2015 Book Analysis

I didn’t do a book analysis last year, but I’m back for my 2015 roundup.

Some stats
Total read: 134
New (to me) books: 73
Rereads: 61
DNF: 17
Books by authors of color or about characters/people of color: 74 (~55%… worse than last year)

You can find a complete list of the books I read here and all my past surveys here.

The first book you read in 2015: The Bird King by Shaun Tan

The last book you finished in 2015: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

The first book you will finish (or did finish!) in 2016: A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (My dad: “You can’t have read a book of poetry in one day. Poetry takes forever to understand!” Au contraire, mon père.)

Your favorite “classic” you read in 2015: Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep. Not a classic by most people’s standards but a classic to me.

The book series you read the most volumes of in 2015: Calvin Coconut by Graham Salisbury, 8/9 (The link leads to my review of the first book. I reviewed all of them on my booklikes page.)

The genre you read the most in 2015: fiction followed by graphic novels

The book that disappointed you: Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead. I was expecting to at least like this book, but it just didn’t have the magic her previous books did.

The book you liked better than you expected to: The Forger’s Spell by Edward Dolnick. It was an impulse pick at the library and led me to check out several more books about art forgery and art thefts.

The hardest book you read in 2015 (topic or writing style): Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth. I remember the whole book feeling like a punch to the gut. Very different from the first and third books.

The funniest book you read in 2015: Yotsubato! Vol 1 was pretty funny.

The saddest book you read in 2015: Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed made me cry the most.

The shortest book you read in 2015:
Be Water, My Friend by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee
Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee
Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds by Paula Yoo and Dom Lee
A Place Where Sunflowers Grow by Amy Lee-Tai and Felicia Hoshino
Heroes by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee
Shining Star by Paula Yoo and Lin Wang, all 32 pages

The longest book you read in 2015: The Marvels by Brian Selznick, 670 pages

A book that you discovered in 2015 that you will definitely read again: The Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel. I can’t believe I never read these as a kid. They’re so great.

A book that you never want to read again: Anything by Lisa See.

And finally, make a New Year’s Resolution: Every year I challenge myself to read 75 books. This year I’m concentrating on reading books I own (rereads and TBRs).

Month 1

September is officially over and I finished two goals already. Last month I only reread books (all books I own) and I read 30(+) books in 30 days. I also finished a book each day. I wanted to read a book in its entirety each day, but life got in the way.


Here are all 36 books I read. Each title links to my booklikes review.

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid by Lemony Snicket
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse
Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau
The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau
The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
My Name Is Mina by David Almond
Skellig by David Almond
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Vol 1 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (one review for all three volumes)
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Vol 2 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Vol 3 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Scott Pilgrim Vs the World by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Scott Pilgrim and the Infinite Sadness by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Love That Dog by Sharon Creech
Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond
In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

I considered continuing this challenge through October (just the rereads, not reading a book every day), but then I realized both Rebecca Stead and Brian Selznick have new books out (Goodbye Stranger and The Marvels respectively), so I’m putting aside the rereads for a while.

The Next Challenge

Objectively I failed my 101 in 1001 list (61/101 is a D-), but it doesn’t feel like a failure to me. I learned a lot during those almost three years. I started my whole diversity journey while doing The List. The List was pretty ambitious and I’m happy with the goals I did complete.

Now that I’m done with that I’m looking forward to setting new goals. I’m not going to do another 101 in 1001 list, but I’ve definitely been inspired by the format.

My idea for my next challenge is to take three years to read through my unread books. My collection is out of control. There are 8 bookcases in my house and I still have stacks of books on every flat surface (or so it seems). I want to pare down my collection to manageable size (meaning they all fit in said shelves) and read all these books I’ve accumulated over the years.

I’ve come up with 12 goals for Year 1 (Sept 2015 – Sept 2016). Depending on how it goes I might add more for Year 2. These goals are all pretty general. The most specific one is to read/reread a Shakespeare play. Looking back on The List I realized that I fulfilled more general goals than specific ones. Like, I failed to reread Harry Potter, but I read a nonfiction book every year. (That goal served me well since I now read more nonfiction than I ever have in my life.) And knowing my personal library, I have at least a couple of choices that will complete each of these goals on my TBR shelves.

I’m going into this with no idea of how many unread books I actually own, so it might be completely impossible to do in three years (I know, I know, not with that attitude, etc.). But I’m tired of all these unread books sitting around everywhere. Something needs to change, so I’m setting out to change it. Wish me luck.

The End of 1001 Days

Wednesday, July 29, 2015 marked the end of my 101 in 1001 challenge. I squeaked in one final goal (read 30 books from my TBR Jar) to bring my complete goals up to 61. That’s pretty sad, but I’m OK with it.

I’m currently trying to figure out where I want to go from here. I haven’t blogged here since early this year (I am still reviewing all my books on booklikes).I decided I wanted to take a step back from all conversations about diversity in books both reading and contributing to them. There’s so much good happening because of movements like We Need Diverse Books, but the progress just seems really slow.

Now that I’ve taken some time off and my frustration has died down, I might be ready to rejoin the conversation.

I’m also formulating a plan for my next reading challenge. I haven’t quite solidified my idea yet, but it will be something like the 101 in 1001 challenge. More on that soon.

Read one Newbery medal book from every year from a decade (2010s)

Today the Newbery award winners were announced, and the selection is much better than last year’s all-white winners. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander took the medal and El Deafo by Cece Bell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson were named Honor books.

I read The Crossover in December, and it is fantastic. Really a great choice for the Newbery Medal. And I’m happy to see Brown Girl Dreaming on this list. Woodson seemed like the frontrunner to take the medal this year. She now has four Newbery Honor books (Brown Girl Dreaming, After Tupac and D Foster, Feathers, Show Way). I hope she gets the grand prize soon; she deserves it.

