So yes, bookmas is quite over and has spectacularly failed towards the end. I can only very lamely blame my falling ill unexpectedly (obviously, how else?) and being too consumed by coughing and sleeping to blog. Catching up now, guys, catching up.
So here we are. Probably the biggest thing I tackled last year in the reading department – #bustlereads, a reading challenge promoting diversity and female writers and that just resonated with me when I came across it early last year (this is the original post introducing the challenge).
Now, almost twelve months later, I’ve completed it proudly and am ready to bring you a gigantic masterpost of all the books I counted towards it. When planning bookmas last december, I decided to write a review on as many of them as I could, on the one hand to get myself to write some more posts on single books and on the other hand to prevent this post to grow into an uncontrollable monster of experiences, surprises and ever repeating recollections. That’s why I kept the reviewing extremely brief here and went all out on the self-promoting links to my reviews. Enjoy.
Read A Book Written By A Woman Under 25
Sense and Sensibility apparently Jane Austen’s first novel and published when she was extremely young. You can kind of tell, but it’s lovely and cosy and Austen and I’m so excited to read more of hers. Full review here.
Read A Book About Non-Western History
I really wanted to complete this task extra-super proper because I was looking so forward to it. I really wanted to read something on the Chinese Cultural Revolution… but then, the year just flew by and I ended up slightly cheating this category. We’re counting The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende here, because although it is a novel, it heavily draws from actual Chilean history… full review here.
Read A Book Of Essays
I was looking forward to this category so much, and I was even more excited to get James Baldwin’s Notes Of A Native Son from the library. It’s a collection of essays on being a black man in the United States, and I wanted to be blown away by it so badly. I just didn’t know what even happened, and have decided to not write a full review because it was just a weird reading experience of feeling overwhelmed, but just not impressed. I suspect it’s a great book, but we didn’t click at all and I can’t help feeling that’s my fault.
Read A Book About An Indigenous Culture
Well, this isn’t really about an indigenous culture, but I think I should get some extra credit for super inclusive comprehensiveness, right? The No-Nonsense Guide to Indigenous Peoples by Lotte Hughes is a very short, but very good introduction to indigenous cultures, historic as well as contemporary, and a perfect pick for the uneducated white girl I am. Full review here.
Read A Book Before You See The Movie
I always do this. Literally always. I’d never watch a film if I was planning on reading the book in the future, that’s just not how my input works. However, for this particular task in this particular challenge I chose Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind.
I read and analysed this in school for German class, and to conclude the unit on the book, our teacher watched the 2006 film with us. I’d recommend both, but the book is definitely very superior. I love it way too much considering I got graded on analysing it…
Read A YA Book By An Author Of Colour
This is one of the reasons I’m glad I did this challenge. I would never have discovered How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon without it, having only found it after some extensive internet research, and I absolutely adored it. It’s a book about a black teenager getting shot by a white man and everyone trying to figure out what really happened, to piece together the whole story. It’s gorgeous and contemporary, but very readable, and I did a full review of it here.
Read A Book Set In The Middle East
A book you’re probably sick of hearing about by now, but I just love it way too much. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi is a memoir by a English literature scholar living in Iran before, during and after the Islamic Revolution who founded a book club with some of her female students to read and discuss Western works of literature. It’s absolutely brilliant, and fully dissected here.
Read A Book About Women In War
I found it so hard to find a book for this category, so I ended up just asking my mother and she recommended this as an okay, fun read – a novel set post WWII, but handling events during the German occupation of the Channel Islands and features a lot of female characters, so I decided it’d work. Ended up liking it, but feeling no need to keep or recommend it… full review here.
Read A Graphic Novel Written By A Woman
For this I picked up The Three Incestuous Sisters by Audrey Niffenegger. This is literally the only graphic novel I’ve read this year, although I generally really enjoy them… this one though, I just didn’t love it. While I could appreciate the art, it wasn’t really my style and the story didn’t give me anything, either, so all in all, just a really disappointing read.
Read A Book About An Immigrant Or Refugee To The U.S.
