2020 Reading Challenge

Once again my Dad and I are embarking on the Popsugar Reading Challenge, though unlike the previous years I will be aiming for 25 books this year rather than 40 as not finding as much time for reading this year! If you want to see my previous year’s challenges they are here: 2019, 2018, 2017.

Book 1: Life Story Books for Adopted and Fostered Children – A family friendly approach, by Joy Rees

Category: A book that has a book on the cover

This one is mainly homework for me, as now that the Adoption Order has gone through I will soon be getting my daughter’s life story book (compiled by the Social Workers as a record of her life story) and there are some interesting research findings on the way these books are structured and the best way to introduce a child’s potentially troubled history to them in a non-traumatic way. A very simple easy read and lots of great tips for me to think about.

Book 2: Invisible Women: Exposing Data bias in a world designed for men, by Caroline Criado Perez

Category: A book you meant to read in 2019

This book is fascinating – I started it in 2019 but didn’t manage to finish it! Some of the research is terribly compelling and really eye-opening. however it’s an awfully long book to slog through and by the end starts to feel a little repetitive. Occasionally the author also tries for dramatic effect to throw in statistics that are one minute discussing a particular problem in in a specific country and the next referencing global stats for women worldwide, which can be a little misleading (eg on how many women drive, where the global average may not be applicable to a developed country such as Sweden!).

However it’s certainly an interesting read, and as I generally read very little non-fiction this one held my attention well. Some shocking things in there to make you think twice about how our world is structured and how we perceive gender bias for sure.

Book 3: Identity Crisis, by Ben Elton

Category: A book about or involving social media

This one was a nice easy read, but although it is clearly a satire it is so thinly veiled and so close to the truth that it was a little unnerving. Made me feel a bit freaked out that in spite of the exaggerations, this is basically the world we are living in now and it is really quite terrifying.

Book 4: Outspoken – 50 speeches by Incredible women from Boudicca to Michelle Obama, by Deborah Coughlin

Category: An anthology

This book was fascinating and very interesting – lots of interesting and amazing women across history, and a strong reminder that many women have been written out of history when their contributions are very important.

Book 5: London Rules, by Mick Herron

Category: A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics

This was a great easy read. I love his books and this is number 5 in the series. All of them are quick, easy, fairly cheesy, and gripping.

Book 6: All the light we cannot see, by Anthony Doerr

Category: A bildungsroman (a novel dealing with one’s formative years or spiritual education)

This was a very thoughtful and beautifully written book. The characters are well-developed and it drifts gently along nicely. In spite of the setting (WW2) it is optimistic and largely hopeful, showing the war through the eyes of two children/teenagers, a blind french girl and a german boy conscripted into the Hitler Youth programme. It deserved the Pulitzer that it won.

Book 7: Various Quilting Books

Category – None

This one is cheating slightly, as it’s multiple books, but I felt having read most of them it was worth at least a passing mention but I have lumped these together as one book. I got a load of these quilting books out of the library to source some ideas for new crafty projects, and photocopy any patterns I really liked or might try one day. Lots of fun, and I got loads of creative ideas, thanks to my local library.

Book 8: Twas the nightshift before Christmas, by Adam Kay

Category: A book with a pun in the title

My dad says this is not a pun, so doesn’t count in this category, but I can’t think of anywhere else to put it so am squeezing it in a bit! This was very short, a follow-up to the brilliant “This is going to hurt”. It was very funny but I wish there was more of it!

Book 9: Dear Girls, by Ali Wong

Category: A book by a Woman of Colour

This was a little crass for my taste, though funny in places. I like her stand-up comedy and enjoyed her reflections on her heritage and culture and what it means to be an Asian American (and reflecting on both the Asian and American aspects of her identity).

Book 10: Will my cat eat my eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

Category: A book on a subject you know nothing about

This was fascinating. Some would say morbid (it certainly is) but covers a wide range of interesting questions about what happens to our bodies after we die, and deals with the topic with humour and grace. They are mostly questions that children have asked, so some of the questions themselves are funny, and I learned an awful lot about the body’s decomposition process and the types of things morticians need to do to allow families to have dignified goodbyes.

Book 11: Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata

Category: A book with a three-word title

This was quirky and odd – it certainly was a rather scathing look at life for an unmarried woman over 30 in Japan, and the social pressures and need to conform. I enjoyed it, but it was also a bit of a weird read.

Book 12: Born a crime: Stories from a South African childhood, by Trevor Noah

Category: A book with more than 4 star rating on Goodreads.

This was a very easy read – fascinating and interesting, he writes very well and it was light-hearted even while dealing with complex topics like apartheid. I love his comedy and work on the Daily Show, so was really intrigued to learn more about him and his family, as well as learning a lot more about the realities of growing up under apartheid.

Book 13: The Daily struggles of Archie Adams, Aged 2 1/4, by Katie Kirby

Category: None

This one was really just for a fun break while I was too overwhelmed to start any proper books! Lovely and silly and a great read while currently raising a toddler!

