2021 Reading Challenge


I used to be an avid reader growing up. I loved going to the library and picking out my next novel as a pre-teen and still love walking into a Barnes and Noble today. (Anyone remember when Waldenbooks was a thing? That place was my JAM as a kid).

Grad school put me in a funk with reading for awhile. I was totally over reading, thinking, discussing, critiquing, blah, blah, blah that I barely picked up a book throughout the latter half of 2020 and really let myself go on trash television. We're talking a whole lot of "Love is Blind", "Too Hot too Handle", and "The Bachelor". I could feel my brain withering away.

Now it's 2021 and I realized I have a ton of books in my personal library that I have never touched. A few summers ago (pre-Grad school), I went on a purchasing spree of books, telling myself I would have a summer of reading; however, I let life get crazy busy with traveling and children's theatre and by the end I found myself sitting in on meetings on the first day of school asking myself, "Whoa, where did summer go?"

So with a new year here and Covid-19 still taking her toll on our country and our world forcing life as we typically know it to be pretty quiet, I figured this would be the perfect year to reconnect with reading. Below you will find a list of books, their reviews and/or synopsis, and the month in which I plan to read them. I invite you to join me and read along with me throughout the year, possibly having a chance to engage in some conversation about the books and what they have to offer us as readers.

Be sure to follow me on instagram to tag along with me as I read these books throughout the year. Also, feel free to shoot me a DM if you find yourself reading the same book as me and what to discuss it!

Happy 2021...

and as always...

Cheers!

January
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Purchase here via Amazon.

“A serious work of candid reflection by a singular figure of early-twenty-first-century America . . . Becoming is refined and forthright, gracefully written and at times laugh-out-loud funny.”—Isabel Wilkerson, The New York Times Book Review

“Becoming is inspirational without trying to be. From the first words, the very warmth that permeates its author emanates from the pages. . . . Becoming manages to be a coming-of-age tale, a love story and a family saga all in one. More importantly, this book is a reminder that America is still a work-in-progress, and that hope can be an action word if we allow it to be. Becoming is a balm that America needs, from a woman America does not yet deserve.”—Angie Thomas, Time

“Deeply personal and refreshingly honest . . . She’s thoughtful, humorous, bracingly revealing, and when it’s time, she does us all the favor of showing us the human side of a man worshipped by so many. . . . It’s human and genuine and welcoming to see the layers of humanity she holds open. . . . Michelle Obama’s story can maybe inspire you to find a path for your own story.”—Shonda Rhimes, Shondaland

“A complex, accomplished life recounted with confidence and candor . . . Every page sparkles with directness and grace.”—Douglas Brinkley, The Boston Globe

February
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Purchase here via Amazon.

(Note: This book had some very mixed reviews from purchasers on Amazon involving content and accuracy, so I am interested in reading it. Would love to have the chance to discuss with other readers.)

“The value in White Fragility lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance.”
—The New Yorker

“[T]houghtful, instructive, and comprehensive . . . This slim book is impressive in its scope and complexity; DiAngelo provides a powerful lens for examining, and practical tools for grappling with, racism today.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“White Fragility is a book everyone should be exposed to. With any luck, most who are will be inspired to search themselves and interrupt their contributions to racism.”
—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

“A valuable guide . . . While especially helpful for those new to the critical analysis of whiteness, this work also offers a useful refresher to anyone committed to the ongoing process of self-assessment and anti-oppression work.”
—Library Journal

“A vital, necessary, and beautiful book, a bracing call to white folk everywhere to see their whiteness for what it is and to seize the opportunity to make things better now.”
—Michael Eric Dyson


March
You are a Badass Everyday by Jen Sincero
Purchase here via Amazon.

I have read Jen's other books (You are a Badass and You are a Badass at Making Money) and I can't recommend them enough! Her writing style is fun, comical, and totally relatable. I highly recommend her other two books I listed above. I also saw she has a new one out entitled Badass Habits, which I will be purchasing down the road!

“[Sincero] aims to teach people to unlock their potential for confidence, wealth, and success. . . . Sincero’s new book will have daily strategies for keeping the momentum going and constant reminders of your inner ‘badass.’”
—Entrepreneur

April
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Purchase here via Amazon

In the world of the near future, who will control women's bodies? Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are only valued if their ovaries are viable. 

Offred can remember the days before, when she lived and made love with her husband Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now.... 

Funny, unexpected, horrifying, and altogether convincing, "The Handmaid's Tale is at once scathing satire, dire warning, and tour de force.

