2016 Reading Challenge: A Book You’ve Read At Least Once

2016 Reading Challenge- a book you've read at least once

This time around, we kind of did a little throwback reading. We decided to read a book that we’d already read at least once. It’s nice to revisit stories that you’ve already read. And, if it’s an especially good book, you get something new out of it each time.

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2016 Reading Challenge: Banned Books

2016 Reading Challenge- Banned Books

Happy weekend! We can’t believe the first week of May is over already! April was a busy month for us and it seemed as though we’d never catch up, but we did. That’s why we’re sharing the books we read in April for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge with you today!

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2016 Reading Challenge: March’s Picks

2016 Reading Challenge- MARCH

Happy April, everyone!! Since March has officially come to an end, we thought we’d share the books we read this past month as part of Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2016 Reading Challenge. It was Sarah’s turn to pick the category and she chose, “A book you own but have never read.” Here are the books we read and our thoughts on each.

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2016 Reading Challenge: February’s Picks

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Can you believe it’s already March?! It was just Christmas and New Year’s and Valentine’s Day, and now here we are. In case you missed it, we’re participating in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Reading Challenge for 2016. It’s a really simple list that just has 12 categories, so, at the very least, you’ll read at least one book each month. That’s not to say you can’t read more, though!

This month, Deborah chose the category: a book you should have read in school. Here’s the books we each chose to read.

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Deborah read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I actually had a couple people recommend this one. A friend from work who is my new reading buddy (I’ve actually got a book of hers sitting in my living room right now!) said that Fahrenheit 451 was one of the books she read for school that she actually enjoyed. My brother was the other one. He likes to read as much as I do, but he’s more particular about his books. I actually borrowed his copy for this part of the challenge! It was the 50th Anniversary Edition, so it had some extra stuff in the back too.

I didn’t really know much about the book before I picked it up. I know that paper catches fire at 451 degrees Fahrenheit, and I knew it was a dystopian futuristic story where they burned the books, but past that, I knew nothing. The story is about Guy Montag, a fire man. Sadly, in this world, fire men don’t put out the fires anymore; they burn the houses of people who have books. Montag firmly believes in his job at first, but after meeting Clarisse, who thinks and speaks differently from anyone else he’s ever met, and seeing his wife Millie almost succeed at an accidental suicide attempt, he starts to second guess. It starts with him snagging one of the books from a house he burns before the flames start, and it just goes from there. He makes the unfortunate mistake of trying to talk to his fire chief and then his wife about the books, but that doesn’t go as he’d hoped. His wife calls in an alarm on their own house, Chief Beatty responds to the call, and Montag watches his wife ride off in a taxi before he’s forced to burn down his own home.

I was kinda bummed by the time I finished this book because I honestly didn’t like it. I understand the sentiment it’s trying to get across, but I was disappointed in the character development. While I was reading it, I was getting a little bored, but I thought it would end up being one of those books I’d like once I’d finished it and could look back at it. Not so. I got excited when it looked like Montag was going up against the government, but then he’d lose his cool and blow the whole thing in a second! I then just got so frustrated with the character that I pretty much just powered through the last few passages just to get it over with. Would I recommend the book for pleasure reading? Probably not. But is it a relevant message in today’s world? Definitely.

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Sarah read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

When I was in high school, at the start of each school year, my English teachers would provide us students with two different lists of books. One list of books would be required reading for the year, and the other would be “suggested” titles that we would choose from for special assignments. I remember The Bell Jar being on the suggested list a few times, but I never had a desire to read it until now.

I took Creative Writing classes in middle school and we studied some of Sylvia Plath’s poetry. I knew that Ms. Plath was very talented, but she struggled with mental health issues and ended up committing suicide when she was only thirty years old. The Bell Jar, which is a semi-autobiographical account of her early life, was first published just a month before her death. Because of those things, I avoided The Bell Jar for fear of finding it depressing or disturbing. Now I can say, while it’s definitely not a feel-good read, I’m still glad I read it.

The book is very well-written—the first person narrative does an excellent job of putting you inside the narrator’s mind. At times the events seem jumbled and the thoughts become frantic, alluding to the nervous breakdown that eventually takes place. However, the voice is quite engaging. I couldn’t put the book down!

