Annual Reading Challenge

I am  just wrapping up our family’s 2017 reading challenge. We agreed on 12 different categories that were intended to encourage us to broaden our choice of reading materials. I should say that when I say I “read” a book, it usually means I listened to a book on Audible.
Skip to the end for our 2018 Challenge. Use ours or make your own. A tip of the hat to the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog for inspiring us to make a list.

2017 Reading Challenge

A book you chose based on the cover

It probably gives little away to say that the heroine of The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die wakes up in a shack with no memory of who she is and how she got there. She narrowly avoids death in the first chapter of the book. She then struggles to regain her memory and figure out why people are trying to kill her.
A book “everyone” else has read

I head not heard of The Woman in Cabin 10 but it is another mystery. This one is set on a small cruise ship. I read this book on my Mediterranean cruise this Summer. It seemed like perfect cruise ship fodder.
A book in a genre you don’t normally read

It may seem like cheating to see another crime novel in this category but The Crime Writer was one of the first books I read this year and did get me a bit hooked on the genre, but the idea of the challenge was exactly that.
A book about books or reading

This was a harder category to choose a book. I read a book about the creation of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Professor and the Madman chronicles two of the people behind it: one of the editors of the momentous tome and one of its biggest contributors… who wrote from a lunatic asylum. This was not my favorite book of the challenge. Suffice it to say, you are not left wondering of the man in the asylum was really crazy by the end of the book when he, how shall I say it , ties up loose ends.
A book you should have read in school

I have not read Dickens since high school but David Copperfield was not one of his works I read at that time. I quite enjoyed it and I think Charles Dickens might have a future in this whole author business.
A book recommended by someone with great taste

I had previously quite enjoyed The Rosie Project recommended to me by college friend Kathy Murphy. I took Kathy’s advice and read The Alchemy of Air about the German chemical industry and the invention of a method to turn the nitrogen in the atmosphere into fertilizer. I did not realize that people were predicting world wide famine before it was invented when wars were fought over large natural deposits of fertilizer like bat guano.
A book on a topic you know nothing about

I knew little about apartheid before reading Trevor Noah’s fascinating autobiography about growing up as a kid of mixed race in South Africa. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood will make you laugh out loud at times but will also make you angry at other times (not at the author but at the system).
A book that was banned at some point

This was one of the harder categories for me. It does turn out that a lot of books have been banned over time. I chose The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck because I had read little of his work and he and I both grew up in Salinas, California. The book was protested and banned when it came out in 1939 as being communist among other things. This is my final book so I am still in progress, but I fell in love with Steinbeck’s lyrical prose from the first chapter.
A book that was published in 2017

For a book that was recently published I read Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by the now ex-senator Al Franken. In light of his resignation in disgrace, I don’t know how many people will be picking up this book, but it was a good read.
A book you previously abandoned

This was one of the most difficult categories for me. Usually when I abandon a book it is because I am not enjoying it. I kept thinking I should finish the book Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla: Biography of a Genius but that book needed a better editor. Seriously, he was an interesting person but it is a ponderous book. If you want a book on inventors read David McCullough’s great book The Wright Brothers instead.
Instead I finally remembered I had not finished Tim Leffel’s Travel Writing 2.0 (Second Edition): Earning Money From Your Travels in the New Media Landscape. That one I was glad to finish.
A book that intimidates you

Even a history buff like me can be intimidated by a book with the scope of The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade. I quite enjoyed this book which told in parallel the history not just of medieval Europe that I was familiar with but also places I did not know like India, China, Japan and Korea.
A book originally written in a different language

The Red Sphinx: Or, The Comte de Moret; A Sequel to The Three Musketeers is yet another book by Alexandre Dumas. While it is OK, I would not say it is the best work by the author. Re-read The Three Musketeers or The Count of Monte Cristo instead. Part of the problem is that while sold as a sequel to the Three Musketeers, they are not mentioned in the book.

2018 Reading Challenge


  • a book you chose based on the cover
  • a book “everyone” else has read
  • a book in a genre you don’t normally read
  • a book you should have read in school
  • a book recommended by someone you respect
  • a book published in 2018
  • a book you previously abandoned or that intimidates you
  • a book originally written in a language other than English
  • an award-winning book from an author you have not read
  • a book that is a memoir or biography
  • a classic you have been meaning to read
  • a book that has been made into a movie / TV show

Author: chris2x

One man's view of life in Silicon Valley from Chris Christensen - a podcaster, blogger, programmer, entrepreneur


  1. Thanks for the mention Chris. Glad mine wasn’t too ponderous to finish!
    My one I should have read in school was Heart of Darkness, but I also read Old Man and the Sea a second time. My Book About Books was Bird to Bird. Book “everyone” else has read was Shantaram. (It also intimidated me because it was so thick.) Award winner was The Orphan Master’s Son, which is still in process. Have to think on the others…

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