Sunday, January 29, 2017

Dear White America by Tim Wise

One of the challenge categories in the Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge is to read a book written by someone that you admire. Luckily for me, I happened to have picked up Dear White America after listening to Tim Wise speak at my school board building. Tim Wise is a racial justice writer and educator, and a man that I very much admire. While listening to him speak, I was completely engaged and drawn into what he was saying. He spoke about the white privilege, racial microaggressions, and institutional racism that plague our country today in quite frank terms. He pulled no punches with his assertions that America is still rife with inequality, and from the looks on some of the other attendees faces, his presentation struck a nerve. After the seminar was over, I purchased three of his books (and he even signed one for me!). When I saw the challenge category about reading a work by someone you admire, I knew it was time to pick one of them up.

Dear White America is written as a letter from Tim Wise to...well...white people. He touches on the anxiety that many whites have about becoming a minority group in America by 2050, and offers his perspective on how we are holding onto incorrect beliefs about race and why it is so important that we correct these misconceptions and strive to create a more just society. Throughout his letter,he discusses several topics related to race, including how white privilege operates, why it is important to listen and discuss racial issues with people of color, how conservative politicians have twisted the history of America to promote racism and gain votes, and how institutional racism affects all of us. He provides several facts and statistics along the way to prove his points, and includes extensive notes on where he obtained his data in the back of the book.

Wise's writing style is much like his speaking style was - angry and to the point. He is not kind to members of the Tea Party, conservative pundits, Wall Street investment bankers, and republican politicians. This style worked very well for me, because I have found myself deeply angry at the state of things in the U.S. since the election of Donald Trump. Like Wise, I am tired of putting up with the ignorance of other white people and watching people of color be marginalized. The effect of this straightforward writing means that Wise's feelings come across as genuine; his frustration does not get in the way of him making well-reasoned and evidence-based points. His passion for this subject shines out from each page, which makes for a highly engaging reading experience.

While Dear White America is a quick read at 153 pages, it's message is deeply important and thought-provoking. This book was a little bit like preaching to the choir for me, since I'm already in agreement with Wise's points, but reading this helped me to solidify my thoughts around race and provided good background information and facts for the next time this subject comes up in conversation. Anyone who feels a similar frustration about racial inequality would do well to give this book a try, because it can help provide the words to talk about race with others. Reading books like this, and doing our homework on racial inequality is the only way to move forward and correct our issues as a country. This book is a wonderful introduction to doing that, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is concerned about race in America.

Challenge Tally
Popsugar Challenge: (A book written by someone you admire) 7/40 
Mount TBR: previously owned 7/60

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

My Popsugar reading challenge required me to read an espionage thriller. This is not a genre I typically explore very much, but I did have Viet Thanh Nguyen's The Sympathizer on my shelves because it won the Pulitzer in 2016 and I wanted to check it out. I usually have pretty good luck reading award-winners, so started reading with high hopes. After admiring the multiple award medals on the novel's cover, checking out the blurbs from literary superstars on the back, and flipping past multiple pages of additional blurbs in the front of the book, I was ready to read what I figured must be the greatest book every written. What I ended up with was a confusing struggle that I'm still scratching my head over.

The Sympathizer follows an unnamed communist double agent during the end of the Vietnam War. He describes himself as a man of two minds and claims that he has a gift of being able to see both sides of any situation. When Saigon falls, he flees to America with the general that he works under and sends regular reports back to his superiors about the movements of the South Vietnamese refugees he lives among. His ability to empathize with his enemies causes serious internal conflict for him, and he struggles mightily to rationalize the actions he is forced to take to maintain his cover. He participates in some violent and surreal events in his new city of Los Angeles before deciding to return home to Vietnam with an ill-fated resistance movement.

The narrative is structured as the protagonist's written confession. He speaks occasionally about being imprisoned and writing down his story to submit to a commandant. Mixed in with his confession are his biting observations of Americans and their actions during the war. His words provide a very different, and not very flattering, perspective on the U.S. that feels raw and true. When his confession catches up with his current imprisonment, the protagonist is forced to face some very harsh truths about himself and his country and must try to sort out his complicated feelings surrounding his life choices.

