Read Harder 2018: Complete!

Whew, with just a few days to spare, I completed the 2018 Read Harder challenge. I won't lie - this year's challenges were hard and I probably disliked as many books as I liked. But, when I liked a book, I found a new author for life so that made it all worth it.

For November, the challenges were to read an essay anthology and a mystery by a person of color. I read a couple of essay anthologies, and I realized afterwards, they were both written by comediennes. I think for these two women, their work is better when you hear it rather than when you read it.  I'm more familiar with Paula Poundstone (from NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me show) so I could definitely hear her voice in The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness. On the radio she comes off as quirky and hilarious. In the book, for me, she just came across as one of the odder people I have never met (and frankly not sure I want to). I then tried Samantha Irby's We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. While I'm not familiar with her work, I can again see where she would be funny telling these stories. In the written form, they came across more snarky and sad than funny to me. The folks who blurbed the book though absolutely thought she was hysterical.

I tried a new to me Singapore author Ovidia Yu's Aunty Lee's Delights. While our heroine runs a restaurant (and I am a sucker for any food related type of book), this one didn't do it for me either. Maybe I'm just too unfamiliar with life in Singapore, or maybe the characters felt one-dimensional and I just didn't like them. I almost cheated and tried to use this as well for my December book about a protagonist over the age of 60, but I stood firm.

For December the challenge was the above mentioned elder protagonist and an assigned book I never finished. Last year for my mom's birthday I gave her Jonathan Evison's This Is your Life, Harriet Chance! On the premise it seemed like something she (and I) might enjoy - Harriet's husband died before they could go on a cruise he had purchased so she decides to go anyway. I figured it would be an opportunity to find her second act and enjoy life again. Unfortunately, many things about her past were revealed on this trip and they aren't really pleasant. The book itself meanders through different periods in her own life and while her life wasn't overly difficult, it wasn't really a great life either. Marked by mediocrity and a product of her time, she really spent much of her life dissatisfied without doing anything about it. Now I feel I have to go apologize to my mom for giving her this book and hope she didn't imply anything from my gift to her.

Finally, a chance for redemption - to read a an assigned book I never finished. When I was in eighth grade, we listened to the play Cyrano De Bergerac on a record (yes, a 33 1/3 LP). Our English teacher used to leave the room for unexplained periods of time, so of course we would go up to the record player, move the needle to a future point, and then spend the rest of the time skimming the play trying to figure out where we were before the teacher returned (sorry Mrs. T). Needless to say, I had no idea what was going on in the play. And while I did figure out what was happening by reading the play, like most plays, they are better watched than read in my opinion. Plus, I kept picturing Steve Martin the whole time I was reading it and it was pretty distracting.

While a bummer of a couple of months of reading, there were definitely some winners this year. Enough winners that I'm willing to give it a shot for Read Harder 2019. Keep expanding your reading and challenge yourself next year!

Karen for Ravenous Readers