May
Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music 
by Blair Tindall
Purchase here via Amazon

I
n the tradition of Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Gelsey Kirkland’s Dancing on My Grave, Mozart in the Jungle delves into the lives of the musicians and conductors who inhabit the insular world of classical music. In a book that inspired the Amazon Original series starring Gael GarcĂ­a Bernal and Malcolm McDowell, oboist Blair Tindall recounts her decades-long professional career as a classical musician—from the recitals and Broadway orchestra performances to the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth in the backbiting New York classical music scene, where musicians trade sexual favors for plum jobs and assignments in orchestras across the city. Tindall and her fellow journeymen musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hungover, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions— working-class musicians who schlep across the city between low-paying gigs, without health-care benefits or retirement plans, a stark contrast to the rarefied experiences of overpaid classical musician superstars. An incisive, no-holds-barred account, Mozart in the Jungle is the first true, behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.

June & July
The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron
Purchase here from Amazon.

This is a 12-week program which is why I set aside both June and July for this book.

“Without The Artist's Way, there would have been no Eat, Pray, Love.” —Elizabeth Gilbert

"The Artist's Way is not exclusively about writing—it is about discovering and developing the artist within, whether a painter, poet, screenwriter, or musician—but it is a lot about writing. If you have always wanted to pursue a creative dream, have always wanted to play and create with words or paints, this book will gently get you started and help you learn all kinds of paying-attention techniques; and that, after all, is what being an artist is all about. It's about learning to pay attention." —Anne Lamott

"This is a book that addresses a delicate and complex subject. For those who will use it, it is a valuable tool to get in touch with their own creativity." —Martin Scorsese

August
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Purchase here via Amazon

August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.
"Wonder is the best kids' book of the year," said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at Slate.com and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

September
Still Life of a Woodpecker by Tom Robbins
Purchase here via Amazon.

I received this book during a book exchange and never took the time to sit down and read it. I'm very much looking forward to taking sometime with this book.

Life with Woodpecker is sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads.


October
Call Me by Your Name by Andre Aciman
Purchase here via Amazon

Andre Aciman's Call Me by Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blossoms between an adolescent boy and a summer guest at his parents’ cliffside mansion on the Italian Riviera. Each is unprepared for the consequences of their attraction, when, during the restless summer weeks, unrelenting currents of obsession, fascination, and desire intensify their passion and test the charged ground between them. Recklessly, the two verge toward the one thing both fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy. It is an instant classic and one of the great love stories of our time.

Winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Ficition

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year • A Publishers Weekly and The Washington Post Best Book of the Year • A New York Magazine "Future Canon" Selection • A Chicago Tribune and Seattle Times (Michael Upchurch's) Favorite Favorite Book of the Year

November
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Purchase here via Amazon

In this generation-defining self-help guide, a superstar blogger cuts through the crap to show us how to stop trying to be "positive" all the time so that we can truly become better, happier people.

For decades, we’ve been told that positive thinking is the key to a happy, rich life. "F**k positivity," Mark Manson says. "Let’s be honest, shit is f**ked and we have to live with it." In his wildly popular Internet blog, Manson doesn’t sugarcoat or equivocate. He tells it like it is—a dose of raw, refreshing, honest truth that is sorely lacking today. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is his antidote to the coddling, let’s-all-feel-good mindset that has infected modern society and spoiled a generation, rewarding them with gold medals just for showing up. 

Manson makes the argument, backed both by academic research and well-timed poop jokes, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn lemons into lemonade, but on learning to stomach lemons better. Human beings are flawed and limited—"not everybody can be extraordinary, there are winners and losers in society, and some of it is not fair or your fault." Manson advises us to get to know our limitations and accept them. Once we embrace our fears, faults, and uncertainties, once we stop running and avoiding and start confronting painful truths, we can begin to find the courage, perseverance, honesty, responsibility, curiosity, and forgiveness we seek. 

There are only so many things we can give a f**k about so we need to figure out which ones really matter, Manson makes clear. While money is nice, caring about what you do with your life is better, because true wealth is about experience. A much-needed grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-look-you-in-the-eye moment of real-talk, filled with entertaining stories and profane, ruthless humor, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k is a refreshing slap for a generation to help them lead contented, grounded lives.

December
Bone Music by Christopher Rice
Purchase here via Amazon

Charlotte Rowe spent the first seven years of her life in the hands of the only parents she knew—a pair of serial killers who murdered her mother and tried to shape Charlotte in their own twisted image. If only the nightmare had ended when she was rescued. Instead, her real father exploited her tabloid-ready story for fame and profit—until Charlotte finally broke free from her ghoulish past and fled. Just when she thinks she has buried her personal hell forever, Charlotte is swept into a frightening new ordeal. Secretly dosed with an experimental drug, she’s endowed with a shocking new power—but pursued by a treacherous corporation desperate to control her.

Except from now on, if anybody is going to control Charlotte, it’s going to be Charlotte herself. She’s determined to use the extraordinary ability she now possesses to fight the kind of evil that shattered her life—by drawing a serial killer out from the shadows to face the righteous fury of a victim turned avenger.



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