Tag Archives: reading challenge

Nine Novellas by Women: Another Challenge Completed

So I decided early on in the year that I’d really try to make a few reading goals to keep me going. I’m actually eight books away from meeting my yearly number goal. And I finished my first list challenge.

I’d been looking for some suggestions of books I might like to read, and this one caught my eye for multiple reasons. 9 Classic Novellas By Women You Can Read in a Day posted on Bustle. That tagline alone was enough to earn my attention.

First off- nine. A lot of lists go into the hundreds. So that was an immediate plus, because I knew it wouldn’t take all year to get this list done. Also- classic. I love being able to add more knowledge of well-renowned works to my mind. Then there was women. As a feminist, I also have been trying to continue to read more books by women. And of course, being able to read them in a day was a definite bonus.

So in light of having read them all, I’d like to rate them and say what I thought about each one and if I’d recommend reading them or not. I’d also like to mention the women who wrote them, since many of them were very incredible women who deserve recognition!

So here’s my rating starting with the ones I liked least and working up to my number one read. I used black diamonds 1-5 to rate how I liked it (there were no star characters so we’ll do this instead). 1 diamonds= disliked it, 2 diamonds= it was okay, 3 diamonds= liked it, 4 diamonds= really liked it, 5 diamonds= this book is incredible and one of my favorites.



9. Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter 1939

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The Plot: The short and sweet is it’s a story of the Influenza Epidemic of 1918, a young woman named Miranda is struck by the disease and becomes delirious. The story gives a good depiction of what the epidemic was like at the time, something Porter herself had suffered from.

The Writer: Katherine Anne Porter won the Pulitzer for Fiction with her short stories collection which included Pale Horse, Pale Rider. She was recognized as a very important writer of her time, and her works continue to live on, even today.

 

katherine_anne_porterMy Rating: ♦♦

My thoughts: I think the main problem for me was that I just didn’t find the story all that engaging. I don’t dispute that Porter was talented writer, but I think the plot just felt a little bit dull, at least in comparison with some of the others on this list. Still, her works are well done and I would recommend checking them out if you enjoy short fiction. If we’re taking more than just Pale Horse, Pale Rider into account, I thought some of her other stories were a little more interesting.

 

 


8. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark 1961

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The Plot: A young teacher, Miss Jean Brodie, uses her influence over the girls in her care to become her ideal pupils. She hopes to inspire in them the same romanticism and make them the “creme de la creme”. However, what she doesn’t anticipate is them turning against her.

The Writer: Muriel Spark was a Scottish writer who wrote poetry, fiction, and criticism. She has been listed among the top British writers of the modern age. She won many awards in her life and posthumously. She received eight honorary doctorates in her time.  There is no doubt she was an incredible woman of her own era, and she continues to be well renowned today too.

muriel_spark_1960My Rating: ♦♦

My thoughts: 
I think the writing in this work is exceptionally lovely. In fact, I enjoyed it while I was reading immensely. I think the main thing I hate about it is just how sad the whole story is. Brodie’s influence runs deep in these young girls, and it’s tragic to see what it causes their lives to become. I think beyond my own disgust for the circumstances and characters, I really did like the other elements of this novella.

 


7. The Awakening by Kate Chopin 1899

 52277The Plot: Written in 1899, this novel portrays the struggles of a young wife and mother named Edna Pontellier vacationing with her family on the Gulf of Mexico. It is there that Edna connects with a man named Robert Lebrun and begins to fall in love, struggling with her own restrictive marriage in light of these new feelings.

The Writer: Kate Chopin is often used in women’s literature classes due to her radical writings of her time. She was a forerunner of the feminist authors of the modern era, and often drew on her own Southern upbringing as a basis of her stories, using her writing as a means of critiquing society. She was one of the leading writers of her time, and still remains quite renowned today.

kate_chopinMy Rating: ♦♦♦

My thoughts: Chopin writes very beautifully, and I have really enjoyed some of her short stories in the past. I thought this story was very well written and thoroughly enjoyed it. I think the main problem is that as a modern reader, I cannot be quite as shocked by the content as many readers of Chopin’s times would have been. This doesn’t have the same radical value to me, and for that reason it’s harder to understand the importance of this work. Overall, I would highly recommend this novel. It’s a very easy read and does have some beautiful and interesting themes, even for women of today.


6. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton 1911

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The Plot: Ethan Frome is trying his best to run his farm while his wife Zeena’s health continues to decline. Zeena’s cousin Mattie has been living with them to help care for her, and Ethan has become quite attached. However, Zeena upsets everything when she decides to send Mattie away. Ethan is troubled both by thoughts of Mattie trying to live on her own, and at the idea of losing her. He debates running away with her, but is hindered by his lack of money.

The Writer: Wharton was an incredibly successful writer and person. She was the first woman to be awarded the Pulitzer for her work. She was a Nobel nominee multiple times over. She traveled a good amount and worked hard during WWI to aid refugees and with other projects alongside her writing. Her works were quite varied and prolific, and she is well worth studying as a result.

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My Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this work. Again, like with the others I thought the writing was quite impressive. However, unlike several of the other books I also really liked the story. It’s interesting because the story is almost as depressing as the others, yet somehow Wharton managed to engage me and keep me interested in what would happen to the characters. The ending is quite twisted, but it worked very well. This novella continues to haunt me even now and I highly recommend trying it.

 


5. Three Blind Mice by Agatha Christie 1925

13622161The Plot: Molly and Giles Davis have just opened their new guest house. They are beginning to entertain in spite of a rainstorm, when an unexpected guest turns up to let them know there is a killer on the loose, who may in fact be heading for their home next. The mystery and suspense continue as the group tries to figure out who the killer might be, and who he or she wants to kill next.

The Writer: Agatha Christie has become a famous name, partly because of this well-known story. It was converted into a play known as The Mousetrap, which has become the longest running play in history. She was an English crime novelist and playwright. She has been listed as one of the best-selling novelists of all time, and most translated author as well. She has left a lasting legacy, especially in the crime novel genre.

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My Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: Unlike many of the other works I’ve reviewed, this isn’t one that stands out to me in terms of “great writing” at least stylistically. Chopin’s work is so evocative in the language and descriptions, but Christie triumphs more for me in terms of her plot. A good old-fashioned murder mystery can be extremely entertaining, especially if its well done like Christie’s is. I really enjoyed Three Blind Mice and also devoured the other stories in the collection. Christie is certainly an author I’d like to explore more of, as I think her works are definitely ones I enjoy reading, even if they don’t challenge my thinking quite as much.


4. Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan 1954

3223882The Plot: The story begins with Cécile, a young woman on vacation on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea with her father and his mistress Elsa. She is seventeen years old and has found love for the first time. However, things are never easy, and a woman named Anne Larsen arrives just in time to wreak havoc on her peaceful vacation.

The Writer: Sagan was a French playwright, novelist, and screenwriter. She was only eighteen when she published this novel, and yet it became her most well-known work. At her death, President Chirac commented on the loss of an incredible writer of their country.
My Rating: ♦♦♦♦franc3a7oise_sagan

My thoughts: I need to try reading this novel in French, partly because I thought the writing was incredible, but I cannot be sure how accurate the translation I was reading was. The story is certainly sad, as many of the ones on this list are, but it was interesting and the characters all amused me. I read several reviews from people who thought this was simply a spoiled teenager’s view of the world, but maybe as a young adult myself I can recognize some of the ways Cécile was feeling in trying to figure out what she wanted from life. I certainly enjoyed it, and I’ll have to test my French skills at some point!


