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Six Books I’ve Read So Far for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

30 Mar

Dear reader, I am now halfway through the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, with 12 of the 24 tasks completed! I am proud to be halfway through the challenge so early in the year. 

Without further ado, here are the books I read to complete 6 more tasks.

The Task: A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60

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The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso

The only book I could think of to fulfill this task was Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf, which I read last year with the Mile Square City Readers Book Club. (A moving book, by the way.) I already had The Woman Next Door checked out, and when I realized the two protagonists were female octogenarians I was excited that this book would complete this task. Hortensia and Marion are neighbors in post-apartheid South Africa whose relationship is contentious, but evolves into friendship and mutual understanding. I read this book in one day.

The Task: A book with a cover you hate

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Raspberry Danish Murder by Joanne Fluke

Raspberry Danish Murder is the latest entry of Joanne Fluke’s Murder She Baked series, which follows bakery owner and part-time sleuth Hannah Swenson in a small Minnesota town with an alarmingly high murder rate. The writing has become almost painful and I read this since I’ve read the other books in the series. I have a sweet tooth, which is what initially drew me to Fluke’s books but the raspberry danish on the cover looks so unappetizing. For that reason, plus the overall decline of this series’ quality, is why I used Raspberry Danish Murder to complete this task.

The Task: A comic written and drawn by the same person

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The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I first read The Complete Persepolis in graduate school, and it blew me away. Marjane Satrapi tells her extraordinary story of growing up in Iran before, during, and after the Revolution. My favorite parts were about the lengths Marjane and her friends and family went through to live their daily lives with celebrations, parties, and romance, all while evading government authorities prepared to arrest them for crimes such as women not being properly veiled and drinking at home. The Lady Memoir Book Club I lead at Little City Books discussed this book at our last meeting.

The Task: A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author

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The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

In The Widows of Malabar Hillwe meet Perveen Mistry, the first female lawyer in 1920s Bombay. A routine estate settlement case becomes complicated for Perveen when the deceased’s three wives who live in purdah (a practice of Muslim women choosing to live in seclusion) sign away their inheritances to charity,  and then a murder occurs in the home. It is up to Perveen to solve the mystery and protect the women’s interests. This book is the first in a series called A Mystery of 1920s Bombay, and I definitely want to read more from Sujata Massey.

The Task: An Oprah Book Club selection

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An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

I finished An American Marriagelast week, and I am still thinking about it. Celestial and Roy are newlyweds when Roy is wrongly imprisoned for rape. This book, told in part by the letters Roy and Celestial write to each other, generated an excellent discussion at a recent Mile Square City Readers Book Club meeting. It raises a lot of questions, too. What is an American marriage? What would you do if your spouse was sent to prison for a crime they didn’t commit? Oprah made an excellent choice with this book, in my opinion. I plan to read Tayari Jones’ other books.

The Task: A comic written or drawn by a person of color

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Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay and Ta’Nehisi Coates

I saw the film Black Panther, and absolutely loved it. Black Panther: World of Wakanda features writing by literary heavyweights Roxane Gay and Ta’Nehisi Coates, plus other authors. The story begins with the Dora Milaje (the female protectors of the Wakandan royal family), where Captain Aneka and Initiate Ayo fall in love during training, and where Initiate Folami goes rogue. I enjoyed reading about the fierce, strong women of the Dora Milaje, who believe in protecting all Wakandans in addition to the Royal Family.

This will be the last post I write for the Staff Picks blog, as I am moving on from the Hoboken Public Library. It has been wonderful sharing my reading journeys with you in this space. Thank you to those who have read and commented on my work. Feel free to find me on Goodreads. Happy Reading!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

Six Books I’ve Read So Far for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

21 Feb

There are 24 tasks in the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and as of this writing I have finished 6! I have written before about taking on past Read Harder Challenges, and haven’t finished one yet. For 2017 I read 13 of 24 books, the best I’ve done so far. My approach this year is to aggressively tackle the challenges early on as life happens, which can impede my reading. So far the cold winter has inspired me to stay indoors and read lots of books.

These are the six completed tasks and the corresponding books.

The Task: A children’s classic published before 1980.

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Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

I chose Julie of the Wolves as one I can read with my nieces to discuss–I’m still waiting for their thoughts! The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Julie who is escaping an unstable home situation. Her goal is to travel from Alaska to San Francisco and live with her pen pal. In the frozen tundra she struggles to survive by observing wolves and eventually becoming part of the pack by mimicking their behaviors. I appreciated how deeply passionate Jean Craighead George was about this book: the story grew from a rejected proposal for a magazine article she wrote about wolves and the Alaskan tundra. 

The Task: A celebrity memoir.

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Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

This task was pretty easy to accomplish as I lead the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books, and have read plenty of celebrity memoirs as part of the group and on my own time. I picked Year of Yes for the January 2018 discussion as the premise was how Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Shondaland, changed after she committed to saying yes to opportunities that scared her, a good theme to start off a new year. The book was fun to read and has a positive message about making the most of our lives. 

The Task: A book of social science.

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Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The premise of Option B is how Sheryl Sandberg coped after her husband’s sudden death in 2015. Adam Grant provides solid research about grief and resilience that are masterfully woven into Sheryl’s story (this is why I consider Option B social science) and those of others who have faced tragedy. This book has incredibly sad moments–Sheryl’s retelling of finding her husband unconscious, and having to tell her children that their father died are heartbreaking–but is ultimately hopeful and encourages people to not retreat from life’s hard moments. From this book came the Option B organization.

The Task: A one-sitting book.

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The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz

At first I was stymied by this task. But then I found The Four Agreements in my TBR (to-be-read) pile. This book clocks in at 138 pages, and I blew through it while at my dad’s bedside as he waited to go in for a recent surgery. Ruiz uses Toltec wisdom to frame the four agreements around which people should live their lives to be happy. This is a good book to buy and refer to when needed–in particular for the reminder that other people’s behavior is not about you.

The Task: A book of true crime.

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Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History by Maureen Orth

I planned to read Vulgar Favors, the source text for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, last summer but didn’t get around to it until January. While a lot isn’t known about Andrew Cunanan’s motives (he committed suicide before authorities could capture him) this heavily reported book includes stories from Andrew’s friends, as well as authorities from multiple jurisdictions that pursued him during his 1997 murder spree. What stands out in this book was how misunderstood gay communities were by police in the 1990s, which negatively impacted the investigation into Cunanan’s crimes.

The Task: A romance novel by or about a person of color.

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Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

I considered describing Hate to Want You by using like 10 fire emoji–it’s that steamy. Author Alisha Rai and her heroine Livvy Kane are women of color, so this book doubly completes the task. The book blogs I read highly praised this title. In addition to the sexy stuff, this book has a compelling story about a long-running family feud. I am now obsessed with Rai’s work and will soon read the next book in the Forbidden Hearts series Wrong to Need You, which features Livvy’s twin brother Jackson and her sister-in-law Sadia. Note: If you prefer your romance novels chaste then this series is not for you.

I feel quite accomplished being one-fourth of the way through the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Hopefully I can maintain this momentum! I will update you when I finish another six books.

Are you following any reading challenges? Tell me in the comments!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

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