Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reading Challenge 2016 Summaries

Last year was the first year that I didn't finish a reading challenge. Well, this year I didn't finish two! But it was a really rough year and I still managed to finish what I think will be the hardest challenge ever, and I still read 100 books, and one of the challenges I hadn't really designed in order to really be sure I read every book on it.

It's this first one. In 2015 I had read hardly any of the books I'd started off the year wanting to read and I wanted to be sure that didn't happen again. Reading 12 of the top 20 books I wanted to read going into 2016 actually seems pretty great to me. And a few of them have really dropped off my list. I didn't read them because I'm just not that enticed anymore. I hope/expect I'll get to all of these eventually, but just not right now. After all, in 2016 I had to A) read a lot of books in prep for interviews B) read a lot of books from my publisher when I had that job C) read mostly cheerful books as it was a particularly rough year, which eliminated a couple of these.

It is surprising that I didn't finish the Chunksters but with moving across the country and the stress of starting a new job and then of losing that job, I got behind several times with my reading, and I got to a point where I could either do the Chunkster challenge or read 100 books, and since I wasn't gung-ho about any 450+ page books, I decided to let it go. I've been doing the Chunkster Challenge for years and this is the first time I haven't finished. And heck, last year I read 7 while I was only going for 5, so it's not like I never read long books.

Finally, I finished the State by State Challenge! I am so proud of this! It was a very difficult challenge as it's not so easy to find books set in certain states (or there is one easy one but I'd already read it!) I gave myself three years to do this challenge. It means I've read fewer international books in the last three years, so I think an international challenge is in store for 2017. One fascinating thing with doing this challenge was that some of the harder states, like Nebraska and Delaware and Arkansas, lead to me reading books I otherwise wouldn't have and that I really loved. The easy states, like California and New York, were unmemorable. I read a dozen (or more!) books set in New York in the last three years and had to make no effort. But I had to make a big effort for North Dakota and Wyoming. It was interesting how many states that were more obscure I didn't have to try for, but were books picked for my book clubs (Iowa, Kentucky, Oregon). Loved this challenge and so glad I did it.

Reading the Books That I Want Challenge
Last year I got frustrated with my reading challenges and my book clubs and other reading obligations. And while looking at my end of year post from last year, I was annoyed that I didn't get to read a couple of books from the rather short list of books I was really looking forward to. And then I had an idea. This year I am creating my own reading challenge, just for me. And it is to list the top 20 books on my TBR list and be sure I actually read them. I am very much looking forward to this! The list does not include any books currently assigned for my book clubs or that I plan to read for my State by State challenge. 

I've spent time tweaking my list and I am pretty happy with it. I really want to read these twenty books this year and I hope that this challenge will get me to do it:
1. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell DONE
2. Drinking in America: Our Secret History by Susan Cheever
3. Margaret Fuller: A New American Life by Megan Marshall
4. Louisa May Alcott by Susan Cheever
5. Terrible Virtue: A Novel by Ellen Feldman
6. The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters by Wes Moore DONE
7. Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between the World's Greatest Chocolate Makers by Deborah Cadbury DONE
8. The Last September by Nina de Gramont DONE
9. The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs DONE
10. On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz DONE
11. Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon DONE
12. The Arrangement by Ashley Warlick 
13. My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout DONE
14. The Summer of Beer and Whiskey: How Brewers, Barkeeps, Rowdies, Immigrants, and a Wild Pennant Fight Made Baseball America's Game by Edward Achorn DONE
15. Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport by Matthew Algeo DONE
16. Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South by Andrew Maraniss 
17. Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse: A Novel by Faith Sullivan
18. The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson DONE
19. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson DONE
20. Call the Midwife: A True Story of the East End in the 1950s by Jennifer Worth DONE

13/20 as of 12/19/16

Chunkster Reading Challenge 
Wondering what’s a chunkster? A chunkster is an adult or YA book, non-fiction or fiction, that’s 450 pages or more.

Here’s the rules for this year’s challenge (from 2015):
Audio books and e-books are allowed. You want to listen to a chunkster on audio? Be my guest. Essay, short story, and poetry collections are allowed but they have to be read in their entirety to count. Books may crossover with other challenges.
Anyone can join. You don’t need a blog. Feel free to leave your progress on the monthly link-up posts.  You don’t have to list your books ahead of time. Graphic novels don’t count. Reading a chunkster graphic novel isn’t the same as reading a non-graphic chunkster.

Carin says:
I always love my chunkster challenge. It's never been a challenge I've struggled to solve, luckily. I'm a little worried since the 2016 post isn't up yet. Nevertheless, I'll pick 6 for this year. 

1. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street: A Novel by Susan Jane Gilman 500 pages
2. The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton 466 pages
3. The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson 496 pages
4. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee 592 pages

4/6 as of 12/31/16

State by State in 2014-2016
Ever thought you would like to read your way across America?
The USA Fiction Challenge asks you to do just that.
Read just one book from each state - you choose whether the link is the setting or the author.
You choose whether you confine yourself to a particular genre or not.

Carin says:
I am extending this challenge over multiple years. I am picking setting (I think often where an author's from is wildly irrelevant to a book) and I am not confining myself to a genre. I had hoped to have 35 books done by the end of my first year but I only had 22. Now I have 37 done, leaving 14 (I included Washington D.C.) I am confidant I can finish this year, and I'm going to try pretty hard. I own 6 of them, and two of those I know are on my book club's list for this year, so those are easy guarantees. Books marked in blue were read in 2014, black in 2015, with red for 2016.

Alabama: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
All the Winters After by SerĂ© Prince Halverson
Arizona: Son of a Gun: A Memoir by Justin St. Germain
Arkansas: A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip: A Memoir of Seventh Grade by Kevin Brockmeier
California: The Longest Date: Life as a Wife by Cindy Chupack
Columbine by Dave Cullen 
Connecticut: The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic by John Putnam Demos
DC: All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai 
Delaware: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
Florida: The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind: A Bestseller's Odyssey from Atlanta to Hollywood by Ellen F. Brown and John Wiley Jr.
Hawaii: Hawaii by James A. Michener
Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
Illinois: Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen
Indiana: She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana by Haven Kimmel
Iowa: Big Brother by Lionel Shriver
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn 
Kentucky: The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
Louisiana: Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
Maine: The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Wondrous Beauty: The Life and Adventures of Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte by Carol Berkin
Massachusetts: Defending Jacob by William Landay
Michigan: You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know by Heather Sellers
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
Mississippi: Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell
Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer's Life by Pamela Smith Hill
Montana: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
Nebraska: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell 
Nevada: Basin and Range by John McPhee
New Hampshire: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

New Jersey: 
Let Me Explain You by Annie Liontas 
New Mexico: Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West by Hampton Sides
New York: The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
North Carolina: 
My Accidental Jihad by Krista Bremer
North Dakota: Nothing to Do But Stay by Carrie Young
Ohio: The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok
Oklahoma: Maud's Line by Margaret Verble
Oregon: Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival by Peter Stark
Pennsylvania: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
Rhode Island: 
In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me about Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love by Joseph Luzzi 
South Carolina: On Folly Beach by Karen White
South Dakota: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree by Ann Weisgarber
The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II by Denise Kiernan
Texas: Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce
Utah: The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Josh Hanagarne
Vermont: Good Grief: Life in a Tiny Vermont Village by Ellen Stimson
The House Girl by Tara Conklin
Washington: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
West Virginia: Close to Famous by Joan Bauer
Wisconsin: Keeping the House by Ellen Baker
Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith
22/51 in 2014
15/29 in 2015
14/14 in 2016 DONE!

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