3. Passing by Nella Larsen 1929

349929The Plot: The story is set in New York during the Harlem Renaissance. It tells the story of two black women who are able to “pass” for white and the very different lives they live. Irene Redfield has married a black physician and lives a privileged life in Harlem. Clare Kendry, her childhood friend, has married a racist white man who has no knowledge of her racial identity. Clare is envious of Irene’s ability to go between the two races and begins to throw herself into social situations where she can mix as well. Irene worries about what will happen if Clare’s husband discovers the truth and the danger it might bring to her friend. She debates how to handle the situation.

The Writer: 
Nella Larsen only published two novels and a few short stories, but she nonetheless stands out as a prominent female writer in the Harlem Renaissance. Her works helped to contribute to conversations about sexual and racial identity at the time and as a result she has continued to be studied even today. She worked as a nurse and librarian, initially very active in the Harlem circles with other artists, though she eventually withdrew and gave up her literary career.

220px-nellalarsen1928My Rating: 
♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: I really enjoyed this work. I thought it was a really interesting exploration on topics of identity, especially racial, and that it painted a good picture of the Harlem Renaissance. I found both Irene and Clare’s stories interesting, and thought Larsen did a good job of making both sympathetic in their own ways. I highly recommend reading this novella. I found it very eye opening, and am hoping I can find other works that can likewise help me have a better understanding of issues I might not normally think to study.


2. The Lifted Veil by George Eliot 1859

2359437The Plot: Latimer has had strange visions of a pale woman, which he believes is a vision of the future. Two of his earlier visions have both come true, leading him to believe that this other one will as well. He becomes fascinated with his brother’s wife Bertha, who he believes is the woman from his visions. His unreliable narration continues to weave a tale of horror and mystery.

The Writer: George Eliot is often mistaken for a man thanks to the masculine pen name, one she selected in order to be taken seriously. Nonetheless,  Mary Ann Evans was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, and in spite of her horror novella, she is usually known for her realistic fiction. She worked as an editor for a while, something which was quite unusual for a woman of her day. Her great novel Middlemarch has been described as one of the best novels in the English language. She was praised for her depictions of rural society and well-championed by other writers after her time, notably Virginia Woolf.

220px-george_eliot_at_30_by_franc3a7ois_d27albert_duradeMy Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts:  I believe this was the most exciting novella of the list for me. I devoured it in one sitting and found the plot utterly fascinating. My only worry is that now I’ll never be able to read Eliot’s other works without this tainting my view of them. It is, as I understand, a really unique work for her. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and it is one of my highest recommendations on the list.

 


1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 1818

33537The Plot: Victor Frankenstein becomes fascinated with the idea of reanimating the dead while studying science and anatomy. He ends up being successful in his experiments, bringing to life a monstrous creature who he allows to escape by accident. He retreats into the mountains, believing that he will never see his creation again. However, to his surprise the creature seeks him out, interested in building  a relationship with the one who made him, seeking answers for the wrongs that have been done to him.

The Writer: Mary Shelley is an English novelist and writer, who is best known for this work in particular, even though she wrote many others. She was the daughter of the famous mother of feminism, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the philosopher William Godwin. Many of her works have become important in studies of literature, and she remains renowned for her writing, especially for Frankenstein which she wrote when she was eighteen.

200px-rothwellmaryshelleyMy Rating: ♦♦♦♦

My thoughts: This was the only novel on the challenge that I had read before starting it. It has been a favorite of mine since I read it my senior year of high school. The novel is brilliantly written, and there is just so much depth to the themes and questions asked within the pages. I have read it twice now, and likely will continue to study it as I grow older. I will never be able to forget the emotions this novel has evoked, or put aside the ways it has changed me. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t yet read it. 



I hope some of you might consider a book or two from this list that caught your eye, or even try to read all of them. I think they represent a variety of perspectives and genres, making them a nice and easy collection to read. Let me know if you have any thoughts!

*All information has been taken from Goodreads.com and Wikipedia.com, the same with the pictures. *

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Reading Challenge 8: A Book at the Bottom of your “To Be Read” Pile

All right, so I’ll admit I went a bit easy on myself for this one. But this is a book I’ve never read that was definitely on my “to be read” list. And I’d just finished reading Gone Girl, which was great but pretty long. And it just fit the time of year so well that it was impossible to resist.