I've read enough literature in my lifetime to recognize greatness when I see it, and The Sympathizer is undoubtedly great. It is full of complex ideas, meaningful allegories, and deep symbolism. I know that it deserves all the accolades it has received, however, this novel did not click with me. I did not understand what it was trying to do. I understood the story and the words, but the ultimate meaning of what I was reading proved to be impossible for me to grasp. Maybe I don't know enough about the history of the Vietnam War to be able to understand Nguyen's perspective, or maybe the almost complete lack of female characters made me lose interest. Maybe I'm just not smart enough for this novel. Whatever it was, I struggled to get through the story. I was so disengaged that I had difficulty staying awake when I sat down to read.

Since so many regard this work as a masterpiece, I feel very unsophisticated talking about my struggles with it. The back of my edition included an interview with the author, which I read in an attempt to try and understand what the novel was supposed to be about. His remarks, which were quite thoughtful and intelligent, didn't really help. He mentioned what different characters symbolized, and what some key lines were, but I still wasn't clear on what the ultimate message of the book was supposed to be and I never would have interpreted the symbols he mentioned correctly on my own.

One thing Nguyen said that was a bit illuminating for me was how he was inspired to write The Sympathizer by Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. I have read Invisible Man and I can definitely see similarities between the two. Invisible Man was also a surreal and critical account of an unnamed protagonist's life in America. That novel was difficult to understand as well, but I fared much better with it, probably because I was more familiar with the time period and social context it was placed in. My lack of familiarity with the Vietnam War was a big impediment to my understanding here, and I would caution anyone looking to give this novel a try to study a bit about the time period before reading.

Sadly, my experience reading The Sympathizer was one of intermittent boredom and confusion. The blurbs on the front cover touted this novel as a fast-paced, suspenseful spy story, but I didn't feel like this story was anything close to that while reading. I know that the fault in this situation is mine-the book is clearly great, it just didn't click with me. There were parts that I did enjoy, especially the sections in which the protagonist discusses his perspective on America, but overall, I wasn't able to get engaged in the story and I never ended up understanding Nguyen's overall point. Ultimately, I am glad I read The Sympathizer, because it was quite unique, but it just didn't engage me.

Challenge Tally
Popsugar Challenge: (An espionage thriller) 6/40 
Mount TBR: previously owned 6/60

Friday, January 27, 2017

Lock In by John Scalzi

One of the categories on my Popsugar challenge list is to read (listen) to an audio book. Surprisingly, with all of the books I have read in my lifetime, I had never done this before. It seemed weird to me to listen to a book. What are you supposed to do with your hands if you are reading without holding onto something? Where are you supposed to look while the story is playing through your earbuds?

Determined to give it a shot, I downloaded the science fiction mystery novel Lock In by John Scalzi and listened during my morning runs. I figured that something full of suspense would keep me engaged in the story and maybe even take my mind off of how tired and achy I feel while exercising. I was nervous at first that I would hate running without music, but that fear turned out to be unfounded as the familiar voice of Wil Wheaton pulled me into this fast-paced detective story.

Lock In is set in a near-future in which a highly contagious virus called Haden's Syndrome has had a dramatic impact on the population of the world. Most people who contracted the disease suffered from only flu-like symptoms, but an unlucky one percent of people experienced "Lock In," meaning that they were left trapped in their own bodies, totally aware but completely unable to communicate. Advances in science eventually allowed Lock In victims to reengage with the world via computers and robot-like devices called "Personal Transports," but Haden's syndrome irrevocably changed the fabric of modern society. Its existence created new political and ethical questions for people to deal with, and friction between the Locked In and the those unaffected by the disease is steadily rising.

The novel picks up with rookie FBI agent Chris Shane as he is pulled into a complicated murder case involving Hadens and Integrators (a person who can let a Locked In Haden borrow their body for a time). Chris and his new partner, Leslie Vann, have to untangle all of the political, financial, and technological elements of the crime to discover the truth of the situation. As one might expect, their case turns out to be much bigger than a single murder, and their suspect pool eventually includes high-ranking CEOs and activists within the Haden community. Together, they uncover an intricate and insidious plot that threatens the well-being of the Locked In population.

This novel was interesting and action-packed. The characters were well written and the quick pacing helped to keep my mind off of exercising while I listened. My only issue was that the end seemed to come quite abruptly. After reading a story containing a lot of action, it felt odd to have the conclusion take place in an interrogation room - Law and Order style. I was thinking that there would be a final, big scene full of car chases and gunfire to wrap up the case, but the story ends pretty quietly, with the culprit confessing to everything after Chris and Leslie put the squeeze on them. So, I felt a bit of disconnection there, but it wasn't enough of a problem to keep me from enjoying the story.

