Reading Challenges 2020

The Reading Challenges haven’t gone so well for me the last two years. But I’ve once again succumbed to the promise of a brand new year and brand new challenges. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for 2020:

  • Back to the Classics is hosted by Books and Chocolate. I read two out of 12 last year (and failed to post about either one). Some of the titles I’ve picked for this year are carry-overs from last year’s list.
  • The Georgian Reading Challenge is hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews. The goal is a minimum of four books – fiction or non-fiction – related to the Georgian era (I’m using the 1714-1830 period – sorry, William IV). I’ve earmarked some possible titles, mostly the same as last year, since I read exactly zero books from the list in 2019.
  • The Victorian Reading Challenge is also hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews, and she’s switched it up with bimonthly themes, plus a year-long bonus theme. I’ve picked some books to match.
  • Classics Club is a multi-year challenge. I have a list of 50 books that I plan to read before the end of 2023. I read two of them in 2019, but I never posted about them. Whoops.
  • Read Harder comes from the fab folks at Book Riot. Some of the 24 tasks are going to be more challenging than others.
  • The Reading Women challenge comes from the Reading Women podcast. It also has 24 tasks, and some of these will definitely be challenging.

How about you? Are you doing any of these challenges? Or different ones?

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The woman’s name doesn’t matter. Just picture anyone you know and love. She’s in her mid-twenties when her world begins to crumble. She can’t concentrate at work, stops sleeping, grows uneasy in crowds, and then retreats to her apartment, where she sees and hears things that aren’t there — disembodied voices that make her paranoid, frightened, and angry. She paces around her apartment until she feels as if she might burst open. So she leaves her house and wanders around the crowded city streets trying to avoid the burning stares of the passersby.

In 2009, Susannah Cahallan was hospitalized with what appeared to be classic symptoms of schizophrenia: paranoia, delusions, violent impulses. Anti-psychotic medications didn’t help. Test after test found nothing useful. Until one did, and as soon as the medical establishment was able to identify her illness as auto-immune encephalitis rather than psychosis, everything about her treatment changed: “Hope, clarity, and optimism replaced the vague and distant treatment. No one blamed me or questioned if each symptom was real. They didn’t ask about alcohol consumption of stress levels or family relationships. People no longer implied that the trouble was all in my head.”

In 2012, Cahalan published Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a memoir of her experience. A variety of subsequent encounters led her to continue looking into the history of psychiatry and the fine line between sanity and madness, and how society identifies those on either side of that (shifting) line. That brought her to the story of Stanford psychologist David Rosenhan and his 1973 “pseudopatient” experiment: Eight healthy people got themselves committed to psychiatric facilities and then had to prove their sanity to get released.

The resulting Nature article, “On Being Sane in Insane Places”, cast a glaring spotlight on what appeared to be serious problems in diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. But there seemed to be holes in the story, questions without answers. Rosenhan died in 2012, never having finished the follow-up book he was contracted to write. The volunteers were never publicly identified.

Cahallan digs into the details of what happened and how it affected the development of psychiatric care. She also looks backward, into the various threads of psychological theory and their supporters and detractors over the years. From Nelly Bly’s 1887 undercover investigation at Blackwell Island through the mass closure of mental institutions a century later and into the present day, it’s a fascinating and sometimes appalling tale, told with a story-teller’s flair. 

In the words of medical historian Edward Shorter, “The history of psychiatry is a minefield. Reader: Beware of shrapnel.

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges:  N/A
View all my reviews

Down the TBR Hole #18

It’s ba-ack!

Where does the time go? The last time I did this was October 2018?!? Let’s pick up where we left off, shall we?

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!
Book cover showing a house with silhouettes of people in all the rooms

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair
Published: August 13, 2013
On TBR Since: February 3, 2013

I wanted to read this partly for professional reasons and partly for personal reasons. But there are more recent books that will fill the niche.