So yes, for my final challenge doing this long 26 book list, I decided to do A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

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I don’t even feel like I need to really put a description up. To be honest, this story is so iconic that I really don’t have any desire to review it. It’s short and sweet and utterly Christmasy. If you haven’t read it you should. Let’s just stick with that.

I had thought about doing a reading challenge wrap up, but I think I’ll leave that for another post. In the meantime, thanks to all my readers who have stuck with me through these long series of posts. Maybe with the new year I can begin some more unique ones to mix it up, and maybe get back to writing.

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My reading list on goodreads and you can see the bottom

In the meantime I’ll ask my readers: Have you read this book? What’s at the bottom of your read list? What are your reading goals for the New Year?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Entire challenge:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

8. A Book at the Bottom of your “To Be Read” Pile

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

13. A Book with a Female Heroine

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

18. A Book with a Blue Cover

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

23. A Book From the Library

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

25. A Book that is More than Ten Years Old

26. A Book Based on a True Story

 

 

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Reading Challenge 23: A Book from the Library

I actually laughed at this challenge. My mother scoffed at it too. It wasn’t until I went on instagram and saw people posting about this one and saying this was the first time going to the library, or their first time in a long time that I realized that my experience is not everyone’s.

My library card doesn’t even have my signature on it. It has my mother’s neat print where she signed for me since I was too young to even handle a pen, let alone write my name when she had me signed up for my first library card. I’ve been a devoted library user ever since. I do buy books on occasion, though usually they are favorites I’ve already read, or antique copies of classics that I’d love to have decorate my shelf, but for the most part I select my books at the place I’m already paying taxes too anyways.

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So to mix up this challenge, since it wasn’t that hard for me, I decided to do an ebook from the library, which was something I’d never tried before. It also helped since I was traveling over the holidays and wanted books without a heavy load in my backpack. Voila, books directly on my phone. I went to the popular books section and picked one that had been on my list for a while: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

The story begins with Nick Dunne, a Missouri native who recently moved back from New York to care for his sick mother and aging father, bringing with him an amazing New England wife. It’s the morning of their fifth anniversary, and although Nick reflects on how amazing the relationship once was, it quickly becomes obvious that he and Amy are not what they used to be. With a marriage falling apart, Nick faces even more problems when he comes home to find the house in a state of disarray and his wife clearly missing. A police investigation ensues. The story follows Nick’s story in the progress of searching for his wife, while Amy tells their seven year love story in her diary. But while the marriage certainly has had its problems, the reader is still left to wonder if it was enough to inspire Nick to kill his wife, or if he’ll simply become accused of doing so falsely.

It’s a tough description to give, simply because there is so much to this book that can’t even begin to be summed up in a paragraph. I really did enjoy this book, surprising too since I’d seen the movie and already knew the biggest surprises in the plot. But I really enjoyed this as a novel too, because I felt like the written tale actually doubled the depth that was already there. I loved how this story explored media, and justice, and marriage, and narration. I enjoyed the narrative itself, and I became very interested in the plot.

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My card is so old it has my mother’s worn out handwriting where the signature should go

I think a lot of people might be turned off by the characters because they’re not extremely likable. But I’ve become someone who’s quickly been able to look over the fact that I might not like a character because I can recognize there are more important things sometimes. This book actually reminded me of Tender is the Night in some ways, with a sort of warped marriage and a fascinating character in both Amy Dunne and Nicole Divers.

