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reading challenge

2018 book recap & 2019 reading challenge

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So this is it, welcome to the new year! Listening to this song by Motion City Soundtrack just after midnight is my annual tradition as I welcome the changing of the calendar. This year I was extra anxious, because I had nearly completed my 2018 book challenge, and everything else that I wanted to read next would fit the 2019 prompts that Dani and I had chosen.

Last year I managed to read 104 books, which is absolutely a record for me. (That many books, and I still managed to miss a few categories in the challenge. Grr.) I thought I’d revisit some of my favorite books as we gear up for the next challenge!

My Own Devices: Unsurprisingly, this was my book of the year. Dessa is one of my favorite musicians, favorite lyricists, and the writing in her first memoir is unsurprisingly lyrical. It examines the science of love, and if it’s possible to use science to fall out of it, and what to do when the person you’re in senseless love with is also part of your rap crew.

Marlena: This book was recommended to me by two friends, and I’m so glad they did. It’s the story of a woman looking back on her murdered best friend when they were growing up in rural Michigan, running amok and hanging out with the proverbial bad crowd. It’s told in alternating timelines – mostly in the past, with some modern day reflections, and I read it in about two days.

Broad Band: Did you know that the internet was built by women, and that women were the original computers? Even though I work in tech, I truly did not – I’d never really thought about the origin of the word “computer,” or how things were built. Claire Evans tells the stories of some of the most important and influential women in tech, and I haven’t stopped talking about this book ever since. (There were three people who got this for me at Christmas.)

Dark Matter: HOOOO BOY. I found this book while looking for books described as similar to Maybe In Another Life, which is my favorite book, and even though it’s a bit more sci-fi than I usually tend toward, it is incredible. It’s also set in Logan Square, where I spend a lot of time, so it was fun to picture the locations the characters would find themselves in. It made me think a lot about the ethics of things like the multiverse and cloning – you know, just casual topics.

Tell Me Lies: The cover of this book spoke to me, and I checked it out of the library without really even considering what it was about. Turns out it’s about a girl who continually tries to make a relationship with a man who clearly doesn’t care about her. Tina said that this book is for a particular audience, but that that audience would love it, and I agree.

Wintergirls: Clearly, I trend toward enjoying stories about self-destructive women. Laurie Halse Anderson is such a great writer, and the Wintergirls are two girls who bond over their eating disorders until one of them dies, and the other is forced to reckon with her feelings about her friend and her illness. I’d meant to read this for years, and I thought it was really well-written, and certainly didn’t glorify anorexia or bulimia at all.

Sharp Objects: This was actually my first Gillian Flynn book, and I really loved it. The writing feels dark, and the story certainly is – a journalist goes back to her hometown to look for connections in murder and missing girl cases. The protagonist is a cutter, drinks to medicate her depression, and I appreciated the familiarity in her coping mechanisms. I haven’t seen the Showtime series yet, but I aim to binge it soon!

For 2019’s challenge, we had brainstormed all year, noting prompt ideas and reading lists in our shared document. During roommate Christmas at Mindy’s Hot Chocolate (oh my gosh, so amazing, it’s a must visit in Chicago) we reviewed everything, cut out categories from last year that we hated (goodbye, Nordic noir!) and determined the 2019 challenge.

Do you do reading challenges? How do you force yourself to make it through books you hate?!

January 3, 2019
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september 2018 book club

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Like last month, September was a slower month of reading. I didn’t read as many books, but I think the page length evened out as I read some longer books this month. It also featured a re-read, which maybe shouldn’t even count! As the year starts to end, I’m assessing the holes in the reading challenge I still need to fill, while also keeping up with my library requests which are coming in fast and furious now.

My boyfriend got me a Kindle last fall, and turns out that has been the key to unlocking voracious reading. Dani and I also created our own reading challenge this year to increase our reading: 51 categories to prompt us to pick up books we wouldn’t typically read (or books that have languished in TBR-land for too long.) Here’s what I read this month, including what you should pick up and what you should let lay!

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry: Neil deGrasse Tyson is such a gift. He narrates the audiobook (which I listened to in one sitting on the way to and wandering around Riot Fest) and presents these huge concepts in really relatable, digestable bites. It’s also short enough that anyone could read (or listen to) really quickly, so it’s definitely worth picking up!

Broad Band: The Untold Story of Women Who Made the InternetThis book was amazing. I can’t say enough how highly I recommend it. I’ve heard Grace Hopper’s name, but I never knew she was essentially responsible for modern programming. I didn’t know that “computers” were actually a job at first, all computations done manually, and usually by women. I had never heard of the ENIAC 6, or about so many other things in this book, and so many women who kind of blazed a path and a place for women on the internet, in computer science, and technology.

Like reading on your computer or mobile device? Check out Scribd – thousands of eBooks, audiobooks, magazines and more on your device!

