2018 Book Challenge

I enjoyed last year’s book challenge so much, and it really re-invigorated my love of reading, so I have decided to do it all again this year!

Last year I managed a total of 45 books (including some non-challenge entries) and I’m not sure whether or not I’ll achieve the same this year, but who knows?

The official list my dad and I are using is here, and I’ll be adding to this list as I go along.

Category: A book set on a different planet

Book 1: Ready Player One – Ernest Cline

This was a great read (technically I read it over the Christmas holidays before 2018 started, but it didn’t fit into any of last year’s categories so I am counting it here!).

Also technically it’s not actually set on a different planet, although it’s set on several fictional planets inside a virtual reality video game….

It was a great and easy read – littered with 80’s pop culture references and an interesting enough plot to keep me turning the pages. I imagine it would be far more interesting to those who are more familiar with 80’s computer games and Dungeons and Dragons players.

Category: A book set at sea

Book 2: The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

This was chosen as a) I keep meaning to read some Hemingway, and b) I’m finally going on holiday to Cuba after many years planning to do so, and wanted to get a flavour of it!

I really enjoyed this book, it was short and intense, but very rich and moving. A great read, although the scenes with the sharks did nothing to calm my nerves about swimming in the sea while I’m there!

(Also totally unplanned but it seems the first two books I chose for this year were both written by an Ernest!)

Category: A childhood classic you’ve never read

Book 3: An Ordinary Princess – M. M. Kaye

No idea if this was a classic, but it caught my eye and I rather liked it. A quick and easy read, and one I may purchase at some point to read to my own children!

Category: A book you meant to read in 2017, but didn’t get to

Book 4: I am, I am, I am, – Maggie O’Farrell

After really enjoying last year’s book “This must be the place” by Maggie O’Farrell, I was really keen to read this one, especially after a friend read an excerpt in the paper and said it looked really good. I was keen to read it last year, but as it was a new release, I had to wait around 3 months for it to be available at the library, and therefore didn’t get to it in 2017.

It finally got to be my turn at the library on Saturday, and after picking it up I simply DEVOURED it over the weekend – it was BRILLIANT and fascinating and un-put-downable.

I highly recommend it – it’s a memoir of her life, told very unconventionally through 17 brushes with death (not unlike my blog post from 2016 on “Things that have tried to kill me“). It rather makes me want to try and expand on my blog post and write my own story in a similar way, a chapter for each event, but sadly it would seem a bit copy-cat, even if I had the idea before the book came out!

Anyway, I utterly loved it, and was gripped the whole way through.

Category: A bool with characters that are twins

Book 5: My life next door – Huntley Fitzpatrick

This was a fun, adolescent love story, though slightly odd at the end.

Category: A book from a celebrity book club

Book 6: The weight of silence – Heather Gudenkauf

This was a good, easy thriller, 2 little girls go missing in the woods, and I liked how each chapter was told by a different character so you got a number of different perspectives on the story. Quick to read, and fairly compelling, I enjoyed it a lot.

It’s not quite a celebrity book club, but it had a sticker on it from a tv book club, so I went with that!

Category: A book about mental health

Book 7: I’d die for you and other stories – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This was a case of judging a book by it’s cover. I spotted this in a bookstore and was struck by how beautiful the cover was, and immediately bought it. I liked The Great Gatsby, and figured I should read some of his other works. A few of these stories were good, but a lot were fairly mediocre – I suspect it’s because they were unfinished and unpublished, either because the writer wasn’t done with them, or because they weren’t all that good. A few of the stories I skipped altogether as they were too fragmented.

Overall it was a bit of a slog to read, and I wouldn’t recommend it, even though I do still love the cover….

Ok, and then I also read this book, which fits much better into the category, so I am leaving them both here:

Broken – Daniel Clay

This one was really interesting, but also DARK. And a lot more so than I originally thought it would be….

Also about a week after I finished this, while at yoga, I suddenly realised that it’s a modern re-telling of To kill a mockingbird! Bit grim, but very similar plotlines!

Category: A book with the time of day in the title

Book 8: The Bay at Midnight – Diane Chamberlain

Oddly, I also have an issue with the cover on this one – none of the characters are as young as the cover picture suggests, making it quite misleading (the youngest character is 8, and the main one is 12).

That said this one was another quick and easy mystery type genre. Not especially noteworthy but an easy read. It was a bit “meh”.

No category:

Blindness – Jose Saramago

I was planning to find a category for this to go into after I’d read it, but after struggling through about half of it I just gave up – this one wasn’t for me, and I gave up on it

Category: A book by an author of a different ethnicity to you

Book 9: The thing around your neck – Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie

A very nice set of short stories, and makes me look at a few things from a different perspective. Also makes me want to read more African literature.

Category: A book with alliteration in the title

Book 10: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine – Gail Honeyman

This doesn’t really fit the category, but I couldn’t think of where else to put it. It was funny, dark, and quite different, but I enjoyed it a lot. A nice quick read.