In addition to being an entertaining detective story, Lock In does some interesting things with race and gender. It completely ignores them. Scalzi refrains from using any gendered pronouns when describing Chris, so the gender of the protagonist is left up to the reader's imagination. When purchasing the audio book, you can choose between a male or a female narrator. I chose Wil Wheaton's version because I'm a huge Star Trek fan, so I envisioned Chris as a guy. However, if you chose to buy the version with the female narrator, you would perceive Chris as a girl. Race is similarly ignored, until Chris says something that gives his heritage away over halfway through the story. It came as a surprise to me, because I always imagine characters being white if race isn't explicitly mentioned (force of habit, I guess). I'd never seen anything like this done in a book before, and I thought the effect was pretty cool. It makes you think about what perceptions you default to when you read.  

Overall, I really enjoyed Lock In, both for its fun and engaging mystery and for introducing me to the joys of listening to an audio book while running. I'm already listening to another Scalzi audio book now, so I suppose this is the start of a whole new era of reading for me. Finding an entirely different way to fit more reading into your day is a fine thing indeed. Anyone looking for a similar escape from reality would do well to give this one a shot.

Challenge Tally
Popsugar Challenge: (An audio book) 5/40 
Mount TBR: previously owned 5/60

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan

The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan is an adaptation of Pollan's bestselling work of the same name for a young adult audience. Having never read the grownup version, this was my first experience with the material. I went into this nonfiction investigation of food with high hopes, because I recently selected this book to read with my eighth graders towards the end of this school year. I was pleased to find a very readable and interesting exploration of our modern food chain.

As Pollan states in his introduction, he wrote this book because he became interested in discovering more about the food we ingest every day. How are our fruits and vegetables grown? How are our cows and chickens raised? How far does food travel to get into our grocery stores? Could our food be hiding any unwholesome secrets behind its fancy packaging? He didn't know the answers to these questions, so he started traveling around the United States to find out.

The omnivore's dilemma, as he explains, is the modern problem we all face of trying to decide what is good for us to eat when we are surrounded by a wealth of options. Contrary to what life was like in generations past, we can buy any fruit, vegetable, or meat pretty much any time we want to. We've distanced ourselves from small family farms and seasonal availability of food items. We don't have to worry about food running out; instead, we have to worry about what to choose from when we are wandering through the over-stuffed aisles of the grocery store. The novel endeavors to explore several different ways of eating in the hopes of helping readers solve this dilemma.

The novel is divided into four main sections, each one focusing on a different sort of food chain. He begins with industrial farming, then moves onto industrial organic. After taking a look at those massive operations, he visits a smaller, traditional farm. Lastly, he stretches way back into the past and explores the world of hunting, gathering, and gardening. There are some additional resources in the back of the book tailored to young readers, including nutrition tips, a Q&A with Pollan, additional resources, and an index.

As one might expect, the section on industrial farming was hard to stomach in some places. Pollan talks about the use of pesticides, GMOs, government farming subsidies, and unsanitary living conditions for livestock in a frank way that left me both angry and queasy. He also goes into great detail about corn, and how that one crop has managed to take over the world and insert itself into almost every item at the grocery store in one way or another. The section on industrial organic farming is shown in a slightly better light, but Pollan is quick to point out the shortcomings in that system as well. He is no fan of industrial farming of any sort and he makes that very clear in his writing.

The sections on the traditional farm and the hunter gatherers shift in tone and present very positive food scenarios (with the exception of when Pollan shoots a wild pig - he discovers that he is not very comfortable with hunting). These ways of feeding ourselves are a throwback to older eras when food was obtained locally and naturally. In these situations, the land isn't destroyed with over-farming and chemicals, animals live cruelty-free lives, and people know where their food is coming from. Pollan's writing here is quite persuasive. The benefits of a more natural food system seem obvious; it is healthier to eat this way and better for the planet. However, Pollan does acknowledge that going back to these systems would be more expensive for families and probably not possible on a massive scale.

By the end of the last section in The Omnivore's Dilemma, Pollan is advocating for people to buy organic, locally grown/raised food when they can. He calls this "voting with your fork." After reading this novel, I can definitely see the wisdom in his approach. I think that my eighth graders will find this information engaging and relevant to their lives, just as I did on my first reading. For young fans of nonfiction, this is a consistently interesting and enjoyable read. 