Some, like my father, might also feel this book is just another anti-marriage message. Honestly, I think I might have felt that myself. had I not read the acknowledgements page at the end where Flynn praises her wonderful spouse for marrying her. And to be honest, a closer look revealed to me a greater theme throughout than just marriage bashing. Characters constantly point out the effect the media has, on justice, on gender roles, and on marriage. More than once someone is told that they’ve watched too many movies, or have seen too many crime shows, or that a children’s series has dictated the entire life of a young woman, or even one character who uses novels for a nefarious real life purpose. So to me, the message of the book isn’t “marriage sucks don’t get hitched you’ll regret it,” it’s a warning against simplifying love. It’s a warning against thinking marriage will be easy like it is in romcoms or in a thousand other silly romantic stories. It’s about remembering that life isn’t as neat as it is on a television screen, and that you cannot go into a marriage or a life expecting perfection. Because perfection just isn’t possible, and dreaming of it will only mess things up.

As to the choice to do ebook, I’ll say this: I really do prefer hard copies. Books I can hold in my hands and thumb through. But, I was glad to have a smaller version of this book to take with me on my trip. I enjoyed being able to pull out my phone and read at the intermission of the ballet I attended. And you just can’t do that with a hardback copy of Gone Girl. So there are a few benefits I suppose.

Anyhow, that’s my two-cents. Anyone else have any thoughts on Gone Girl? What about libraries? Do you use them? How about ebooks? Do you prefer those?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

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Reading Challenge 6: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read Before

Another very open ended challenge. In fact, as I commented on the challenge of reading a book by an author I loved, I tend to not repeat authors very regularly. More often I prefer to try something new, which was why I wasn’t really sure what to pick for this challenge. But I ended up just picking something that had long been on my reading list: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

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The story follows a young boy named Amir living in Afghanistan. He and his servant boy, Hassan, enjoy reading stories, and seeing John Wayne movies, and participating in kite tournaments together, until one act of cowardice by Amir pulls them apart forever. The book follows Amir’s journey, to his new life in America, and then to his journey back to Afghanistan to redeem himself.

I think that’s the best description I can give, but I still feel it in no way begins to cover this amazing book. Even after a few days to reflect, I’m not sure I can even write a decent blog post, because I’m still far too overwhelmed by the mere thought of this story. It’s one of the books that has made me cry the hardest, but also one I was unable to put down. I stayed up well past midnight even with an early morning of work ahead, so eager to know what would happen. I felt really connected to the characters, and thoroughly invested in the story.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what goes into making a great novel. And to me, some of the biggest components are a good story, great themes, and a decent writing style. I think good books can have one or two of these. But to me, a really worthwhile and meaningful novel will have all three. I felt that The Kite Runner had a good writing style over all. First person narrators can be tricky, but it was well done. The story kept me motivated to keep reading. And of course, I thought the themes were very meaningful. About overcoming ones own flaws, about family dynamics, about justice and politics, wealth and poverty. The layers in this book seemed so rich to me, that I think it would require another more thorough reading to really peel them back.

Either way, I loved this book and it’s become a new favorite of mine. I would really encourage others to read it!

Do you often read books by the same author? What do you think makes a great novel?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

18. A Book with a Blue Cover

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

25. A Book that is More than Ten Years Old

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 18: A Book With a Blue Cover

I must admit I don’t usually choose my books based on the color of the cover. I considered just going to the library and picking a random title that fit this requirement, but I eventually just decided to pick something I already had on my reading list and that was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. And since Life of Pi has so much water in it, the cover of my copy happens to be blue.

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The story begins with Piscine Motorel Patel, known as Pi, a young Indian boy who is fascinated by religion and by zoology. He’s spent his life growing up surrounded by a zoo his father runs. But a time eventually comes when his family decides to make a journey to Canada to begin a new life. However, in the middle of his voyage, Pi becomes marooned in a lifeboat with several zoo animals, most frightening of all a ferocious Bengal tiger. The story follows his struggle for survival.

So one of the tough things to do is to honestly evaluate a book when you’ve seen the movie before reading the story. Because having already seen the movie, definitely spoiled some things in the book. For me, I think that’s the reason I usually prefer reading the book first.

Nonetheless, I still thought the story was very interesting. The book seemed to develop some much more existential themes about religion, story, and human vs. beast. I really enjoyed thinking more on those alongside enjoying the great story. This book also did make a good movie with all the visual appeal, and I also enjoyed the movie more in some respects because it was less graphic than the book.

