Library life

2016 Reading Challenge, Part 3

Welcome back to the third installment of our reading recommendations! You can find part 1 and part 2 here, if you missed them. And just a reminder — the 40 categories come from PopSugar’s 2016 Reading Challenge. You can get a handy-dandy printable here.

[Update: Part 4 is now ready for you too!]


  • A book recommended by a family member
    • Mileage will vary on this category, but here are two books that my family have loved: Andy Weir’s The Martian, the popular survival story of a NASA botanist stranded on Mars; and Brian Doyle’s The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart, which delves into everything the heart does and represents, from anatomical functions to metaphorical roles.


  • A graphic novel
    • Do you ever find yourself listening to the news and realizing, “I don’t know much about the history of that region”? Recently, Iran has frequently been in the news. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood, the graphic-novel memoir of Iranian author Marjane Satrapi, is a good introduction to the country’s history. If you enjoy it, you should also try the sequel, Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return.
    • Recently named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang wowed critics with his graphic novel American Born Chinese, which follows three plotlines centering on a Chinese-American boy who just wants to fit in.


  • A book that will be published in 2016
    • In Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal (due out on February 2), a young man in 1904 discovers a journal that takes him on a quest for a legendary object. Thirty-five years later, a pathologist accepts the same quest. Fifty years after that, a Canadian senator and his chimpanzee companion continue the search — while the senator struggles to adjust to his wife’s death.
    • Do you feel like you’re in a rat race, chronically unable to get ahead no matter how hard you work? If so, you might find a kindred spirit in Tina Fontana, the protagonist of Camille Perri’s The Assistants, who’s smart, broke, frustrated, and sharp-eyed enough to spot a mistake in her boss’s accounts that could pay off her student loans. We’re guessing she takes the money, but we won’t know for sure until the book comes out on May 3.


  • A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
    • Again, mileage will vary here, depending on your major. But for you pre-med students out there, try Dr. Emily R. Transue’s book On Call: A Doctor’s Days and Nights in Residency. Packed with stories from her internal medicine residency that are heartwarming, chilling, bleak, and funny by turns, this book is sure to prompt questions and discussions that will help you prepare for your own medical careers.
    • For the future teachers among us, try E.R. Braithwaite’s To Sir, With Love. It’s the true story of the author, a black man from South America, who decided to take a job teaching in the predominantly white slums of London’s East End in the 1940s.


  • A book that takes place during summer
    • The four teens at the heart of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars are a tight-knit group, members of an upper-crust New England family that spends its summers on a private island. The summer the Liars were 15, something happened. Nobody is sure exactly what, particularly the narrator, who now spends her days visiting doctors and fighting migraines. Then her memories of that summer begin to come back, and it’s clear that she’s not the only one telling lies.
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is another great summer read. If you didn’t catch the recent movie adaptation (or the book in high school), it’s about a reclusive millionaire whose parties are legendary — but whose motives are mysterious. Along the way, the author weaves in a beautifully haunting commentary on the excesses of the Jazz Age.


  • A book and its prequel
    • In part 2 of this post series, we recommended Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel Jane Eyre. If you enjoyed it — or even if you didn’t — why not take a look at the unofficial prequel, Jean Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea? It takes one of Jane Eyre‘s most contentious characters and lets her tell her side of the story, touching on themes of (spoiler alert) colonialism and mental illness.
    • True-blue Firefly fans know about Michael Shaara’s Civil War novel Killer Angels, the book that inspired Joss Whedon to create Captain Mal and the other Browncoats. But did you know that there’s also a prequel? Gods and Generals is a close look at the leaders of the Civil War, written by Michael’s son, Jeff Shaara. If you finish it wanting more, there’s also another installment: The Last Full Measure, again by Jeff Shaara.


  • A murder mystery
    • Dorothy Sayers might be best known in certain circles for her radio plays on Christ’s life, aired in England during World War II, but she also writes great murder mysteries. Try Murder Must Advertise, starring the irrepressible Lord Peter Wimsey, for a breathtaking adventure involving an advertising agency, a desperate smuggler, and an ingenious code.
    • Want a book that will keep you up all night? Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None won’t take long to read, but you’re sure to stay awake thinking about the tale of ten people who gather on a deserted island to salve their guilty consciences, only to get picked off one by one.


  • A book written by a comedian
    • Star of The Talk and Archer, comedian Aisha Tyler garnered glowing reviews for her book Self-Inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation.
    • If you’re an SNL fan, don’t miss Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s tome, Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, As Told By Its Stars, Writers, and Guests, which was written for the show’s 25th anniversary in 2001.


  • A dystopian novel
    • Hailed as one of the first dystopian novels, Lois Lowry’s The Giver takes place in a society where all social ills have been fixed … at the risk of individuality and free will.
    • If The Giver wasn’t bleak enough for you, try Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, which is set at a highly unusual English boarding school.


  • A book with a blue cover
    • If you haven’t read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars yet, move it to the top of your list. It’d be easy to dismiss it just another “cancer story,” but Green transcends the genre to tell a beautifully crafted story about living life to the fullest.
    • Similarly, it’d be easy to classify Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl as a kids’ book, but don’t give up on it just yet. It’s a delightful, surprisingly deep book about an average high school turning upside-down when the new girl shows she’s not afraid to be herself.

Stay tuned for part 4!


Image credits: heart from condesign, Iran map from McLac2000, NYC woman from love_on, stethoscope from DarkoStojanovicdock from Unsplash, Antietam cannon from tpsdave, misty lake from stefankiss, Gracie Allen & George Burns from skeeze, color burst from PeteLinforth, and pool from Aquilatin on Pixabay.

