Wednesday, 23 December 2015

#2015ReadingChallenge by Popsugar

2015 was a great year in terms of reading. My Goodreads account clocked 189 books at the end of the year. While most of it was random or impulsive reading, especially a lot of cosy mysteries and new writers, I also participated and completed the 2015 Reading Challenge set up by Popsugar.

Well, I modified a few of the categories to suit myself - for example, 'A book your mom loves' had to be changed because I've already read the books she loves (meh). I did not do 'A book that scares you' because I am not fond of horror per se; the only horror writer I've enjoyed is Stephen King; and I couldn't lay my hands on one until two weeks ago (I'm keeping that - Pet Sematary - for next year). I also had to skip 'A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t' because I actually read everything that was prescribed as text in school/college.

The original challenge is this:



My 50-book challenge is as below:

1. A book with more than 500 pagesA Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, 806 pages. Read from June 28 to July 21. My thoughts on the book here.

2. A classic romanceThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Read from November 26 to 29, after at least 3 false starts earlier. Here's my review.

3.  A book that became a movieThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Read on October 27, during a journey from Ahmedabad to Bangalore. Here's what I think of the book.

4. A book published this yearBrailling for Wile by James Zerndt. A new writer, with 5 books to his credit. I also read his The Korean Word for Butterfly and liked it. Read from April 18 to 21, just weeks after its release. My thoughts on the book here.

5. A book with a number in the titleSix Years by Harlan Coben. A pacy crime thriller, but I'm not impressed. Read on January 23-24, on a train journey from Ahmedabad to Mangalore.

6. A book written by someone under 30The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger. She wrote this in 2003, when she was 26 years old. (I know, perhaps this is a bit of cheating, but I got tired of checking out writers' ages!) Read from June 10-12, and did not like it much.

7. A book with nonhuman characters: The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting. So racist that I was shocked. Read on February 20-21.

8. A funny bookPiccadilly Jim by PG Wodehouse. Do I even need to explain myself for this one? Of course I loved it! Read from April 21-23.

9. A book by a female authorWhen God is a Traveller by Arundhati Subramaniam. Now, I read so many women authors, that this selection is purely because it was poetry, and I loved it SO much. Read from July 5-9.

10. A mystery or thrillerA Quiet Life in the Country by TE Kinsey. The first book I read this year, having carried it forward from 2014 (read from Dec 28 to Jan 2). This is Kinsey's first book, and a thoroughly entertaining cosy mystery at that!

11. A book with a one-word titleAirport by Arthur Hailey. Read from February 23 to March 7.

12. A book of short storiesNaked Voices by Saadat Hassan Manto. Poignant and insightful, a true master. Read from July 12-21.

13. A book set in a different countryIn Other Rooms, Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin, based in Pakistan. Read from March 9 to April 12 (yeah, it was a bit of a dragging read).

14. A nonfiction bookHow to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Another long read - February 6 - April 28. Review here.

15. A popular author’s first bookNot a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer. Archer was in Bangalore to promote his latest book Mightier Than Sword and my friend got me a copy of this one - his first - signed by the author. Read from August 12-21.

16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yetSomething Fresh by PG Wodehouse. The first Blandings book. Read from August 6-12.

17. A book a friend recommendedDante’s Wood by Lynne Raimondo. Recommended by my book group friend Rajesh Nair. Read from May 16-20. The premise of an almost blind person investigating a murder was too good to let go!

18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning bookThe Color Purple by Alice Walker. The best book I read this year. Read from December 10-18. My thoughts on the book here.

19. A book based on a true storyBlack Tornado by Sandeep Unnithan; based on the 26/11 Mumbai attack. Read from November 2 to 27. This category took me a long time to figure out. I didn't want to read a memoir or autobiography, and I'd already read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, which was the only book based on true story that I could think of. And then one of my friends Venu Gopal Narayanan posted about this one in our book group, and ta-da!

20. A book at the bottom of your to-read listLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott. Read from November 29 to December 9. This was highly recommended by Meryl Garcia, and has been in my to-read list for more than five years now; but unfortunately, this turned out to be just not my kind of book. Or maybe I should have read this in my teens.

21.  A book more than 100 years oldLove Among the Chickens by PG Wodehouse (yes, I read a lot of him!). First published in 1906, read on January 2 &3.

22. A book based entirely on its coverThe Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I saw the cover on Scribd and was enchanted. I am into Fantasy and Children's literature! Read from May 5 to 8.

23. A memoirAnd Then One Day by Naseeruddin Shah. One of the most honest and insightful (on acting) autobiographies I've read. Read from June 25 to July 7. My review will tell you more.

24. A book you can finish in a dayDouble Shot by Cindy Blackburn. A cosy mystery, read on February 3. I read a lot of books in a day this year, but chose this one as a representative. Blackburn's Cue Ball Mysteries are something to look out for!

25. A book with antonyms in the titleThe Prince and The Pauper by Mark Twain. I never thought I'd enjoy a classic written in old English so much, though I took a long time to complete it. Read from November 2 to December 10.

26. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visitGolden Bats and Pink Pigeons by Gerald Durrell, set in Mauritius. Islands are such a nice place to vacation, arent' they? Read from May 22 to June 2.

27. A book that came out the year you were bornThe Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett, read from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. Came out in 1986. I'd also shortlisted Stephen Kings It, but preferred fantasy over horror thriller finally.