The other Newbery Medal books I read to complete this 101 in 1001 challenge were Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (2011 winner), Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (2012 winner), The One and Only Ivan by KA Applegate (2013 winner), and Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (2014 winner). I read the 2010 winner, When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead before I started my 101 in 1001 challenge, and I recommend it to everyone. It’s one of my favorite books. I didn’t enjoy Dead End in Norvelt or Flora and Ulysses. But Moon Over Manifest is pretty good and The One and Only Ivan is great.

Diverse Book Recommendations

I don’t often make recommendation posts (unless you count any of my positive reviews), but with the confusion over the Diversity on the Shelf challenge, I thought I’d put one together.

In case you don’t know, Diversity in the Shelf is a challenge to read more books by authors of color or with main characters of color. That’s it. If you’re looking for a challenge that defines diversity more broadly, Alysia has linked some great ones in her post (follow the link above).

That doesn’t mean that a challenge based on race can’t encompass different kinds of diversity too. So if you’re looking to diversify your reading even further here are a few suggestions.

I have read all of these books, but I am not perfect. Please let me know if I have included any problematic titles on this list or if I have gotten anything wrong in the details.

*The family’s race is never described, so it’s possible to read them as any race.

Have a suggestion of your own? Let me know in the comments. I’m always on the lookout for more diverse reads.

Words for Wednesday

When I finally got to see the movies , they were completely different than I thought. I could see why Jeanie had liked them. For one thing, the Chinese were actually people who could be brave or sad. They had subtitles in English, too, which was good. It was something to see Chinese do more than be the sidekick to some white guy in a fight, or see the Chinese actually win. I mean, I almost felt like crying when I saw it: a kind of bubbling feeling deep down inside that had me almost cheering and crying while this Chinese mother led her three sons in beating up the bad guys. And it was even better when I saw the Chinese girls fighting.

-Child of the Owl, Casey Young

Child of the Owl by Laurence Yep

You know those books that you’re afraid to reread because you know they will never live up to your memories and expectations of their stories? I put off rereading Child of the Owl for 14+ years because of such fears.

I think I was about 12 when I first read Child of the Owl. I don’t remember exactly. Maybe I only think I was 12 because Casey is 12. I don’t even really remember my first impression of the book. I think it was only later that I realized the significance of this book on my life.

I can point to two mirror books that I’ve read in my life. Two. I’m sure if I thought about it, there are more books where I related to the characters and saw myself in their stories. But all of those books would be a stretch in some way.

It’s not a stretch with Child of the Owl.* I am Casey Young. I know what it is to live life looking Chinese but not feeling Chinese. To have people speak Chinese to me and then act like I’m deficient when I don’t speak back. I don’t ever remember explicitly wishing I weren’t Chinese (or Asian), but there have definitely been times in my life when I wished people wouldn’t look at me like a foreigner, when I wished to be treated just like a (white) American.

I’m so happy I read this book as a kid, and I’m mad that I waited so long to reread it. However, I think I reread it at a time when I could fully appreciate what it meant to me when I was younger, even if I didn’t understand it then and can barely articulate it now.

Challenge count:
Finishing this book competes my 101 in 1001 goal to reread Child of the Owl.
This is my third book read for the Diversity on the Shelf 2015 challenge.
This is my third book read for my booklikes challenge.

*The second book, in case anyone is wondering is The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan. I didn’t fully understand the significance of that book in my life either until I’d reread it a couple of times. There’s definitely something to the fact that I see myself most clearly in two books about Chinese characters by Chinese authors (related to how other people treat me vs how I see myself), but I don’t want to get too deep into that.

2014 101 in 1001 List in Review

I managed to finish a few goals this year, despite largely ignoring my 101 in 1001 list in favor of yearly reading challenges. I blogged about some, but I think I missed most of them, so here’s a quick review of what I accomplished in 2014.

I’ve completed 47 goals total so far, so I’ve got 54 to go and about seven months to get it all done. This year I’ve only signed up for one reading challenge so hopefully I’ll devote more time to crossing off a few more goals from the 101 in 1001 list. And if not, I’ll just roll all of them over onto a new list.

*Click on 2014 in the sidebar to see all the books I read last year.

The Bird King: An Artist’s Notebook by Shaun Tan: a mini review

I wanted to start off the new year by finishing Child of the Owl first, but the best laid plans and all that. Chance crossed my path with The Bird King at my library so I checked it out, and read it in one evening. I meant to read it last year but never got around to it.

The Bird King is a really lovely read whether you’re new to Shaun Tan’s work or an old fan.* I enjoyed learning about Tan’s process and recognizing bits of final works in his sketches. I’m fascinated by behind the scenes looks into any creative endeavor, and reading The Bird King was a little like getting a short commentary track on Shaun Tan’s artistic process. The pictures in the book are eclectic and include whimsical sketches (what I was expecting) but also reference drawings, portraits and several landscapes. My favorite drawing in the book is probably Tan’s sketch of his childhood neighborhood, Mawson Crescent. I love the descriptions he wrote to accompany the sketch (“‘hugged’ by organic growth”). Reading The Bird King has definitely inspired me to reread Tan’s works (especially Lost and Found), and it was a great way to start my reading in 2015.

Challenge count:
This is my first book read for the Diversity on the Shelf 2015 challenge.
This is my first book read for my booklikes 2015 reading challenge.

*Though I think you’ll really get the most out of it if you’ve at least read one of the books he references in The Bird King. The book is only sketches and it’s cool to know what the end (more polished) product looks like.