Night Moves: Hoooo boy, did I have feelings about this book. I really wanted to like it. I wanted to let go of some of my recent opinions about Jessica Hopper. Some backstory: I was a really big fan of hers in college, and basically up until last year. And then during a run of shows I attended by my favorite band, she wrote some not-so-nice tweets about girls in the front row of those shows (saying she wanted to write a “fanzine” about us, and insinuating we were victims of the patriarchy and brought to these shows by men rather than attending on our own volition.) So I really wanted to put all that aside and go back to liking her and her writing again… but I just couldn’t. That band is featured in this book (really the only one that is name dropped at all, which feels out of place) including incorrect facts about what band member plays what instrument. We get it, you know the band. No one is impressed. Ugh. There was also a real absence of women, and I get that it’s supposed to be a journal based around that time in her life and that maybe she only had one friend of a friend who was a girl, but it felt lacking to me. Maybe someone else would like it, but it didn’t work for me.

I do agree with her on one thing, though – Chicago truly is the city that doesn’t give a shit.

The Year of Less: I put off reading this for a long time. It’s written by Cait Flanders, a PF blogger I used to follow religiously (she was formerly Blonde on a Budget, then later rebranded to her own name once she was no longer writing anonymously.) This is another book I was skeptical of, and I’lll totally cop to why – I was jealous of her. I’ve been jealous of a long time. Her blog was wildly successful, she was able to become a super successful freelance writer, and she’s a minimalism dream. So I didn’t want to read the book because I didn’t want my nose to feel “rubbed” in it. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla (Cait narrates it) and ended up loving it. She likens consumerism to other kinds of addictions, talks about skeptical family members, and even the emotional connection to stuff and things. I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to my own six-month non-essential shopping ban starting next year.

@dessa is as always funny, smart, charming, inspiring, and a lot of other superlatives, idk. #MyOwnDevices is such a good book, go get it and read it and post about it and buy it for everyone you know so she can write me another one.
and also so she can buy me a bobby pin to replace the one I let her borrow in LA.

My Own Devices: This is a re-read, and I normally wouldn’t include that here, but this book came out recently so I wanted to hype it again. Dessa’s creative non-fiction book of essays is well-written, touching, and thought-provoking. She strings one story thread throughout the book – through different essays and sections, the story of her long-term relationship and how she finally used science to get over him. She gave a talk here a few weeks ago and I got to ask her some questions. If you’re anywhere near the book tour, I definitely recommend going – Dessa is super intelligent and I felt so inspired throughout. (And if you check out the next Chicago event, you’ll see me there!)

The Book of Essie: This YA book has been getting a lot of buzz and was a Book of the Month club pick, so I was pretty excited about it. The family in it seems to be based loosely on the Duggars, and it’s a story about their baby girl who gets pregnant and appears to not have a say in the choice that’s made for it. It’s an interesting perspective, and I liked how the manipulation in it wasn’t necessarily negative.

Wondering how I read so much? My libraries use Libby – see if your library has a partnership, and check out the mobile app!

Bitch Planet Vol. 1: Evan suggested this to me months ago, but I just got around to it. I’ve never read comics before (except the Archie comics when I was younger) so it was a little hard for me to adjust to. It took awhile to get into the flow of not only reading it, but piecing out how the story started. I did really love it though, and definitely recommend!

An American Marriage: I read this to fill our prompt for “An Oprah book club pick” and because there’s just been so much buzz about it being the book of the year. I found it to be… just okay. The story itself is of course infuriating – a black man accused by a white woman, then prosecuted without evidence – but I found one of the main narrators so unlikeable for the start that I almost quit reading. I powered through and I did like the ending, but it was a challenge to get there since I disliked one of them so much.

What else should I read next?

October 1, 2018
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2018 reading challenge

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2018 reading challenge

It’s little surprise that I love to read – just check out my Goodreads feed or my Instagram for a taste of what books I’ve picked up lately. Last year, Dani and I discovered the PopSugar reading challenge, and we thought it would be a fun way to read different books (and make a pretty spread in our bullet journals.)

Toward the end of last year, we decided to make a 2018 challenge of our own. Over the last few months of 2017 we started noting down categories or prompts we saw on other lists, or ideas we thought of as we walked around Chicago. In December, we sat down and culled it to a list of 50 prompts, thinking that 50 books in 52 weeks was a pretty good read rate. We then added a 51st prompt to pick a book for each other to read, because we do have pretty diverse reading tastes.

I thought I’d share our challenge here in case you’re looking for some creative prompts to mix up your reading and want to read along with us! I have a shelf on Goodreads where I’m cataloging the books I’m using for the challenge, and at the end of the year, I’ll probably do a recap post.

This will probably mean that my formerly-quarterly book club review posts might get more frequent, so get ready for lots of recommendations!

We’re also making notes with ideas for next year’s challenge, so if you have any suggestions for prompts, let me know in the comments! Check out this printable Pinterest graphic (it’s sized perfectly for a bullet journal, so you can print it out and paste it in if you, like me, are too lazy to draw a pretty page for all the challenge prompts :))

2018 reading challenge

What do you think of the prompts? Any suggestions for our reading challenge next year?

January 7, 2018
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