Why I'm done with reading challenges

The year in books, and why I’m done with reading challenges

2015 was a good year in reading. I picked up that Pop Sugar reading challenge way back in November 2014, and being the ultra competitive idiot that I am, burned my way through 52 books like a maniac.

I have completed a 52-book challenge before, in 2013. But it was a bit much. I’m a sucker for punishment, clearly.

Pop Sugar’s challenge was different, because it had specific guidelines. I read a lot of books I probably wouldn’t have read normally, and ended up loving a handful of them.

But then there were a lot of books I read that were just…meh. I mean one of the challenges was to read a “book with poor reviews.” Who the feck wants to read a shitty book?

This is why I’m done with reading challenges.

I do see a lot of value in setting numbers. It makes me aware of when I’ve become too busy to slow down and appreciate one of my greatest loves — literature.

But from now on I’m reading only what I want to read. I’ve set a goal of 35 for this year.

(Also because it’s really hard to seek out good specific books when you’re travelling.)

Anyway, here’s the complete list! Followed by a year-end review, once again stolen by Jamie at Perpetual Page Turner.

2015 Reading Challenge

  • The Portable Dorothy Parker – Dorothy Parker (a book with more than 500 pages)
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (a classic romance)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey (a book that became a movie)
  • Travel the World on $50 a Day – Matt Kepnes (a book published this year)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (a book written by someone under 30)
  • Good Omens – Terry Pratchett (a book with nonhuman characters)
  • Swept: Love With a Chance of Drowning – Torre DeRoche (a funny book)
  • Dancing Lessons – Olive Senior (a book by a female author)
  • The Orenda – Joseph Boyden (a mystery or thriller)
  • Sweetland – Michael Crummey (a book with a one-word title)
  • Stone Mattress: Nine Tales – Margaret Atwood (a book of short stories)
  • Alone in Berlin – Hans Fallada (a book set in a different country)
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft – Janet Burroway (a nonfiction book)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith (a popular author’s first book)
  • American Gods – Neil Gaiman (a book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet)
  • Serafim and Claire – Mark Lavorato (a book a friend recommended)
  • The Goldfinch – Donna Tart (a Pulitzer Prize-winning book)
  • The Old Patagonian Express – Paul Theroux (a book based on a true story)
  • Chance Encounters – Janna Graber (a book at the bottom of your to-read list)
  • Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand (a book your mom loves)
  • Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (a book that scares you)
  • Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (a book more than 100 years old)
  • The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld (a book based entirely on its cover)
  • Lord of the Flies – William Golding (a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (a memoir)
  • Instructions for British Servicemen in Germany, 1944 (a book you can finish in a day)
  • Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter (a book with antonyms in the title)
  • Hatchet – Gary Paulsen (a book that came out the year you were born)
  • Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling (a book with bad reviews)
  • The Mortal Instruments Series – Cassandra Clare (a trilogy)
  • Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret – Judy Blume (a book from your childhood)
  • I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith (a book with a love triangle)
  • Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury (a book set in the future)
  • Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell (a book set in high school)
  • The Hare With the Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal (a book with a colour in the title)
  • Wave – Sonali (a book that made you cry)
  • The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (a book with magic)
  • Palestine – Joe Sacco (a graphic novel)
  • The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Kim Edwards (a book you’ve never read before)
  • Every Little Thing – Chad Pelley (a book you own but have never read)
  • Three Day Road – Joseph Boyden (a book that takes place in your hometown)
  • The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint Exupery (a book written in a different language)
  • The Man in the Red Suit – Bruce Templeton (a book set during Christmas)
  • Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away – Christie Watson (a book written by an author with the same initials)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (a play)
  • Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes (a banned book)
  • Kitchen Confidential – Anthony Bourdain (a book based on or turned into a TV show)
  • The Rough Guide to Germany (a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit)
  • 60 Degrees North – Malachy Tallack
  • The Curse of the Red Cross Ring – Earl B. Pilgrim

(I just realized I screwed up the last two. I have no idea what categories they’re supposed to be in. OH WELL!)

