#reverb13: reading challenge

Challenge: Did you take on a new challenge?  What was it?  Is there a challenge you deliberately avoided?  What do you want to do to challenge yourself in 2014?

I set a goal to read 50 books this year. As of now, I've read 32 so it seems unlikely that I will read 18 books this month to achieve that goal, but I've certainly read more than I expected to and have enjoyed the challenge of reading as much as possible. 

I will repeat this challenge in 2014, though I may lower the number to something more achievable like 35 books. 

Some of the best books I read this year and would highly recommend include:

The Hundred Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson ,  is a delightfully funny novel about a man who escapes the old folks' home in which he lives on his 100th birthday. The novel is about Allan Karllson's life and is well thought out and clever, and not at all sentimental look at one's life. Beyond Karllson, the other characters are vibrant and rich, and full of interesting stories of their own. I've been recommending this book to everyone I know, and if you're looking for something to read over Christmas, I think you'd find yourself entertained. 

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, is quite possibly one of the best books I read all year. It would be a disservice to classify this as simply a coming of age story, though there are certainly those elements present. It is so much more than that, more than a love story, it is a sensitive, powerful story of growing up, of loss and grief and family. I particularly thought the relationship between the sisters was compelling and authentic. Once I started reading this, I couldn't put it down. 

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I finished this book in 2 days because I wanted to know what happened to the heartbroken and heartbreaking girl, Victoria. Seeing such a true portrayal of someone who desperately wants to believe in love and be loved but who feels unworthy of such emotion was staggering. There's so much in this story that contributes to the emotional pull of the narrative. Ultimately, this is a story of how we help, hurt and love one another. It is about relationships and the things we carry into and out of them. 

The Round House by Louise Erdrich. I understand why this novel won the National Book Award in 2012. Much like a detective story, we search along with 13 year-old Joe and his father, a tribal judge, for the person responsible for an unthinkable act of violence, the rape of Joe's mother. Like Joe, we need answers: where, why, who? The where becomes central to the story as there are legal challenges over jurisdiction, depending on where the rape occurs. As Joe gets swept into the investigation, and his own quest for justice, the novel reminded me at times of the film "Stand by Me" based on Stephen King's short story, "The Body". 

Joe is surrounded by his friends, Cappy, Zack and Angus as well as several hilarious family members. As much as the story is about what makes people violent and the unraveling an act of violence can do to lives, families, it is also about boyhood and friendship, about pushing the boundaries of your sense of morality, of justice. There are no easy answers, and the uncertainty of adolescence acts as both a metaphor and a backdrop about the difficult questions, emotions and politics we face in life. 

I also really enjoyed Hemingway's Girl by Erica Robuck and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

What should I put on my to read list for 2014? I really want to read Donna Tartt's novel Goldfinch, but what else? 


Here are some of the other books I've read in 2013.