My 2014 Reading Challenges: How did I do?

At the end of every year, I like to look back and examine how successful (or unsuccessful) I was at completing my yearly reading goals. In addition to being a time for me to nostalgically remember the great books I read over the year (and the disappointment in the duds), I also use these “year in reading” posts to re-examine my reading selections and habits. Other than the joy of connecting with other book bloggers and learning of (even more) great new books to read, this process of consciously chronicling my reading habits is one of the things I value most about having this blog. I can tell how much I’ve grown as a reader since I started blogging in April of 2012–the proof is in the difference in my reading lists! So with that being said, I hope you’ll forgive me dear readers for looking back at my 2014 year in reading (for the next two posts)…even if it is February.

As you’ll see below, I finished almost every reading challenge I set for myself in 2014. It was a stretch sometimes to get  all the right books read at the right times, but overall I really enjoyed it. Note: Click here to see how my 2014 Reading Challenges compared to my 2013 challenges.

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 My 2014 Reading Challenges–How did I do?

Challenge #1–Back to the Classics Challenge, hosted by Books and Chocolate

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

“I really enjoyed participating in this challenge in 2013 (even though I was one book short of completing it) and look forward to reading more great classic literature in 2014!”

How I did:

Requirements to complete the challenge:

1. A 20th Century Classic: The Call of the Wild by Jack London

2. A 19th Century Classic: Middlemarch by George Eliot

3. A Classic by a Woman Author: My Antonia by Willa Cather

4. A Classic in Translation: Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

5. A Wartime Classic: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

6. A Classic by an Author Who Is New To You: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Optional Categories:

1. An American Classic: White Fang by Jack London

2. A Classic Mystery, Suspense or Thriller

3. A Historical Fiction Classic.

4. A Classic That’s Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series.

Takeaways:

I successfully completed this challenge in 2014 and even managed to read a book from the optional categories! My favorite book I read from this challenge would have to be Middlemarch, by George Eliot. Although it is epically long and was written nearly 150 years ago, it still felt very modern and I related to many of the situations in it. It’s definitely a book I want to re-read someday.

Overall, this was still one of my favorite reading challenges and I will definitely attempt to tackle it again in 2015. I like this challenge because it not only encourages me to read more classic literature, but it also helps guide me to different classic literature that I might never get around to reading otherwise.

Challenge #2What’s in a Name, hosted by The Worm Hole

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

“I really enjoyed this challenge in 2013, and am looking forward to tackling it in 2014 as well!”

How I did:

Requirements to complete this challenge:

1. A reference to time:Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo

2. A position of royalty: The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

3. A number written in letters: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

4. A forename or names: Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende, Stella Bain by Anita Shreve, Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, My Antonia by Willa Cather, and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

5. A type or element of weather: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Takeaways:

I still love this challenge because it is both unique and an actual challenge to complete. It has also had the added benefit of getting some long standing “to-read” books off the shelf and into my hands. I’ll definitely do this challenge again in 2015.

It’s a 3 way tie for my favorite books from this challenge: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Maya’s Notebook, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Challenge #3Audio Book Challenge, hosted by Teresa’s Reading Corner

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

“Audio has become one of my favorite ways to enjoy a good book. I’m looking forward to seeing how many I can tackle in 2014!

How I did:

I hope to listen to more than 25 Audio Books.

I listened to 30 audio books in 2014. In the interest of saving some space, you can view the full list here.

Takeaways:

Now that audio is such an established medium in my reading habits, I don’t really feel like it was that difficult for me to complete this challenge. It definitely helped me get into the audio groove in 2013, but I don’t think it’s stretching my reading “muscles” anymore. However, I do still think the number of audio books I read is an interesting statistic and therefore will continue to track it in 2015.

Since I listened to so many good audio books last year it’s REALLY hard to pick a favorite. Or even 3. So I’m not even going to try right now. 🙂

Challenge #4New Authors Challenge, hosted by Literary Escapism

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

“I enjoyed tracking all of the new authors I read in 2013, and look forward to exploring at least 25 new-to-me writers in 2014!”

How I did:

I am signing up to read books from 25 new authors.

I read books by 47 “new to me” authors in 2014. In the interest of saving some space, you can view the full list here.

Takeaways:

Like the audio book challenge above, the majority of the books I read now are from “new to me” authors. I think that signing up for this challenge two years in a row definitely encouraged me to seek out new voices, but again this habit is now so ingrained that it’s not really a challenge for me anymore.

Since the number of “new to me” authors basically encompasses my entire 2014 reading list, I don’t think I’m going to even try to choose a favorite.

Challenge #5The Eclectic Reader, hosted by Book’d Out

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

“I like to think of myself as someone who attempts books outside of their comfort zone, but admittedly there are a few genres in this challenge I’ve never attempted (namely graphic novels). So, I think it will be fun to try some of these–maybe I’ll find a new favorite!”

