challenging readings, and a reading challenge

I recently started following Anne Bogel’s blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, a hub for all things literature and wordy. From what I can tell, Modern Mrs. Darcy’s annual reading challenge is THE THING in the book-loving world, and I can see why.

Each new year, a new reading challenge is posted. The list includes 12 categories of books, allowing readers to pick their own fiction and non-fiction reads for the year, but creating varied choices. This year’s list included ‘A book that was banned at some point,’ ‘a book that was published this year’ and ‘a book you should have read in school.’

This year, I decided I would try out this new-fangled reading challenge thing (cause I was clearly bored). Even though in classes we are ready such volumes as Dante’s Divine Comedy, Augustine’s Confessions, and Heidegger’s Being and Time, it’s important to balance/distract oneself from those challenging readings with some lighter, just-for-fun books.

Here are my picks for this year’s challenge:

yourheartA book published this year

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa

I have now seen this novel mentioned on five different must-read lists in three weeks, and so with very little known about the content, it’s making my shelf this year. Seven characters and a political protest, with a punchy title and eye-catching cover – sounds like a winner.

A book you can finish in a day

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells Yonotthatkindofgirl.jpgu What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham

This is not to say that the content is so straightforward it should be read in a day, but Dunham’s readable prose makes it such that I could devour it in a day. I know she’s not for everyone, but I’m a fan of Lena and her television show Girls, and have high hopes for this one.

A book you’ve been meaning to read

With or Without God by Gretta Vosper

An atheist minster, a much talked-about non-fiction work, and a religious controversy, all in one? Yes please.

A book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gaybadfeminist

With a title like that, it’s hard to resist. This one was recommended to me by Mitzi at Box of Delights in Wolfville, NS (perhaps a hint? should I be insulted? Who knows), though it would have made my list anyway. I spent way too long standing in a bookstore aisle trying to read this without buying it, and ended up not finishing it, nor making a purchase, but was hooked by this collection of essays highlighting issues of race, culture, sex, and of course, feminism.

A book you should have read in school

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

I had a strange collection of books foist upon me in middle and high school, none of which I would ever classify as a ‘classic.’ As a result, I missed The Catcher in the Rye (though I did read King Dork, the apparent modern-day version, which I’m told is much funnier than Salinger’s classic). Time to catch up!

A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, or BFFsophiesworld

Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder

Since I’m already studying philosophy, this one seems a bit redundant. But if J tells me about it anymore I’ll go crazy. So I’m giving in and reading about Sophie and her world, and the journey she takes through the history of philosophy, as she attempts to discover who she is and how things came to be.

A book published before you were born

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway

There really is no explanation required for Hemmingway, but this one has been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for too long, and the reading challenge has prompted me to finally get to it. The list of books that were published before I was born is huge, so I narrowed it using my own list of things I wanted to read anyway. Any book referred to as “at once rare and beautiful, strong and brutal, compassionate, moving, and wise” must be worth reading, at least once.

A book you own but have never read 

thewaythecrowfliesThe Way the Crow Flies by Ann-Marie MacDonald

I read MacDonald’s tome, Fall on Your Knees, a number of years ago, and loved it. I also read her recent novel Adult Onset and found it more than a little whiny. So although the content of this one, and questions of human morality, truth, and murder, was drawing me in, I was tainted by MacDonald’s newer work. It is such a huge book though, and takes up so much room on my shelf, it was calling to me. Hopefully this one returns to her former style, excellent story-telling, and topics that remain relevant across decades.

A book you previously abandoned

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Yes, also a classic. No, I didn’t read this one in school either. Yes, I have tried, and yes I get the gist and all the references to Big Brother. Although I’m not a fan of dystopian fiction, thank you Reading Challenge for forcing me to finally finish it.

A book that intimidates you

Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Blyth austerity

I bought Austerity for an introductory politics class in my first year of university, and although we were definitely supposed to read all of it, I fell asleep about ten pages into this dry (but important!) text. The language and content are intimidating though, as my understanding of economics is nil, and Blyth zips through topics at top-speed. Part economics, part politics, and part political philosophy and theory, Blyth highlights the many problems with government austerity, and makes the case for spending rather than saving, supplementing rather than restricting, and finding the actual, often more complicated, source of a problem instead of blaming the obvious ones.

A book that was banned at some point

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

Banned books are my favourites, but having already read a great many (I don’t know what that says about my reading habits…) I had to dig a little deeper for this one. I’ve never been tainted by seeing the movie, and with all the talk of mental health issues in the media, this seems like an appropriate choice.

A book you’ve already read at least once

Beatrice and Virgil – Yann Martel beatriceandvirgil

I am a hard core Yann Martel fan. His letters to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper highlighting books the PM ought to read in order to govern our country have a special place on my bedside table. Although the movie of Life of Pi made me nauseous, I’ve read the book at least three times. Beatrice and Virgil is less-known than Pi, but my studies of Dante, his great love Beatrice, and Virgil, his guide through the circles of Hell, will hopefully supplement my re-reading of this much-discussed novel.

What’s on your to-be-read list this year? Any other MMD Reading Challenge participants out there? Let us know on Facebook, or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!



from the bookshelf {winter 2016}

With school back in session, and the reading list full of philosophy, French, psychology, politics, and economics (at least in our house), the to-be-read fun books are on the back burner. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try. Five minutes before classes start, ten minutes before bed, it all adds up. For the rest of you though, not taking classes and with time to spare, check out some of our favourite reads from the last few months.

Clicking on the cover will take you to Amazon, but please, support your local, independent book seller. For example… Broken Books, St. John’s NLBox of Delights, Wolfville NS or Bookmark, Halifax NS!


The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman 

For anyone who has ever wished to own a bookstore, live in the Welsh countryside, and be involved in an international, historical mystery, this is the book for you. Tooly, the female protagonist, takes on the task of figuring out her own history, while reconnecting with her past, and making stops around the globe. All the while, the lovely descriptions of Welsh fields and bookstore shelves give this book a perfect, wintry feel that contrasts with the engaging plot twists.

Know the Night: A Memoir of Survival in the Small Hours by Maria Mutch

I missed hearing Maria Mutch speak at the Box of Delights in Wolfville a couple of years ago, but did not miss this memoir, a must-read for anyone involved with children who have special needs. Mutch combines her attraction to Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard E. Byrd and his many weeks spent in darkness, with her own experience accompanying her young son during the night. A fascinating look into the bond between mother and child, the human brain, and the often-feared night.

Annabel by Kathleen WinterAnnabel

In Labrador in 1968, an ‘intersex’ baby is born, and the decision is made to raise the child as male. Wayne, once grown, discovers the truth of his infancy, and his parents’ choices. In doing so however, he opens the door to what becomes a time of identity-searching, and the challenges that arise when what you were taught to be becomes difficult to maintain. Winter’s content is fresh and relevant, and not often featured in fiction, making this choice a clear winner for us this year.

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

This is in no way a cheerful book. There is almost nothing to say about this that won’t give something away, but I for one devoured it in days, and it has stuck with me for the past year. Give it a go when you need a good cry, or when you are clearly being too happy for everyone around you. And yes, there really is a rabbit. It’s one of the most uplifting parts of the whole book. But, truly, the writing is beautiful, and the story will hold you from beginning to end.


We would love to know what you’re reading this winter, or what’s on the top of your to-be-read list. Leave us a note in the comments, or please do connect with us on Facebook and Instagram. Happy reading!