28. A book with bad reviewsOne Life, One Love by Rochak Bhatnagar. Bejeezus! Horribly written book, thin, cliched plot. More thoughts here. Read from July 25-27.

29. A trilogy: The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, books 3-5: Princess in Love, Princess in Waiting, Princess in Pink.

30. A book from your childhoodThe Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene. Began reading this adorable Nancy Drew series that I first read in high school. Read this book in August, with my sister Anju.

31. A book with a love triangleThe Fifth Man by Bani Basu, translated by Arunava Sinha. Read from Sept. 23 to Oct. 23. It was enchanting!

32. A book set in the futureThe Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams. The funniest science fiction I've ever read. Read from January 10-14. I hope to read more of the series in 2016.

33. A book set in high schoolThe Princess in The Spotlight by Meg Cabot, read on Feb. 5 & 6. My apologies, but I read a lot of the Princess Diaries at the beginning of this year!

34. A book with a color in the titleBlack Beauty by Anna Sewell. Read from Feb 1-3. I loved it!

35. A book that made you cryJohnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Read, with tears streaming down my eyes, from May 27 to June 1. A long review, but one that I wrote pretty emotionally.

36. A book with magicA Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. The second of the Tiffany Aching sub-series within the Discworld series. Man, I can't come tp terms with the fact that this man is no longer with us, and the Discworld isn't going to be expanded! Read from May 18-22, review here.

37. A graphic novelLucille by Ludovic Debeurme, originally written in French. I read quite a few graphic novels this year, and this was one of the first in the real "novel with graphics" category. Read in May.

38. A book by an author you’ve never read beforeCongo by Michael Crichton, read from Jan 6-10. Always wanted to read Crichton - hopefully I'll read the Jurassic Park in 2016. My twopennies on the book here.

39. A book you own but have never readSnehichu Theerathavar by ONV Kurup, a collection of Malayalam poems. Owned for over 5 years, read from Sep. 2-19, and though this was the great lyrical master Kurup, I did not enjoy the collection. The repetitiveness of meter and the patriarchal images annoyed me.

40. A book that takes place in your hometownEzhamathe Poovu by M. Mukundan. A set of 11 short stories that blur the lines between reality and dream-world. But I had to cheat a little in this category, because I couldn't find any book set in Thrissur; so I had to settle for something based in Kerala. Read from July 21 to 28.

41. A book that was originally written in a different languageSelected Poems by Gulzar , translated by Pavan K. Varma, read from September 25 to October 5. This collection contains both the original Hindi poems and their translations, and is an absolute treat. The translations do full justice to the originals, and people like me, who aren't sure of meanings of certain Urdu-influenced words in the original, will find this collection most satisfying.

42. A book set during Christmas: Death of a Dapper Snowman by Angela Pepper. I wasn't sure which book to read in this category, and this was an accidental read rather than a planned one. A quick, fun cosy mystery. Read from June 4-6.

43. A book written by an author with your same initials: Falling For Rachel by Nora Roberts. I couldn't find anyone with the initials NV, so I settled for NR and chanced upon Nora Roberts. And thus this became the first Mills & Boons.The story was quite good, some unexpected twists there. It even had me choking up in places. Considering I am not a regular M&B or Romance girl, I quite liked this one. Read on February 4 & 5.

44. A playOedipus Plays of Sophocles, translated by Paul Roche, read from August 24 to September 6. This could even have fitted in the trilogy section, but I hadn't read any other plays this year. The reading was not at all cumbersome, and I quite enjoyed it. Reminds me to pick up a couple of Shakespeares next year.

45. A banned bookPersepolis by Marjane Satrapi. American Library Association lists this as being banned due to "gambling, offensive language, political viewpoint; 'politically, racially, and socially offensive', 'graphic depictions'". Chicago Public Schools apparently banned this from students' reading in March 2013, followed by challenges by several other schools and colleges to this day. I read this from October 23-27 during an Ahmedabad trip, and loved it SO much. The beautiful artwork, a narration that weaves together the personal, the social and the political narratives effortlessly, and honest depiction of the self - these help Persepolis become an outstanding piece of literature.

46. A book based on or turned into a TV show: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This was my first Gaiman, read from May 22-27, and I'm a convert. This is a novelisation of the series of the same name that appeared on BBC Two in 1996. Gripping, fantastical and thoroughly enjoyable.

47. A book you started but never finished: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, read on February 16 and 17, after two failed attempts at reading it years ago. I found the language too roundabout and boring at the time, but this time I thoroughly enjoyed it! I admit I had the help of the BBC mini series on Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice itself, to help me orientate myself to the language and imagine its enunciation and expression properly.

Now come the three categories that I substituted into the list, for convenience, mostly.

48. A comic book/manga: Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson. I wanted to separate the genres graphic novels and comics, with the main distinguishing factor in my head being that of audience. Lumberjanes is a children-to-teen focused work of artistic literature, with adventure, pranks and superheroism, based loosely on Greek mythology. Read from April end to May 1st week.

49. A book you didn’t likeThe Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear. Pure rubbish limericks. Can't say how the average rating on Goodreads is 3.5. Read on August 6. All I have to say is:
There was an old poet named Lear
He wrote verses that were unclear,
He thought they were funny
And delightfully loony,
That stupid old poet named Lear.

50. A travel bookFive Weeks in the Amazon by  Sean Michael Hayes, read from October 5 to 23. My review of the book here.

For the next year, my friend Meryl and I created our own reading challenge, which I hope would be easier and more flexible for a normal reader to follow. Check it out here
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