Stay or Go: Go

Book Cover

Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life by Brian Wansink
Published: March 19, 2013
On TBR Since: February 4, 2013

I kind of thought I read this already, but I was probably thinking of his previous book. In any case, I’m letting this one go.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover showing gold shield under the words "The Song of Achilles"

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published: September 20, 2011
On TBR Since: February 4, 2013

I just recently acquired a hardback copy of this, and I’m planning to read it after I read the copy of The Iliad I have coming on hold at the library.

Stay or Go: Stay

Book cover showing black and white photo of two women

Passionate Commitments: The Lives of Anna Rochester and Grace Hutchins by Julia M. Allen
Published: June 1, 2013
On TBR Since: February 4, 2013

This is one of those that if I haven’t gotten to it yet, I’m not getting to it.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover showing people wearing face masks under the word "FLU"

Flu: The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It by Kolata, Gina Published: 1999
On TBR Since:  February 4, 2013

I’d forgotten about this one, and now I want to read it. Get your flu shot.

Stay or Go: Stay

Book cover showing a stack of books

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature by Sutton, Roger
Published: September 28, 2010
On TBR Since:  February 6, 2013

I really need to get to this soon.

Stay or Go: Stay

Book cover showing a black and white photograph of San Francisco

A Crack in the Edge of the World: America & the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester Published: January 1, 2005
On TBR Since:  February 6, 2013

Simon Winchester always stays.

Stay or Go: Stay

Bright pink book cover with the words "A Little F'D Up" Why Feminism is not a Dirty Word" in white

A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word by Julie Zeilinger
Published: April 3, 2012
On TBR Since:  February 7, 2013

This was on a recognition list the year it was published, but I’m not feeling a need to read it 8 years later.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover showing a block of processed cheese

Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner
Published: February 26, 2013
On TBR Since:  February 11, 2013

Much like F’d Up, the moment has passed. There are more recent books on the topic on my TBR.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover showing woman knitting

Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar
Published: January 1, 2013
On TBR Since:  February 11, 2013

In the GoodReads reviews, someone posted a drinking game to go along with this book. As much fun as that sounds, it mostly convinced me to pass.

Stay or Go: Go

Four to stay, six to go. Beginning: 1813. Ending: 1807
Visit my to-read shelf to see how very far I still have to go!

2019 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Remember all those reading challenges for 2019 I was so excited about back in December of 2018? Turns out, 2019 had its own special set of challenges for me. Still, let’s take a look back and see how things went.

12 Children’s Classics for 2019 (hosted by Book Hippie)
Goal: 12 books (pre-selected by challenge rules)
Result: 1/12 (8.3%)

January: Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (Finished: March 8)
February: Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
March: Goody Two Shoes by McLoughlin Brothers
April: The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston
May: The Tale Of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
June: Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne
July: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
August: Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes
September: Tales of Mother Goose by Charles Perrault
October: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
November: Raggedy Ann & Andy by Johnny Gruelle
December: Nutcracker and Mouse-King by E.T.A. Hoffmann

2019 Middle Grade Reading Challenge (hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews)
Goal: 6 or More Books with optional checklist
Result: 10/6 (166%) (I know there were more, but I seem to have forgotten to log them somewhere in the middle of the year.)

  1. a Newbery Winner: Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (finished February 11)
  2. a Newbery Honor: The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock (finished February 14)
  3. realistic/contemporary: Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake (finished February 23)
  4. Author beginning with C: Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (finished March 7)
  5. nonfiction: Camp Panda by Catherine Thimmesh (finished March 8)
  6. children’s book published in the 1880s: Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (finished March 8)
  7. historical fiction: Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransom (finished March 13)
  8. mystery: The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (finished March 28)
  9. fantasy: Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (finished December 3)
  10. any book in a series: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (finished December 21)

Back to the Classics (hosted by Books and Chocolate)
Goal: 12 books
Result: 2/12 (16.67%)

  • 19th Century Classic (1800-1899): Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett (finished March 8)
  • Classic in Translation: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Marie Borroff (finished December 28)
  • 20th Century Classic (1900-1969)
  • Classic by a Woman Author
  • Classic Comic Novel
  • Classic Tragic Novel
  • Very Long Classic
  • Classic Novella
  • Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean)
  • Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia
  • Classic From a Place You’ve Lived
  • Classic Play

Georgian Reading Challenge (hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews)
Goal: 4 books
Result: 0. Just didn’t happen.

