Reading Challenge 2017 – What books did you read this year?

It is the love of books that made me want to write one of my own. While it’s true that I don’t have the time to read as much as I used to –and mostly because of writing and its associated tasks– I still enjoy spending my free time with a good book. Each year for the past several, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge in which I set a goal of reading from a list of books within the year. My goal was to read 20 books in 2017 –a modest amount for a woman who used to read a book a week before becoming an author herself!

I am happy to say that I surpassed my goal and read 25 books! Here is my list:

  1. W.B. Yeats and the Muses – Joseph M. Hassett
  2. A Farewell To Arms – Ernest Hemingway
  3. Too Loud a Solitude – Bohumil Hrabal
  4. Loving – Henry Green
  5. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  6. Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman
  7. Heartbreak Hotel – Jonathan Kellerman
  8. Princess Margaret, A Biography – Theo Aronson
  9. The Complete Works of William Blake
  10. Pills – Jack Binding
  11. Camino Island – John Grisham
  12. Storm Of Steel – Ernst Junger
  13. X – Sue Grafton
  14. The Whistler – John Grisham
  15. Regeneration – Pat Barker
  16. Crowned and Dangerous – Rhys Bowen
  17. Speaking In Bones – Kathy Reichs
  18. The Obsession – Nora Roberts
  19. Time To Lie – Phil Taylor
  20. The Human Factor – Graham Greene
  21. Batman and Psychology – A Dark and Stormy Knight
  22. Black Chalk – Christopher J. Yates
  23. Don Quixote – Miguel Cervantes
  24. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  25. Bistro – Roger Moore

As you can see from the list, I don’t only read novels. The list includes two collections of short stories, two biographies, two non fiction books and a collection of poetry. Choosing a favorite from this group is difficult. Comparing books of different genres is like comparing apples to oranges, but I’ll share some of the standouts in the list, for better or worse.

I was fascinated to read the perspective of a German officer during World War One in Storm of Steel. My research on the Great War had been, with the exception of All Quiet On the Western Front, written from the standpoints of Belgium, France, Britain and the rest of their allies. Ernst Junger presents an enthusiastic (without being unrealistic) narration of his experiences as a soldier in the German Army. This is a marked contrast to the reluctant soldier (a character with whom we highly sympathize) in Erich Remarque’s All Quiet On the Western Front.

Watching season one of The Crown on Netflix made me curious about the romance between Group Captain Townsend and the Princess Margaret. Her biography was intriguing and sad. The book paints a story of a woman who embraced her royal status as much as she rebelled against conformity –quite the tale of two women. The thwarted love affair with Townsend is especially interesting and ironic considering the latest “Meg” to join the royal family is divorced, American and of mixed race. My, how times have changed! (For the better, at least in these kinds of situations.)

Black Chalk was the standout favorite of all the novels on the list. It is a psychological thriller with an unreliable narrator telling the story of a group of friends who begin a game in college which has consequences that grow ever more serious as time goes by –even to the extent of ruining lives. It was awesomely chilling!

And the biggest disappointment of the group was The Bell Jar. This is one of those books that I was ashamed to admit I had never read. Well, I finally crossed it off my to-do list but I can’t say I’m any more enriched for the experience. And I know many of you will say ‘what is wrong with you?’ when I tell you this but I was bored with the story. Bored and worn out with all the similes. The curtains didn’t just flutter in the breeze, they fluttered like the wings of half dead moths (or some such thing). Descriptions like that were stacked one top of another and it got tiresome. I also kept wondering what I was missing. This is supposed to be a life-changing book. I didn’t get it.

The previous year (2016), I failed my reading challenge thanks to an overly aggressive writing and blogging schedule and I realized I didn’t like the fact that I wasn’t taking in as many stories as I was putting out. I strongly believe that a good writer must be an avid reader. That means something different to everyone, as we all have busy lives. Most of us are carving out time from our ‘day’ jobs and our family and friends to make time for writing. How does one find the time to read as well?

My reading time is divided two ways: I read a little before bed every night and I listen to an audiobook while I exercise (nearly) every day. I may read research material for a project I’m working on as well. In 2018, I’m setting my goal at 25 books and we shall see if I can manage it with my writing goals for this year. Here’s what I have on my list, what’s on yours?

  1. Cannery Row – John Steinbeck
  2. The Catcher In the Rye – JD Salinger
  3. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  4. The Man In the High Castle – Philip K. Dick
  5. The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way – Bill Bryson
  6. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance Of Horror
  7. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – Raymond Carver
  8. The Quiet American – Graham Greene
  9. Siegfried Sassoon: Soldier, Poet, Lover, Friend – Jean Moorecroft Wilson
  10. Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
  11. The Obituary Writer – Ann Hood
  12. Madame Bovary – Gustav Flaubert
  13. Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty
  14. Y – Sue Grafton
  15. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote
  16. The Pearl That Broke Its Shell – Nadia Hashimi
  17. The Art Forger – B.A. Shapiro
  18. Testimony – Scott Turow
  19. The Complete Works Of Percy Bysshe Shelly
  20. Into the Water – Paula Hawkins
  21. The Breakdown – B.A. Paris
  22. Ghostwriter – Alessandra Torre
  23. Moonglow – Michael Chabon
  24. Party Going – Henry Green
  25. Artemis – Andy Weir

And if you want to read any of my books, The Bucks County Novels, you can find all four (soon to be five) on Amazon. For a preview, visit The Bucks County Novels page on my blog.

35 thoughts on “Reading Challenge 2017 – What books did you read this year?

    1. I missed a lot of the classics in school as well, so I’m working my way through some of them now. I’ve been pleased with most of my choices so far. Let me know when you read The Catcher In the Rye and we can compare notes!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I saw that! And I was slightly jealous! Lol! That kind of snow is a nightmare when you have to travel in it. But if you’ve no place to go… let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! ❄️❄️❄️

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll have to check that out. It was definitely a unique story with a very unique ‘voice’ – you weren’t sure if the narrator was alone in telling the story or if his account was being altered! I really liked it!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You are obviously trying to shame me and it’s working. I mostly read indie books either sent to me or purchased. I recently read Journal of Lost Lovers by SK Nicholas, I give it top ratings. My last attempt to sit down and get into Coopers Trilogy was several months ago. I read part of the Deer Slayer. A fabulous work of art. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Meg.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, I love finding new authors and especially supporting indie authors. My husband almost exclusively reads indie now with some fantastic finds. I will add those titles to my list! Thanks Holly! Best wishes to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My list would be totally laughed at. I’ve not read most of the “classics”… and I have no interest. You’re list is too fancy for me! LOL I like a little mystery sometimes, but I’m all about love and romance. If it doesn’t have that, I don’t care about it. I know that’s closed-minded but that’s how I feel. Oh… and if I get bored? Back to the library it goes! I won’t even read it. I’ve read none of the books on either of your lists!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cool thing about a ‘good’ book is that it means something different to every single person. Last year H and joined some friends in a book club and we eventually had to bail because we never liked the books everyone was picking to read. And nobody would vote for our suggestions. I’m not wasting my time on a book I can’t stand. I plodded through The Bell Jar in the hopes that it would get better! But meh… 😝

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are certainly more into literature than I am. I fell a little short of my 2017 goal of 80 (77), which I had set that high because I had exceeded my goal in 2016. Thus my list is seriously too long to post here. I tend more towards romantic suspense or Christian suspense, but I actually read some historical fiction this year by Lisa Wingate (Before We Were Yours) and Jamie Ford (Songs of Willow Frost & Love and Other Consolation Prizes).

    I read “The Bell Jar” the first time more than 30 years ago. It left an impression on me then, but after re-reading it this year I cannot fathom why. Weak writing, no solid storyline, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah so I’m not the only one! Thanks Barb! Wow even 77 is an amazing achievement! That’s wonderful! I love historical fiction so I’ll be sure to check those titles out. Thanks for the suggestions! 🙏


      1. I think you will particularly enjoy “Before We Were Yours”. I had the distinct pleasure of being a beta reader and have been thrilled to see it climbing the bestseller lists, even in foreign countries. It was also the winner in the Historical Fiction category for book of the year on Goodreads.

        Liked by 1 person

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