Oh, happy me… I finished the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge on December 29, 2020 at 6:41pm. This page lists books I read that fit the prompts of the challenge. I started the page in January and modified it all year long as I read the challenge books.
2020 Challenge – What I read this year
Will miracles never cease? After five years of trying, I finally finished a PopSugar Reading Challenge having read fifty different books. I didn’t pick all my books in advance this year. Instead I listed only the books I actually read during 2020.
1. A book that’s published in 2020
I read American Dirt – by Jeanine Cummins. I know about the controversy swirling around this book. People say it is racist because the author isn’t Latina enough to be qualified to write about Mexican people and issues. Wow, that’s a crazy controversy. Most authors aren’t writing biographically… we’re creating works of fiction from our imaginations. I don’t think I need to live in the 1920’s to write a historical novel set in that era, and I don’t think Jeanine Cummins needs browner skin to write about Mexican issues. And I do not like having people tell me what I should or shouldn’t read – I want to read what I want and judge for myself if there’s any merit to it. So, in honor of all the controversy and nay-sayers, I chose to read this book.
That said, I’m not a big fan of the book. The violence was over-the-top with too much blood and a rape scene. As a rape survivor it triggered my own bad memories. Rather than delve deep into the personalities and histories of the characters it focused on horrible things that could happen to them, and anything bad that could happen, happened. The book seemed just to focus on the idea that Mexicans NEED to come to the USA and seemed to be written to shame those of us who think illegal entry is wrong, and that legal immigration is reasonable. It focused on one imaginary Very Bad situation that seemed hopeless and then did a trip on your mind to make you think everyone is a desperate person escaping from the worst sort of criminal threats. In other words, the book was extremist more than realistic.
2. A book by a trans or nonbinary author
Author Gregory Coles is insightful and his writing is delightful! This is a good book for Christians to read, gay or not. I have never been gay but very much appreciated hearing about it from Gregory’s point of view. He’s a lover of Christ first and that’s his focus throughout this short eight-chapter book which was published by Intervarsity Press, the publishing division of Intervarsity Christian Clubs, which are on college campuses.
I finished this book at the end of the year and haven’t written a Goodreads review for it yet.
3. A book with a great first line
Little Fires Everywhere started out like a YA novel with a plethora of teenagers, but eventually got into adult characters and themes. I read this very early in the year with the local book club, River Readers. Here’s the great first line: “Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.” Later I tried to watch the miniseries (Netflix? Hulu?) but was put off by the racial change in a main character.
4. A book about a book club
Book club vs. vampire guy – who will win? Honestly, I hated this book. It was way too bloody for me. It started innocently enough with a group of bookish women in a Southern type of town, but as they got to the part where they needed to get rid of the vampire, it became way more than I wanted to read. The main character was a nurse and yet throughout the book did things that were idiotic and poorly reasoned, so I thought she couldn’t be a realistic character. Nurses are generally more intelligent. For me, this destroyed my ability to suspend disbelief enough to like the main character… and I sure didn’t like the vampire type creature described therein.
5. A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics
This book is set in London, which hosted the Summer Olympics in 1908, 1948, and 2012. It is a short novel; I read it on April 20-21, 2020. I like how this novel came from the point of view of a character I’d never heard of before. Obviously it wasn’t Jekyll or Hyde.
6. A bildungsroman
Naples, Italy . . . and the story of the childhood friendship of Lila and Elena. Finished this on February 10, 2020. Here’s my Goodreads review of My Brilliant Friend. I declined to read the second book in the trilogy. It was too slow for me. It read like a memoir but was fiction, pure fiction, and there was too much abusive behavior of various types.
7. The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed
This is a memoir local to the area in which I live. The author lived here as a teenager in the 1960s with her sister and parents so she shared a lot of details that bring life to what little we know of the history of this town. She’s also a naturalist who worked many years for the US Forest Service and so much of the book focused on various aspects of forestry and other natural phenomena. Interesting!
8. A book with an upside-down image on the cover
I’d seen a few positive reviews of this novel on Booktube so it was on my mental TBR but I must say that while it was a nice book, it was not memorable for me. I have no idea what it was about. Perhaps that’s partly because I listened to it as an audiobook not long after my home burned in the Slater Fire. It is possible my head just wasn’t in the right place to place more value on this novel.
9. A book with a map
I loved, loved, loved this biography of a walking old woman. She didn’t just walk – she hiked, and she hiked a lot! Nothing subtle about this woman. It is good that she kept a diary as it helped the biographer put together a cohesive book about mainly, her first thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail…. but it didn’t end there. She hiked much more after that. Much more…
10. A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club
I read this because Todd the Librarian recommends it. It is a short novel about a man living on a jungle-like planet where there are strange life forms that threaten lives in many ways.
11. An anthology
A fantastic collection of short stories setFd in California: past, present and future. I made notes on the stories in this book on another page here: An Anthology of California Short Stories.
12. A book that passes the Bechdel test
This was a fun reading experience. A woman, grieving her husband’s passing, finds peace digging in her yard. It is a light-hearted reading experience, not deep, except for the digging.
13. A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it
One of the best novels ever written. It starts with a baby ghost in chapter one. Some call this book magical realism. I call it – something unlike anything else I’ve ever read. Loved it.
14. A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name
A young woman’s memoir about her husband’s disappearance after they enjoyed a thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, memorialized in her earlier memoir which I did not read. This is set in various locations, including New York City.
