Reading Wrapup | Challenges, Hauls, & Plans

I have missed not one, but two of this month’s posts so far. Which is not a good track record. But to make up for it, I’m doing the one blog post I have never gotten around to doing: a reading wrap-up. Finally.

no. 1: 2020 Reading Challenges

For 2020, I cut down sharply on my reading challenges, so I could actually focus on enjoying what I read instead of just scrambling for whatever would fit the remaining items on my spreadsheets. I’m only doing four (4) this year: my only 52-item and my longest-running challenge, the Popsugar challenge; my other standby, the 24-item Read Harder challenge; my current favorite monthly, Girl XOXO’s Monthly Motif; and the 6-item challenge What’s In A Name, currently hosted at Carolina Book Nook. In years past, I did multiple 52-item and 24-item challenges a year, and only occasionally allowed overlap, so [John Mulaney voice] you can imagine the kind of stress I was under. Last year in particular, my reading enthusiasm suffered – I didn’t get to read a lot of the books I wanted to, especially 2019 releases, because I had to finish my challenges (I finished them all, btw). This year, I’m allowing overlap on everything (except for using the same book multiple times in the same challenge), because there’s no such thing as the Reading Challenge Cops.


As of today, I have 19 challenges planned out, most of them from my own TBR, which is good because my TBR monopolizes a whole lot of desk space. I have to rent/buy one of them (River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey) and one of them I checked out from Hoopla as an audiobook (the excellent The Radium Girls by Kate Moore). The others from my TBR include paperbacks such as The Forest Lord by Susan Krinard (a title that caught my attention), classics such as I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (a bildungsroman) and The Golden Bough by James Frazer (title with “gold”/“silver”/“bronze” in it), and YA such as The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold (title with 20+ letters) and Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman (a western). 

I’ve finished six (6) of my Popsugar book challenges so far, which means I’m well ahead of the book-a-week pacing (even though I’m behind in my Goodreads challenge already, cry). That’s what I love about the first few months of the year – your challenge spreadsheets are so empty, anything you read can probably fit in there somewhere. I had Ella Minnow Pea on my TBR and just wanted to read it, and it ended up filling a spot anyway (a book that passes the Bechdel test). 

Read Harder

Where I’m ahead of the game re: Popsugar, I’m falling a little behind with Read Harder, which is usually the case. I only have five books planned for this one so far, and most of those are subject to change. But, like I said, that’s the joy of the first three months of the year: you can find books to fit just about any challenge almost by accident, before April comes crashing in Koolaid Man-style.

For January, my plan was for two of the easiest items: a graphic memoir and a poetry audiobook. The poetry was going to be rough no matter what, since I’m bad with audiobooks in general; with poetry, where I usually need to read the stanzas a few times to get what’s being said on even the most basic of levels, it was bound to be a disaster. This week I finished Leonard Cohen’s Book Of Mercy, and though I probably didn’t do Cohen justice, I did mostly enjoy it – except when I was spacing out, through no fault of the author’s. I’m also going to read two graphic memoirs: Belonging by Nora Krug, and They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, and Steven Scott. 

Meanwhile, I’m currently reading The Borden Murders by Sara Miller (YA nonfiction); I recently received Nectar From a Stone by Jane Guill (his-fic not set in WWII); and I just started listening to Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, which I believe should fit the slot for “mystery without a female victim,” though I’m not sure yet. It just occurred to me, too, that I bought Victuals by Ronni Lundy a while back, which could possibly fulfill the “book about an untried cuisine” challenge.

Monthly Motif & What’s In A Name

Monthly Motif: I almost never plan ahead for monthly challenges, but I might want to start, because January’s theme, “Winter Wonderland,” is kicking my butt. I’m still not sure what I’m going to read for it. The idea is broad – read a book set somewhere with a fascinating culture or a beautiful world – but that’s where the problem lies. I thought I might fulfill it with N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, but since that’s a reread, I’m not sure if I’ll let it count. If it takes us back to the Moors, Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (possibly my most hyped book release of 2020, which makes the rest of this year look pretty disappointing) might fit. We’ll see; I still have a week.

What’s In A Name: Again, since I only have to read a qualifying book every two months to win this challenge by the end of the year, I’m not worried about planning ahead, and am happy to play it by ear for now. Fortunately, I’ve already filled in the January/February slot: for a book with a first name in it, The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóíbin. 

no. 2: Book Hauls

After the OYAN Winter Workshop, I took the usual detours to visit my favorite bookstores between here and Kansas.