Challenge Tally
Popsugar Challenge: (A book about food) 4/40 
Mount TBR: previously owned 4/60

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the story of two high school kids that meet by coincidence and discover that they both have the same name. Authored by young adult fiction mega-stars John Green and David Levithan, the narration alternates between the two boys as they both try to navigate the difficult tangle of friendships, romances, and self-discovery that goes on in adolescence.

The first Will Grayson that we meet, authored by John Green, starts his narration by describing his friend Tiny Cooper. Tiny is an ironic nickname, because Tiny is a gigantic kid that plays on the school football team. He is also gay, a fact that Will elaborates on extensively throughout the novel. His description on the very first page of chapter one reads, "Tiny Cooper is not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but I believe he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world's gayest person who is really, really large." Tiny, aside from being large and gay, is also a serial romantic, having moved through several boyfriends throughout his lifetime. He is also an aspiring playwright. He's written a musical about himself and his past boyfriends and at the beginning of the novel he receives funding and permission to produce it at his school. Right from the outset, Tiny is really the main focus of the first Will's narration.

What Will doesn't talk a whole lot about in his chapters is himself. He explains that once he wrote a letter to the school newspaper defending Tiny and his right to be a gay person in a boys locker room. Doing this ended up being the biggest regret of his life due to all the unwanted attention and ridicule from his peers that this act brought to him. From that point on, Will tries to live his life by two simple rules: 1. Don't care too much about anything, and 2. Shut up. Trying to live by these rules ends up making Will's life feel quite empty and most of his character arc is about how he learns that these are not, in fact, good rules. His self-imposed aloofness has made him lonely and annoying to his friends. He eventually settles into a path of honesty and caring for others after a lot of internal struggling.

The second Will Grayson in the story, written by David Levithan, is quite a different character. He struggles with clinical depression, and although he takes medication to control it, he still finds it difficult to enjoy his life and interact with others. This Will lives with his single mother and isn't well-off financially. He is also gay, but in a less flamboyant way than Tiny. He hasn't come out to his mother or to his friend at school, Maura. The one bright spot in his life is Isaac, an online boyfriend that he has been chatting with for a year, but has never met in person before. At the beginning of the novel, he and Isaac decide to finally meet up.

When the meeting with Isaac doesn't go as expected, he happens to run into the first Will Grayson. After getting over the coincidence of them having the same name, the first Will introduces him to Tiny, whom he soon begins dating. Dating someone as uninhibited as Tiny begins to cause a big shift in Will's personality. He is able to come out to his mother and some schoolmates and begins seeing a deeper purpose for his life. Although he is happy during this time, the relationship with Tiny becomes more than he can emotionally handle. Tiny is intense with his feelings, and Will simply isn't ready to get so close to someone. His depression has left him inexperienced with handling deep emotions, and the relationship soon falls apart. The rest of his arc deals with him finding a new balance in his life, learning to put himself out in the world more, and speaking his mind.

As the two Will's barely have anything to do with each other throughout the text, the main connecting thread between the two halves of the narration is Tiny Cooper and his musical.  This was a struggle for me as a reader because I had trouble deciding if I liked Tiny as a character. In trying to create someone larger-than-life, I feel like Green and Levithan leaned a little to heavily on gay stereotypes. Making him be a flamboyant, theater-loving, overly-dramatic person who ALSO happens to be huge and play football may not be enough to rescue him from being somewhat problematic. I felt like the second Will was a much better depiction of a gay teenager, but there is no one "correct way" for gay people to be, obviously. I just felt like there was something off with Tiny.

I also struggled a bit with the plot of the novel, because, well...not a whole lot happens. Much of the action takes place inside the heads of both Wills and consists of a lot of whining about how life is unfair and confusing. This is definitely realistic to the teenage experience, but it wasn't presented in a way that was engaging to me. I wasn't pulled into this story and finished reading it relatively quickly just because I wanted to get through it.

There was also an issue of balance going on. I found the second Will's chapters to be much more interesting than the first Will's. The back and forth narration technique is really only effective if both characters are equally compelling, which they weren't. The first Will's problem was that he needed to pull his head out of his butt, while the second Will was struggling with much larger issues like his mental illness and his sexuality. I found myself consistently impatient to return to his story. The first Will was a bit boring - a disappointing discovery for me, as I usually enjoy John Green's work.

