Sitting on top of a new stack of books and not crying

As mentioned in the previous post, I am going to be attempting The Book Riot 2016 Read Harder Challenge. I attempted The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge, and horribly failed. I sat on the gigantic pile of books I didn’t read and cried for several hours. It was a great way to spend my holidays, I know.

When the list of the 2016 challenge categories was released, my initial reaction was, “Hmm. It’s going to take me six months to decide the books I want to read for this challenge, three years to get them and another 15 years to actually read them. It began haunting me for about a week. I wanted to attempt the challenge, but I was completely overwhelmed. How am I going to find which books to read? How am I going to get them? Will I finish this challenge? How many times am I going to cry myself to sleep because of this challenge? This was starting to get ridiculous, and I knew I just had to dive into the scary abyss, and hope that I don’t drown and, you know, die. So, that’s what I did.

On one hot December evening, I pulled up the list of categories for the challenge and vowed to find books for as many categories as possible. Surprisingly, I ended up finding a book for each category, and it only took me four hours and a lot of agonizing frustration and concern. What a wonderful way to spend an evening. Also, not surprisingly, I changed a few titles here and there. I may or may not changed a few more later on, but I am overall happy with this selection.

Below is what I’ve selected for the challenge.

Read a horror book – Forever Odd by Dean Koontz (Novel in a Series)

Read a nonfiction book about science – That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles: 62 All-New Commentaries on the Fascinating Chemistry of Everyday Life by Joe Schwarcz (Nonfiction)

Read a collection of essays – Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan (Collection of Essays)

Read a book out loud to someone else – I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti Shustak and Caroline Jayne Church (Picture Book)

Read a middle grade novel – The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dave Pilkey (Juvenile Novel)

Read a Biography – The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan (Biography)

Read a dystopian of post-apocalyptic novel – Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguo (Novel)

Read a book originally published in the year you were born – Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Novel)

Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award – Yes Please by Amy Poehler (Collection of Essays)

Read a book over 500 pages long – The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (Novel)

Read a book under 100 pages – Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness by William Styron (Memoir)

Read a book by or about someone who identifies as transgendered – She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan (Memoir)

Read a book that’s set in the Middle East – Blood Brothers by Elias Chacour (Memoir)

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia – First They Killed My Father: A Daughter From Cambodia Remembers by Luong Ung (Memoir)

Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900 – The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman (Novel)

Read the first book in a series by someone of color – Half-Resurrection Blues by Daniel Jose Older (Novel in a Series)

Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years – A Silent Voice Vol. 1 by Yoshitoki Oima (Manga)

Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better – The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Novel)

Read a nonfiction book that about feminism or deals with feminist themes – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (Memoir)

Read a book about religion – O Me of Little Faith by Jason Boyett (Memoir)

Read a book about politics, in your country or another – Me the People: One Man’s Selfless Quest to Rewrite the Constitution of the United States by Kevin Bleyer (Nonfiction)

Read a Food Memoir – Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn’t Make From Scratch (Memoir/Cookbook)

Read a play – Proof by David Auburn (Play)

Read a book that has a main character that has a mental illness – Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl by Stacy Pershall (Memoir)

I am sure you can see why I was so easily overwhelmed by this list of categories. Compared to the 2015 list, the categories are a bit more specific, and there are really no categories that are what I’m going to call “abstract.” In the 2015 list, there are such categories like “A book that someone has recommended to you” and “A book that you consider a guilty,” which could be anything, really. Of course, there were very specific categories in the 2015 list as well, such as “An author who was under the age of 25 when they wrote the book” and “A book that was originally written in another language” but in the 2016 list, I was slightly more horrified. I nearly screamed in horror and passed out when I saw “Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900” and “Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years.” I honestly thought, “Ugh, why are they torturing me?”

Speaking of torture, I am also planning to read at least some of the books that I chose myself for the 2015 challenge categoeis that I did not finish, on top of books that I am going to read outside of the challenge. Again, I am not expecting to actually finish this challenge. As long as I actually start reading again for at least a short while, I’m happy. I will also be happy if I don’t burst into tears in front of a stack of books (again), but I can’t make any promises this early. We’ll see what happens.

