Here we go again! Another year of reading and thinking about books in terms of categories. I loved my year of reading when I first undertook Popsugar’s reading challenge in 2015, so I am very excited to be doing it again in 2017.
This year I came in prepared and determined to complete the full 52 book challenge within the 12 month time frame. I am excited to pick up some books I may not have otherwise and get back into my regular habit of reading. Last year I didn’t read as much as I had expected so I am hoping the challenge helps assist with the motivation to again make time for reading.
Already I have begun this year with a decent variety of books. I really don’t want to be leaving some of the harder categories until the very end so will work on trying to get at least one tricky category out of the way each month. The start of the year has been relatively quiet so I am lucky that I have felt as though I have had time to read.
I really enjoyed some of the books within this update. If you have read any of them please let me know what you think. As always I am open to suggestions, so if you have read a great book lately please leave it in the comments so I can add it to my list.
Here is update #1 for the 2017 reading challenge:
A book with a family-member term in the title: The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante (2006)
If you are a fan of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novel series then you will love this book (and if you still have not read them, I strongly suggest you do). This book is quite short and an easy read however it is amazing how much detail and impact Ferrante is able to squeeze into this book. While I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the books in that series, it definitely provided what I needed to fill the void since completing them.
Again like in the Neapolitan Novel books the themes are strongly focused on female relationships and opens up a raw dialogue introducing the reader to the internal struggles of the main character. These are issues that are not generally spoken about in this style, such as her relationship with men, including the father of her children, as well as the internal struggles she has felt throughout different stages of motherhood.
I absolutely love the way Ferrante writes, and this book has well and truly cemented her as one of my all time favourite novelists. (image source)
A book about an immigrant or refugee: Songs Of A War Boy by Deng Thiak Adut with Ben McKelvey (2016)
“The only real difference between you and me was that I had to fight to become Australian”. This quote from the last few pages of this memoir is the feeling that stuck with me after reading this book. I had heard briefly of Deng’s story when he was involved in the Australia Day celebrations last year, and so when mum showed me his book that she had just recieved for Christmas, I knew I wanted to read it. Luckily she was kind enough to lend it to me before she had even read it herself!
Deng was one of the many South Sudanese child soldiers taken from their families to fight. If they were taller than an AK-47 then they were deemed big enough to go to war and use it. The book starts with Deng describing his view of the world and of the war through his seven year old self and as the book moves on, his perspective changes as does his circumstances.
He is a survivor and owes his life as an Australian to his brother John who organised to get him out of Africa and re-settle in Australia. They were just the third family to do so from South Sudan. This makes me feel so lucky to have been born in a free country, a country where I can feel safe and I do not live in fear. I can see my family, I have plenty of clothes to wear, and I am never hungry. This is now the life of Deng, yet this book explains what his journey was like to get there.
This is truly is an amazing story. It talks of the horrors of war that no one should have to live through, let alone a child, and also speaks about hope and education and of new beginnings. What I took away with me the most however, was his question of identity. At times during this book he is South Sudanese, others he is Australian, but most often he is both. After reading this book I have definitely asked myself the question of what it means to be Australian and hope that we can only continue to grow in our acceptance of not only refugees but immigrants from around the world. (image source)
A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)
This is one of those books it took me waaay too long to get around to reading. It had actually been sitting on my bookshelf for the last year and still I had not picked it up. Zero ideas as to why as I loved this book.
This story is narrated by the main character, a young girl whose name is never disclosed. It is interesting as everything is told completely from her perspective which is one that is very naive to the world. For this reason I could very easily have placed it in the unreliable narrator category.
The story unfolds as the young narrator marries the recently widowed Maxim de Winter and moves to his estate, Manderley. Quite a few years older than she, Maxim still seems to still be in love with his wife Rebecca, who died in a sailing accident. As the story unfolds, the second Mrs de Winter often clashes with the creepy housekeeper Mrs Danvers as the secrets of Manderley as discovered.
For the complete classic that this novel is, I knew very little of the storyline. I was actually happy for that though as I found myself completely and utterly immersed in the story. The way it is written is so beautiful, with elaborate passages describing a room or a garden without leaving you bored that the author has gone off on yet another tangent.