The Raven, Lawrence, KS: The Raven has two bookstore cats. Enough said. Except, not, because at the Raven, I bought Trilogy by H.D. I’ve only read a few snippets of H.D.’s poetry, so I’m excited to have three whole collections to peruse.

The Dusty Bookshelf, Lawrence, KS: I really love Lawrence, and not just because their downtown is adorable and incredibly accessible, as far as downtowns go. The Dusty Bookshelf has an excellent bookstore cat (I love you, Dinah!), and it also has many good used books. I bought… a lot, so here’s a list:

  • Paperback SFF: Galaxy Jane by Ron Goulart, Wild Blood by Anne Logston, and Magic’s Price by Mercedes Lackey
  • Poetry: The First Four Books of Poems by Louise Glück, Death By Holograms by Chance Dibben, and Stars of the Night Commute by Ana Božičević. 
  • Fiction: Holy Fools by Joanne Harris, Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes (finally, I own a copy!), and The Restaurant At the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams (I already had a copy but I like old Hitchhiker’s Guide paperbacks so it’s fine). 

Barnes & Noble, Springfield, MO: Listen, I’m not proud of stopping at a B&N on my ‘sort-of annual visit cool bookstores’ tour, but they were the only store that had a copy of The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards, which was one of my most hyped releases of 2019 that I didn’t get around to reading (triple cry). It was absolutely worth it; I finished Hanged Man on Thursday and I loved it just as much, if not more, as The Last Sun.

WordsWorth, Little Rock, AR: WordsWorth is great. Go visit it if you’re ever in the area. It was our last stop, but certainly not the least: I got The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, which will be my first Le Guin book after I got bored of Wizard of Earthsea when I was in highschool and never touched her work again, and I finally got my own copy of Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which was my favorite 2019 release and possibly my most enjoyable read of 2019, period.

And, of course, after we got home, I had to get my library haul.

My first haul of the year was a fairly small one (for me). I had some idea of what I wanted to find for the Popsugar Challenge, but I really tried to get something that I wanted to read, not just the first challenge-fulfilling book I could see.

  • Nonfiction: The Queens of Animation by Nathalia Holt, Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum (you already know this), and The Borden Murders.
  • Fiction: The Testament of Mary, Poison by Sara Poole, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, andThe Magicians by Lev Grossman.
  • YA: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody and The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones.
  • Other: Moon Marked & Touched By Sun, a collection of plays by African American women.

After this initial haul, I’ve been to the library twice more. Good to see that it’s not even February and I am already out of control.

The 2nd haul: Belonging and We Wish You Luck by Caroline Zancan.

The 3rd haul: Come Tumbling Down, Only Ashes Remain by Rebecca Schaeffer (the sequel to Not Even Bones, which was one of my most interesting YA reads of 2019), and Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. 

no. 3: February Plans

Challenge Plans

Since there’s still a week left in January, I’m not sure exactly what I’m aiming for in my challenges for February. Since I’m already ahead in Popsugar, I’m not going to worry about it, especially since I have a great TBR stack to pick from.

For Read Harder, I might try Nectar From a Stone, since I have that one. Beyond that, I’m not sure; maybe Victuals?

As opposed to January’s, February’s Monthly Motif slot is easy to fill: a book with a red cover. Obviously, Only Ashes Remain fills that perfectly. 

New Releases

This is by no means a list of books that I want to read in February; rather, it is a short and almost certainly incomplete list of books coming out in February that I’ll be interested in, and will probably try to get my hands on in the future.

  • Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (YA historical zombie fantasy) (sequel to Dread Nation)
  • Rebelwing by Andrea Tang (YA dystopian)
  • In the Shadow of the Sun by EM Castellan (YA historical fantasy)
  • Mazes of Power by Juliette Wade (adult scifi)
  • The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson (adult fantasy/supernatural)
  • The King At the End of the World by Arthur Phillips (adult hisfic)
  • Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey (dystopian) (especially if I like River of Teeth!)

That’s it for me for January. Are you doing any reading challenges this year? What are some of your reading goals? What books are you most excited to read this year, whether 2020 releases or just the books you’re raring to get to?

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