This year I joined Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge to give me a bit more structure in my reading life. It helped me get through some reading slumps and I found some great books that I might not have otherwise read. It was a really fun challenge and I will definitely be participating again next year!
I finished the last book for the challenge in November, so here’s what I read!
A book you chose for the cover:
The Nightingale, by Kristen Hannah
The cover of this WWII novel is so striking, especially on the hardcover jacket, and it’s been recommended to me over and over again. I ended up listening to the audiobook and it was so, so good! For a couple weeks, it was all I could think about.
A book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able:
Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel
A story of ancient alien artifacts and the geopolitical race to figure out where the technology came from (and why), told in a series of mysterious interviews, was indeed un-put-down-able. Unfortunately as soon as it was over, it was also a bit forgettable… although I was eager to read the sequel, it went back to the library un-finished because too many other good books came along instead.
A book set somewhere you’ve never been but would like to visit:
In the Woods by Tana French
This murder mystery that takes place in Ireland fit the bill perfectly! It had just the right amount of atmosphere and small details that made it feel suitably Irish, although if I do get to visit some day I hope the grisly murder is not included! I loved most of this book, but the unresolved ending really bothered me. Fortunately, the sequel was much stronger, and I’d still put myself in the Tana French fan club.
A book you’ve already read:
84 Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
This book is nearly perfect, and when I was reminded of it while listening to Anne Bogel’s “What Should I Read Next?” podcast, I couldn’t resist plucking it from my shelves and indulging in a couple hours’ of reading after baby’s bedtime. This collection of (real!) letters from a writer in New York City to a used bookstore in England range over decades, cover swaths of literature, and give a tantalizingly brief peek into life in both post-War countries. It’s so short, but it’s funny and poignant and always leaves me nostalgic for a life I will never lead but wish I could in some alternate universe… is there a word for that feeling in some other language?
Here’s what I wrote about it in 2010, when I was still jotting down just a sentence or two in an actual physical diary:
Lovely, and nonfiction! Makes me want to research the sought-after books, and write letters, and read more of Hanff. Fun!
A juicy memoir:
You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
Every time I think I’ve grown tired of the female comedian memoir genre, I read another one and am reminded of how much I appreciate a good laugh. Comedians can usually write well, and actually have something to say, which is a plus!
This category is definitely in my comfort zone… I had a few other titles in mind, and I ended up reading all of them!
I listened to this on audiobook and it was a fascinating deep dive into the making of the first Oxford dictionary, and the compelling stories of two men involved: one, a prominent editor; the other, a prolific contributor who also happened to live in an insane asylum.
A book in a genre you usually avoid:
Love Letters, by Katie Fforde
I asked a friend who loves Romance to recommend a favorite, and this one was a lot of fun! It played out every book-lover’s fantasy of falling in love with a wild Irish writer, and it was full of bookish adventures.
A book you don’t want to admit you’re dying to read:
The Life-Changing Mana of Tidying Up: A Magical Story by Marie Kondo and illustrated by Yuko Yuramoto
I didn’t know what to expect from the manga spinoff of the iconic guidebook that launched a million “does it spark joy?” questions, but I was pleasantly surprised. The manga version was a really fun way to read a self-help type book, and now I get what all the fuss is about!
A book in the backlist of a new favorite author:
The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
By reading this pleasantly intriguing romance, I finally read all of Liane Moriarty’s backlist! What Alice Forgot is still my favorite, but it’s hard to go wrong with Moriarty. The characters and dialogue are always fun, and this one was no exception. Sometimes a tidy ending is just what you need.
A book recommended by someone with great taste:
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This series completely took me by surprise; the retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale was so much fun when you have a badass protagonist and hedonistic fairy warriors battling it out. The first book is so-so, but it sets the stage for an AMAZING second book, and the third book is on my TBR list… I’m just waiting for my library to wise up and put it on the shelves!
A book you were excited to buy or borrow but haven’t read yet:
The Magician’s Land, by Lev Grossman
The last book I read for this challenge!
A bit of backstory: I bought this book as soon as it came out, and brought it to the Southern Festival of Books in 2014 to be signed by the author. And yet… I never read it until nearly three years later. I have a problem finishing series, obviously! The first two books in the series helped me through dark times, but after recommending the first book to a couple people who didn’t care for it, I worried that maybe it wasn’t as good as I remembered and it was just my mindset at the time of reading that needed an escape.
But fortunately that’s not the case, and I still love Lev Grossman’s writing! I love the witty way he modernizes traditional fantasy tropes and I love Quentin Coldwater’s existential angst, and it just made me happy to revisit the world of Fillory one more time. It didn’t matter how much time had passed between books, and it feels fitting that I started the series in my early twenties, and finished the trilogy at the end of that decade, just like Quentin.
A book about a topic or subject you already love:
No Scrap Left Behind, by Amanda Jean Nyberg
I love Crazy Mom Quilts’s blog, so I treated myself to her second book for my birthday, and it didn’t disappoint! I love her scrappy, happy style that fuses modern and traditional quilting.
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