I loved this challenge, and I absolutely loved the book I chose to pick up: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka. If I can make you pick up only one book from this list, it would probably have to be this one. It’s about Japanese picture brides coming to the US in the early 20th century, and manages to show the progress of their lifes in a very beautiful, unusual voice – it’s just gorgeous and poetic and I loved it.
Read A Children’s Book Aloud
I did this loads during my internship in a local kindergarten, and got really nostalgic for my own childhood. It’s just so lovely to read out to people who can’t yet read themselves – with the risk of being cheesy, it’s like recruiting future readers.
Reread Your Favourite Book From Your Childhood
This was so hard to choose, I’ve got an abundance of wonderful childhood favourites on my shelves. In the end, however, I went with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken. This is without a doubt the warmest, cosiest book ever, despite some terrible stuff happening. I honestly don’t think there’ll ever be a time in my life when this won’t make me happy…
Read A Memoir By Someone Who Identifies as LGBTQIA
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson isn’t really your typical memoir. It honestly felt unlike anything else I’ve ever read. While it of course talks about her discovering her sexuality and her (very Christian) mother throwing her out of the house as a consequence, it’s also about class in 70s Northern England, it’s about home and identity and how the two are linked and books, always books, as an inevitable part of her life story. I massively enjoyed it, and reviewed it in full here.
Read A Work Of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Written By A Woman
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is one of the books I never ever would have read without this challenge because postapocalyptic fiction isn’t my genre at all. And yet, I’m so glad I’ve read it. It’s about a flu pandemic and the world it leaves behind, jumps time a lot and tals about civilisation, art and living in an extremely interesting way. Definitely made me think, and write a review here.
Read A Feminist Sci-Fi Novel
For this, I went with Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. Again, Science Fiction isn’t what I normally read at all, and with this more than Station Eleven, I was kind of reminded why I don’t, but I could appreciate its brilliance nonetheless. I’m sure most readers would like this much more than I do, and I already enjoyed it massively – it was just too much in its genre for me to absolutely adore. Still, the post-pandemic world, the narrative jumping and the feminist tones have me not hesitating to recommend this to loads of people. Reviewed here.
Read The First Book In A Series You’ve Never Read
Basically, I just avoid series. I don’t really like them, they don’t give me anything I can’t find in standalones, and often they take away from my enjoyment because they split up the story or stretch it out too much. That’s why I went for a very loose series, and read Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse. This collection of short anecdotes about shallow, but hilarious young Bertie Wooster and his valet Jeeves charmed me, but didn’t give me as much as I’d hoped. Long monologue explaining my mixed feelings here.
Read A Book Set In Africa, By An Author From Africa
This I should do much more. It’s ridiculous how little writers from African countries I’ve read, and I’m going to make myself pick up more (hopefully), because it’s such an interesting experience to explore a culture I tend to be shamefully ignorant about. We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo was a great start for that project, because it really rubs your privilege and ignorance in your face in a way that doesn’t make you hate the writer… I agree that it was overstuffed with themes at times, but it did great at the immigration narrative and exploring identity and home in a very fascinating way. Reviewed here.
Read A Translated Book
For this, I went with Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, a childhood and adolescence memoir by the brilliant Simone de Beauvoir. This, I loved because it combined feminism, existentialism and growing up in a very fascinating way, and while it didn’t speak to me personally as much as I’d hoped, I still really enjoyed it. Full review here.
Read A Contemporary Collection Of Poetry
Search Party by George The Poet was a gorgeous christmas present 2015, and after reading it with massive enjoyment last year, I was (and am) so excited to read more poetry. Hasn’t happened, hopefully will, until then, this is a marvellous book of spoken word poetry about social justice issues, race and growing up which I gushingly reviewed here.
Read A Book By A Modernist Woman Writer
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. This one, I was just planning to pick up some time in my life. And then, I just spontaneously did it and enjoyed it very much…
I find it really hard to talk about this book because I just don’t feel as if I completely got it, so it definitely made its way onto my reread-list already. What this did give me however, the stream of consciousness-writing style and the motives and the 1920s London setting, I absolutely adored. Full review here.