My 2019 reading challenge

A few days ago, after 10 months of reading 50 books totalling almost 17,000 pages, I wrapped up the 2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

If you’re curious about the full list of books I read for this challenge, here’s my list. Otherwise, here are the highlights.

Best 5 books I found through the challenge

  1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I sobbed at multiple points. Full on, gasping for breath, sobbing. It hit me HARD and I loved every second of it.
  2. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. It’s fair to say that she is the author of the year for me. I felt for these characters so much, and it also had some of the best holy crap moments of any book I’ve ever read.
  3. Circe by Madeline Miller. The writing is so unique and interesting, and Circe is such a low key badass. Also, Poseidon! I can’t wait to read more of her work.
  4. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. I love a good depressing family novel, and this one delivered. Every single character was heartbreaking in their own way.
  5. Educated by Tara Westover. This book, perhaps more than any other book I’ve read, forced me to realize how lucky I am to have been raised by a decent family and given a decent education. The sheer insanity of her upbringing…wow.

Takeaway: my top 5 books from the year were all by female authors, and they all centered around families. I found that pretty interesting. Apparently family dramas, especially as written by female authors, is a genre that I really enjoy (or maybe I got lucky with those books).

Worst 5 books I found through the challenge

I didn’t hate anything I read this year, but there were a few that stand out as “not great.”

  1. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. I think this genre isn’t for me. Lots of people loved it, but I was bored from start to finish.
  2. Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse. Badly written, whiny, overly gross for the sake of being gross, and dumb. Felt like what a dark 16 year old with some writing skill would come up with.
  3. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson. I kept waiting for something interesting to happen, and I stayed hopeful right up until the end when it stopped at a cliffhanger to get you to read the next book in the series. Nope!
  4. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. This book took me much longer to get through than any other book in the challenge. I spent like a full month trying to read it. I couldn’t find the motivation to keep going on it. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what was wrong with it, but I couldn’t make myself care about it.
  5. Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. Just a little too out there for my taste, I think. It was somewhat interesting but mostly bizarre, and a bit too short to really get invested in.

Takeaway: I don’t see much in common among these books. There’s some fantasty, sci-fi, young adult, post-apocalyptic, romance, and satire in there. I dislike stuff that feels badly written or boring, regardless of genre, I suppose.

Overall thoughts

I don’t think I’ll do this challenge again for one specific reason: it doesn’t push me outside of my comfort zone. I like reading challenges that force me to read some stuff that I would never otherwise consider reading (different formats, books from totally different time periods, fiction vs. nonfiction, etc.). This one doesn’t do that. You could complete almost the entire challenge by only reading recently written novels if you wanted to.

I think for 2020 I’ll go back to something like the Book Riot “Read Harder” challenge which does a better job of challenging you to read different types of books. I did that one last year and loved it, but it’s a good bit shorter than PopSugar’s so I finished it before the year was half over, which was sad. But at least it’s an actual challenge.

If you want to see the full list of books I read, here you go.