This year, my main priority was the Around the Year challenge which was created by a GoodReads group who decided to build their own challenge after participating in last year’s PopSugar challenge. This was the first challenge that I really committed to trying this year and I gave myself the strict time limit of one full year to complete all of the topics, plus an extra “wild card” – a topic that I chose from the list of suggested prompts that didn’t make the final cut. As with my 2015 challenge, there were a few books that really stood out to me. It was tough to narrow it down to just 5! Here are the top 5 books I would recommend that I read as part of this challenge (in no particular order):
1) The Rosie Project by Graeme Simison
I read this book as “a book set in a different continent,” but it was a book that I already knew I had to squeeze in somewhere during the year. The book is set in Australia, and it follows the story of Don Tillman, a professor who decides he wants to get married and uses a questionnaire to find a “perfect” match. Part of the appeal of this book for me was that Don seems to have (undiagnosed) Asperger’s Syndrome, and his character reminded me quite a bit of some of the young adults with ASD that I work with. The book was very funny, and I loved the interactions between Don and Rosie, a woman he meets through his search. I was instantly hooked and even though I read it in January, it is still one of the most memorable books of the year.
2) Room by Emma Donoghue
This was another book that I was looking forward to trying, but I was a little nervous because of all the hype surround it. I chose it for the prompt “A book with a title beginning with the first letter of your name,” and it was an excellent choice. The book is told from the perspective of a five year old boy named Jack who lives with his mother in “Room,” the only life he has ever known. Jack’s mother was kidnapped and held hostage in the room and Jack was born there. I thought the book told an amazing story about their lives and I was especially interested by how Jack’s mother could take such a horrific experience and make it have some semblance of normalcy for her son. I think the book definitely lived up to the hype!
3) The Whole Golden World by Kristina Riggle
I chose this book to fulfill the prompt “A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion).” I had never heard of this book before exploring GoodReads, but it quickly became one of my favourites. It is about a 17-year-old girl who has an affair with her married teacher. I was very impressed by the level of character development in this book, and I thought it was very well-written and realistic. I found it very interesting how the author mostly focused on the characters and their reactions to the affair. It is a book that I probably never would have picked up without the challenge, but I’m glad I tried it.
4) The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
I read this book as “a book related to a hobby or passion you have,” and it was another book that I probably never would have tried without the challenge. The book is about a young woman named Margaret who is hired by an elderly author, Vida Winter, to write her life story. This author was known for a mysterious book that was missing a chapter, and Margaret hopes to uncover the mystery. This book strongly reminded me of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favourite books. I really loved how Diane Setterfield captured how it feels to be an avid reader with her main character, and I loved her writing style. This book was easily one of my highlights of the year.
5) Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I chose this book for “a book with a great opening line,” one of the most difficult categories on the list. This was one of several classics that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time. It is about a young woman who marries Maxim de Winter, and moves into his estate. She quickly learns that the spectre of de Winter’s late wife Rebecca still holds enormous influence over the household. I very strongly related to the main character in this book, especially her tendency to overthink. I loved how the author set the eerie atmosphere right from the start, and I thought the book was very suspenseful even though I predicted one of the main twists. I really loved the writing style, and this book quickly became of my favourite classics.
It was very hard to narrow the list down to just five! Here are several of the other books I really enjoyed and would recommend:
- Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
- The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan
- I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
- The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
- Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros
- All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
- Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli