March book report

This month I finished two books:

Miss Jane: A Novel, by Brad Watson
The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Books read this month: 2

Books read so far: 7

% of year complete: 25%

% of challenge complete: 29%

February book report

I didn’t finish any books on my list in January, so I guess it was a good thing I started in December! I finished one book in February and have a couple more in progress.

This month I finished Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, by Lee Smith.

Books read this month: 1

Books read so far: 5

% of year complete: 17%

% of challenge complete: 21%

A little pre-reading (December progress report)

Happy New Year! I’ve had some time off recently and have been able to get cracking on my 2017 book list before the year even officially started. I finished these books on the list in December:

My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir, by Chris Offutt

My grade: B. Compelling, well-written, but certainly not to everyone’s taste.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach

My grade: C. Normally I really enjoy Roach’s books, but I felt with this one she was reaching too hard for humor, which seemed particularly jarring given the subject matter.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

My grade: A-. Thoughtful and full of details, this book told the stories of families in poor areas struggling to get by, and the economic policies that affect them.

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family, J. D. Vance

My grade: D. My dad recommended this to me, and I got to discuss it with him over the holidays. He and all of my extended family on both sides are from Appalachia, so I’ve spent a lot of time there. Vance’s family story certainly is dramatic, and he told his personal story effectively. But he didn’t convince me that the experiences that he had were particularly emblematic or representative of the area. It’s not that there aren’t a lot of problems there, some culturally self-inflicted, but I didn’t think his particular argument held water.

I just realized that all of these are non-fiction. Whoops. I’ll add in some novels next month, I promise!

Progress:

Books read this month: 4

Books read so far: 4

% of year complete: 0%

% of challenge complete: 16%

The 2017 book list

Happy solstice and best wishes for a great holiday season, everyone.

I’ve decided on my book challenge list for next year. It’s winnowed down from the Amazon editors’ Best Books of 2016 list, which includes both fiction and non-fiction. I picked books that interested me, with a few stretches that I ordinarily wouldn’t have chosen. There are 24 books on my list, down from the original 100. Here they’re still in Amazon’s order, with the best book of the year at the top.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family, by J. D. Vance
The Nix, by Nathan Hill
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
The Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee
Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, by Mary Roach
Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution, by Nathaniel Philbrick
Kill ‘Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown and the American Soul, by James McBride
Eruption: The Untold Story of Mount St. Helens, by Steve Olson
My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir, by Chris Offutt
Dimestore: A Writer’s Life, by Lee Smith
A Hundred Thousand Worlds, by Bob Proehl
Miss Jane, by Brad Watson
The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore
Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives, by Tim Harford
A Torch Against the Night, by Sabaa Tahir
The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, by Dominic Smith
Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
Monstress Volume 1: Awakening, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
The Accidental Life: An Editor’s Notes on Writing and Writers, by Terry McDonell
Now: The Physics of Time, by Richard A. Muller
Underground Airlines, by Ben H. Winters
This Is Your Brain on Parasites: How Tiny Creatures Manipulate Our Behavior and Shape Society, by Kathleen McAuliffe
Not Pretty Enough: The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown, by Gerri Hirshey

One (book) challenge ends, another begins

The last book on my 2016 reading list was Purity, which I started but really strongly disliked. I’m not going to finish it. My book list this year included a lot of literary fiction, which has always been a category which I’m hesitant about. Not because of the length or the language, but because of the common themes. It seems to be a genre where everyone is miserable and tortured, in a very upper-middle-class sort of way, and I don’t generally find that kind of novel either illuminating or rewarding as a reader. There are always exceptions, and I’ll keep reading books I’ve heard good things about, but I don’t plan to focus on the category in the future.

I considered doing a few different things next year; the Guardian has a list of the 100 most important novels written in English, about a third of which I’ve read already at some point, so I thought of doing a multi-year challenge with that. I may revisit that idea in the future, but for 2017 I want to stick with current writing. Amazon just released a list of the 100 best books of 2016 (their editorial list, not the best-seller list based on customer purchases), and there’s about 20-something of them that particularly interest me. I figure if I can narrow it down to 24 books, that’s two books a month and entirely doable in a year. And since they’re new but not brand-new, I’ll be able to get most of them from the library without much waiting.

Oh yeah, I still haven’t finished War and Peace either. Total bucket list stuff. I really wish the new, highly-recommended translation I have in print was available in audiobook, because I think I could crank through the whole thing a few minutes at a time much easier in audio.

Reading Report, October 2016

This month I finished All the Light We Cannot See. I enjoyed it and understand why it has been so popular. I do think it wasn’t particularly challenging or surprising – a bit sappy.

Completed: Between the World and Me; H is for Hawk; An Ember in the Ashes; The Wright Brothers; Hold Still; Americanah; Becoming Nicole; The Nightingale*; A Little Life*; The Girl on the Train; All the Light We Cannot See

Still to read: Purity

Books read this month: 1

Books read total: 11

Percentage of year complete: 83%

Percentage of books complete: 92%