What Shannon Read, What We Read: Monthly Recap

What Shannon Read: 2021 End of Year Wrap-up

Hey hai hello and Happy New Year! I’m back as promised with an end-of-year wrap on the reading.

But First, Some Pics from Our NYE Party

Just had to share these moments.

Ben knocked it out of the park this year by commissioning an amazing ice sculpture. Family and friends turned out to celebrate and make it the best time. We all wore either “black tie” or just what we were feeling. I, of course, turned up in sequins with champagne bottle earrings because I am that extra. We had a ton of food, drinks, beer pong, and fireworks.

It couldn’t have been a better way to say good-bye to a rough year and hello to a new one.

And Now for the Reading Wrap-up with Nerdy Book Stats

Note that these numbers won’t reasonably add up to the total number of books read due to issues like books that cross genres and books written by both a male and a female author. In these cases, I logged both stats for one book.

Total books read: 82 (3 fewer than last year)
Fiction: 58
Nonfiction: 24
Female authors: 65
Male Authors: 18
Nonbinary/Trans authors: 0 (Same as last year. That’s a real miss for me. Determined to work on it this year.)
Non-white authors: I managed 11, 7 of which happened in December when I realized I’d barely read anything by someone who was not of my same race. I want to be a more informed and aware person than that, so…
E-books: 16
Audiobooks: 55 (damn)
Re-reads: Started an official re-reading project in 2019 and am keeping it up.

Year of the Audiobook

The bulk of my reading happened via audiobook. Here are a few of my favorites from the year.

Most-read Genres

Classics: 13

I didn’t succeed at the Classics Challenge this year. In fact, I ignored it completely and read whatever I wanted. 🙂 C’est la ME.

Historical Fiction: 13

It was a goal of mine to read more historical fiction this year and I learned that there is a lot of bad historical fiction out there. But here are a few I loved. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be Pachinko.

Mystery/Thriller: 13

There’s almost nothing I like more than settling into a warm bath with a glass of wine and a thriller. It’s always a true break for my tired brain.

Memoir/Autobiography: 11

Always a winning genre for me. A few of my favorites:

Other Genres I Read

Biography: 2
Fantasy/Magical Realism: 1
Nonfiction History: 3
Letters (nonfiction): 1
Myth/Folktale/Legend: 2
Psychology: 1
Speculative Fiction: 1
Self-help: 5 (Do not remember reading that many…)
Social Issues: 3
Spirituality: 1
YA Fiction: 1

2021 Takeaways/2022 Goals

I want to read more diversely and will be making a point to read many more books by BIPOC authors in 2022.

I loved the classics I read and plan to, once again, choose them at random rather than completing a Classics Challenge.

I’ve had a little time to reflect and can’t think what my other reading goals for 2022 should be. Just…drawing a blank. Will keep you posted.

In the meantime, I hope everyone’s 2022 is off to a good start!

2020 Classics Challenge

I can’t resist the Back to the Classics Challenge

Back to the Classics 2020Karen of Books and Chocolate is, once again, hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge for 2020.

I can’t resist it. Last year, I read 7 of 12 categories and this year I intend to aim for the full 12. Fingers crossed, people!

I’m loving some of the more unique categories this year. Here they are with some thoughts on what I might be reading for each.


My destiny in 2020?

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899.

Is this the year I finally read Moby Dick? Also considering some Dickens or Far From the Madding Crowd.

2. 20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1970. All books in this category must have been published at least 50 years ago. The only exceptions are books that were published posthumously but were written at least 50 years ago. 

Possibly 1984 or The Catcher in the Rye. Both missing from my literary repertoire.

3. Classic by a Woman Author.

I’m thinking George Eliot. Possibly Romola or The Mill on the Floss.



Shelf of classics and interlopers in our library


4. Classic in Translation. Any classic originally written in a novel other than your native language. You may read the book in your native language, or its original language (or a third language for all you polyglots). Modern translations are acceptable, as long as the book was originally published at least 50 years ago. Books in translation are acceptable in all other categories as well.

Two thoughts for this one: Les Mis or, a wild card, Flowers in the Mirror
by Ju-chen Li.

5. Classic by a Person of Color. Any classic work by a non-white author. 

I’m thinking Native Son or Passing.


How glorious is this cover?

6. A Genre Classic. Any classic novel that falls into a genre category — fantasy, science fiction, Western, romance, crime, horror, etc. 

This is such a fun category! I’m thinking of delving into some classic sci fi, like Babel-17. Also thought about Georgette Heyer in the romance category.

7. Classic with a Person’s Name in the Title. First name, last name or both. Examples include Ethan Frome; Emma; Madam Bovary; Anna Karenina; Daniel Deronda; David Copperfield, etc. 

So so many options here. Considering: Dr. Zhivago, Robinson Crusoe, Mary Barton, Jacob’s Room, Orlando, Lady Audley’s Secret.

8. Classic with a Place in the Title. Any classic with the proper name of a place (real or fictional) – a country, region, city, town, village, street, building, etc. Examples include Notre Dame de Paris; Mansfield Park; East of Eden; The Canterbury Tales; Death on the Nile; etc.