Year-End Review

Number Of Books You Read: 52
Number of Re-Reads: 1 (Hatchet)
Genre You Read The Most From: Fiction

1. Best Book You Read In 2015?

The Orenda – Joseph Boyden

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern. Everyone RAVED about it. I was bored.

3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2015?

Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert. I really enjoyed it! (Besides all that thinly-veiled misogyny.)

No, maybe it was The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. Because the name is not any indicator whatsoever of what the book is about. (It’s awesome.)

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2015?

Definitely The Orenda. Joseph Boyden is a remarkable writer, and it’s the first time a book about aboriginals in Canada really caught my fancy.

5. Best series you started in 2015? Best Sequel of 2015? Best Series Ender of 2015?

The only series I read was The Infernal Devices series, and they were…okay.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2015?

Rene Denfeld, or Rainbow Rowell.

7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Waters. I guess cuz it’s kind of romantic and barfy.

8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins. Read it i two settings.

9. Book You Read In 2015 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

None. Not much of a re-reader. :)

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2015?

I read so much on my Kindle this year! But perhaps Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.

11. Most memorable character of 2015?

Brian from Hatchet. I read Hatchet years ago, in high school, and Brian has always stuck in my head. That line about him going to the grocery store after he was rescued and marvelling over the rows and rows of food always stuck with me, and I don’t know why. Rereading it made me emotional.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2015?

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. Very unique.

13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2015?

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. It’s the first time I’ve ever had a sharp, distinct feeling of loss over what’s become of aboriginal tribes in Canada. I cried a lot.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2015 to finally read?

Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury. I was a self-important snob in high school, how did I not read this?

15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2015?

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.” – Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2015?

Longest Read: The Goldfinch – Donna Tart
Shortest Read: Instructions for British Servicemen in Germany, 1944

17. Book That Shocked You The Most

Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. Such a wonderful (and horrifying) story.

18. Favourite Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Eleanor & Park, obvs!

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year

Cassandra and Simon in I Capture the Castle (although I guess it’s semi-romantic)

20. Favorite Book You Read in 2015 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

21. Best Book You Read In 2015 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure:

Eleanor & Park, pressured by some readers of mine :)

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2015?

Maybe Serafim from Serafim and Clare.

23. Best 2015 debut you read?

60 Degrees North by Malachy Tallack.

24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?

Despite my adverse reaction, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was definitely vivid. I actually ended up with circus food cravings.

25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?

Swept by Torres DeRoche. HILARIOUS. Also laughed out loud a lot with Anthony Bourdain’s book.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2015?

The Orenda, Eleanor & Park, Wave. I could go on.

27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away. Picked it up randomly at a used bookstore, and was quite taken with it.

28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?

The Orenda. Book hangover for DAYS.

29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2015?

Once again, The Enchanted.

30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?

The Infernal Devices series, because of the idiotic love triangle.

WHEW! What a post.

What were your favourite books this year? Do you have recommendations for me?

Feel free to follow me on Goodreads if you’d like to know more about what I’m reading.













  • January 04 2016

    Weeee can’t wait to check out some of your recs that I don’t know!

    SO happy you enjoyed Eleanor and Park! One of my favorites!! I’ve really enjoyed all her other books!

    Have you heard of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara? A lot of authors I love have been raving about it so naturally I just got it from the library because I’m so curious about it!

    SIGH I have yet to finish any Cassie Clare series to be honest! Her books just okay to me. I can see how they’d have been popular to lots of people when they came out but they don’t do much for me. One of my favorite YA series is the Throne of Glass series (which book 4 just came out this year and it was incredible and gave even more depth to this series). It’s high fantasy so I don’t know if you are into that but OMG SO GOOD. I’ve gotten 2 of my IRL friends who don’t read high fantasy and pretty much only read adult fiction into them and they are obsessed!