Victorian Reading Challenge (hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews)
Goal: 20 books
Result: 1 (5%) – Little Lord Fauntleroy was the only one here.

Cruisin’ Thru The Cozies (hosted by Socrates’ Book Reviews)
Goal: 10 cozy mysteries
Result: 4 (40%)

  • Paranormal: Fatality in F by Alexia Gordon (finished June 28)
  • Based outside the US: A Dream of Death by Connie Berry (finished February 8)
  • Career-based: Reading Up a Storm by Eva Gates (finished May 30)
  • Travel: Savasana at Sea by Ava Dunne (finished March 24)
  • Culinary
  • Animal-related
  • Craft-related
  • Historical
  • Holiday based
  • Freebie

Read Harder (Book Riot)
Goal: 24 Books
Result: 13 (54%)

  1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters: To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (finished December 20)
  2. An alternate history novel
  3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (finished January 2)
  4. A humor book: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (finished July 28)
  5. A book by a journalist or about journalism
  6. A book by an AOC set in or about space: The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum (finished April 24)
  7. An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
  8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
  9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads: Savasana at Sea by Ava Dunne (finished March 24)
  10. A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, translated by Marie Borroff (finished December 28)
  11. A book of manga
  12. A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
  13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  14. A cozy mystery: Fatality in F by Alexia Gordon (finished June 28)
  15. A book of mythology or folklore: Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson (finished January 27)
  16. An historical romance by an AOC: An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (finished January 9)
  17. A business book
  18. A novel by a trans or nonbinary author: Hurricane Child by K. Callender
  19. A book of nonviolent true crime
  20. A book written in prison
  21. A comic by an LGBTQIA creator: Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe (finished December 18)
  22. A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009: Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora (finished February 13)
  23. A self-published book
  24. A collection of poetry published since 2014: Wait for Me: The Irritations and Consolations of a Long Marriage by Judith Viorst (finished December 18)

Reading Women (Reading Women podcast)
Goal: 24 Books
Result: 9 (37.5%)

  1. A mystery or thriller written by a woman of color: Fatality in F by Alexia Gordon (finished June 28)
  2. A book about a woman with a mental illness
  3. A book by an author from Nigeria or New Zealand
  4. A book about or set in Appalachia
  5. A children’s book: Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (finished February 11)
  6. A multigenerational family saga
  7. A book featuring a woman in science
  8. A play
  9. A novella
  10. A book about a woman athlete
  11. A book featuring a religion other than your own
  12. A Lambda Literary Award winner
  13. A myth retelling: Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson (finished January 27)
  14. A translated book published before 1945
  15. A book written by a South Asian author
  16. A book by an Indigenous woman: We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (finished March 8)
  17. A book from the 2018 Reading Women Award shortlist
  18. A romance or love story: An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole (finished January 9)
  19. A book about nature
  20. A historical fiction book: The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (finished January 19)
  21. A book you bought or borrowed in 2019: A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard (finished February 4)
  22. A book you picked up because of the cover
  23. Any book from a series: By Book or by Crook by Eva Gates (finished May 24)
  24. A young adult book by a woman of color: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo (finished January 2)
  25. BONUS: A book by Jesmyn Ward
  26. BONUS: A book by Jhumpa Lahiri

Official TBR Pile Challenge (Roof Beam Reader)
Goal: 12 (pre-selected) books
Result: 1, but I didn’t post about it. Whoops.