How I did:

Select, read and review a book from each genre listed below during the year for a total of 12 books:

1. Award Winning: The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo,  Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Insurgent by Veronica Roth, Allegiant by Veronica Roth, World War Z by Max Brooks, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Rules of Civility by Amor Towles, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2. True Crime (Non Fiction): In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

3. Romantic Comedy: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

4. Alternate History Fiction: World War Z by Max Brooks

5. Graphic Novel

6. Cosy Mystery Fiction: The Bride Wore Size 12 by Meg Cabot

7. Gothic Fiction: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

8. War/Military Fiction: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

9. Anthology: Dangerous Women edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner R. Dozois

10. Medical Thriller Fiction: Cut to the Bone by Jefferson Bass

11. Travel (Non Fiction): The Longest Road by Philip Caputo

12. Published in 2014: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Takeaways:

This was an awesome challenge and I got exactly what I hoped for out of it. Even though I didn’t finish it (I still haven’t read a graphic novel) I definitely read some books I wouldn’t have otherwise. I will definitely be attempting to complete this challenge again in 2015.

The biggest pleasant surprise was the anthology! In the past, I avoided collections of short stories because I thought just as soon as I got attached to a character or story it would be over. I was also afraid that in a big collection (like Dangerous Women) there would be like one good story and 20 medicore ones. Luckily this wasn’t the case for Dangerous Women, as there were many stories I liked and a couple that I loved. The positive reading experience has inspired me to put more collections of short stories on my “to-be-read” list!

Challenge #6Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge, hosted by Bookmark To Blog

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

I didn’t really give any specific reasons in the original post, but I assume it was because it was similar to the “What’s in a Name?” challenge (i.e. challenge #2 from above).

How I did:

In this challenge I will attempt to read one book each month whose title includes one or more of the key words for that month:

Jan- Angel, Secret, Clock, Black, Day, Wild: The Call of the Wild by Jack London

Feb- Her, Life, Night, Red, Dark, Island: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Mar- Forever, Inside, Storm, Sky, Flower, Stay: Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, death, and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Katherine Boo

Apr- Star, Light, Never, Princess, Break, Clear: The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

May- Dawn, Death, End, Lost, Beautiful, And: Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed

Jun- Color, Beyond, Found, Place, Grave, Road: The Longest Road by Philip Caputo

Jul- Crash, Ship, Prince, Whisper, Sun, Of: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Aug- Forgotten, Down, True, Run, Danger, Me: True Believers by Kurt Andersen

Sep- Number, Take, Shadow, Ice, Who, After: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Oct- Ocean, Blood, Still, Out, The, Fate: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Nov- Into, Sound, Blue, House, My, Last: My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

Dec- Kiss, Fire, Ruin, White, Promise, Infinity: The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Takeaways:

I finished it!!!! This one really required me to plan ahead, but I found I enjoyed the challenge of trying to find just the right book to read every  month. Although I really enjoyed this challenge, I don’t think I’ll participate in 2015 since I’m already 1.5 months behind.

Challenge #7Chunkster Challenge, hosted by Chunkster Reading Challenge

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Why I Joined (as per January 2014):

“In this challenge, the goal is to read an adult or YA book that is 450 pages or more. I like the idea of this challenge because it encourages you to read longer books. In 2013 I was so focused on trying to read 52 books, that I avoided reading anything that was too long. This year there are no set levels for this challenge, so I will attempt to read 2 chunksters in 2014.”

How I did:

1. The Pact by Jodi Picoult (497 pages)

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (512 pages)

3.  Middlemarch by George Eliot (794 pages)

4. Dangerous Women edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner R. Dozois (736 pages)

5. Divergent by Veronica Roth (487 pages)

6. Insurgent by Veronica Roth (525 pages)

7. Allegiant by Veronica Roth (544 pages)

8. A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin (784 pages)

9. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (560 pages)

10. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (544 pages)

11. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (487 pages)

12. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (546 pages)

13. Duty by Robert M. Gates (640 pages)

Takeaways:

I totally exceeded my own expectations with this challenge. I intend to set the bar a little higher for myself in 2015.

Personal Reading Goals:

I will try to read 35 books in 2014. Of these 35 books, I’d like at least 5 to count toward finishing The Big Read List and/or 1001 Books To Read Before You Die.

How I did:

1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

2. The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

3.  Middlemarch by George Eliot

4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

5. Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

6. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

7. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

8. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte

9. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

10. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

11. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch

12. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

13. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Takeaways:

Again, I exceeded my expectations here. Many of the books on this list were among my favorites from 2014, which I think speaks to quality and relevance of the books off these lists for me.

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Coming soon: A more general 2014 year-in-reading wrap-up (with statistics!) and the 2015 reading challenges I’m hoping to complete!