Not to start out with a negative, but I am officially one week behind on the 2017 Popsugar Reading Challenge. I am however really happy with my progress having so far having read 18 books this year! You can check out what I have been reading in my last two updates here and here. I am not concerned though as I know I have plenty of reading opportunity coming up, I just don’t want to get too far behind!
This update contains books by all female authors. This began unintentional, then I decide that I would continue the trend. The books also span across centuries with a few works by very influential women in literature.
This update also contains all books I really enjoyed reading! I don’t think I went very far outside my comfort zone at all here. In my next update I hope to have ticked a few of the more difficult categories off the list so be sure that there will be some variation in genres involved then!
Let’s get started with update number three!
A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile: Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
When I first saw this category I thought it would be difficult. I initially thought that the books I loved the most weren’t necessarily ones that evoked a happy feeling but more stayed with you through their powerful themes. I don’t tend to read too many light hearted, happy books.
But then I thought about it a little more. The keywords in this category are ‘never fails’ and to me, this meant that the book I chose had to be one that I had already read a number of times. My decision was then easy as it was either Pride & Prejudice or Harry Potter. I knew if I started to read Harry Potter I would want to read them all and I just don’t have time for that while doing this challenge, so Pride & Prejudice won!
There is a very good reason it is a cliched classic – it is just so good. I love falling into the world of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy and sharing in their ups and downs. I actually studied this book for my English Literature course at university and I think that the deeper understanding of the themes that make this book resonate so deeply over time which I studied, just add to my enjoyment. Even over 200 years after it was first published, this book can still be enjoyed and relatable which is nothing short of incredible.
Sometimes it is nice to just dive into a familiar story, one you know you will love. I really loved reading this book again and I am happy I realised this was the perfect book to fit this category.
An audiobook: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (2016)
I was a bit hesitant about listening to an audiobook. The only time I had previously tried was on a plane and I promptly fell asleep without absorbing any of the content. I had tried again, after I woke and again found that I could not concentrate of the words being spoken and I got too easily distracted in my mind leaving me with no idea what was happening in the story. Naturally I gave up and decided that audiobooks just weren’t for me.
When looking for something to listen to, I wanted something with a story I could engage with, that would try and hold my focus. I listened to alot of samples trying to find a voice that didn’t automatically lull me to sleep. I was failing, and reluctantly decided on a wartime thriller that I hoped would hold my interest through its complex plotline. When I signed up to Audible to get my free audiobook, the first recommendation was Anna Kendrick’s autobiography. My other option went out the window (i’m not quite sure what I was thinking tbh) and I decided that a book read by the author, and that author being an actor, should at the very least be entertaining and hopefully not boring!
I have seen (and loved) the movie adaption of Into The Woods so it was not a surprise to me that Anna had done theatre. What I did not know was she was a child actor who grew up in theatre before moving to film. I think this helped her reading of the book as there was so much passion in the way she told her story. I really enjoyed listening to it and found it really easy to engage with the stories that she told. It is a scattered collection of stories from her life and after having listened to her tell them, I do wonder how the book would actually read. Part of me thinks that it wouldn’t be a very easy book to read as she does go off on tangents and there are times when the story is all over the place. Listening to her, with the changes in her voice, this is easy to follow but I think it might not be in text form when the voice reading it is your own.
I don’t really follow celebrities. I’ve never read gossip magazines and I don’t follow anyone on Instagram, so I’ve never really thought I would enjoy a celebrity autobiography. I did enjoy this one though, probably because Anna was so honest and raw, not hiding behind any of her insecurities but laying it all out on the table. I found her inability to be a fully functional adult eerily relatable. This was as entertaining as a book can be, and was a good break from my ‘normal reading’ habits.
A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman (2007)
This is a non-fiction book recounting the incredible story of Jan and Antonina Żabiński who saved the lives of so many Jews by hiding them in their zoo in Warsaw after the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The book recounts their history and takes you on their journey throughout the war and after.
The author uses excerpts from Antonina’s unpublished diary and also provides commentary and notes throughout certain situations using what we know now. It’s a book full of heart-wrenching figures as even though we know the history of the senseless killings by the Nazi’s, the loss is still difficult to comprehend.