So there were definitely benefits to both formats, but overall I appreciated both. They both tell an incredible story, and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for that.

Have you ever picked a book for its cover? What would you choose to complete this challenge? Any thoughts on books to movies?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

25. A Book that is More than Ten Years Old

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 25: A Book That is More Than Ten Years Old

While I’ve loved doing this reading challenge, I have to admit I dislike some of these really broad challenges. How much older than ten years? Should I aim for exactly ten? Well, considering probably half of what I’ve read has met this qualification, I just picked a random book and went with that. Which is how I ended up going down my reading list and selecting The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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Christopher Boone is an incredibly gifted student. He’s doing his A-levels in maths before any of the other students, and can rattle off incredible facts at the blink of an eye. But the fact remains that Christopher is different. He’s autistic. Unable to eat foods that are yellow or brown, or to discern what emotions his classmates are feeling, or to know what to make of an idiomatic expression. or even to let his own father hug him. But in spite of all of these difficulties, Christopher decides that he wants to write an account of his life in a way that makes sense to him. He begins writing his story after he discovers his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, murdered with a garden fork one night. Unable to give up on finding out what happened, Christopher sets out to find out the truth about the curious incident, resulting in him discovering several secrets he never should have known, all while continuing to explore his own system of understanding a world that doesn’t seem to understand him.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. I thought it was incredibly well written. The story was amazing. The characters, especially the protagonist, were inspiring and realistic. The mystery kept me focused on wanting to know what happened in the story, but the details of autistic life allowed me to become better educated on real life matters I’d never explored much before.

I think that’s one of the true beauties of reading, is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I haven’t really met anyone who’s autistic, though I’ve definitely seen characters portrayed as such in films, or heard of people dealing with these issues, but reading a book through Christopher’s mind allowed me to really start making some connections about a subject I had previously rarely encountered. Needless to say, I’m very glad I picked up this book even if it’s not one of the newest books out there.

Do you prefer reading new or old books? Do you balance it or is it usually one or the other?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

 

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 19: A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

As an English major, I’m going to go ahead and be honest about how many reading assignments I skipped… none.

All right, so that seems a little fishy most likely, so I’ll go ahead and clarify that I did skip some poetry readings, journal articles, or literary criticism articles (I don’t remember which ones), and I definitely was guilty of doing some serious skimming at times. But I have always loved reading, and I usually didn’t have too much of a problem finishing up what was required of me, even if I didn’t read it as well as I should have.

So instead of selecting a book I was assigned and never read, I went with selecting a commonly read classic that is often assigned in school. I had several choices for this, there are lots of lists of canon high school reads (see for example this Goodreads one of which I’ve read 45). But I finally settled on one my father suggested, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

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This book tells the story of two men looking for work in California while they dream of a better future on a farm of their own. Lennie is strong but utterly simple, he relies on George to direct their path, which George tries his best to do while dealing with the problems that Lennie has created in the past. Together they find work on a ranch, but even with their hopes of a better life ahead, there are still many obstacles in their way.

I started this book having only experienced Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, which I read in high school. I remembered not really caring for the book overall, but that was likely just my youth speaking, and I’d have to read it again to remember better. So, I went into reading Of Mice and Men thinking I’d probably hate it, only grateful it was short.

I’ve never been so wrong in my life.

This book has quickly become one of my favorites of all time. It’s short, true, but it’s incredibly poignant, and the story is simply incredible and touching. I nearly teared up sitting in the dentist waiting room with this one, which was more than a bit embarrassing. I fell in love with simple, naive Lenny and sympathized with George’s concerns for their future. And of course, I loved that it was an easy and uncomplicated read after finishing off Tender is the Night. This is definitely a book I’d encourage everyone to try. I think it has a beautiful story that should be shared with the world.

How often did you skip reading material required in school? What “classics” have you not managed to read? How would you choose to fulfill this challenge?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

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