15. A book about or involving social media
Took me a while to start liking Eleanor – but now that I do, I always will. Great novel.
16. A book that has a book on the cover
Fantastic cover, and great novel that featured two older women who write… one, an aging novelist, and the other, her hired biographer.
17. A medical thriller
Some doctors are just weird. Some patients hide their secrets. This is a great page turner. I very much recommend it.
18. A book with a made-up language
This is vintage sci-fi originally published in 1984. It is about repressed women who create their own language.
19. A book set in a country beginning with “C”
China! LOVED this book!!
20. A book you picked because the title caught your attention
Spooky dream ghosts. Intriguing resolution.
21. A book published the month of your birthday
Oh, this won the Pulitzer Prize, but I’m still not a fan. I wonder if it won because of the political agenda of the judges. It was super distressing and depressing. Very sad.
22. A book about or by a woman in STEM – (Lab Girl)
Very scientific. This is the personal memoir of a botanist. Lots of plant information.
23. A book that won an award in 2019
This novel won the 2019 Hugo Award for science fiction.
24. A book on a subject you know nothing about
I knew nothing about what it was like in Italy during World War II. Now I know a bit more. So sorry for Milan.
25. A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics
26. A book with a pun in the title
“Higher Grounds” – cute coffeeshop name. This is a Christian novel, and very enjoyable for a lighthearted read. Recommended to me by a friend.
27. A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins
A vintage novel published in 1884 with a prideful foster mother.
28. A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character
Third book in the Lunar Chronicles. I liked this.
29. A book with a bird on the cover
Wonderful short five-chapter book about memoir writing. Very much recommended for any of us involved in this sport.
30. A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader
Morbid, but I appreciated the unique formatting of this odd novel. The bardo is a place souls go to after death while waiting to go elsewhere.
31. A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the title
Big surprise! I thought this novel was fantastic. Very entertaining and somewhat like an intense, long fairy tale.
32. A book by a WOC
I’m reading this in May for a Booktube readathon, Maybe Midrash. See my video here for an explanation.
33. A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads
Of course I knew about the amazing popularity of this novel last year. I wanted to read it… so much! I wanted to read it even more when I found out Delia Owens lives in North Idaho… and now, I have read it. It went down easy.
34. A book you meant to read in 2019
I very much enjoyed this YA novel about a sixteen year old girl who inherits a homesteading claim in Montana. It was a Newbery Honor Book in 2007.
35. A book with a three-word title
Wow. Much better than expected. No witchcraft involved – just a fascinating first-person murder mystery with an unreliable narrator.
36. A book with a pink cover
Reading this for the Asian Readathon. Young women in Korea… a comparison of their attitudes and lifestyles.
37. A Western
Way too long but it won the Pulitzer Prize… and expect male domination, female subjugation, bad language and disgusting attitudes. However, it’s a winner.
38. A book by or about a journalist
This is a multi-layered novel in three time periods with a mystery that slowly unfolds. Intriguing and atmospheric.
39. Read a banned book during Banned Books Week
This novel was challenged in multiple school districts and rightfully so. While it was madly entertaining there were too many sexual type references for children to be reading. I’d ban it too. That said, I could not help but enjoy reading it.
40. Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge
… Graphic novel.. This graphic novel was just plain weird. Very few words and what were there didn’t hold together in a cohesive story. There was just one big picture per page with some words. Very strange indeed.
Advanced #1. A book written by an author in their 20s
I started out liking this memoir and ended up hating it because of the length and off-topic drivel. My review is at Goodreads: Know My Name.
Advanced #2. A book with “20” or “twenty” in the title
I’m into memoir writing so this book gave me good information about how other memoir writers view their craft and ethics.
Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature
Advanced #3. A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (a nod to 20/20 vision)
One of the seriously most depressing, distressing books I’ve ever read. Awful!! Well-written, but the subject matter was the worst. You’ve been warned. It does make one grateful for the gift of sight!
Advanced #4. A book set in the 1920s
Finished just before Christmas! This novel is wonderful. An aristocrat is sentenced to live in a hotel as Russia revolts and abandons the upper class to which he belonged.
Advanced #5. A book set in Japan, host of the 2020 Olympics
Set in Korea and Japan. Reading this for the Asian Readathon. It is about Korean immigrants to Japan – how they survive, relate to one another, and view their motherland.
Advanced #6. A book by an author who has written more than 20 books
Great book to read during anxiety-inducing times like these. This is a Christian nonfiction and was a good book for me to read during the Covid lockdown.
Advanced #7. A book with more than 20 letters in its title
Black Hawk! This Native American autobiography is a mix of warfare and battles along with respect for the European immigrants who came to rule over Native tribes during his lifetime.
Advanced #8. A book published in the 20th century
This is an absolutely delightful story about a poverty stricken family living in the ruins of an ancient castle. Very much recommended.
Advanced #9. A book from a series with more than 20 books
Agatha! This is the first novel in her series of mysteries featuring sleuth Hercule Poirot.
Advanced #10. A book with a main character in their 20’s
A mystery, plain and simple. This kept me on my toes a few hours then fled from my mind. The moral is to be careful who you try to take advantage of.
Reading team: Ultimate PopSugar Reading Challenge group at Goodreads.
Also: POPSUGAR Book Club – a Facebook group.
Official page: PopSugar Reading Challenge 2020