The novel culminates with the first performance of Tiny's musical, which both Wills attend. At this point, the boys have grown up a bit and are in better places emotionally and socially. They arrange a stunt to show their appreciation for Tiny's friendship, which they now realize was an invaluable help to both of them. I really didn't find their gesture to be as clever or charming as the authors of this work certainly did. In fact, I didn't even find it to be something that would be possible or logical for the situation. The novel ends on a muddled and overly-sentimental message about the importance of honesty in relationships which didn't quite tug at my heartstrings in the way it was meant to.

Ultimately, I found Will Grayson, Will Grayson to be only okay. It was funny and poignant in parts, but it lacked the emotional punch that I was expecting two authors of John Green and David Levithan's caliber to be packing. This was my Popsugar Challenge selection for the "novel written by more than one author" category. Novels written by more than one person have the potential to be amazing and creative works, such as All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, which I read last year and absolutely loved. The issue with Will Grayson, Will Grayson was that it just didn't have enough of a story to tell. I think this was a fun project for the two authors to collaborate on, but in the end, the ultimate meaning of the novel was vague. This modern coming of age story was bland and forgettable.

Challenge Tally
Popsugar Challenge: (A book with multiple authors) 3/40 
Mount TBR: previously owned 3/60

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

"Master said God had given men reason, by which they could find out things for themselves, but He had given animals knowledge that did not depend on reason, and which was much more prompt and perfect in its way, and by which they had saved the lives of men."

Every once in a while, I run across a book that I end up wishing that I had discovered as a child. Black Beauty, Anna Sewell's classic novel about the life of a kind and gentle horse, is one of those books. I, like many other girls, went through a major horse phase when I was little. I had a bunch of horse figures to play with (my favorite being the battery-powered Barbie horse, High Stepper), I loved cartoons and TV shows that featured horses, and I read a selection of horse books, including the Saddle Club series and The Black Stallion. For some reason, I never came across Black Beauty, and it's too bad, because I would have loved it in the way only a kid can love a book.

The plot of Black Beauty is pretty straightforward. The story is told from the point of view of Black Beauty himself, and it follow him as he moves from owner to owner over the course of his life. Sometimes his masters are kind and loving. Other times his masters are cruel and careless. No matter what his situation is, Black Beauty maintains a sweet temper and always tries to do his best. Peppered in with his story are the stories of the other horses and people that he interacts with, many of which are tragic. There is a strong message running throughout of the importance of kindness and helping others.

Sewell also advocates for animal rights quite deliberately throughout the novel, using both the equine and human characters to comment on everything from the ethics of using different types of horse equipment to the dangers of hunting parties, to the conditions of cab horses in London. Her respect and admiration for horses shines throughout the entire novel. Animal lovers of all types will feel at home in these pages and find themselves agreeing with Sewell that, "...with cruelty and oppression it is everybody's business to interfere when they see it."

Aside from likeable characters and noble themes, Sewell's work has an inherent charm to it. This book made me want to move to the country and buy a horse, and that's not a thought I've ever had as an adult before. There's an intangible kind of magic at work in its pages - the kind that makes you want to snuggle up under a cozy blanket with a cup of tea and dive into the story. For me, Black Beauty ranks right up among The Secret Garden and The Wizard of Oz as books that all kids should have the pleasure of experiencing when they're little. This goodhearted little classic was a fun read and an excellent addition to my 2017 challenge lists.

Challenge Tally
Back to the Classics: (A Classic About an Animal) 2/12
Classics Club: (#21 on my list) 2/100
Popsugar Challenge: (A book from a nonhuman perspective) 2/40
Mount TBR: previously owned 2/60

Monday, January 9, 2017

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

This review contains spoilers.

I started off 2016 by reading 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I thought it would be a nice throwback to start off 2017 reading another one of Jules Verne's science fiction classics, Journey to the Center of the Earth. This novel follows the adventures of Professor Otto Lidenbrock, his nephew Axel, and their faithful guide Hans on an expedition down the mouth of a volcanic crater in an attempt to reach the center of the earth. The journey is fraught with danger as the group must navigate through difficult and unforgiving terrain, deal with hunger and thirst, cross a dangerous and stormy ocean, and escape from the jaws of prehistoric megafauna. The professor and his team soldier on through all of these difficulties in the name of science and end up learning some fantastic things about what is going on in the world under our feet.

I can't help but compare this novel to 20,000 Leagues. They both featured a young scholar being taken on an impossible adventure by an eccentric and highly intelligent man. Both featured a common sense "everyman" type character to help guide them. Both explored regions of the earth that are mysterious due to their impenetrability. Between the two novels, I am sorry to say that 20,000 Leagues was superior. While I did enjoy Journey enough (it IS a giant of the science fiction genre after all), I found the characters to be somewhat annoying and the journey itself to be...well...boring.