Category: A book about a villain or antihero

Book 11: Beastly Tales – Vikram Seth

Short, fun and silly – and mostly about the bad guys! Reminds me of some of Roald Dahl’s nasty rhymes and similar.

Category: A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner

Book 12: The Ocean at the end of the lane – Neil Gaiman

I must say generally I struggle with Neil Gaiman – I’ve read one or two of his, and none really gelled with me apart from the ones he co-wrote with Sir Terry Pratchett, and mostly I loved those because of Terry’s humour, which is right up my street (although I have promised to give American Gods a go).

This book was good though. It was written through the eyes of a 7-year old, and he has perfectly captured the voice of his narrator. I found the story unnecessarily scary, with a lot of Stephen King vibes, and exactly the kind of nightmare that would have kept me terrified and unable to sleep for weeks if I had read this as a child, –  I’d have been pretty traumatised I think, as this is exactly the kind of thing I find very scary. However the writing is beautiful and very eloquent in places, and the mysterious Hempstock women are brilliant and intriguing characters, and the description of the ocean is gorgeous.

Category: A book with an ugly cover

Book 13: The Last anniversary – Liane Moriarty

This one was a huge disappointment. I previously read another of hers, The Husband’s Secret, which I enjoyed, and which had really well-drawn characters, so was looking forward to this one. In contrast, the characters in this one were all largely unlikeable and shallow, and the plot was lazy and not very interesting. The most interesting thing about it was the fact that it was set on a small island in the Hawkesbury river near Sydney, and my aunt once lived on a similar island, but that was literally the only interesting part of the book.

Category: A book by two authors

Book 14: The boy in the suitcase – Agneete Friis and Lene Kaaberbol

I originally picked this one for the Nordic Noir category, but changed my mind when I realised it had 2 authors, so will need to find another Nordic Noir book later.

It was good, strong plot, and good characters, though I disliked the portrayal of the aid worker character as an adrenaline junkie desperate to “save” people.

Category: A book with an LGBTQ+ Protagonist

Book 15: Behind her eyes – Sarah Pinborough

This was gripping, dark, and with 2 VERY unexpected twists at the end that I did not see coming. I only chose the category at the end, and apologies to anyone out there reading this post who might want to read the book, as the category I have chosen slightly gives away one of the major plot twists….

But overall very enjoyable!

Category: A book you borrowed

Book 16: The Girl Before – J. P. Delaney

Pretty decent thriller, but not as good as Behind her eyes.

Category: A book with a weather element in the title

Book 17: Instructions for a heatwave, Maggie O’Farrell

I enjoyed this a lot, but not as much as some of her other books.

Category: A book set in the decade you were born

Book 18: Picture Perfect – Jodi Picoult

I’ve read this before, but fancied an easy book so re-read it. It doesn’t quite fit into the category – most of the book is set in 1993, but it does briefly go back to 1989, which is just in the decade I was born. It’s a loose connection, but who cares.

Category: A book about time-travel

Book 19: The Time-Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

I love this book – time for a re-read and it didn’t disappoint.

Non-Book challenge entry

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simpson

Have read this before, and it didn’t fit neatly into any of the categories, but it’s a fun read and I felt like something light. Always enjoyable!

Category – The next book in a series you’ve started

Book 20: Making Money – Terry Pratchett

I’ve read LOADS of Terry Pratchetts but not yet all of them, and I enjoyed the first in the Moist Von Lipwig series, Going Postal, so thought I would read the next one involving him. Very good.

Category: A book set in a country that fascinates you

Book 21: So many islands – Anthology

As you can see I enjoyed reading this one by the pool on holiday!

This was a lovely collection of short stories and poems about islands – Caribbean, Mediterranean, Pacific, and more. I want to visit all of them, of course, and found it really interesting – something a bit different and I am enjoying reading so many stories from island authors.

Category: A book made into a movie you’ve already seen

Book 22: The Martian, by Andy Weir

I saw this movie a while ago and enjoyed it a lot. It’s been long enough since I watched it that I couldn’t remember the plot much, so gave it a go. It’s an excellent and gripping read, with very well rounded characters, and I enjoyed it immensely. Although having seen the movie, I couldn’t picture anyone but Matt Damon as the lead character, but the others I’ve forgotten so was free to invent.

Lots of fun indeed, and very funny.

Category: A book that involves a bookstore or library

Book 23: Anything you do say – Gillian McAllister

This book had an interesting premise – similar to sliding doors, where a woman’s life plays out differently based on one choice she makes. Some bits were good but other parts of the plot annoyed me and overall it was a tad underwhelming.

Category: A book about Feminism

Book 24: The Periodic table of Feminism

This is great, although I’ve been dipping in and out of it, as it’s not really a book to read all at once. A great bathroom book though!

Category: A book about a problem facing society today

Book 25: The Dry by Jane Harper

This book was EXCELLENT – a proper whodunnit set in rural Australia. Kept me guessing and wanting to get home early from work to read it! I picked it for this category as it is set in a drought, which is both linked to climate change and also very apropos for the current weather we are having in the UK. I enjoyed it so much I have immediately ordered her latest book from the library to fit into my 2018 category!