Did I perhaps overcommit myself on challenges for 2019?

Mmmmm, possibly.

Am I going to let that stop me from signing up for more challenges in 2020?

Of course not. But more on that another time.

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in January

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Time again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month.

1. Westering Women by Sandra Dallas
January 7, 2020

It’s February 1852, and all around Chicago Maggie sees the postings soliciting “eligible women” to travel to the gold mines of Goosetown. A young seamstress with a small daughter and several painful secrets, she has nothing to lose.

So she joins forty-three other women and two pious reverends on the dangerous 2,000-mile journey west. None of them are prepared for the hardships they face on the trek through the high plains, mountains, and deserts. Or for the triumphs of finding strengths they did not know they possessed. And not all will make it.

2. There’s A Murder Afoot (Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #5) by Vicki Delany
January 7, 2020

The 6th of January is Sherlock Holmes’s birthday, and lucky for Gemma Doyle, January is also the slowest time of the year at both the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, and Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. It’s a good time for Gemma and her friends to travel to England for a Holmes Convention. For Gemma, the trip provides an opportunity to visit her parents, Jayne Wilson is excited about seeing all the sites London has to offer, and Ryan Ashburton just wants to spend some time with Gemma. But the trip is immediately derailed when Gemma’s father Henry recognizes his brother-in-law Randolph Manning, who disappeared more than thirty years ago on the night he stole a valuable painting from his own parents.

3. You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy
January 7, 2020

In this always illuminating and often humorous deep dive, Murphy explains why we’re not listening, what it’s doing to us, and how we can reverse the trend. She makes accessible the psychology, neuroscience, and sociology of listening while also introducing us to some of the best listeners out there (including a CIA agent, focus group moderator, bartender, radio producer, and top furniture salesman). It’s time to stop talking and start listening.

4. A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano Young
January 7, 2020

In a slightly fantastical New York City, one very special library branch has been designated for possible closure. Bookish, socially awkward Pearl, the daughter of the librarian, can’t imagine a world without the library—its books, its community of oddballs, its hominess. When the head of their Edna St. Vincent Millay statue goes missing, closure is closer than ever. But Pearl is determined to save the library. And with a ragtag neighborhood library crew—including a constantly tap-dancing girl who might just be her first friend, an older boy she has a crush on, and a pack of raccoons who can read and write—she just might be able to.

5. Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore
January 14, 2020

Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves.

Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.

6. Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
January 14, 2020

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her.

7. The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3) by Maureen Johnson
January 21, 2020

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

8. The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine by Donna Jackson Nakazawa
January 21, 2020

Proving once and for all the biological basis for the mind-body connection, the discovery of the true role of microglia stands to rewrite psychiatric and medical texts as we know them. Hailed as “riveting,” “stunning,” and “visionary,” The Angel and the Assassin offers us a radically reconceived picture of human health and promises to change everything we thought we knew about how to heal ourselves.

9. The Self-Help Compulsion: Searching for Advice in Modern Literature by Beth Blum January 28, 2020

Samuel Beckett as a guru for business executives? James Joyce as a guide to living a good life? The notion of notoriously experimental authors sharing a shelf with self-help books might seem far-fetched, yet a hidden history of rivalry, influence, and imitation links these two worlds. In The Self-Help Compulsion, Beth Blum reveals the profound entanglement of modern literature and commercial advice from the late nineteenth century to the present day.

10. Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life’s Fundamental Bond by Lydia Denworth January 28, 2020

With warmth and compassion, Denworth weaves together past and present, field biology and cutting-edge neuroscience, to show how our bodies and minds are designed to make friends, the process by which social bonds develop, and how a drive for friendship underpins human (and nonhuman) society. With its refreshingly optimistic vision of the evolution of human nature, this book puts friendship at the center of our lives.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My parents probably wanted a girl who would sit in the pews
wearing pretty florals and a soft smile.
They got combat boots and a mouth silent
until it’s sharp as an island machete

At 15, Xiomara Batista is having trouble figuring out where she fits among the roles everyone seems to want to cast her in. Her mother is a deeply devout Catholic who sacrificed her own dream of becoming a nun to marry and emigrate from the Dominican Republic, and she finds Xio’s questioning of the teachings of the church incomprehensible. Her twin brother, a gentle genius Xio has always protected and defended, is suddenly distancing himself from her. She’s just starting to notice a boy she might actually like, after years of unwanted attention from grown men on the block, and despite her parents’ rules against her dating at all.

Xio is jut on the edge of figuring out who she is and who she wants to be, what kind of life she wants to live, and what she wants to do. She’s asking difficult questions and realizing that, sometimes, the answers just aren’t there.

While that could describe many teens in many different situations, the book grounds itself in the experience of a young woman of color, and a first-generation American, in the early 21st century, caught between cultures and trying to grow into an adult without growing up too fast. Xio deals with casual racism and sexual harassment as everyday occurrences. When someone finally says to her, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” it’s a revelation.

When has anyone ever told me
I had the right to stop it all
without my knuckles, or my anger
with just some simple words.

The book is written as a novel in poems, reflecting both Xiomara’s development as a poet and Acevedo’s background as a noted slam poet herself. It’s probably really great on audio, and I possibly just don’t get slam poetry, but most of the poems didn’t come across to me as poems so much as prose cut into short phrases and surrounded by white space. Despite my issues with the form, though, this book is a powerful emotional experience and a great addition to contemporary YA literature.

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges: Read Harder Task 3: A Book by a Woman and/or Author of Color that Won a Literary Award in 2018 (National Book Award); Reading Women Task 24: A Young Adult Book by a Woman of Color

2018 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

It’s time to look back at those 2018 Reading Challenges and see how they went!

(Spoiler: They mostly did not go all that well.)

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018)
Goal: 24 books
Result: 8 books (33.3%) – I read a lot of library books this year!

  1. Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon
  2. Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes, #2) by Anthony Horowitz
  3. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  4. The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
  5. A Study In Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes edited by Joseph R.G. DeMarco
  6. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson
  7. Shadows Over Baker Street edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan
  8. Kindred Spirits: An Anthology of Gay and Lesbian Science Fiction Stories edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot

The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader
Goal: 12 books
Result: 4 books (33.3%)


  1. Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon – Reviewed: January 3
  2. The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson – Reviewed: October 17
  3. A Study In Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes edited by Joseph R.G. DeMarco – Reviewed: April 12
  4. Shadows Over Baker Street edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan – Reviewed: December 21


  1. The Time of Our Singing by Richard Powers
  2. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
  3. The Wand in the Word: Conversations with Writers of Fantasy edited by Leonard S. Marcus
  4. Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers by Carolyn See – I did start this one, but it was a DNF.
  5. The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table by Tracie McMillan – It turned out this was not actually on my shelves. Oops.
  6. Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices by Leonard S. Marcus – I started this, but then put it aside for so long I think I’m just going to start again.
  7. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould
  8. Weight: The Myth of Atlas and Heracles by Jeanette Winterson
  9. Shakespeare: The World as Stage by Bill Bryson (alternate)
  10. A Family of Readers: The Book Lover’s Guide to Children’s and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton and Martha V. Parravano (alternate)

Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves
Goal: Konigsburg (75+ points)

Result: 19 points (25%) – I got a bit sidetracked on this one.

