too long and I really couldn’t bring myself to care about any of the selfish, maudlin, boring characters.

3. Jeffrey Eugenides – Middlesex


Date Read: 24th July 2013
Rating:  4 stars

Mini synopsis: Greek hermaphrodite tells his story; intriguing, interesting and heartbreaking all in one.

Read it because: Amy loves it – more than a good enough reason I think.

4. Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls


Date Read: 25th July 2013
Rating:  5 stars

Mini synopsis: If Stephen King had written The Time Traveler’s Wife this is what it would have been like.

Read it because: I couldn’t put it down. Thrilling, frightening and utterly compelling. Lauren Beukes is on fine form, I can’t wait to see what she puts out next.

5. Maggie O’Farrell – Instructions for a Heatwave


Date Read: 28th July 2013
Rating:  3 stars

Mini synopsis: A missing father brings all the secrets up to the surface.

Read it because: Maggie O’Farrell has a wonderful gift with words. I’d have given it 4 stars but she has a bit of a noncommittal stance to endings and that bugs me. For the thread that bound them all, Robert felt like a bit of a lost character in the end, which I thought was a shame, but it’s definitely still worth a read.

July Book Update

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01. RR Amor Towles – Rules of Civility [30 for 30]
02. NEW Kim Edwards – The Memory Keeper’s Daughter [30 for 30]
03. RR Berlie Doherty – Tilly Mint & The Dodo [30 for 30]
04. RR Douglas Coupland – Girlfriend in a Coma [30 for 30]
05. RR Toby Litt – Journey Into Space [30 for 30]
06. RR Alice Sebold –  The Lovely Bones [30 for 30]
07. NEW Jeffrey Eugenides – Middlesex [30 for 30]
08. NEW Lauren Beukes – The Shining Girls [30 for 30]
09. RR Douglas Coupland – Life After God [30 for 30]
10. NEW Maggie O’Farrell – Instructions for a Heatwave [30 for 30]
11. RR Stephen Clarke – A Year in the Merde [book club]

This month was the first full month of my 30 for 30 list, and I think I did pretty well at crossing a few of those books off my list. I read four of the books that I’ve been meaning to read forever, and six of my favourite favourites – a nice mix. I would have read more of the new books but, to be fair, the favourites are the ones that I already have on hand.

Of the new books, The Shining Girls was definitely my favourite. Tense, gripping and compelling I finished it in a day and described it to Amy as “A Stephen King version of The Time Traveler’s Wife” which I think is fairly accurate. I was really disappointed in The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – it was insipid and bland and I’m sorry I waited all those years to read it thinking it was going to be good. I enjoyed Middlesex but I feel like I need to re-read it to pick up on the intricacies of the plot.

Of the old books The Lovely Bones was as heart wrenching as ever, Rules of Civility took me back to 1930s New York all over again and the three Douglas Coupland books I read were as enjoyable to read now as they were the first times I picked them up.

We’re going on holiday to Greece for a week in a couple of weeks and my Kindle is already loaded up and ready to go. I can’t wait to have nothing better to do than lie in the shade and read as many books as I can. Bliss.

I’m still working my way through my read 1000 new books for my Life List, I started tracking those in 2011 and I’m up to 189.

30 for 30: Re-read 30 Favourites – Books 2-6

Posted by in 30 for 30, Books, Projects

This post is an update on my 30 for 30 goal: Re-read 30 of My Favourite BooksSo far I’ve read 6 out of 30.

2. Berlie Doherty – Tilly Mint & The Dodo

Date Read: 6th July 2013
Rating: 4 stars

Mini synopsis: Young girl takes a trip to a mystery island, meets a dodo.

Read it because: It’s one of the books that stuck with me ever since I read it when I was a little girl. Read it to your children, especially.

3. Douglas Coupland – Girlfriend in a Coma


Date Read: 9th July 2013
5 stars

Mini synopsis: The tales of friends struggling to cope with the loss of a friend, watch out for curve balls.

Read it because: It’s wacky but it’s intriguing and beautiful. If you can suspend disbelief for a bit then you’ll probably enjoy it.

4. Toby Litt – Journey Into Space


Date Read: 
Rating: 4 stars

Mini synopsis: Teenagers in space (unlikely to reach their destination) dream about trees on a planet they never saw.

Read it because: Toby Litt is such an intriguing writer. His books are being released alphabetically and each one has been written in a different genre. How many writers can you name who’ve done that?

5. Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones


5 stars

Mini synopsis: Murdered girl can’t stop watching her family from heaven. Will her murderer be caught?

Read it because: Oh, just read it. Whatever you’ve heard about it, whether you think you’ll love it or hate it please just read it. But avoid the film like the plague, that thing was a bloody train wreck.

6. Douglas Coupland – Life After God


5 stars

Mini synopsis: Short stories that intertwine about loss of faith, humanity and being alone.

Read it because: Coupland has a beautiful, distinctive writing style. This is a short book, so a great way to dip your toes in to see if he’s your kind of writer. If you love one, you’ll love them all. (See also: Girlfriend in a Coma)