I found Ackerman’s writing at times a bit disorientated, making it hard to get too involved in the story as it changes between telling Antonina’s story and a history of wartime Warsaw. Both are interesting, but while parts read a bit like a textbook, it is Antonina’s story that involves you and I hope this is what the movie highlights. Because of this, it took me a little longer to read as I found I could only get through a few chapters in one sitting.
The book explores so many relationships being those of friends, family, strangers and most of all animals. It paints a picture of humanity that includes both its best qualities and its absolute worst. Antonina & Jan are truly incredible and I think it is fantastic that their story was told through this book and now a movie, as it is these little stories that come from the most horrific of times that remind us that people can still be good, even when surrounded by evil.
A book that is a story within a story: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
When this book came up as an option for this category I knew it was what I was going to read. I was excited to read another of Atwood’s works, particularly one that had received such great acclaim.
This story is narrated by Iris Chase and is told from her present day perspective as she looks back over the events of her life. Iris recounts the story of her life, from childhood to now, particularly the relationship between her and her sister Laura who committed suicide. The story within this story is the fictional tale of The Blind Assassin which was published by Iris after the death of her sister in her name.
As both stories unfold, they merge weaving a complex plot line and crossovers of characters revealing more and more about what really happened.
I don’t want to say to much about this book because I feel that not knowing is part of the intrigue that draws you deeply into the lives of the characters. I loved this book a lot and really enjoyed reading it.
A book that’s been mentioned in another book: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)
This book was more than mentioned in The Hours by Michael Cunningham which I talked about in my last update. After reading and absolutely loving that book I just had to read Mrs Dalloway which was the foundation of that story. I was also really excited to finally read something by Virginia Woolf.
There are lots of mixed reviews on Woolf and her stream of consciousness style of writing however it is just the style of literature that I love and I enjoyed reading every word. I planned to read this book over a weekend when I knew I didn’t have too much planned as I wanted the opportunity to truly immerse myself in the story. This is not an easy book to stop and start and the story never pauses so I would recommend blocking out a day to get through it if at all possible.
One of the things I loved so much was how it made me appreciate The Hours so much more through the parallels that Cunningham drew throughout his story.
Woolf tells the story of a single day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party that evening. The narration swaps between direct and indirect speech as we understand not only what is said within an interaction but the memories and feelings that it triggers. The story switches between several characters points of view and at times I needed to slow down my reading to understand the perspective.
It was completely immersive as expected and I wish I could have absorbed it in a single sitting. Each time I got up I felt I had to break the flow of the writing which truly is the most amazing thing about this book.
A book written by someone you admire: I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb (2013)
This was an interesting category and one that I thought about for a while as I wanted to make sure I was choosing someone worthy of admiration. I had wanted to read Malala’s story for a long time and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I knew very little about her except that she had been shot by the Taliban for wanting to go school and had since become a global activist for education and women’s rights leading to a Nobel Peace Prize.
Malala tells her story openly and honestly. She recounts her childhood in Pakistan and what it was like growing up in a country that struggled with political power. She talks about how the world around her changed after 9/11 and the feelings around her. She recounts the tensions with America and how they were afraid of the militants gaining power and authority, changing the life she knew.
Malala’s father is an incredible man having spent his life wanting to educate both boys and girls and finally getting the opportunity to do so when he opened up a school. He became a voice for education and for peace in a country that was too afraid to speak out. His influence and acceptance of his daughter is what gave Malala the platform to make her own views heard. Her strong voice and determination that everybody should have the chance to go to school made her a target to the Taliban who attacked her to send a message.
Her perspectives on the Muslim faith are something that I think needs to be read especially in a time like this when we are facing the threat of terror all over again and the news is full of fear and hate. It shows us that we cannot condemn an entire nation due to the acts of terrorists. I also found it insightful to hear the perspective of someone who lived and grew up in the middle of ‘the war on terror’ that we just saw highlights of on our nightly news.
Malala’s message is clear, she wants everyone to have access to an education and the right to learn in a safe environment. This is a story of courage and empowerment and I would encourage everyone to read it.