    SIGH. Things I would love: you coming to Philly so we could have coffee and talk books!! (Also maybe picking your brain in regards to how you rebranded your site because ERM I may have IDEAS for a directional change for my blog)
    Jamie recently posted…Comics & Graphic Novels I’ve Been Reading

    • January 05 2016

      YAY! So glad you commented! Hahahaha. I looked up your recommendations and although I’m a wee bit hesitant to give another fantasy series a start I’ll TOTALLY try it. I don’t know why I lost my interest in fantasy. I read so much of it when I was younger! I didn’t even love those Neil Gaiman books all that much to be honest (although can you really consider that fantasy? Hmm).

      Hahaha and I’d LOOOVE for that to happen someday! Come to Berlin! Cheap cheap cheap. Also I’d be happy to pass along my designer’s info for you if you really want to rebrand (it cost a lot though)

  • January 04 2016

    Have you read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman? I absolutely loved it and recommend it for everyone. Such a good book.

    • January 05 2016

      I haven’t! But I just looked up the summary on Goodreads and it looks SO GOOD

  • January 04 2016

    Impressive feat and list Candie. I read two books you recommended in the past – A Walk in the Woods and The Cellist of Sarajevo. The Cellist was brilliant and one of the best books I’ve read. It’s beautiful, ugly, inspiring, thought provoking, amazing, saddening, maddening and lovingly haunting. A Walk…is hilarious and a fun read. I’m going to read more from Bryson.

    I will look into some of your recommendations you mention in this post. Happy New Year and I look forward to reading more stories from you.
    Tony recently posted…Oh Those Unhappy Tourists

    • January 05 2016

      I’m SO glad you liked those books! It means me irrationally happy that people take my reading recommendations.

      I’ve gotta pick up some more of Bryson’s books. It’s been awhile since I read him.

  • January 04 2016

    Okay, you officially convinced me to buy The Orenda. It is officially the last book I purchase before disconnecting all my credit cards from Amazon because I’ve been on a “Oooh, this looks good! Mine!” spree lately. Oops.

    I had to LOL @ the Cassie Clare series comment. I used to be super into her when I was 15 and the Mortal Instruments was just coming out and I think I read the first Clockwork book or two and loved it but now there’s just too many books and too many series with cross-over characters and I can’t.

    I read Eleanor & Park after everyone said it was Best Book Ever but I was kinda disappointed. It was good, it just didn’t knock my socks off like I expected it to?

    The book that did leave me floored, though, was Me Before You. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Holy shit. Completely unexpected. I read it entirely in one sitting and then reread the second half of it and cried both times. Soo good!
    Sky recently posted…2016 Travel Plans

    • January 05 2016

      Yay yay yay! I really really hope you like The Orenda! Let me know if you do. It’s pretty dark. And NOTHING like Eleanor & Park, hahaha.

      Tooootally checking out Me Before You. Is it a series? (Says #1 on Goodreads.) Don’t you love books that do that to you??!!

      • January 05 2016

        As far as I know, it only has a sequel, After You. It’s not really a series type book…I’m not even sure how I feel about it having a sequel, honestly…I actually just got After You in the mail today so I guess I’ll know soon enough!
        Sky recently posted…2016 Travel Plans

  • January 05 2016

    HOLY COW THAT SOUNDS SO STRESSFUL. I could not. More power to you, but yeah, I think 2016 should be about reading just to enjoy! Sidenote: have you read Lonesome Dove? It’s a real gem.

    • January 05 2016

      That’s totally what 2016 is all about! I still want to make sure I’m reading consistently and not being distracted by endless FB scrolling, haha. But only reading what I want to read.

      I just looked up Lonesome Dove and totally added it to my reading list. Hahaha.

  • January 05 2016

    Happy dance.

    I love these posts.
    Gigi recently posted…How to Move to Bolivia & Change Things for the Better

    • January 08 2016


  • January 05 2016
    Aunt Sam

    I think I marked more passages in The Enchanted than anything else I read that year… and it’s not a very long book. I recently finished Just Mercy (nonfiction) by Bryan Stevenson and recommend it highly, for some of the same reasons.
    If you like Rainbow Rowell, try Allie Larkin’s Stay or Why Can’t I Be You

    • January 08 2016

      I love that you mark passages as well! Haha.