Crying on top of a stack of unfinished books

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about Christmas and everything that is merry and cheerful. I am talking about trying to get into reading on a regular basis again. Actually, just reading at all would be great.

Last year, I started The Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge. The challenge consists of 24 categories and you have to choose to read one book in each category. The purpose of it is to go outside of your comfort zone and read books you might not have otherwise read. I had started reading again after a long hiatus of not reading consistently, and I figured this was a good way to ease back into reading again. I did not complete the challenge, and I stopped reading by August, but I am happy with the amount that I’ve read.

I have very particular reading preferences that makes it difficult for me to find books to read. I can read any genre, but I tend to go with modern-day stories of people struggling with internal issues. The problem is that it’s difficult for me to read books that are not in the first person; otherwise, I just lose interest. I haven’t read any books written in the third person outside of required reading for classes and nonfiction. Yes, I know I’ve eliminated many good books in the process. Eventually, I will slowly start reading books written in the third person. I just don’t know when that will be, heh. I know, it’s funny that I was doing this challenge meant for me to go outside of my comfort one when I was still adamant about reading first person narration. I can already hear the subtle sounds of everyone shaking their heads at me.

Because I enjoy reading solely first-person narration, it’s often difficult to find a good fiction book that’s in my wheelhouse. This isn’t trying to find a needle in a haystack. This is more like finding a needle in Iowa. I’ve relied on mostly memoirs and collections of essays. There’s just something personal about reading a story from the perspectve of one person, as opposed to an unknown narrator.

Including the books I read outside of the challenge, I read a total of 21 books this year. Below is the list of categories I completed from the challenges, along with the books I read outside of the challenge. I also included the categories I did not complete, along with any books I had planned to read for that category.

Books I completed for the challenge

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 – It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (Novel)

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 – The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (Memoir)

A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) – Chase Us: Stories by Sean Ennis (Collection of Short Stories)

A book published by an indie press – Praying Drunk by Kyle Minor (Collection of Short Stories)

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ – Tell The Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt (Novel)

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own – People I Want to Punch In the Throat by Jen Mann (Collection of Essays)

A book by an author from Africa – Daughters Who Walk This Path by Yejide Kilanko (Novel)

A YA novel – Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Novel)

A sci-fi novel – The Martian by Andy Weir (Novel)

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade –  The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (Novel)

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?  (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling (Collection of Essays)

An audiobook – A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka: A Memoir by Lev Golinkin (Memoir)

A book that was originally published in another language – The Greenhouse by Audur Ava Olafsdottir (Novel)

Other books I read

Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan (Novel)

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein (Novel)

Storm Front (The Dresden Files) by Jim Butcher (Novel in a Series)

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper (Novel)

Let’s Teach Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris (Collection of Essays)

Pipsqueak by Brian Wiprud (Novel in a Series)

Stuffed by Brian Wiprud (Novel in a Series)

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (Novel)

Categories I did not finish

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.) – The Round House by Louise Eldrich (Novel)

A microhistory – The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever by Alan Sepinwall (Critical Analysis)

A romance novel – The Rosie Project: A Novel by Graeme Simsion (Novel)

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.) – Lamb by Christopher Moore (Novel)

A collection of poetry – TBA

A book that takes place in Asia – Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (Novel)

A book that someone else has recommended to you  Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Novel)

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind (Hi, have you met Panels?) – Batman Vol. 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (Graphic Novel)

A book published before 1850 – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Novel)

A book published this year – TBA

A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”) – You Can Draw in 30 Days by Mark Kistler (How To/Instructional)

Despite, ultimately failing the challenge, I’m glad I’ve at least attempted this and made progress for several months. I am planning to do the The Book Riot 2016 Read Harder Challenge next year with the expectation of not completing, but hey, finishing one book is better than not finishing anything at all.