For the third year in a row, I’m participating in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I’ve found this challenge to be very impactful on my reading life. It’s easy for me to be a slave to my To Be Read list, listening to some cranky librarian’s voice in my head that insists I Must! Read! Books! In! Order! At that rate, I’d be reading 2017’s hottest and best books in 2027. I appreciate the challenge for getting me out of that rut. Without it, I’d have probably never tackled Pride & Prejudice, Friday Night Lights or Harry Potter – all books that have made my reading life incredibly richer.
This year Anne Bogel offered up two different challenges in a choose-your-own-adventure style, based on what you might like to be different about your reading life. Wishing for more fun and escapism in your books? Choose the Reading for Fun Challenge. Looking to be challenged as a reader in the year ahead? Pick the Reading for Growth Challenge. In that spirit, I ended up doing something different as well. I’d like to see a mix of both fun and challenge in my reading life, and so I picked 6 categories from each challenge and blended them into my own. Here are my categories along with what I’m (probably) reading this year.
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A Newbery Award Winner or Honor Book:
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
A book set somewhere you’ve never been but want to visit:
- The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell
A book that’s more than 600 pages:
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
A juicy memoir:
A book of any genre that addresses current events:
A book in the backlist of a new favorite author:
- Britt-Marie was Here by Fredrik Backman
A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author:
A book recommended by someone with great taste:
- A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (recommended by my sister-in-law, Kim)
- Books for Living by Will Schwalbe (recommended by Gretchen Rubin)
A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award Winner:
- News of the World by Paulette Jiles
A book about a subject you already love:
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
A book published before you were born:
A book in a genre you usually avoid:
- Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (science fiction)
I think 2017 will be a wonderful mix of fun and thoughtful reads, don’t you?
With the end-0f-year hubbub and best-of lists, I never got around to sharing my December Must-Reads. I definitely slowed down during that last month, but there are a few titles I’d like to share.
How to Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach
I’ve been a fan of Jenny’s from the moment I first stumbled upon her blog, Dinner: A Love Story. Her love of the family dinner, combined with her realistic view on just how difficult dinner can be as a parent, makes for a comforting, practical and useful resource. I own every one of her cookbooks (the others are Dinner: A Love Story and Dinner: the Playbook), and they show the signs of love and everyday use: stained and splattered. You might wonder how a cookbook ended up in my reading list. Isn’t it just recipes? Not this one. Jenny goes through the rituals of life, big and small, sharing her family’s traditions and encouraging you to create your own. Buy this now, make the Shredded Pork Lettuce Wraps and Chocolate Pudding Pie, and tell me you don’t love it as much as I do!
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
This was my pick for the 2016 MMD Reading Challenge for “The book you should have read in school.” I approached this book with trepidation. I’ve wanted to read it for years, as it feels as if I’m missing out on so many cultural references by not having read it. At the same time, I was scared that I’d hate it and wonder what all the fuss was about. I’ll tell you up front, it’s not an easy book to settle into. Anything written in the 19th century is going to have some language barriers to overcome. There were two keys for me that got me over the initial hump. One: Choosing the annotated version of the book. Having footnotes handy to explain words, phrases and traditions of the time helped tremendously. Yes, it can make the reading slow at time, having to go back and forth between the novel and the notes. It clarified things which helped me get into the story and have a deeper understanding of the characters. Two: Giving it time. Normally I would ditch a book that I wasn’t really into after 75 pages or so. I gave myself more time with this one, which was needed both to get into the groove of reading a completely different style of writing and to become invested in the characters. Once I did, however, I couldn’t get enough. At one point, after Lizzy’s scathing rebuke of Darcy, I said out loud, “Girrrl!” It transcends time, and I’m so very glad I read it.
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for Shauna Niequist’s newest book. Her previous book of essays, Bread & Wine, made my Best Of list in 2014. It’s a book I return to often, and love to give as a gift. I found Present Over Perfect to be just as lovely, but with one caveat: it won’t appeal to women as broadly as Bread & Wine does. Niequist writes with a certain woman in mind: the overworked woman who feels spread too thin. Niequist tells of her own breaking point, when the responsibilities that came along with a successful writing and speaking career threatened to overtake her health and her family. I found every part of Bread & Wine relatable, however there were a few essays in here which I couldn’t identify with. I still love the book as a whole, though, with its message that so many of us need to hear: you are enough.
I think I’ll continue to post book reviews as I did last year: a quarterly wrap-up of my favorite reads with year-end Best Of lists. It worked for me in 2016, so why change? As always, thanks for reading along with me. So many of you have told me that you choose many of your reads based on my recommendations, and that makes my bookish heart incredibly happy! In return, your recommendations have enhanced my reading life as well, so keep them coming!