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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

40 Years of Favorite Part Three: My Favorites From My Thirties

14 Feb

In honor of my milestone 40th birthday I created lists of books I loved as a child/teen and 20 something.  I’m finishing out my 40th year with a look at favorite books in my thirties.

31. Little, Big by John Crowley


One of the member of the library’s Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club, recently brought up this work and I remember how much I enjoyed reading it as an enjoyable escape while stuck in bed while recovering from the flu. Little, Big features a charming extended family living in a 19th Century mansion surrounded by a fairy filled forest. The enchanting novel is told from multiple family members perspectives.

32. Stardust by Neil Gaiman

I’ve talked in previous posts about my love of Neil Gaiman.  Another of his novels besides American Gods and Neverwhere that I have enjoyed is Stardust, which was adapted as a film in 2007 starring Claire Danes. The novel has a charming fairy tale like quality, with its story about a young man’s search for a fallen star to give to his beloved and is surprised to learn that star has a human form.  You have the option with the novel of the illustrated version or an updated version without illustrations.

33. Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair and 34. Shades of Grey


Jasper Fforde is one of my favorite authors. His work is uniquely quirky, which I love. His Thursday Next series beginning with The Eyre Affair, is about a literary detective who can literally jump into books and interact with the character there.  She has a pet dodo bird and a relative who travels through time.  For teens and adults who enjoy YA fiction, check out his Last Dragonslayer series.  I am eagerly awaiting the next in the Shades of Grey series, the original book of that name is now subtitled in later editions The Road to High Saffron, imagines a dystopian reality where everyone’s social class is determined by the specific colors they can see.

35. Fantasy Works of Kage Baker


I had previously written in another post about one of my favorite Science Fiction series, The Company by Kage Baker, about immortelle cyborg who live forward perpetually in time. Besides that series, Baker also wrote several novels set in a fantasy world including The House of the Stag, The Anvil of the World, and The Bird of the River which can be checked out from BCCLS libraries. Like her science fiction works, the characters in her fantasy novels are complex and the stories thought provoking.

36. Donna Andrew’s Meg Langslow Mystery Series


I love Meg Langslow’s quirky mysteries. Like many in the cozy genre they all have a theme, in this case all in some way involve birds, which is unexpected considering that Meg isn’t an ornithologist, but a blacksmith. I discovered Andrews, after she had written several books in the series and I remember spending one summer reading one book after another.  Andrews had two new books out last year Gone Gull at the beginning of August and How the Finch Stole Christmas at the end of October, both of which I highly enjoyed.

37. Kerry Greenwood’s Mysteries


Kerry Greenwood is my favorite mystery author so though I have written about her previously, I can’t resist mentioning her again.  Check out her fabulous Phryne Fisher series about a flapper in Australia or her contemporary series about baker Corrina Chapman.  Quirky characters are found throughout both.  Greenwood went on a bit of a writing hiatus, but she is currently working on her next Corrina mystery and fellow Phryne fans can check out her short story “Taking the Waters” in her American Publisher Poisoned Pen Presses 20th anniversary collection Bound by Mystery published last year.

38. Gail Carriger’s Steampunk Series


I’ve probably written more about Gail Carriger’s works than any other author for this blog. I love the humor that infuses her cool supernatural steampunk, which also features a dash of romance. Check out her Parasol Protectorate series, Custard Protocol series, and Finishing School series and see if you agree!  The latest in the Custard Protocol series Competence is scheduled to be released in July.

39. Robin Paige’s Victorian/Edwardian Mystery Series


Robin Paige is the pen name of William and Susan Albert Wittig. In one of my first blog posts back in 2013, I discussed Susan Albert Witting’s Darling Dahilia series which is set in the 1930’s. I had discovered the Victorian-Edwardian Mysteries after the series had been completed and was re-released in paperback.  Although it can be sad when you learn there won’t be any more of something you love, it can also be delightful getting to binge on a series that has been completed.  I found the couple at the center of the mysteries charming and there is something sweet about knowing they were brought to life by a married duo of writers.  Part of the reason the series was ended was the amount of research it took the authors to achieve the authenticity of the books and you will come away with interesting knowledge of different aspects of the eras.

40. Jennifer Arena’s 100 Snowmen


To end this list I decided to pick a recent favorite picture book read that I enjoy sharing with my son, since I know my love of books started early with my mom reading to me as a child and my dad passing on worn copies of his favorite speculative fiction when I was a teenager. My son loves math so much he is even fond of doing addition problems before bed along with me reading to him. Jennifer Arena’s 100 Snowmen combines his love of math with my love of reading as on each page there are simple addition problems to add up the Snowmen doing fun activities from snowball fights to hide and seek.  A fun read to checkout this winter with the kids in your life.

Tell us about some of your favorite reads from the various decades of your life in our comment section!

-Written by Aimee Harris, Head of Reference

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