Read Harder Challenge 2017

I became aware of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge in the last few days of last year and thought it sounded like a great way to structure and broaden my reading over this year.

I am very excited to say I finished my last book on Sunday meaning that I have completed the 24 challenges within the first third of the year.  This is a real surprise to me, I thought it would take much longer but I think the incentive of ticking a box on a list (I love ticking boxes!) really spurred me on.

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I have posted about the books I have been reading both here in my Yarn Along posts and also over on Instagram but it feels like a list like this deserves a full post itself and so here it is!

1. Read a book about sports – The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. I put this one off for ages.  I am not a sports fan.  Upon googling around this is the most recommended book about sports out there and I suppose I can see why, it is well written and looks at male relationships in a way that is not common in my reading.  But I really think that knowing something, anything, about baseball or American college sports beforehand would have helped and I suspect that this book does not smoothly transition across the Atlantic

2. Read a debut novel – Physics of The Dead by Luke Smitherd.  I really enjoyed this novel.  Its hard to describe it without spoilers but it tackles some existential questions about what happens after we die and centres around the relationship between two characters.

3. Read a book about books – Ex Libris.  Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman.  I love this book so much.  It is a series of essays about books that had me nodding along in agreement, laughing out loud and desperate to discuss the themes with other book fans.  An absolute highlight which it is highly unlikely I would have picked up  without this challenge.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author – The Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto Guevara.  I originally earmarked this book for challenge 8, a travel memoir but decided to shelve it here instead.  This is one of those iconic books which I am pleased I read but without especially enjoying the experience.  I had hoped for more insight into the mind of Guevara but it really is just a chronicle of his journey around South America.


5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative – The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.  This was a sweet story about a pair of teenagers falling for each other in the space of one day.  Although it does technically fit the brief with one of the characters facing deportation for being an illegal immigrant it is a love story at it’s heart rather than a tale about immigration.

6. Read an all-ages comic – Princeless Vol. 1. Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley. Comics were one of the genres covered by this challenge that I don’t usually read.  I chose this one for it’s feminist credentials, it is about a Princess who is perfectly capable of saving herself.  I also thought as an all ages comic it would be a good one to share with my children.  Sadly it didn’t convert me to comics, I find it hard to follow the narrative in this format and don’t appreciate the art as much as it deserves.

7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950 – Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. So much choice for this category and squarely within my comfort zone.  As I have somehow managed to reach my mid thirties without reading an Agatha Christie novel I decided to remedy this oversight.  I loved this book! What a mystery and given my lack of experience I tried to solve it as I went and obviously didn’t see the ending coming!

8. Read a travel memoir – Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island by Ben Aitken. I am at a loss to explain what I was thinking when I chose this book.  The obvious choice would be Bill Bryson himself but I think I had been stung by The Motorcycle Diaries and so was hoping for a travel memoir that wasn’t quite a travel memoir.  I found this book to be meh.  It wasn’t bad, nor was it good.  It was an exercise in box ticking.


9. Read a book you’ve read before – The Little House by Philippa Gregory.  This was one of the later challenges I tackled and I was quite grumpy about it.  I hold to the philosophy of so many books, so little time and so to reread never feels worthwhile.  But upon reflection and with the help of wise people on the internet I realised that this was a valuable challenge in reading a book at a different life stage to the first time around and this book was perfect for that.  The first time I read The Little House I was young, childless and deeply moved but it was a whole different kettle of fish now that I am a mother.  This distress of the main character changed from palpable on my first reading to personal the second time around.  This book is brilliant but I found it pretty difficult now I am more able to identify with it.  I’m so pleased this challenge pushed me to re-read.

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location – God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin.  If I’m totally honest I chose this book because it looked to be the most Yorkshire book I could find planting it firmly within 100 miles of home.  It was so very Yorkshire, filled with local dialect and beautifully painted, familiar landscapes but what made it powerful was the portrayal of the main character. I hated myself for rooting for him at some points but root I did because he told his story with such passion that I became emotionally involved.  This book will stay with me for a long time.

11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location – Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia.  This book is set in Mexico City, 5457 miles away from my bit of North Yorkshire.  I loved the idea of this book, a coming of age story where music is used as magic and I see from Goodreads that I rated it 4 stars but I don’t actually remember that much about it now so it perhaps wasn’t as good as it could have been.

12.Read a fantasy novel – The Darkest Part of The Forest by Holly Black.  This was delightfully different.  A faery story in so many senses of the word with a boy with pointed ears sleeping in a glass coffin in the woods.  Where this book differs from other faery stories is that it is set in modern times and the local teenagers take selfies with the boy in the coffin.  I loved this.


