My Reading Challenge 2016

I know it’s already almost June and 2016 is halfway over, but I wanted to post an update on my Reading Challenge.

Disclaimer: I have to formally admit it, but I have kind of, sort of stopped reading altogether. I haven’t finished a book since FEBRUARY and barely sit down to read anymore, which is absolutely horrific.


I don’t know what it is and I keep blaming it on my “imaginary” lack of time, but we all know the truth, don’t we? C’mon, girl!

So, turning a new leaf mid-year (#leavesonleavesonleaves), I have decided to formalize my reading plans and what better way to motivate/peer pressure myself to finish it than by writing about books here.


I’m actually really excited about this.

Okay, so my 2016 Reading Challenge was recommended to me by my best friend Paula *shout out* and it’s the one posted by Bustle last December.

Check it out:

#BustleReads Challenge 2016

This list focuses on diversity, encouraging readers to pick up books by women or writers of color they would have otherwise not chosen.

I chose this challenge because I wanted to jazz up my reading repertoire. I have read too many novels and plays by dead white dudes, so I’m excited for a change in roster.

Here is the full list:

  1. A book written by a woman under 25
  2. A book about non-western history
  3. A book of essays
  4. A book about an indigenous culture
  5. A book before you see the movie
  6. A YA novel by an author of color
  7. A book set in the Middle East
  8. A book about women in war
  9. A graphic novel written by a woman
  10. A book about an immigrant or refugee to the U.S.
  11. A children’s book read aloud
  12. Reread your favorite book from your childhood
  13. An LGBTQIA memoir
  14. A post-apocalyptic book written by a woman
  15. A feminist sci-fi novel
  16. The first book in a series you’ve never read
  17. A book set in Africa by an African author
  18. A translated book
  19. A contemporary poetry collection
  20. A book by a modernist woman writer

Prior to deciding on the challenge I had already read some of the books on this list, but I am not counting them. I want to start fresh from right now.

Here is my list (plus a few extra options):

1. Woman under 25: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie  


I’ve heard some great things about Adichie and this being her first novel I’m sure it will be excellent. It’s set in post-colonial Nigeria and it follows a 15 year old girl living amidst political chaos and a fanatically religious home life.

Other options: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon; The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi; White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

2. Non-western history: Daughters of the Samurai by Janice P. Nimura

This book follows the lives of 5 Japanese girls who were sent to America in the 1870s to learn Western ways during the Meiji Restoration period of Japanese history. This was a time of rapid modernization following the collapse of Japan’s traditional political system and its opening to the West.

Other option: Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.

Note: Interestingly enough, I googled “best non-fiction history books” with no specifications and in almost every list 95% of the books were focused on western history. Dayummm…

3. Essays: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

This one was easy. I’ve been wanting to read this book for forever. This was also one of Paula’s recommendations. *second shout out* It’s a bunch of essays about being a feminist while loving seemingly un-feminist things.

4. Indigenous Culture: Los Rios Profundos (Deep Rivers) by Jose Maria Arguedas

Los Rios Profundos was the beginning of the neo-indigenista movement in South American literature. It explores the plight of the indigenous people of Peru and the true Andean identity of the country. As a literary person and a Peruvian who has yet to read any Peruvian literature (shameeee!), I think this is a must read for me if I want to better understand my country and roots.

Shout out to my dad for the suggestion!

5. Before the Movie: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness & Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith

For this category I wanted to choose a book whose movie is coming out this year. So I chose two books I bought earlier this year with just that intention. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies already came and went in theaters, but I still haven’t seen it so still counts. And A Monster Calls is coming out in October. This book looks beautiful and haunting and profound. Can’t wait!

I also really want to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, but the movie is dangerously close so…

6. YA Author of Color: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I knew nothing about this book before the challenge. However, after reading non-spoiler reviews and summaries, it seems quirky, YA-y, romantic yet heartbreaking enough for this category. The novel is about a girl who is so allergic to the outside she’s never left her house once, but one day everything changes when a new boy moves next door. Sounds cute and sad and perfect!

7. Middle East: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

I have never read a book set in the Middle East which is a damn shame. Set in Beirut, this book chronicles the musings of a reclusive introverted woman who spends all her time in her apartment translating her favorite books.

At first I wasn’t sure about this one, until I read a summary on Goodreads that said, “A love letter to literature and its power to define who we are.” I give up! I’m sold!

8. Women in War: The Wolves at the Door: The True Story of America’s Greatest Female Spy 

Okay, so I chose this one because it met all the items on my awesome biography checklist.

Espionage: Check

Sneaky assassinations: Check

Awesome disguises: Check

Resistance movements: Check

Intrigue: Check

Boss ass lady: Check. CHECK!

Also, I’ve been OBSESSED with Virginia Hall after watching an episode of Drunk History. It’ll be great to actually learn more about her life.

9. Graphic Novel: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll &  Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson


I couldn’t choose!