Book 14: Boy Swallows Universe, by Trent Dalton

Category: A book with a bird on the cover

This was a hefty book, pretty grim in places, but also a very gripping read. It reminded me of another book I read last year, Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak, Both are set in the suburbs of Australian cities, both stories are centred on brothers raising themselves without much parental supervision, and on brotherly love, and both have a very fantastical way with prose. However while Bridge of Clay was gentler, and softer, this one is far more gritty and intense. I really enjoyed it, and I enjoyed how the story matured along with it’s central character.

Book 15: Parenting in Transracial Adoption, by Jane Hoyt-Oliver

Category: None

This one feels very pertinent at the moment, and is a key part of trying to educate myself on how to best raise my mixed-race daughter, and ensure that I am open to learning and listening to her experiences, which will be different from my own, and try to ensure she has plenty of role models in her life who are non-white.

Book 16: The Binding, by Bridget Collins

Category: A book recommended by your favourite blog, vlog, podcast or online bookclub 

This was recommended by someone in my facebook book club group. It was nice, and interesting, though the plot slowed down towards the end and became a little predictable.

SPOILER ALERT: However it made me reflect on how few mainstream books portray gay relationships as normal, and not taboo or hidden or secret. I’ve read quite a few books where the protagonists have gay relationships but they are often presented in a way that is taboo, and I have suddenly realised how rare it is to read a book which centres on a gay couple where their gayness itself is not a central plot point. I realise that in literary terms it is only in the last 20 or 30 years that homosexual couples of both genders have been able to live more openly and so there is likely to be a lag before this is reflected in our novels, but I am wondering how long it will take to become normal in modern literature.

Book 17: Why I’m no longer talking to White People about Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Category: A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics

This was excellent – highly recommend it. It has really helped me to see and understand a lot more about my own white privilege and structural disadvantages that our racialised past has created.

Book 18: Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernadine Evaristo

Category: A book that one an award in 2019

Despite all of the hype, i initially struggled to get into this book. I found it very disjointed and didn’t particularly like the characters.

However, as I went on, I started to think of it as a collection of short stories, and started to really enjoy it a lot more. In the end, I very much liked how the stories intertwined with each other.

Book 19: Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams

Category: A book by or about a journalist

I enjoyed this, though it was a little darker than I was expected.

Book 20: My sister the serial killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Category: A book that passes the Bechdel test

Loved this one. It was clever and well-written and I whizzed through it easily.

Book 21: Beartown, Frederick

Category: A book you picked because the title caught your attention

This book had me gripped all the way through and I was still guessing the ending right down to the last couple of pages.
It made me angry and sad, but it was also a really thoughtful portrayal of toxic masculinity.
Imagine a dead-end town. A town buried deep in the woods, so remote, and every year a few more businesses close, more people move away, and a few more men line up waiting for the shithole bar to open.
This town has nothing going for it.
Except their love of hockey.
The town lives and dies by the successes and failures of their ice hockey team. Men who are silent all week, quietly hunting and fishing, men who grunt at each other and barely know how to communicate come together every Saturday to scream and hug and cry down at the rink.
Hockey is a brutal, violent sport, and to win, you have to be merciless, you have to be tough, you have to bury your emotions and channel them into a single-minded drive to destroy the other side. You have to take what’s yours, what you deserve, at all costs.
Imagine you are a teenage boy in this town, and your junior team is having the season of their lives. There’s a shot at the championship, which might mean sponsors, investment, more jobs, a shopping mall. It’s not just a game. The whole town’s hopes are riding on it.
The pressure is mounting and loyalty to the team is everything, no matter what you think you saw, no matter what is right or wrong.
After reading a lot of feminist and women-driven books lately, I was struck by the intense masculinity of this book, the main characters are all men, and the women are minor supporting characters at best. And yet they are thoughtfully developed and provide a deep insight to the male characters and their insecurities. The women, though only having smaller roles, are fascinating and well-developed characters.
Book 22: The particular sadness of lemon cake, Aimee Bender
Category: None
This was a book I have read before, and loved, so wanted to re-read it. I zipped straight through it in 2 days and it was just as strange and wonderful as I remembered it. A very peculiar story, the first time I read it, it stayed with me for days, like any great book, left me thinking about it and wondering.
Book 23: Bedtime Stories for Worried Liberals, by Stuart Heritage
Category: None
At this stage of the year I’ve given up on trying to find the categories and am just reading lighter-hearted fun books to round off the year. This one was lots of fun and very silly.
Book 24: Funny you should ask… Your questions answered by the QI Elves
Category: None
This one was in my stocking from Santa and was a perfect quick read to dip in and out of over the holidays! Managed to finish it on New Year’s eve so in the end I managed 24 out of the 25 books that was my target for this year! Not bad all things considered!
On to the next challenge!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.