A book with an unreliable narrator: Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2001)
This category was one that I thought would be more difficult as I was not sure what the definition of an unreliable narrator was. After a quick Google search I found that it refers to a literary situation in which the narrator or teller of the story has made you question their reality and credibility. This was greater understood by the novel I just finished, Rebecca which is a classic example. Another great example would be Gone Girl.
I also decided that I tend to like these stories that make you question what you are being told. I settled on Life of Pi as I had seen the movie when it was first released and remembered that I liked how the story forced you to question the reality of the main character Pi as he tells his story of adventure and survival.
I think with the headlines around the world at the moment acceptance of differing religious beliefs have been brought to the forefront of our minds and hearts. The opening part of this book opens up a dialogue between three different religious beliefs and brings them together as Pi looks for faith. There is an interesting part in which the three religious leaders meet and argue about their beliefs and Pi is told he cannot be Hindu, Muslim and Christian at the same time. When questioned as to why he would even want to practise all three faiths, his response is simply that he wants to love God.
I found the three separate parts of this book so different to each other. I guess that is what makes this narrator unreliable. By the end of the book you truly do not know what is real although you feel want the narrator wants you to feel. I think it all ties up with faith and believing in the impossible even when you are questioned.
I felt I got a different interpretation from the book than the movie, for example I do not remember the focus on religion being so strong. I am very eager to watch it again however to see if my understanding has changed. (image source)
A book with a subtitle: On the Trail of Genghis Khan: An Epic Journey Through the Land of the Nomads by Tim Cope (2014)
I chose to put this book in the ‘subtitle’ category as I wanted to keep my ‘travel’ category free as lately I am really enjoying reading stories about incredible journeys around the world. I am sure there will be another travel memoir I will be eager to pick up later in the year!
This book is for anyone who is passionate about travel and adventure. Tim Cope recounts his incredible journey as he follows in the footsteps of the nomads and travels the length of the Eurasian steppe on horseback. This is a journey that begins in Mongolia and takes him through Kazakhstan, Russia, Crimea & the Ukraine, eventually finishing at the Danube river in Hungary. At its core, this book is about a person with a single somewhat crazy idea, who has the perseverance and the determination to make it happen despite the many obstacles that may stand in their way.
While I love stories like this, what has previously kept me clear of them was the way they were written. Last year I found myself reading too many memoirs that failed to not only hold my attention but most importantly failed to captivate me enough that I could visualise being in the shoes of the author, seeing what they are seeing and sharing in their experiences. I am happy to say that Tim did not let me down in his recount of his amazing journey. There is enough factual information that I can understand the history and the culture without reaching for my phone and Googling every 5 minutes, however not too much that it felt like reading a university text book. This history is carefully weaved between an honest account of his personal experience.
I really enjoyed this story, and I actually found myself smiling as I read the last few pages. He tells his story though the people and the landscape of the countries he passes through and speaks openly about how this impacts his own life. It is these relationships that he develops with the people he meets along the way, as well as those that he forms with his animals that I enjoyed most.
A book you got from a used book sale: I Heard The Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven (1967)
I bought this book for $1 at the Lifeline Bookfest. It is one of those books you just pick up and for whatever reason decide to buy it even know you have no idea what it is about, who the author is, or really anything other than the title. It somehow managed to grab my attention then, yet sat on my bookshelf for over a year. Finally, I decided that this category would be a good chance to read it.
The book follows Mark Brian, a young vicar who is posted in a remote Indian village in British Columbia. This book shows the contrasts between traditional tribal life, vs the lives of the ‘white man’ from the mainland. When Mark arrives he is an outsider and must learn the ways of the tribe while bringing with him the knowledge and understanding of the church.
The story focuses mostly on the relationships that form within the village. During his 12 months with the tribe, Mark learns the importance of a simpler life. He learns much from the people and they learn from him as well. In the end he feels at home within the tribe and they accept him as part of the family.
It is a story of life and death, and ultimately gives the reader an insight into what gives those things meaning. While I enjoyed parts of this book I did struggle in the beginning, however the simplicity of this book makes the overall message so much clearer. A very interesting read.
Have you ever done a reading challenge? What books would you read for the above categories? Please let me know any book suggestions below in the comments!