Through the Woods gives me an “Into the Woods” feel, but more twisted and creepy AF. Anything with fairytales I’m game. Also, I have been psyched about Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel since she was announced. We need more women of color as badass superheroes! Pleaseeeee!!!

Also want to read: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, Persepolis by Marjana Satrapi, The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua, Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.

10. Immigrant to the U.S.: The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Woe by Junot Diaz

I actually began reading this book a few months ago when I first started the challenge.

It’s about the life of a nerdy, overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey who is obsessed with falling in love. It also has elements of magical realism which is one of my favorite types of narrative and uses tons of Spanglish and contemporary references.

11. Children’s Book Aloud: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

I’m choosing this book because it’s about damn time I read it. As an avid reader and a children’s literature major, it has been one of my greatest reading shames to not have read this book. It takes 10 minutes for crying out loud!

It’s right up there with not watching Star Wars or owning flip flops. (Don’t worry, I have since rectified the atrocious lack of Star Wars in my life, though I can’t say the same about flip flops. I hate them so much.)

12. Favorite Childhood Book: ??

This one I’m going to leave open ended for now. It might depend on how I feel at the time. I’m going to go digging in the depths of my bookshelves to see what I can find.

Also, I’m trying to resist the urge to put Sorcerer’s Stone, but I might cave. I really want to reread the entire series again, especially now that Fantastic Beasts is coming out. I need more HP in my life if that is even possible.


13. LGBTQIA: Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serano

Other memoirs I also want to read: Tennessee Williams’ Memoirs, Being by Zach Ellis, Herculine Barbin: Being the Recently Discovered Memoirs of a Nineteenth-century French Hermaphrodite by Foucault and Barbin, Intersex by Thea Hillman.

I really, really want to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. I’m going to try to sneak it in this year if I can.

14. Post-Apocalyptic: Elysium by Jennifer Marie Brissett

I don’t really know what to say about this book because from what I’ve researched I still don’t really get it. It has something to do with a computer program and the end of love.

I read the first few pages though and found it super interesting, so adding it to the list.

15. Feminist Sci-Fi: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Just discovered this book had been on my to-read list since before it even came out. It has amazing reviews and it’s the first in a series so I will have loads to read in the future.

Feminism, sci-fi and epic fantasy are some of my favorite things so can’t go wrong here.

I was initially going to put The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood for this category, but this book won me over. If I can I’ll sneak it in as well.

16. First in a Series: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir 

The novel is set in a fantasy world that is ruled by a tyrant. The protagonist is Laia a former slave turned spy for the rebellion. Enough said.

This book is actually already on my kindle, but I think I’ll leave it for last given that it’s a series and I don’t want to sidetrack myself from completing the challenge. We’ll see though. I am not a woman of firm convictions when it comes to reading and I already chose another series novel in number 15, so maybe not.

17. Africa: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Another one by Adichie! I couldn’t resist. This book set in Nigeria in the 60s explores a time of change and tumult in Nigerian society through the eyes of its 5 main characters.

Might change this one in favor of branching out with other African authors, but don’t know yet.

Other options: So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba; The Famished Road by Ben Okri

18. Translated: Please Look After Mom by Shin Kyung Sook

I’m so, so excited about this one! This is one hundred percent a nostalgic pick. I’ve not been back in the States 3 months and I already miss Korea more than I thought.

I’m also such a sucker for stories about mothers. They make me feel all the things and cry all the tears. (I don’t know what it is, but I feel super emotional lately and I think I need a good cry.) I’m sure that Shin’s novel about a family searching for their mother after she gets lost in Seoul Station will be the perfect emotional rollercoaster.

I also really want to read Fox Girl by Nora Okja Keller, but that comes later.

19. Poetry: Billy Collins / Pablo Neruda / ??

This one I’m also leaving sort of open ended. I own so many poetry collections that I haven’t read all the way through. At the moment, I’m leaning more toward Billy Collins or Pablo Neruda. Billy Collins is my favorite poet of all time. Right up there with John Keats, Silvia Plath and Neruda himself.

Depending on my mood anything could happen.

20. Modernist Woman: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

 Another one of my literary shames – and I have tons if you couldn’t tell already – is the total lack of Virginia Woolf in my life. Awful, just awful.

I’m starting with Mrs. Dalloway and seeing where that takes me. It’s a day in the life story of a high society woman named Clarissa Dalloway in post-WWI England as she prepares to host for a party.

Reminds me a bit of Downton Abbey. I really should go back and finish that show.

Also on my list: Woolf’s Orlando.


And that’s it for my reading list. It took me longer than I expected to research and put together, but I finally did it. I feel reinvigorated and motivated to read all things!

I’m starting with The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

Updates to come!


One thought on “My Reading Challenge 2016

  1. Kane says:

    Great article!
    This takes me back to university Women’s Studies and Indigenous Studies classes and the feeling of being introduced to books that I felt I wouldn’t have come into contact with if I hadn’t taken the class. It was great to read about a topic from a variety of different perspectives.

    By the way, Where the Wild Things Are was one of my nephew’s favorite books. I really like it!


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