  1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: 3 points (Newbery Winner, 1963)
  2. Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly: 3 points (Newbery Winner, 2018)
  3. Sounder by William Armstrong: 3 points (Newbery winner, 1970)
  4. Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2004)
  5. Grand Canyon by Jason Chin: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2018)
  6. A Different Pond by Bao Phi: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2018)
  7. Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper: 1 point (Caldecott Honor, 2018)
  8. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds: 2 points (Newbery Honor, 2018)
  9. Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: 2 points (Newbery Honor, 2018)
  10. Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell: 1 point (Caldecott winner, 2018)
  11. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: 1 point (Caldecott winner, 1963)

Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom
Goal: 12 books
Result: 3 books (25%)


  1. A Wrinkle in Time (1962) by Madeleine L’Engle
  2. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (1908) by L. Frank Baum
  3. Sounder (1969) by William Armstrong

Book Riot Read Harder 2018
Result: 21/24 (88%)

  1. A book published posthumously: Maurice by E.M. Forster
  2. A book of true crime: The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk Wallace Johnson
  3. A classic of genre fiction: The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
  4. A comic written and illustrated by the same person: Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa): Recipes for Love and Murder: A Tannie Maria Mystery by Sally Andrew
  6. A book about nature: Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded: August 27, 1883 by Simon Winchester
  7. A western: Holmes on the Range by Steve Hockensmith
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book One by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature:
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980: Sounder by William H. Armstrong
  12. A celebrity memoir: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection: Wild by Cheryl Strayed
  14. A book of social science: The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
  15. A one-sitting book: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’engle
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: A Study in Emerald, by Neil Gaiman, Rafael Albuquerque, Rafael Scavone, and Dave Stewart
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation: The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin, translated by Andrew Bromfield
  20. A book with a cover you hate: Kindred Spirits: An Anthology of Gay and Lesbian Science Fiction Stories edited by Jeffrey M. Elliot
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon
  22. An essay anthology:
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: Getting Old is Murder by Rita Lakin
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished):

Of all the challenges I signed up for, I did the best on Read Harder. I actually had books selected for the 3 tasks that were left unfinished, but I didn’t get to them soon enough. I am definitely in for Read Harder 2019, as well as a bunch of other challenges. The beginning of the year is always filled with so much promise, isn’t it?

Reading Challenges 2019

low angle photo of tower of books
Photo by Ajda Berzin on Unsplash

I’m still working on a 2018 Reading Challenge wrap-up, but I’m already looking forward to these new challenges. This year, I’ve created separated pages to keep track of most of the challenges, all linked up there in the menu bar.

Children’s Literature Challenges

Genre- and Period-Based Challenges

Expanding My Reading Horizons Challenges

  • Read Harder comes from the fab folks at Book Riot. Some of the 24 tasks are going to be more challenging than others, but I’ve got #14 covered.
  • The Reading Women challenge comes from the Reading Women podcast. It also has 24 tasks, and some of these will definitely be challenging.
  • The Official TBR Pile Challenge is hosted by Roof Beam Reader. I’ve already picked out my list of 12 books (plus 2 alternates). I completely forgot about the check-in posts in 2018: another thing to improve on in the new year!

Outside Category Challenges

  • Blogger Shame Challenge: Hosted at Herding Cats & Burning Soup, this is a challenge meant to nudge those of us who read advance review copies to actually, well, review the books. I’m hoping to improve my NetGalley feedback rating a lot.
  • Reading Challenge Addict Challenge: If you’ve made it this far down the list, you already know why I’ve signed up for this one. My goal is “On the Roof” (6-10 challenges entered and completed.
  • Classics Club: I’ve put this in “Outside Category” because it’s a multi-year challenge. I have a list of 50 books that I plan to read before the end of 2023.

How about you? Are you doing any of these challenges? Or different ones?

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in January

Time once again to add to the TBR, now with books publishing in 2019!

Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America edited by Ibi Zoboi (January 8)

Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.

Inventing Victoria by Tonya Bolden (January 8)

When Dorcas makes Essie an offer she can’t refuse, she becomes Victoria. Transformed by a fine wardrobe, a classic education, and the rules of etiquette, Victoria is soon welcomed in the upper echelons of black society in Washington, D. C. But when the life she desires is finally within her grasp, Victoria must decide how much of herself she is truly willing to surrender.