13. Read a nonfiction book about technology – Longitude The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel.  This was another category I was less than enthusiastic as I find non-fiction a struggle.  This book however was brilliant.  Dava Sobel is an excellent storyteller and managed to tell the true story of the longitude problem in an engaging way that had me gripped.  Another I would not have picked up without Read Harder.

14. Read a book about war – Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.  I had heard that Persepolis was THE graphic novel to convert those who think they don’t like graphic novels and it certainly worked for me.  Perhaps it was the clean simplicity of the drawings, or the clarity of the storytelling but I now think this is a must read and am recommending it all over the shop.

15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+ – Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  I had such high hopes heading into this book but think I am perhaps to old and/or jaded to love it.  It is a nice coming of age story about discovering ones true self but it failed to hit me in the feels as much as I had longed for.  I am usually a fan of well written Young Adult fiction so don’t feel it is a genre issue, it is just so sad to be disappointed by a book.

16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country – Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence.  I didn’t find it easy to find a book for this category.  The majority of the lists of banned books centre on the USA, the list of books banned in the UK was shorter and I had read some from it already.  I settled on this as it is probably the definitive banned book.  I found it pretty slow going and it is probably the book I was most pleased to be done with of the two dozen.


17. Read a classic by an author of colour – Kindred by Octavia E. Butler.  So deserving of the title “classic” this book was absolutely fabulous.  I was gripped from start to finish and stayed up well past my bedtime to finish this in two days.  I found some synopses of this book to contain spoilers that annoyed me so will say no more other than read this book.

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead – Storm by Eric Jerome Dickey.  After being less than crazy about the other comic challenge I decided to save my pennies on this one and choose from the library.  My small library in rural Yorkshire has one revolving stand of comics and so I thought it would be straightforward to choose one.  This was the only superhero comic there with a female lead, which I suppose is the point of the challenge! It did not win me over to comics.

19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey – Mullumbimby by Melissa Lucashenko.  This book, about indigenous Australians and Native Title was a subject about which I knew nothing prior to reading.  It  was very well written and I felt totally swept up in the book.

20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel – Maurice by E. M. Forster.  Oh this is so beautiful.  I love this book.  Another one everyone should read.  And another one I probably wouldn’t have chosen without this challenge.  I spent a long time rejecting contemporary romances on the basis of schmaltzy blurbs or Mills & Boonesque covers before a friend suggested Maurice and I am so pleased she did.


21. Read a book published by a micropress – The Secret to Not Drowning by Colette Snowden.  Published by the tiny, local ish Bluemoose Books.  A quietly told portrait of domestic abuse.  Brilliantly written, understated and a great read.

22. Read a collection of stories by a woman – There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband and he Hanged Himself by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya.  Yet again  I don’t think it likely I would have read this book were it not for Read Harder and my life would be so much the poorer for not having Petrushevskaya in it.  I definitely intend to read more by this stunning author.  The title gives a clue to the blunt, matter of fact style of writing which gives these bleak tales all the more punch.  The skill it must take to cram so much emotion into so few words is astonishing.

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love – Anxiety of Words by Ch’oe Sung-ja, Kim Hyesoon, Yi Yon-ju.  This is a great collection of poetry.  Challenging in a good way, some I didn’t really get but others that really spoke to me.  And another book I would not have chosen myself.

24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of colour – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.  Epic is the very best word to sum up this book.  Spanning several generations in a format of one chapter per descendant which worked brilliantly.  I chose this for my book club and some members did not like such a short period of time being given to each character but I loved to follow the threads throughout the family.  An excellent read.

 

Writing these brief summaries of each book has been a useful exercise for me, remembering those which I have loved and those which have had less of an impact.  I have found the experience of choosing from these categories to be a lot of fun and it has certainly caused me to pick up some books that would have otherwise not graced my shelves.  I have definitely Read Harder and am very much looking forward to next year’s challenge!

Yarn Along

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On my kindle Maurice by E. M. Forster.  On my needles a big old tangly mess!

In sharp contrast to my Yarn Along image last week with beautiful, colourful flowers cascading around the screen this week there is not a lot to see but I am very proud of what there is.  This muddle will shortly be Yarny from the video game Unravel, a favourite with my children.  I am using this pattern by Alexis Layton.  Double pointed needles are my nemesis. I make my socks using teeny tiny circular needles and have slightly larger circulars for hats and of course when it comes to little figures I usually turn to crochet!

But a Yarny was requested and a Ravelry search turned up the pattern and it seemed more sensible to follow it than make my own!  The pride in the progress stems from the fact that my first attempt ended in an awful mess from my attempts to wrestle these blasted needles with their points in all directions.  Although I did throw the whole lot to the floor amongst a tirade of swearing I did then pick it back up and rather than abandon the endeavour and pick up my trusty hook I frogged it back and calmly knit a few more rows straight before reattempting to join in the round, this time with a lot more success!  At risk of jeopardising the enterprise with misplaced confidence I think I am now on the right track, I’ll be sure blog if I do pull it off!

Reading wise I do seem to have exhausted all of the categories I want to read on the Read Harder Challenge and am now choosing books that I would not usually reach for.  I am reading Maurice for challenge number 20 – read a LGBTQ+ romance novel.  While I enjoy a love story I tend to find that books shelved as romance are usually sickeningly saccharine and this was the obstacle I kept hitting while trying to choose for this challenge.  It would appear that heading 100 years into the past has helped with the sappiness and I am enjoying this book written in 1913.

Linking up with Ginny and the other Yarn Alongers sharing what they are reading and working on.

Yarn Along

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On my kindle The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach.  On my hook lots and lots of roses.

The Art of Fielding is a book I have been putting off but it felt like the best i could do for Read Harder challenge number 1, read a book about sports.  I am not a sports fan.  I do not play sport nor do I enjoy watching, reading about or discussing sport.  Sport is not my thing.  Every search I did looking for a novel about sport while secretly hoping to find a novel about sport that didn’t feature much sport led me back to The Art of Fielding and so here I find myself.

I’m just coming up on the halfway point of the book and am feeling pretty enthusiastic about the second half, there are some strong characters and some stories developing that I want to follow through.  There is also a lot of baseball but it was a long shot to hope to find a book about sports which didn’t contain any!

I am making lots and lots of roses using the fabulous Attic24’s pattern and, as usual, many shades of Stylecraft special DK yarn.  These, and the ones that follow them in the coming days, are destined to sit on flowerpots like  these ones I made last year which I’m going to try and sell as Mother’s Day gifts

Linking up with Ginny and the other Yarn Alongers sharing what they are reading and working on.

Yarn Along

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On my kindle Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence.  On my hook lots of sheep parts!

This week’s Yarn Along is all about struggle. I am struggling with both this pattern and this book.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is my book for challenge number 16 (Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country) of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and I’m finding it rather slow going and a bit of an uphill battle.  However it transpires that the UK is not as big on banning books as many other countries and so there wasn’t a huge range to chose from for this challenge.  And so I plod along refusing to be beaten!

I am also finding writing this sheep pattern to be tougher than I imagined.  When I made my first sheep to go in my Moorland Wreath I sailed along happily making it up as I went along and jotting a few notes down.  As I have gone to translate those notes to a pattern I am finding that there are rows missing, inconsistencies and the notes don’t make a sheep like the one I already have. It’s all very frustrating.

Stubborn as I am I will be continuing with both endeavours until I am able to tick the book from my challenge list and write up the pattern but I am not having as much fun this week as I like to with my reading and creating.  Fingers crossed next week works out better for me!

Linking up with Ginny and the other Yarn Alongers sharing what they are reading and working on.

Yarn Along

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On my hook my interpretation of Attic24’s Moorland CAL.  On my kindle The Physics of the Dead by Luke Smitherd.

So many people in my crafty circle are very excited about Attic24’s Moorland Blanket CAL, it feels like everyone is talking about it.  But as I shared a couple of Yarn Alongs ago I haven’t actually completed my 2015 CAL blanket, the Sunny Log Cabin, yet!  So it felt entirely inappropriate to start another blanket.  And yet I found myself so drawn to the colour palette, Lucy has such a wonderful talent for choosing colours, and I also am quite partial to a bit of moorland being a Yorkshire girl.

I decided while I definitely couldn’t justify another blanket I could still use the colours and concept.  And there will be no prizes for having guessed that I am making a moorland wreath!  Its almost there.  I need about another 2 inches of these teeny tiny stripes and then I’ll have to move on to tackling all of those pesky ends and putting it on my wreath base.  If you want to see the finished article it might be worth checking back here in a day or two as it won’t be long.  I have already made the wreath dweller and if you follow me on instagram or Facebook you may have seen it but i’m not going to post it here just yet.

Physics of The Dead is another book my husband chose and is listening to on audio and suggested I read so we can talk about it.  I only started it this morning so I’m not too sure yet but I am intrigued by the central idea of the book.

I am going to complete the Book Riot 2017 Read Harder Challenge this year to widen my horizons, push me out of my comfort zone and hopefully read some brilliant books that I wouldn’t otherwise have chosen.  This is my third book of the year so far and I haven’t yet managed to shoehorn any of them into the categories of the challenge yet but this one caused me the most debate.  I had hoped it may fit into challenge number 21, read a book published by a micro press, as it is essentially self published but a fruitful half an hour on the Goodreads message boards suggests that although it technically is self published using CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, the fact that CreateSpace is owned by the mahoosive Amazon sort of negates the point of supporting small micro presses.  And so I will seek out something to better fit the bill.

Linking up with Ginny and the other Yarn Alongers sharing what they are reading and working on.