My biggest issue was with Axel, who is perhaps the world's biggest coward. He doesn't want to go on the journey in the first place, and has to be dragged along by his uncle. On the way to the volcanic crater, he worries endlessly and has to be "cured" of a crippling fear of heights by being forced to climb to the top of a tall tower over and over. Once they scale the crater and start their exploration in earnest, he breaks down multiple times and cries, faints, somehow manages to get lost and needs to be rescued, and complains endlessly. When water runs short he is the first to fall. When food runs short he is the first to faint. It's amazing that the boy has made it to young adulthood. As Axel is the narrator of the novel, the reader is privy to his thoughts throughout the entire plot, and they run to the dramatic and whiny. I didn't enjoy him very much as a character, which impacted how much I could enjoy the book.

Professor Lidenbrock is a bit better. Mercurial, highly intelligent, and very enthusiastic about science, he weathers the journey much better than Axel does, despite his advanced age. He isn't as interesting or mysterious as Captain Nemo, but he was serviceable. Hans, their imperturbable guide, was probably my favorite of the group. He has amazing survival skills, doesn't talk much, and just gets on with things. He saves Lidenbrock and Axel's lives too many times to count throughout the story. If I were ever going on a dangerous journey, I'd definitely want Hans by my side. I'd probably kill Axel for food if the going got rough.  

The journey itself was bogged down by a huge amount of scientific exposition. Pages and pages are taken up with geological information, history lessons, and theories about the earth's composition. As is usual in a Verne novel, scrupulous attention is paid to scientific detail in an effort to make the fictional parts of the text more believable. This didn't hold my interest as much as the descriptions of the group's adventures, so I struggled in these sections. I also struggled a bit with the sameness of the group's trek. Most of their journey is through pitch black tunnels, so some variety was lacking until they got to the forest and ocean region.

I suppose I can't really be mad about this, because the truth is in the title, but this novel is seriously about the journey to the center of the earth. They never actually make it there. In their zeal to dive down deeper towards the core, the group uses their gunpowder to try and blast through a chunk of granite. This sets in motion a chain of events that leads to their being blasted out of Mount Stromboli in a volcanic eruption. There were no survivors.

Just kidding, everyone was fine.

Despite these drawbacks, however, I still had a good time reading this novel. There's something so retro and charming about a Jules Verne adventure that you can't help but fall into it. His distinctive style and extraordinary ideas make for a surreal reading experience. I really did feel like I was trudging along with the group in the dark caverns under the earth, rolling my eyes each time Axel whined about something. This was a fun story, a classic of the genre, and an all-around nice way to start off 2017.

Challenge Tally:
Back to the Classics: (19th Century Classic) 1/12
Classics Club: (#41 on my list) 1/100
Popsugar Challenge: (A book about travel) 1/40
Mount TBR: previously owned 1/60

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 2017 Reading Plan

In order to keep up with my reading challenges this year, a bit of planning is in order. To stay on track, I need to make sure that I'm hitting the minimum amount of books from each of my challenge lists every month.

So, this means that in January, I need to read enough to complete:

-At least 1 classic novel for Back to the Classics
-At least 2 classic novels for the Classics Club Challenge
-At least 4 books for the Popsugar Challenge
-At least 5 books for the Mount TBR Challenge

This sounds like a lot, but with some strategic planning, I can combine most of these. One book can count for multiple challenges if I map things out right.

Here are my tentative plans for January:

1. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  • Back to the Classics: 19th Century Classic
  • Classics Club: #41 on my list
  • Popsugar Challenge: A book about travel
  • Mount TBR: previously owned
2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • Back to the Classics: A classic about an animal
  • Classics Club: #21 on my list
  • Popsugar Challenge: A book from a nonhuman perspective
  • Mount TBR: previously owned
3. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  • Popsugar Challenge: A book with multiple authors
  • Mount TBR: previously owned
4. The Omnivore's Dilemma: Young Reader's Edition by Michael Pollan
  • Popsugar Challenge: A book about food
  • Mount TBR: previously owned
5. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • Popsugar Challenge: An espionage thriller
  • Mount TBR: previously owned


Dear White America by Tim Wise
  • Popsugar Challenge: A book written by someone you admire
  • Mount TBR: previously owned 

Time to see how much I can get through! What about the rest of you out there? Is anyone else planning out their January reads?