Library life

2016 Reading Challenge, Part 2

Today we’re continuing our in-depth look at PopSugar’s 2016 reading challenge, finding two suggestions for each of their 40 categories.

[Update: Eager for more suggestions? Here are parts 1, 3, and 4 of the reaching challenge.]


  • A book that’s becoming a movie this year
    • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Newt Scamander): Written as a Comic Relief fundraiser, Fantastic Beasts is an encyclopedia of J.K. Rowling’s many strange creatures, from fuzzy Puffskeins to the menacing Lethifold. If you’re bored by the thought of reading an encyclopedia, don’t worry — it’s only 128 pages long, and sure to keep you engaged. The movie adaptation, starring Eddie Redmayne, is slated for release on November 18, 2016.
    • The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins): Every day, Rachel Watson takes the train to her job in London. Every day, she travels past the backyard of a seemingly happy couple. But when she spots the wife kissing another man, and then disappearing entirely, she wonders if she’s accidentally become part of a murder mystery. Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time to read it before the movie comes out — starring Emily Blunt, it’s due on October 7, 2016.


  • A book recommended by someone you just met
    • Hello there! I’m Ms. Brothers, a librarian at the Eva B. Dykes Library, and I recommend Kelly Brown Williams’ book Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps. From cleaning to cooking, dating to networking, this book is a great crash course for everything you wish you’d been taught in school.
    • Another Oakwood librarian, Heather Rodriguez-James, recommends Terri L. Fivash’s Dahveed series, a fictionalized version of King David’s life. Written by an Andrews University alumna and filled with rich historical detail, the Dahveed books are a sure way to enrich a Sabbath afternoon. There are five books out right now, with #6 in the works.


  • A self-improvement book
    • These two introduce themselves: Eat That Frog! 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (Brian Tracy), and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (Brené Brown).


  • A book you can finish in a day
    • Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House caused an uproar when it was first staged in 1879 — to the extent that the lead actress refused to perform unless Ibsen changed the ending. (He did.) Read it yourself and see if you agree with his observations about marriage and gender equality.
    • You may have already read Chaim Potok’s novel The Chosen in high school. In any case, give it a fresh look — it’s the story of two teenage Hasidic boys in New York City in the 1930s and 1940s, coming to terms with the religious and social borders of their friendship.


  • A book written by a celebrity
    • Whether you know Indian-American actress/writer/comedian Mindy Kaling from The OfficeThe Mindy Project, Inside Out, or her pithy remarks on race and appearance, her memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? is sure to delight you.
    • It’s hard to say what Grammy-nominated comedian Jim Gaffigan is most famous for: his bacon jokes, his Hot Pocket jokes, or the fact that he and his wife shared a two-bedroom apartment with their five children. His book Dad is Fat relates some of those adventures in parenting.


  • A political memoir
    • Prisoner of the State: The Secret Journal of Premier Zhao Ziyang relates the stories of a senior Chinese politician who advocated for free-market reforms and sympathized with the Tiananmen Square protesters, counter to official Chinese po
    • Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, chronicles the statesman’s harrowing journey, from 27 years in prison to his role as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.


  • A book at least 100 years older than you
    • Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre might have been published all the way back in 1847, but it’s aged very well (thanks in part to numerous TV and movie adaptations). The elements of the story are probably so familiar you could recite them along with me: a smart, determined, poor heroine arrives at a shadowy mansion to work as a governess, only to discover that the house holds more secrets than she counted on.
    • “Tiger, tiger, burning bright / In the forests of the night …” With this and other classics, William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience (published in 1789) takes its place among the longest-lived English poetry. Try to find an edition with Blake’s original illustrations, if you can.


  • A book that’s more than 600 pages
    • It’s the largest democracy in the world, containing one-sixth of the world’s people, who speak 1,652 languages. Its movies and music and art are unmistakable … but what could you tell me about its history, apart from British colonialism and Gandhi? In India: A History, John Keay pulls back the curtain on the world’s second-most populous country, revealing the ins and outs of five thousand years of Indian history.
    • From art to politics to poetry to drama, New York City’s Greenwich Village has long been known as a crucible of creativity. In Republic of Dreams: Greenwich Village: The American Bohemia, 1910–1960, Ross Wetzsteon weaves the stories that formed the neighborhood for half a century, with a star-studded cast that includes Marlon Brando, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jackson Pollock, Upton Sinclair, and e.e. cummings.


  • A book from Oprah’s Book Club
    • From author Edwidge Danticat comes Breath, Eyes, Memory, with this summary from Amazon: “At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti–to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.”
    • Say You’re One of Them is a collection of five short stories by Uwem Akpan, a Jesuit priest from Nigeria. Here’s the snapshot from Amazon: “A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family’s struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. A young brother and sister cope with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery. Aboard a bus filled with refugees—a microcosm of today’s Africa—a Muslim boy summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride across Nigeria. Through the eyes of childhood friends the emotional toll of religious conflict in Ethiopia becomes viscerally clear.”


  • A science-fiction novel
    • Due to become a movie this year, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One takes readers to 2044, where “reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape” (Amazon summary).
    • As with any genre, in science fiction, it’s always a good idea to start with the classics. Published in 1895, H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine — the story of a man who travels hundreds of thousands of years forward and visits an England populated by the gentle, free-living Eloi and the menacing, subterranean Morlocks.

Watch this space for part III of our reading challenge!


Image credits: Train by Unsplash, David statue by ruediger, frog by zdenet, dollhouse by stux, playground by kittyflake, Chinese landscape by McLac2000, tiger by skeeze, henna by Unsplash, Haiti by tpsdave, and gears by wolter_tom on Pixabay.