A Passage to India, A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, The Belton Estate, Moment in Peking.


Nature? I like nature!

9. Classic with Nature in the Title. A classic with any element of nature in the title (not including animals). Examples include The Magic Mountain; The Grapes of Wrath; The Jungle; A High Wind in Jamaica; Gone With the Wind; Under the Volcano; etc.

Another fun one! I’m thinking about The Jungle.

10. Classic About a Family. This classic should have multiple members of the same family as principal characters, either from the same generation or multiple different generations. Examples include Sense and Sensibility; Wives and Daughters; The Brothers Karamazov; Fathers and Sons; The Good Earth; Howards End; and The Makioka Sisters.

Howard’s End would be fun. Also The Harp in the South, One Hundred Years of Solitude, I Capture the Castle, The House of the Seven Gables.

11. Abandoned Classic. Choose a classic that you started and just never got around to finishing, whether you didn’t like it at or just didn’t get around to it. Now is the time to give it another try.

The Grand Hotel and Iceland’s Bell are currently sitting on my TBR shelf and looking at me with disdain…



See? Judging me!

12. Classic Adaptation. Any classic that’s been adapted as a movie or TV series. If you like, you can watch the adaptation and include your thoughts in your book review. It’s not required but it’s always fun to compare.

Oo, this might be a better fit for Far From the Madding Crowd, which has a pretty recent adaptation.

So, the best laid plans, amiright? We’ll see how this goes. I’m always optimistic in January!

2018 Classics Challenge, Fiction, What Shannon Read

Evelina by Fanny Burney

Note: This is the first of my books read for the 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge for the author that’s new to me categoryEvelina

Evelina…so young, so innocent…so freakin’ afraid of everything.

I live down the street from one of my college English professors. When I moved in, six years after I’d graduated from college mind you, she popped an old graded essay of mine in my mailbox. She’d had it all that time. I got an A, by the way.

Anywho, last summer Ros saw me reading on the porch and stopped by to talk books. She told me some of the story of Evelina: Or the History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World by Frances (Fanny) Burney, which she had never read. She was delighted by it and I must say, I agree, despite the somewhat irritating greenness of the protagonist.

Dog in the sun on a porch

Someone else that likes to hang out on the porch

Evelina is a sheltered young woman (as were most young women of her era and station) who, as the full title says, makes an entry, somewhat accidentally, into 18-century British society.

Here’s a great plot summary on wikipedia. I’m not going to summarize the plot because, honestly, the ins and outs of the characters and locations may lose or bore anyone without an assured interest in the novel. Also, if you’ve read widely, you know that classics of this era (the book was first published in 1778) contain many complicated details and subtleties possibly only interesting to those who’ve read them.

A few thoughts I had while reading Evelina

The letters: This is the epistolary novel at its finest. The book consists mostly of letters from Evelina to Reverend Arthur Villars, her guardian and the man who raised her, from whom she is parted for most of the book.

Evelina Anville grows up: We spend a lot of time with Evelina as she learns to navigate the society into which she is thrust. This character development is both entertaining and gratifying as she transforms from a shy, nearly speechless (to anyone outside the Mirvan women), nearly motionless (refusing dances at a ball) girl with no real will of her own to a woman who competently stands up to her harassers, like Sir Clement (eventually) and the Branghtons, Evelina’s London relations, along with Madame Duval, who are a family of absolute boors.

At least she’s self-aware:

“Unused to the situations in which I find myself, and embarrassed by the slightest difficulties, I seldom, till too late, discover how I ought to act.” 

Evelina is irritating: I must admit, though, the process was somewhat frustrating. There’s a point at which Evelina writes to Orville to thank him for use of his carriage which her awful Branghton cousin requested in her name without her consent. He writes back assuring her that it wasn’t a big deal and, not only that, he’s delighted that she’s begun a correspondence with him and eagerly awaits her reply. Evelina is telling all this to her friend, Maria Mirvan, and spends the rest of the letter castigating herself for allowing him to think her so forward. It’s obnoxious. (The letter from Orville, by the way, turns out to be a trick by Sir Clement. We find out in the end that he’d intercepted her original letter and concocted a response, putting Orville’s name to it.)

The Branghtons and Madame Duval: Ok, it was kind of fun to watch them screw around and make a mess of their own interactions in a society which they are rich enough but too boorish to navigate properly. Also, the exchanges between Madame Duval and Captain Mirvan, a complete ass, are kind of hilarious as the captain spends most of his interactions inciting offense. It’s enjoyable to watch until it becomes simply tiresome.

Mrs. Selwyn: I felt the novel was seriously lacking in wit until this lady showed up in the last third or so. (Any wit to be found is mostly in the social commentary Burney is making along the way, I suppose.) Here she is throwing shade at two noblemen who’ve made a ridiculous bet over a carriage race:

“These enterprises,” said Mrs. Selwyn, “are very proper for men of rank, since ’tis a million to one but both parties will be incapacitated for any better employment.” 