Once Ghosted, Twice Shy by Alyssa Cole (January 8)

While her boss the prince was busy wooing his betrothed, Likotsi had her own love affair after swiping right on a dating app. But her romance had ended in heartbreak, and now, back in NYC again, she’s determined to rediscover her joy—so of course she runs into the woman who broke her heart.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye (January 8)

Why was “Nobody” Alice James forced to escape Harlem? Why do the Paragon’s denizens live in fear–and what other sins are they hiding? Where did the orphaned child who went missing from the hotel, Davy Lee, come from in the first place? And, perhaps most important, why does Blossom DuBois seem to be at the very center of this tangled web?

A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard (January 8)

In these sixteen exquisite stories Kat Howard deftly weaves in and out of the countries of myth and hagiography to write the lives of women untold and unexplored.

The Longest Line on the Map: The United States, the Pan-American Highway, and the Quest to Link the Americas by Eric Rutkow (January 8)

It represents a dream of friendship, commerce, mobility, of the Americas united. Our collective imaginations have been forged along its path: Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the iconic Argentine revolutionary, traveled it northward in The Motorcycle Diaries; Jack Kerouac, the voice of the beat generation, followed it southward in On the Road. Many adventurers have journeyed the highway’s distance, but the road itself still remains shrouded in mystery. Why was it built? And why does it remain unfinished, with a sixty-mile long break, the famed Darien Gap, enduring between Panama and Colombia?

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro (January 15)

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history—the life she had lived—crumbled beneath her.

The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man’s Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America by Tommy Tomlinson (January 15)

Intimate and insightful, The Elephant in the Room is Tomlinson’s chronicle of meeting those people, taking the first steps towards health, and trying to understand how, as a nation, we got to this point. From buying a FitBit and setting an exercise goal to contemplating the Heart Attack Grill, America’s “capital of food porn,” and modifying his own diet, Tomlinson brings us along on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery that is a candid and sometimes brutal look at the everyday experience of being constantly aware of your size.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (January 22)

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

All the Lives We Ever Lived: Seeking Solace in Virginia Woolf by Katharine Smyth (January 22)

Smyth’s story moves between the New England of her childhood and Woolf’s Cornish shores and Bloomsbury squares, exploring universal questions about family, loss, and homecoming. Through her inventive, highly personal reading of To the Lighthouse, and her artful adaptation of its groundbreaking structure, Smyth guides us toward a new vision of Woolf’s most demanding and rewarding novel–and crafts an elegant reminder of literature’s ability to clarify and console.

Looking Ahead: 2019 Challenges

It’s getting to be that time of year. The time when we (I) look at our valiantly attempted reading challenges, shrug off the incompletes, and look ahead to a fresh new year with fresh new challenges. Finding them really couldn’t be easier, since Feed Your Fiction Addiction has already done the work and compiled a Master List of 2019 Reading Challenges.

low angle photo of tower of books
Photo by Ajda Berzin on Unsplash

I’m a big fan of list-based challenges (Read Harder, anyone?), so I’m intrigued by Around the World in 52 Books and the Reading Women Challenge.

The Victorian and Georgian Challenges would combine nicely with my personal Classics Club list. And I’m just tickled by having the option of a list or a BINGO card for the Victorian one. That’s a nice touch right there.

I love a cozy mystery, and both Craving for Cozies and Cruisin’ through the Cozies look like fun.

12 Children’s Classics is a book-club style challenge with a set sequence of books assigned to months. February is Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, which happens to be on my Classics Club list.

Speaking of children’s books, there are challenges for both middle grade and picture books hosted at Becky’s Book Reviews.

I may feel a tiny bit called out by the Blogger Shame Challenge. My NetGalley feedback rating says I should do this challenge.

And then there is the Reading Challenge Addict Challenge, wherein one takes a challenge to complete a number of challenges. Wonderfully meta!