Y'all, I am so proud of myself. Why? Because every year, I've challenged myself to read 50 books over the course of the year, and last year was the first year I actually did it. Yes, I know, I'm a magical unicorn. Hold your applause, because this year, I've decide to make my 50 Book Challenge a little more challenging by joining in on the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.
There are a lot of reading challenges like this out there, so you might be doing something similar. Or maybe you've never heard of anything like this before. If you haven't, I think (?) I would recommend it, just because it forces you to read outside of your comfort zone and gives you opportunities to discover new books you might not have picked up otherwise. For me, a lot of these books have been sitting patiently on my TBR list for a while, and this challenge is what's finally pushing me to pick them up.
So now that we're halfway through the year, I thought I would take this moment to check in on how I'm doing and give you guys a rundown of the books I've read so far.
A Book of True Crime
This one was not hard for me because I love true crime, and technically, I've read two books of true crime so far this year. And I'm still planning on read The Fact of A Body this year at some point (we'll see). But for the purposes of this list, I'm counting A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong. I already talked about this book a little bit on our most recent podcast episode (shameless plug), but just in case you don't read/listen to ALL Book Squad Goals content (HOW DARE U): This book was most interesting because of its look a rape culture and victim blaming in America. I'm really glad I read it, even though it was hard to read at times. I ended up giving this book 4/5 stars in part because it was written by two men. I know, I'm a man-hating feminist. Don't @ me.
A Comic Written or Illustrated by a Person of Color
I don't really do comic books, so the stuff in this challenge having to do with comic books was super annoying to me. Look, I don't think I'm better than comic books or anything. I know a lot of people really like them, and I feel like I'm a bad person for not liking them. But you know, I just don't like reading them. And I don't think it's because I haven't found the right one. I think I just don't like them. I have a hard time reading them, and I would much rather be reading something else. If this challenge was totally without comic book requirements, I would be a much happier person. But here we are. For this one, I read Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Manga of Tidying Up because a graphic novel is the closest I'm going to get to reading a comic book. I gave this book 3/5 stars because it was cute, but it's still a comic book and my house is still dirty, so WTF, MARIE KONDO.
A Romance Novel By or About A Person of Color
For this one, I read Sandhya Menon's From Twinkle with Love, because I absolutely ADORED her last book When Dimple Met Rishi. Well, fam, I didn't adore Menon's latest book about a wannabe teen filmmaker named Twinkle Mehra. Mostly I was frustrated by the way she treated everyone in the book, especially her love interest Sahil, who bends over backwards to make her happy and pretty much has everything in common with her. It just seemed evident from the beginning that these two would and should end up together, and everything standing in their way was just stupid stuff Twinkle did that made no sense whatsoever. Nevertheless, I did enjoy the feminist undertones of this book and the idea of a genderswapped Dracula movie (even though the name Draculass is, like, suuuper dumb). I gave this 3/5 stars. Please do better next time. Thanks.
A Children's Classic Published Before 1980
For this, I reread A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle because at the time, the Squad was considering reviewing the new film version for an Othersode. But that film version was trash and I hated it, so I'm glad we didn't do it. How did I feel about the book, reading it for the first time as an adult? I was surprised at how much of this book is just talking and sitting around, compared to most children's/YA fantasy books that are published now. Overall, it held up, and I liked the character of Meg a lot more than I remembered. I gave this 4/5 stars because this is a classic for a reason. I especially loved the message of self-acceptance, which is something I think teenagers will always need to hear. Self-love is important!
A Celebrity Memoir
All speculations about James Franco's personal life aside, I really enjoyed The Disaster Artist, so when it came time to pick a celebrity memoir for this challenge, I chose the Greg Sestero memoir that the movie is based on: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made. If you liked the movie at all or if you like The Room (or love to hate The Room), I highly recommend this book. And please do yourself a favor and listen to it on audiobook. Greg Sestero reads the book himself, and if you thought Franco's impression of Tommy Wiseau was spot-on, wait 'til you hear Greg impersonating his BFF Tommy. It's magical. Plus there are a whole lot more wacky things to know about Tommy that didn't make it into the movie. I gave this book 4/5 stars because I really enjoyed it, like a whole lot. But it wasn't life-changing or anything. It was just super fun.
An Oprah Book Club Selection
Ugh, I hate Oprah. I could write a whole blog post about how useless Oprah is as a human being and a celebrity icon, but that is not what this blog post is about. And okay, fair, sometimes she does pick some good books for her book club, even though I highly doubt she even reads half of them. That's for the Oprah interns to handle, probably. Anyway, for this book, I was overjoyed when I saw that Oprah was picking An American Marriage by Tayari Jones for her next Book Club pick because I wanted to read it anyway. And now I HAD TO READ IT this year because of the challenge. Yessss. So yeah, I really liked this book. This is probably one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. If you've been thinking about reading it, definitely do that and then talk to me about it. If you haven't heard of it yet, first of all, where have you been? Secondly, it's not a light book, but it takes a hard look at marriage, relationships, race in America, and all of that other fun stuff that's really important. 4/5 Stars. I know. I'm tough. I'm just glad I was able to get a copy without that unsightly Oprah sticker tacked onto the front. I'm happy for Tayari Jones and all, but ugh. No. Why?
A One-Sitting Book
For this one, I read Jeff VanderMeer's Annihilation, which was a super fast read at 196 pages. We podcasted about the movie, which I ABSOLUTELY LOVED. Like, for real. This book was good, and some things about it I liked more than the movie, but overall I like the movie better. I will say though that the movie and book are almost entirely different, so just because you've seen the movie doesn't mean you know anything about what happens in the book. I would recommend seeing the movie and reading the book, in whatever order makes you happiest. You do you. I gave this 4/5 stars. I need more stars because while I enjoyed this, I didn't enjoy it as much as An American Marriage. I need a 100 star system so that these star reviews can be more nuanced.
The First Book in a New To You YA Series
This is probably cheating because Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson is the first book in a series that was new to everyone this year. But this is what I read, so deal with it. I love a good boarding school mystery, which is what this essentially is, and if the rest of the series is also going to be in this genre (which, I mean, yeah it probably will be), then I'm in for the whole series. I gave this 3/5 stars because the ending was slow. Also I was a little annoyed with the cliffhanger at the end, and based on other reviews of this book, I'm not alone. Is it too much to ask for books in a series to also work as stand alone books? Especially when the other ones aren't out yet and we have to wait to see what happens?
A Sci-Fi Novel with a Female Protagonist by a Female Author
I'm counting Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel for this one, even though some people might argue it's not "sci-fi." Well, you know what? Genres are dumb, and I think a post-apocalyptic novel about a society destroyed by disease counts as sci-fi. We already recorded an entire podcast episode about this book, so you can hear the rest of my thoughts over there. 4/5 stars. I'm sensing a trend.
A Book with a Female Protagonist Over the Age of 60
For this, I read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This is another one we podcasted about, so you know what to do if you want my full review of it. Listen to our podcast please. I also gave this one 4/5 stars. I promise I have given books 5 stars. Just none of the ones I've read for this challenge... yet.
So, I'm halfway through the year and I've read 10/24 of the books required for the Read Harder Challenge. Will I make it by the end of December? I don't know. You'll have to check in with me at the end of the year to find out. Do you want to play along? You still have plenty of time to read all 24 books. I believe in you. Plus, Book Riot made this nifty PDF so you can keep up with your reading. I kind of love that.