Sentimentality: This is a sentimental novel written by a master of the genre. It went hand-in-hand with the gothic novel of this era, both of which were considered popular fiction. Reading it now, however, the big emotions come off as melodramatic.

Here’s Sir John Belmont after reading a letter from his long-deceased wife:

“Oh that thou could’st witness the agony of my soul!- Ten thousand daggers could not have wounded me like this letter!” 

There’s a lot of this. And to a modern reader, it’s a bit grating. But that’s the genre for ya’.

I’m sure I’m missing some important things about the fates of women in the era. Indeed, the book deals entirely with the fates of its female characters. But I’m sure someone other than me has made a better study of that than I could, so I’m going to nope out on that topic.


Pillow Fort blog: 2018 Back to the Classics Challenge
2018 Classics Challenge, That Reading Life

Getting back to the classics

I usually pepper classics throughout  my regular reading, but in the past few years I haven’t read very many.

I re-read Jane Eyre last year. In 2016, I re-read The Color Purple. In 2015, I read Sons and Lovers and The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (I think it was free on Kindle).

That’s it, folks. Kind of shabby for a former proud English major.

Anyway, when I stumbled upon Books and Chocolate and Karen’s Back to the Classics challenge, I thought this is for me. I know I said I would read whatever I wanted this year with no pressure, but the English major inside of me won’t let go of the idea of reading the classics I’ve missed.

So, here’s the plan.

I’m going to participate in Karen’s challenge and see if I complete it. If not, no biggie. If so, yay literature!

These are the categories and, next to them, the book(s) I’m thinking of reading for each one…


I’ve barely read any Dickens.

1.  A 19th-century classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899.

Anna Karenina or some Dickens, I think.

2.  A 20th-century classic – any book published between 1900 and 1968. Just like last year, all books MUST have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify. The only exception is books written at least 50 years ago, but published later, such as posthumous publications.

Brave New World, which I somehow escaped reading in high school, Mrs. Dalloway, Animal Farm, or an outlier: Cold Comfort Farm

3.  A classic by a woman author.

The House of Mirth, Middlemarch, My Antonia, so many options…

4.  A classic in translation.  Any book originally written published in a language other than your native language. Feel free to read the book in your language or the original language. (You can also read books in translation for any of the other categories). Modern translations are acceptable as long as the original work fits the guidelines for publications as explained in the challenge rules.

This would be the perfect place to insert some more Russians: Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Gogol; or maybe The Three Musketeers, which I’ve always meant to read.

Phantom Tollbooth5. A children’s classic. Indulge your inner child and read that classic that you somehow missed years ago. Short stories are fine, but it must be a complete volume. Young adult and picture books don’t count!

This category is dear to my heart. I once set out to read all the Newbery winners and nominations and I think I read about 30 maybe? Of course, the Newbery is a modern invention and some of my contenders pre-date it. I’m just saying, I heart children’s books.

The Phantom Tollbooth
Black Beauty
Peter Pan
Robinson Crusoe

In Cold Blood6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction. This can be a true crime story, mystery, detective novel, spy novel, etc., as long as a crime is an integral part of the story and it was published at least 50 years ago. Examples include The 39 Steps, Strangers on a Train, In Cold Blood, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, etc.  The Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list is an excellent source for suggestions. 

In Cold Blood or The Moonstone maybe? Agatha Christie? Sherlock Holmes?

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction. The journey itself must be the major plot point — not just the destination. Good examples include The Hobbit, Around the World in 80 Days, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan, Kon-Tiki, Travels with Charley, etc. 

I’m already re-reading the Lord of the Rings series. So, maybe I’ll count that or branch out. Top contenders would be On the Road, Grapes of Wrath, and Journey to the Center of the Earth.


My literary fate?

8. A classic with a single-word title. No articles please! Proper names are fine — Emma, Germinal, Middlemarch, Kidnapped, etc.

So many good categories for Middlemarch. Is it destiny?

9. A classic with a color in the title. The Woman in White; Anne of Green Gables; The Red and the Black, and so on. (Silver, gold, etc. are acceptable. Basically, if it’s a color in a Crayola box of crayons, it’s fine!)

The Scarlet Pimpernel maybe. Or The Black Stallion. In researching titles for this category, I have to say I’ve already done a decent job of reading the important “color name” books (The Scarlet Letter, The Color Purple, The Woman in White, to name a few).

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you. Choose an author you’ve never read before.

I’m thinking of just going and standing in front of the classics section in the library for this one. I’m sure I’ll find a hundred authors I haven’t read.

War and Peace and Moby Dick

Where to begin?

11. A classic that scares you. Is there a classic you’ve been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now’s the time to read it, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Is everyone reading War and Peace for this? I will have to do some digging to figure out anything else for myself.

12. Re-read a favorite classic. Like me, you probably have a lot of favorites — choose one and read it again, then tell us why you love it so much. 

As I mentioned, in the past couple of years I re-read The Color Purple and Jane Eyre. Both would make my top ten list for sure. The Secret Garden might be a contender. Or The Turn of the Screw, which I loved but haven’t read since high school.

On your mark, get set, eek!