2022 Read Harder Challenge, What Shannon Read

What Shannon Read: February 2022

Wow, February walluped me with the terrible weather and corresponding winter blues. I’m not sad to see it in the rearview mirror. March is being kind to us so far, but I know what’s coming–at least one random snow storm and a damp cold that chills to the bone. And that’s the official weather report.

Two super fun events saved February from being a total loss. One, at the very end, we went to Vegas and saw a Metallica concert, among other delights.

Here we are outside the venue, ready to rock.

The weekend prior to that was the grandbaby’s baby shower and it was a hit!

We and the parents-to-be are all so grateful to our family and friends who came out to celebrate and shower them with gifts.

That’s the life update. Now, how about those books?

What Shannon Read in February

I read 8 books in February, including some repeats.

Some notes:

Less than Angels

I continue to work my way through Barbara Pym’s catalog. This was good, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Quartet in Autumn or Excellent Women. I believe this is exactly what I said last month about Jane and Prudence. Ah, well. Something keeps me coming back to Pym anyway, it seems.

Bookseller books

I re-read these in January….and then again in February—an unheard of turnaround for me as far as re-reads go. It seems I can’t get enough of Wigtown and Bythell’s snark.

Harriet Jacobs: A Life

This was fantastic. I read Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl in college and it was one of my favorite required reads. It helped me to really feel the evils of slavery better (as a middle-class, suburban white girl), which I’m sure was the professor’s intent for us, a class of similar women.

At any rate, it affected me greatly, so I was excited to read this biography of Harriet Jacobs. It’s also my book for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge category “book about an author you admire.”

It was fantastic. As with all good biographies, it gave excellent cultural background for the events that took place in Jacobs’ life. Also, I was reminded that she spent 7 years—7 years!!!—hiding in a tiny attic space where she couldn’t stand up. Jesus. This country.

A Sand County Almanac

This is a classic of nature writing and I was glad to see it listed on Audible. I enjoyed it so very much. If you enjoy nature writing, I highly recommend it. I was floored by the essay “Good Oak,” through which Leopold tells the history of Wisconsin’s land and people. Here it is if you’re interested.

Educated

I tried to read this book when it came out and couldn’t get into it. And I’m not sure why because this time, I read it in a day. A memoir about growing up in a Christian fundie family with a mentally ill and volatile father, this book was what the critics call “gripping.”

Also, why are all fundie fathers mentally ill? Every time I read a book by the children of these uber-Christians, the father, set up to be the “head” of the family, has lost his shit in one way or another—mostly via untreated mental illness. And, cut off from society at-large, the father gets no treatment and conducts a reign of terror over his family. Mental illnes + fundamentalist Christianity—conincidence? I think not.

Ghost Girl

This was a hard-to-stomach re-read. At one point in my life as a younger mother, I was contemplating taking in foster children, along with a career in social work with a focus on “troubled” kids. I gobbled up books about professionals working with children in need of some kind of services. Hayden’s books were among them. I wanted to re-read this to see what I thought of it as an older adult. I see now that the writing is sensational, but I found the story to be just as engrossing, though, I imagine, mostly for its shock value. Remember the book A Child Called It? This is similar, except that it’s written from the perspective of of a professional who helps a terribly abused child. As I said, hard to stomach.

I’m a Wild Seed

I was browsing graphic novels for the Read Harder Challenge and just happened upon this one. The art is wonderful and the story is touching and affirming. This is a memoir about identity in which Sharon Lee De La Cruz illustrates the challenges of coming of age as a queer, minority woman.


Possibly a bit of a boring recap here, sorry. I’ve got a more interesting mix planned for February. I leave you with my new favorite reading meme:

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2022 Read Harder Challenge, That Reading Life

I decided I need a challenge…

January garden…apropos of nothing

…and the 2022 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge seems to fit the bill.

I debated about doing the Classics Challenge and the When Are You Reading Challenge, but neither suited my mood this year.

With classics, I’d rather just see where my natural impulses take me. (So far, they’ve taken me to The Women of Brewster Place, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Barbara Pym.)

And, with historical fiction, well, I read a lot of it last year and I’ll probably continue reading it this year, with no prompts needed. It is one of my favorite genres after all.

I decided I wanted to break out of my usual genres/themes and also learn a little more about contemporary fiction.

The Read Harder Challenges seems to offer some new-to-me types of categories and I will definitely enjoy looking for books to fit them.

All that said, here’s the list for the Read Harder Challenge and my best laid plans. We all know what happens to those. 😉


Read a biography of an author you admire.

Harriet Jacobs - Yellin, Jean Fagan

Read a book set in a bookstore.

Read any book from the Women’s Prize shortlist/longlist/winner list.

Read a book in any genre by a POC that’s about joy and not trauma.

Read an anthology featuring diverse voices.

Read a nonfiction YA comic.

Read a romance where at least one of the protagonists is over 40.

Read a classic written by a POC.

Read the book that’s been on your TBR the longest.

Read a political thriller by a marginalized author (BIPOC, or LGBTQIA+).
I hate political thrillers, but I’m trying to keep an open mind.

Read a book with an asexual and/or aromantic main character.

Read an entire poetry collection.
I’m already rolling on this one because I received this for my bday last year. It’s becoming one of my favorite books of all time. I have to read it slowly because every poem kills me. Right in the feels.

Read an adventure story by a BIPOC author.
Cool, I was planning to read this anyway.

Read a book whose movie or TV adaptation you’ve seen (but haven’t read the book).
This is a tough one for me because I usually read a book then look for and watch the adaptation. Just me? Welp, maybe this is the year I finally read the books made into Merchant Ivory films. Howard’s End perhaps? A Room with a View? Maybe…

Read a new-to-you literary magazine (print or digital).
After I stopped submitting my poetry to them (with middling success), literary mags pretty much fell off the map for me. This looks like a good list though.

Read a book recommended by a friend with different reading tastes.
That’ll be easy. I don’t know anyone who has the same taste as me. I’ll ask Ben and see what he picks for me.

Read a memoir written by someone who is trans or nonbinary.
I just like the cover.

Read a “Best _ Writing of the year” book for a topic and year of your choice.
I’m not looking forward to this. I can’t seem to get through these contemporary anthologies.

Read a horror novel by a BIPOC author.
Can’t resist a creepy/haunted house story.

Read an award-winning book from the year you were born.
1980, here we come?
Actually, this is post-WWII literature. But it won the National Book Award in 1980.

Read a queer retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, folklore, or myth.
Definitely don’t like retellings. But, sigh, we’ll giver her a whirl.

Read a history about a period you know little about.
I rarely read histories focused on time periods. Rather, I read histories of specific people. It’s hard for me to look at a straight history book and be like, yes, that’s the one for me. I’ll give this one a whirl.

Read a book by a disabled author.
Torn between this and Hellen Keller’s autobiography.

Pick a challenge from any of the previous years’ challenges to repeat!

I think I’m going with “Read a book that takes place in a rural setting.” That leaves the field pretty open for me.


Are you doing the Read Harder Challenge this year? Or, do you have any books to recommend for these specific categories? Let me know!

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