Like many readers, each year I try to improve on the year before – mostly on the quality of books, i.e. how much do I enjoy the books I read, but also with regards to pushing myself out of my comfort zones. We all have them, so it is good to try and stretch ourselves a little. The Reading Women Challenge is like a good helper along the way, that is, if you are using it that way. Sadly this last year, I did not check in with the challenge, so all the books listed below will have happened accidentally.
I decided to write this post, to check on all these happy little accidents and tick off the challenges, that I did complete. My guess is that I did about 50%, so let’s check if this assumption is right.
All books read for this challenge must be by or about women.
A mystery or thriller written by a woman of colour I did it. In fact many times over. Most notable mentions for this section are:
The Good Son by Jeong You-Jeong, translated from the Korean by Kim Chi-Young.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated from the Japanese by Stephen Snyder
The Art of Theft (Book 4 in the Lady Sherlock Series) by Sherry Thomas
I loved all three of them for very different reasons. Jeong’s book is essentially the coming of age tale of a psychopath, absolutely loved this one. The Memory Police is a dystopian novel with a very poetic feel. The Art of Theft is the fourth book in a series exploring: what if Sherlock Holmes was in fact a woman posing as a man.
2. A book about a woman with a mental illness
The Deutsche Buchpreis Longlisted title by Austrian author Angela Lehner was just perfect for this prompt, but it was a total accidental pick. I adored this book and it was my favourite from the Deutsche Buchpreis Longlist this year.
3. A book by an author from Nigeria or New Zealand
Big Fail on this one, despite having read three African women this year…
4. A book about or set in Appalachia
Also a big no.
5. A children’s book
A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. I read this prize winner by fluke, my obsession with Korea led me down a rabbit hole where I came across this book. I thought it was ok, a tiny bit patronizing with regards to its message.
6. A multigenerational family saga
I wonder just how many Korean/Asian authors will make this list. Erm, this obsession of mine is real and all engrossing. I finally read Pachinko by Min Jin Lee this year, I liked it but I think my expectations were way too high.
7. A book featuring a woman in science
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell is such a beloved book by many, but for me, it was just a bit meh. Still, I think it can count for this prompt. Just. Well, maybe a bit of a stretch. Oh well, life is hardly ever perfect
8. A play
Nothing. I really don’t like reading them that much, so this was never going to happen.
9. A novella
I am not much of a romance reader, but dipped my toe in with this novella by Alyssa Cole “Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight”. Was a fun, quick read.
10. A book about a woman athlete
11. A book featuring a religion other than your own
This Green and Pleasant Land by Ayisha Malik was a great book for me about a Muslim family who moved to rural England and the possible building of a Mosque. I definitely will read more by Ayisha Malik.
12. A Lambda Literary Award winner
also a no.
13. A myth retelling
Nope, starting to worry I may not make 50%.
14. A translated book published before 1945
Read this for the Read Around the World Bookclub, Carmen Laforet’s Nada was published in 1944 in Spain. One of the most haunting books I read this year.
15. A book written by a South Asian author
Oh, I do feel like I am a tad cheating with this one. The Widows of Malabar is a mystery set in 1920ies India written by Sujata Massay who has Indian heritage. Does that count? I shall count it because I have read nothing else by a female South Asian author… which is amazing really considering that there is usually at least one, after all, it’s one of the biggest publishing markets in the world.
16. A book by an Indigenous woman
The Read Around the World Bookclub is saving my bacon or rather tofu rasher… I enjoyed Monkey Beach a lot, our Canadian pick written by Eden Robinson. Eden Robinson is a member of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations.
17. A book from the 2018 Reading Women Award shortlist
Looks blankly into space…
18. A romance or love story
Strictly speaking, A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn is a mystery, but let me tell you, I am here for the slow-burn romance between two characters in the book. I cannot wait for the next book in the series. If I feel sad, stressed, worried about the state of the world, nothing, absolutely NOTHING can pick me up and entertain me like Raybourn’s books.
19. A book about nature
There have been many, but the most notable for me has been probably Jessica J. Lee’s Two Trees make a Forest. Lee tracks her family’s heritage and connection with Taiwan and has written almost a love story with the place whilst at the same time pondering about belonging, language, family relationships. Definitely, would make my personal Top 10 if I did such a thing.
20. A historical fiction book
Now, I read a lot of historical fiction, but of all the ones I read, really only these two stood out for me for different reasons.
Remembered by Yvonne Battle-Felton was an absolutely brilliant novel and in my humble opinion should have won the Women’s or at least be shortlisted. Set in 1910 in Philadelphia, it follows the events after a Black man drove a streetcar into a shop front. The story unravels both in the present and the past. Haunting and absolutely beautifully written.
Wolf by Marie Brunnthaler is only available in German at present (if you know any English publishers, tell them to pick it up). Set in the 1820ies in the Black Forest, it’s a dark grim tale of passion and revenge. Loved it.
21. A book you bought or borrowed in 2019
Euny Hong’s Korean Cool was the first of a long series of books about Korea, by Korean authors etc, I bought this autumn. Obsession is my middle name.
22. A book you picked up because of the cover
I requested this book from Netgalley and 100% it was because of the title and the cover. Warriors, Witches, Women by Kate Hodges is not coming out until February 2020 but I loved it. Not least because unlike so many books like this, she does not just focus on the Celtic and Greek Goddesses.
23. Any book from a series
Anna Lee Huber is another one of those authors for me, that I turn to when I just want a bit of a comfort read, something that lets me forget whatever is irking me in my real life. I adore both her Verity Kent series as well as her Lady Darby mysteries. They are more serious in tone than the Speedwell series mentioned further up, but that does take nothing away from their entertainment value.
24. A young adult book by a woman of colour
Sadly none. Tempted to use one of the many books my daughter read, but that really would be cheating.
So, how did I do? Actually, not that bad at all if you consider that I did this without a plan and without tracking my progress: 16 out of 24 books, that is 66% or 2/3 of the challenge.
Check in to my YouTube channel later this week, where I will be posting a recommendations video for the 2020 challenge.