After spending a great deal of 2020 creating a 2021 reading journal, it didn’t quite come to fruition (for which I’ll place heavy blame on COVID plus a severe lack in graphic design skills). I do still plan on pushing out a 2022 one but until then, I wanted to share one of the pages I’d created: a year-long reading challenge 🙌 After taking part in The Uncorked Librarian’s 2020 reading challenge, I was really keen to try my own. I’ll still be taking part in Uncorked Reading Challenge 2021 but who doesn’t love juggling a hundred books a month??
So without further ado – ta da!
Let’s break it down.
January – a character with a disability
In an effort to expand my reading, I choose many of my books based on culture, representation, and diversity. Seeing disability positively represented in fiction is something that I really want to explore more of. I’m still working on my blog categories but I currently have one that covers disability and mental health (you can choose either for your January read). Here’s a dedicated blog post with some other recommended reads.
Books I recommend in this category include:
- Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon
- Kokomo by Victoria Hannan (character with agoraphobia)
- Before Her Eyes by Jack Jordan (blind protagonist)
- The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell (main character has dementia)
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio (child with a facial difference)
- Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris (character with Down syndrome)
- Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (character with “bubble baby” disease)
February – a book set in Afghanistan
I’ve been drawn to books set in this country ever since I first read The Kite Runner as a literature student. I’m captivated by the vibrant settings contrasted with the desolation caused by war, the culture and women’s rights (or lack of), and the strict Taliban regime.
Here’s a book list with some suggestions that include four of my favourites:
- Born Under A Million Shadows by Andrea Busfield
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
- And The Mountain Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
March – a book that celebrates diversity
This prompt is super vague for a reason – there are so many diverse books out there right now that I didn’t want to spotlight a country/culture/race/history in particular. This one is yours for the taking. Good luck narrowing it down!
Check out the ever-growing book list which includes:
- The Mothers by Brit Bennett
- The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré
- The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
- Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
- A Burning by Megha Majumdar
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone
April – a book that teaches you something new
I love coming across a novel that is educational as well as fictional. I’m talking anything from hedgehogs and bee-keeping to taxidermy and piano tuning. I LOVE IT. So much so that I wrote a book list on books that teach you something new with the help of some of my favourite Bookstagrammers and had to add it to my reading challenge. Need a starting point? Check out some of my favourites:
- The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris (violins)
- Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain (mural restoration)
- Instant Karma by Marissa Meyer (sea life rescue)
- The Vines We Planted by Joanell Serra (winery processes)
May – personified animal characters
I wasn’t quite sure how to phrase this prompt but it’s basically animals that are given a voice or personality. As someone who isn’t a huge animal lover, I’ve sure read a lot of animal-related books recently and I’m slowly converting. Maybe next year I’ll be living on a farm surrounded by 100 pets – watch this space.
Anthropomorphic books you’ll find on May’s reading list:
- Watership Down by Richard Adams
- The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
- The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
- Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
June – a book in epistolary, diary, or journal format
Another thing I love in a book is a format that is a little out of the ordinary. I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society for the first time in 2020 and loved the letter format – something that shouldn’t work but absolutely did. So this is definitely something I want to explore more of in 2021.
Here’s a selection of what’s on the full list:
- Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock
- Swimming Lessons by Clare Fuller
- We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
- I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
July – Indigenous characters and cultures
Since moving to Australia, I’ve seen a lot of books locally that celebrate Indigenous culture and I really want to expand my knowledge here. It’s not something I see very often on Instagram so I wanted to spotlight it in this challenge and encourage others to expand their learning too. So far, I’ve only read Shauna’s Great Expectations by Kathleen Loughnan and I loved it. I highly recommend checking out LoveOzYa which has a huge list of Indigenous reads to choose from.
My anticipated reads:
- Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller
- My Father’s Shadow by Jannali Jones
- Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina
- Black Cockatoo by Carl Merrison, Hakea Hustler
- Meet Me at the Intersection by multiple authors
Check out the full list which also includes books on Native American and Inuit cultures.
August – a children’s classic
There is nothing better than rediscovering a book you adored as a child and reading it as an adult. Unless you’re discovering the book for the first time as an adult – that’s also pretty special. I have made a big effort to read more children’s literature this year because I missed out on a few gems and they give me all the nostalgic feels. Also this doesn’t have to be a classic classic – just a children’s book of your choice.
Here are some of my childhood/adult favourites that have made the shortlist:
- The Famous Five series by Enid Blyton
- Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
- Nancy Drew Mystery Stories by Caroline Keene
- The Babysitter’s Club series by Ann M. Martin (and if you haven’t watched the Netflix show I HIGHLY recommend)
- The Railway Children by E. Nesbit
- Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- Holes by Louis Sacher
- Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine (you know you want to)
Fancy some non-fiction? Check out these educational children’s books.
September – historical fiction based on true events
I’m always drawn to books that are set during WW2 but I wanted to open this prompt to any time in history to expand the options. The book you choose can be set in any country, from any period, as long as it is based on or inspired by a true event.
Here are some I’ve read and recommend:
- The Pull Of The Stars by Emma Donoghue (the Great Flu)
- People Like Us by Louise Fein (WW2)
- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (WW2)
- The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson (1627 – Barbary pirates raided Iceland)
- The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes (the Pack Horse Library)
- The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer (WW2)
October – Nordic noir
By October, we’ll be more than ready to embrace the Halloween vibes which is why I picked Nordic noir for this month’s prompt. Described by Goodreads as ‘dark, gritty mysteries with a Scandinavian setting,’ Nordic noir is like a thriller, but on steroids. I’ve only read The Chestnut Man and I’m Traveling Alone but both were top reads.
Here are some on my list:
- The Keeper Of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
- Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow / Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
- The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler
- The Ice Princess by Camilla Läckberg
- The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
- Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbø
November – learn about a new culture
Last year, I read a few books that I never would have picked up in the past because they were out of my comfort zone and they absolutely opened my eyes. One of my favourite cultures to explore was Iceland, thanks to The Uncorked Challenge and a lockdown that left me at home with my range of Icelandic picks (my top recommendation here is The Glass Woman). I also read and loved The Night Tiger which covered Malaysian folklore.
Cultural books on my TBR:
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
- The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi
- The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi
- Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
- Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
December – character embarking on a journey
For the few that make it this far (hi mum), what better way to end the year than with a good old character journey. The options are endless with this one – will you go for a journey of self-discovery, a physical epic journey, a time-travelling twist or a classic road trip?
Here are my mixed bag of recommendations:
- A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Bird Box by Josh Malerman
- Questions Of Perspective by Daniel Maunz
- Circe by Madeline Miller
- Home Stretch by Graham Norton
- Of Mice And Men by John Steinbeck
- Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor
And that’s a wrap! Thank you so much to those who are joining me, don’t forget to use the hashtag #bbReadingChallenge2021 so I can see you posts 😊 Here’s to our best year of reading yet 🥂