Category: A book with an animal in the title

Book 26: Real Tigers by Mick Herron

Love this series so it was a perfect opportunity to read the next one (I read the first two in this series during last year’s challenge). Fun and easy as always, and the kind of spy thriller I can follow!

Category: A book published in 2018

Book 27: Force of Nature, by Jane Harper

I picked this one as I really enjoyed The Dry, but found this one less thrilling than her previous book. Slightly disappointing.

Category: A novel based on a real person

Book 28: Time and Time Again – Ben Elton

This one is interesting – it’s about time travel, and about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, precipitating the 1st World War, and about whether or not human nature would continue to destroy itself if you went back to change one thing. It was interesting, and a bit odd, a bit different – great if you are a history buff, or enjoy slightly odd sci-fi or alternative universes. I liked it, but wouldn’t read it again, not quite my cup of tea enough.

Category – A book about or set on Halloween

Book 29: Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Love this one – great and well-developed characters, and an interesting plot. I whizzed through it in a day. Although the link to the category is very tenuous – I was struggling to fit it anywhere so popped it here as there is technically a Halloween party in the book, but it’s not integral to the plot, so a bit of a weak connection! Nevertheless a very enjoyable read!

Category: A book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym

Book 30: My Brilliant Career – Miles Franklin

This was recommended to me by a colleague and I must say made a refreshing change of pace! Published in 1901, it tells the story of a stubborn, strong-willed young woman raised in the Australian outback in the 1890’s. She longs for a life filled with passion and music and adventure, but is held back by her poverty and social standing, and falls in love, but refuses to bow to convention and become simply a wife.

The romance parts were rather schmalzy, as many 19th century romances often are, but the descriptions of life in the Australian bush are vivid and powerful, portraying the harsh realities of scraping a living from the land through droughts and other challenges. It also has echoes of Louisa May Alcott, and while perhaps the romance scenes are not quite as enlightened as I’d like, there is a strong sense of a young woman yearning for more than she has, and trying to find a way to get it, against a wide range of adversity.

Category: True Crime

Book 31: Burial Rites, Hannah Kent

I generally don’t like true crime, but this was interesting – based on a real crime in Iceland in the 1800’s. and the last woman to be put to death in Iceland, this is a fictional novel charting the last days of the woman on death row. Interesting but a bit slow going. Lovely descriptions of the landscape and life in an Icelandic crofter’s farm though.

Category: A book about death or grief

Book 32: A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara

I should preface this by saying that this book wasn’t predominantly about death or grief, but it does feature in the plot here or there.

It was a beast of a book, and was both beautiful and heartbreaking. I have written a longer review of it here if you want to know more about it.

Category: A book mentioned in another book

Book 33: The Book Ninja, Ali Berg & Michelle Kalus

Fun, silly, the epitome of a rom-com, chick-lit type book. frivolous and funny.

Category: Your favourite prompt from the 2015, 2016 or 2017 Popsugar reading challenges (this one is a Times bestseller)

Book 34: This is going to hurt – Adam Kay

This was EXCELLENT. Funny, painful at times, extremely well-written. It is a love-letter to the NHS, a damning indictment of how sad times are for junior doctors right now, and spattered with some fantastic and hilarious anecdotes. Highly recommended – you WILL laugh, you will also probably cry.

Category: A book recommended by someone else taking the Popsugar reading challenge

Book 35: A little prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery

I finally read this, after trying previously several times and never fully getting into the plot. It was lovely and very sweet, but also sad and very weird. An odd book to say the least.

Category: A book by a local author

Book 36: Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee

Seeing as I have recently been driving about in the Cotswolds noticing how gorgeous everything is in the autumn, this seemed very appropriate. Never read it before, and the descriptions are very vivid, though I must say I was disappointed and confused when I read almost all of the book before any character named Rosie appeared with cider…


Note: It was around this point that I gave up trying to fit books into the remaining categories, and instead just read what I felt like, so here are the rest:

Book 37: The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde

I have read this before but not for a very long time, and after recommending it to a friend I decided to re-read it for myself.

Book 38: Normal People – Sally Rooney

This has been in the bestseller list for quite a while. It was good, but a bit dark in places.

Book 39: Tin Man – Sarah Winman

This was an absolutely beautiful book – carefully written and with complex and interesting characters. Made me tear up a bit in places, and some lovely descriptions of Oxford too.

Book 40: Humans, A brief history of how we fucked everything up – Tom Philipps

This was very good – funny, interesting and I learned quite a lot! Well worth a read!

Book 41: Picnic at Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay

I loved this one – all kinds of mystery and intrigue! And I read it while in Australia which was doubly interesting.

Book 42: Two weeks with the queen – Morris Gleitzman

This was given to me for Christmas, and it was a delightful children’s book dealing with some difficult issues.


So, by 31st of December 2018, I have read 43 books (45 if you count the 2 that I didn’t finish).

Not too shabby at all.

1 thought on “2018 Book Challenge

  1. Pingback: 2020 Reading Challenge | Had we but world enough and time…

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