NaNoWriMo Day 28: My 2016 Reading Challenge

50 books in a year. That was my commitment for 2016. Along with a thousand other projects. Here is what I read this year. Here are the books that changed my life.

Opens goodread list. Scrolls down. Here we go. It feels like ages ago I read these books!

1. The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The Millennium trilogy are probably the best crime novels I have ever read. I couldn’t put them down. I ate through them. Give me more! I shouted. Not only do these books have intriguing characters. They are alive. They have challenges to overcome, they change. They are ripped apart by their own doubts and passions. Furthermore, I love how the writing bits are portrayed in the books. You can be led by a good idea but you have to do the work. Blomqvist is a really good journalist but it takes time for him to craft his stories. When you read about him writing, you can see his head veins pulse as he sews word after word together. It’s political, it’s gripping, it’s amazing.

What did I learn? I absolutely adore writing. Journalism would be kind of cool…

2. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

Hosseini has shown me with his book A Thousand Splendid Suns that he is an astonishing story teller. This book, though… I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t get it. For me the story line didn’t work. However, there were parts that were heartfelt and strong.

What did I learn? A lot about the history of Afghanistan

3. Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier

I don’t know how often I have read this book in the last three years since I discovered it in the library. How often I have gone through its pages and admired the words. I just love this book so much. Just like with Harry Potter, I have to read it once a year. It gives me so much. Inspiration to travel, to learn a new language, to think deeply about life. The author is a philosopher, he gives lectures in Berlin. That explains a lot.

What did I learn? I have to learn a new language.

4. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What did I learn? You can build your own beautiful world in your head.

5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

See 1. Guess why I started learning Swedish? I want to read these books in their original language some day… Well not only because of that but you get my point.

What did I learn? I have to start with Swedish.

6. Emma by Jane Austen

So seldom, we see strong female characters written in the time of Jane Austen. She really was a great writer and I love her stories. To be honest, I can’t stand most of the modern romance novels… When I do need a bit of that, I turn to Regency writers.

What did I learn? You should not try and marry people off. It always goes wrong.

7. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

What did I learn? WW II was so traumatic that one can lose his mind and travel off to a different world of aliens. Plot twist! No but honestly, it is hard for me to process all these tales, to even understand who people could do something like that.

8. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

This book completely blew my mind. The character building is admirable. I cannot understand how she made us believe so many things and then crash it all at once. You could see some cracks but you would never have guessed to what extend she turns everything around.

What did I learn? You should never trust in what you see. Or in what you think you know about a person.

9. The Martian by Andy Weir

I cannot count the times I laughed out loud in the middle of the night. I couldn’t put this book down. Guy stranded on mars. It’s hilarious. The science behind it is well researched, it all makes sense. The best thing about this book is that this man retains his humour. It’s the most funny book I have read this year.

What did I learn? You can survive on Mars with only potatoes to eat. Also, you should never attempt to make water out of hydrogen and oxygen.

10-12. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I don’t normally read young adult fiction but these books… I loved them.

What did I learn? You should fight for your rights and rely on the people who were always there for you. One originally good person can become more evil than the most evil of them all… Be careful.

13. The Chamber by John Grisham

What did I learn? I was against death penalty all the time. Now I’m even more terrified and more against of this whole system. All this legal stuff takes a long long time.

14. Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Oh, so… That is actually a thing. Matt Haig writes about depression in such an honest and loving way. I read this book in a day because I couldn’t stop. It comforts you because you are not alone. It opens your eyes. It is like a hot cup of tea on a bad day. It offers a lot of tips and stories, it gives you so much.

What did I learn? You should read this book over and over on bad days. You have a problem to deal with here.

15. Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

What did I learn? All the worst things can happen at once. You should be prepared. Together, we are stronger.

16. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This was one of the first English books I have ever read. I didn’t understand a thing. The overall plot maybe. Now that some time has passed and I read nearly every book in English – I’m amazed! This is an absolutely brilliant work! Also very deep. I like that.

What did I learn? It’s difficult to be a teenager in a world of phonies.

17. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

What did I learn? You can go high and fall very veeeery low in just a few moments.

18. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What did I learn? Prejudice, the killer of love since 1813. Be open-minded.

19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Re-read that one. You need some cheesy, heart-breaking fiction once in a while. And I do love John Green.

What did I learn? Some infinities are bigger than others. Your favourite authors can be douche bags when you get to meet them. Books can change your life. It hurts because it matters.

20. Deception Point by Dan Brown

Dan Brown’s later works are a lot about symbology and religion. This one, though, is about science. That’s exciting! A meteor!

What did I learn? You should always be a bit sceptical about improbable scientific findings.

21. Alice in Wonderland Part 1 by Lewis Carroll

What did I learn? A tea party is an awesome thing. A story can help you escape a little in difficult times.

22. Something to Tell You by Hanif Kureishi

What did I learn? Psychoanalysis is so weird…

23. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

I had loved the film but now I had to finally read the book. I enjoyed it. It was very healing.

What did I learn? Love what you do, love yourself and do a little yoga from time to time.

24-26. Harry Potter 1-3 by J.K. Rowling

Every year I re-read these books. I always discover new aspects of the story. What they leave me with is that feeling of not being alone. I can always go back to these books and feel comforted. The school descriptions and the snippets we see of Hermione studying- they are very motivating.

What did I learn? You should go study now, Hermione said. Community and a sense of belonging are important. When in doubt, go to the library. Hard work will enable you to go anywhere.

27. The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz

See 1, 5. It is the fourth novel. I was really unsure. Would I ruin my experience of the first three books? I didn’t, which is nice. He really did a good job.

What did I learn? There are some authors who can indeed make sequels to the great work of Larsson. It is better, though, to invent your own characters and just let it be.

28. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

How can I describe what this book did to me? I was in tears so many times. I loved it, I was moved by the writing, I was in shock about the story. It’s such an honest and true book.

What did I learn? Standing up for your rights can hurt you. You should always try, though.

29. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

When I read the first pages of this novel, I knew that Adichie will be one of my new favourite authors. Her ability to tell stories, to connect thoughts, to find the right words… It has overwhelmed me.

What did I learn? I didn’t know anything about the Nigerian-Biafran war and about its horrors. She couldn’t have done a better job to underline the importance to read broadly to me. To stay informed, to be curious.

30. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

She creates stunning female characters who fight for their rights, for their dreams with all they have. They crash, they have flaws, they are so real. Adichie is definitely my favourite author of the year. And my favourite female writer ever.

What did I learn? You should go out and find your path, but know that you always will come back in the end. A more balanced, knowledgeable person than before. Invest a little more time in your blog.

31. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Part 1 by L. Frank Baum

I always read this one my phone when I was going somewhere by train. It’s a pretty little story, a beautiful fairytale.

What did I learn? If you don’t think you are smart but solve all the complex riddles you and your friends face… Chances are you are actually smart. Embrace your cleverness.

32. How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

What did I learn? You should call yourself a feminist. Here, rip of these glasses that patriarchy put on your eyes. Do you see? Yep, that’s inequality. It’s EVERYWHERE!

33. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Such an inspiring read! It taught me were to seek for ideas, how to be creative. It tells the stories of books she has written herself and of other people who struggle with creating. Many of my self-doubts were addressed in this book and it really helped.

What did I learn? Ideas fly around, you just have to be open and catch them in the right moment. Keep going.

34. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I love unreliable characters. They add that bit of extra spice to a story. I love the setting of the novel, the characters, everything. It was brilliant. Second best crime novel this year.

What did I learn? You should maybe not trust the brain of a heartbroken alcoholic on a train.

35. De ensamma by Håkan Nesser

These Swedes do have a special love for incredibly dark tales, don’t they? I read this book while the ocean roared behind me.

What did I learn? If two murders happen at the same place with decades between them, possibly the same people were involved. Also, read some Kierkegaard.

36. The Call of the Wild by Jack London

What a beautiful little story. I read that when we were at the Baltic Sea, camping in the woods. The perfect atmosphere. It’s so beautifully written and the descriptions are great. You can feel the pain of these dogs. You can see him transform slowly back to what he always was- a wild animal.

What did I learn? You cannot deny your origin. Where you really come from. It will give you strength to endure anything.

37. The Starch Solution by John McDougall

This is the book that made me become a vegan. Consequently, this must be the most life-changing book this year. Afterwards I binge-read all books I could get on veganism and vegetarianism in my library. The Starch Solution explains everything you need to know if you want to be a vegan. The nutritional facts, the environmental ones… It’s great as a start package.

What did I learn? To become a vegan.

38. Der Tod in Venedig by Thomas Mann

What did I learn? The way from success to falling can be so quick.

39. Dead Poets Society by N.H. Kleinbaum

What did I learn? How to be a better teacher. Oh, Mr Keating… You have taught me a lot of useful lessons for my students.

40. Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

This was the starting point for my obsession with non-fiction books this year. I have read other books by Foer but this one is especially interesting. He knows the facts. He’s a great researcher. After this book, I wanted to change people’s minds about eating meat.

What did I learn? Here are the basics to win nearly every argument about factory farming.

41. Anständig Essen by Karen Duve

What did I learn? The marzipan chocolate in my supermarket is vegan! Being vegan isn’t actually that hard.

42. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald

Atmospherically a wonderful novel.

What did I learn? Books are amazing. Bookshops are even more amazing. Never try to build one in a city where the people hate to read.

43. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

This book moved me so much. I never knew the whole story of Malala. All the things she did left me in complete awe. She is such a strong, intelligent woman and she already has changed the world.

What did I learn? Stand up for your education, you are so happy to have one. Go study, girl!

44. A Thousand Country Roads by Robert James Waller

What did I learn? Sometimes memories are better rested in your heart than revisited again after years.

45. Das Urteil by Franz Kafka

What did I learn? Well, that Kafka was weird, wasn’t he?

46. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

I’m so ignorant! I know so little! In every essay in this book, Roxane Gay showed me how little thought I had given any media I consumed or anything I said. She discovered racism and sexism in places I would never even looked for them. It made me feel a little ashamed, to be honest.

What did I learn? Look deeper, read more critically.

47. The Vegetarian by Han Kang

What did I learn? Becoming a vegan can break apart your whole family. People are ignorant, you have to deal with this. Also, artists can be really strange people…

48. Dreams from my Father by Barack Obama

What did I learn? Even the president has doubts. Work for the well-being of other people. Find your origins, make your family’s stories yours.

49. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

I talked about these last two books in yesterday’s post. Be sure to check that out.

What did I learn? Be courageous, follow your personal legend.

49 Books. 49 messages. So many things I’ve learned through reading. It made me a more curious person, a more considerate one. A more open one. It made me realise the important things in life and what I want to do with my own.

I’m aware that I didn’t do all the books on my list justice. I would have loved to write an article about every single one of them. It would take me another hundred pages I suppose. That’s why I broke it down a little and only talked about the most important ones to me. I hope you liked my book record.

One more book left for my challenge, it will be A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Next year I will attempt to read more books from all over the world. Broaden my experience. Learn even more. It will also help me with my writing because in the end… Writers only copy each other.

Which books have touched you this year? Did you read any of the ones I read? What are your opinions on them? I would love to know!

Current Word Count: 48048

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4 thoughts on “NaNoWriMo Day 28: My 2016 Reading Challenge

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