      Added those to Goodreads. “Mercy” especially looks interesting

  • January 06 2016

    Candice you are a better reader than I am. I think I only got through about 20 books of the 52 book challenge for 2015. Like you it was good for me to read books and genres I normally wouldn’t read, but I found myself slogging through some books and hating them. Ironically one of my favourite books this year was Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKittrick Ros. It’s so bad it’s good, and it’s in the public domain so you can find it for free. Also I remember reading Hatchet in Grade 5 and hating it so much. Maybe I was to harsh, and would appreciate it now a bit more.

    • January 08 2016

      We can’t be friends anymore if you hated Hatchet!!!

      Just kidding. It’s totally one of my childhood faves though. Hahaha.

      20 is a lot better than most people! I’ve aimed for a more humble goal of 35 for this year.

  • January 12 2016

    Go on, keep throwing a few one-star-on-Goodreads books into the mix. ;) Well worth it.

    I read a few horrible books last year, deliberately, and I’m glad I did. I’m writing my own fiction this year, and sometimes it’s a good reminder to see what I *don’t* want to end up doing. (I also read “I, Partridge,” the mock-biography of Steve Coogan’s monstrous character, and it’s brilliantly written, in that it’s just so awful. Alan Partridge the character has less than zero writing talent, and Steve Coogan had to work really hard as a writer to scrape the bottom of that barrel. Feel like I learned a lot.
    Mike recently posted…So You Want To Be A Travel Writer?

    • January 15 2016

      Hahahahahaahaha. Okay you convinced me. Must read.

  • January 21 2016

    Have you heard about the lady who read 1 book from every country in a year? I have no idea how she read 196 books in a year (really that’s insane), but I think the idea is fantastic. When I finish the books I got for Christmas I’m using her list for recs. She has some interesting stories about actually getting people together to translate a book from Sao Tome et Principe because there were none in English. Check out her tedx talk.

    • January 25 2016

      I actually used her website last year to find a few books, and I LOVE the concept! But wow, didn’t know about her hiring translates for the harder to find places. Will definitely check out that talk.

  • January 29 2016

    I am SO OVER love triangles. They are the most boring thing on the face of the earth.
    Jessica recently posted…yes to being alive

  • March 13 2016

    I’m unfortunately reading your blog backwards.
    OKAY ALREADY….I’ll read the Orenda…though it sounds really grim. But I guess we all should. I’m already enraged by the treatment of Natives by all the past politicians. ENRAGED

    Have you read Mary Lawson’s trilogy. It’s amazing and I’m so sad it had to end. I forget which on is first. Crow Lake, The Other Side of the Bridge, and Road Ends

    Alexander McCall Smith…any of them and all of them. Bertie is my fav character.
    Stiff,….weird by Mary Roach. A real Eye-opener. Sheesh ..I left instructions that no way…no how will anyone EVER do an autopsy or embalm me. NEVER.
    You’d have to have been under a rock if you haven’t read Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief. I suspect you have read it.
    The Rituals of Dinner.Margaret Visser
    Suite Francaise…Irene Nemirovsky and its sequel
    Confections of a Closet Master Baker…Gesine Bullock-Prado
    The Butcher and the Vegetarian…by Tara Austen Weaver
    Missing Lucile…Suzanne Berne
    The Imperfectionists…Tom Rachman
    The Girl in the Green Raincoat…Laura Lippman. If you Liked The Girl on the Train…you’ll like this one.
    They Left us Everything. Plum Johnson….I really loved this one. Everytime I visit my mother…I shudder at what’s in store for us. I make plans to start to unload her house before ……but she’s quite attached to everything. Holding on for dear life to everything. She lives alone and has not 1 but 2 full freezers and a basement full of canning. Prob dating back to the 90’s. I child of the depression. Not to mention all those bedrooms and closets. It’s frightening. Maybe next time I visit…..

    • March 15 2016

      Do read The Orenda! I LOVED it. And now I’m adding all these books to my list, haha

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