“If Mrs. Guinea had given me a ticket to Europe, or a round-the-world cruise, it wouldn’t have made one scrap of difference to me, because wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”

I believe to understand an author’s work, you have to understand the author. Obviously, the thoughts and feelings of the book’s main character were some of the same things the author was experiencing. I commend Sylvia Plath for opening herself up in such a way, exposing the terrible realities of depression and mental illness. She wrote The Bell Jar in a time when it was common for people to be locked away for being “crazy” and then to be experimented on with lobotomies and electroshock therapy. Mental illness was not talked about in public, lest you’d become a social outcast. Thank goodness, times have changed. I’d like to think that this book is partly responsible. There’s no doubt that The Bell Jar will continue to add Sylvia Plath’s captivating, if haunting, story to the conversation for years to come.

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Stay tuned for March’s picks! We’ll be choosing books we own but haven’t read. 

What are you currently reading? Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think? We’d love to hear from you!

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2016 Reading Challenge: January’s Picks

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Happy Friday, everyone! Is it just us or did it take the weekend forever to get here?! As this week comes to a close, we’d like to talk about the books we read this month as part of our 2016 Reading List. We started out easy, choosing the “book you can finish in a day” category for January! Here’s what we read.

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Sarah read Rules for a Knight by Ethan Hawke.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve had a celebrity crush on Ethan Hawke ever since I saw him in the Disney adaptation of White Fang. I mean, check out those boyish good looks!

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The movie came out when I was three, but I saw it sometime in elementary school. It became my favorite movie so much so that, when I was in middle school, I signed up to read the actual literary work by Jack London and compare it to the movie. By choice! Let me tell you, I was sorely disappointed. And, if you’ve read Jack London, I’m sure you understand.

My sweet spot for Ethan Hawke was only solidified when I saw Dead Poet’s Society in high school, so, when I saw that he had a new book out (he’s written two others), it piqued my interest. It’s a fictional work, written in the form of a letter from Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke, a fifteenth-century Cornish knight, to his children. Sir Thomas’ letter is broken up into twenty short chapters, in parable form—with each chapter telling a story to illustrate a moral, like gratitude and honesty.

The book was originally written for Ethan Hawke’s children. He and his wife wanted to make a list of rules for the household but as they worked on it, they decided to really focus on what they believed in as a family. In Hawke’s own words, taken from his interview with Eric Lach for The New Yorker, “What has been valuable about it for me was that it gave me an excuse and permission to bring up subject matters that are very difficult to talk about with kids. How do you find the right reason to talk about why it’s good to be alone with yourself? Why solitude is important in a person’s life? What is humility?”

The book was a very quick read and, even though it’s technically written for kids, I thought it was an excellent reminder of how to be true to yourself and loving to others. I think it’s a very creative way to engage kids with ideas like justice and equality. In fact, I may save a copy for when I have kids one day. 🙂

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Image credit: amazon.com

Deborah read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

I have a confession. Despite being a generally happy, go-lucky person, I like to read dark books. Dystopian, psychological issues, twisted characters. If you’ve read or seen Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Flora Rheta Schreiber’s Sybil, then you know what I’m talking about. They’re not necessarily books that I read more than once, but I like to read them at least the one time. I think it’s because they’re so different from my world.

Speak is about Melinda’s first year of high school. She starts out on the outside because she called the cops on the big end-of-the-summer house party that practically everyone was at. Everyone hates her. What no one realizes is that the reason she called the cops wasn’t to break up the party. She called because she had just been raped by an upper classman. She has become withdrawn, and it affects her grades and her friendships. She likes her art class though, and that and her secret hideaway in an old janitor’s closet help her survive each day. Until her former best friend starts dating her rapist. She can’t let the same thing happen to her friend, so she finally uses her voice.

I found the book on a Buzzfeed list: 46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Day. There were several books that piqued my interest (I still plan on reading The Great Gatsby), but this one won out. I think, in our time, it’s a completely relatable character that speaks (no pun intended) to teens and adults alike. With her irony and slight sarcasm peaking through the pages, Melinda feels like someone you actually know. I’d definitely recommend it, but definitely be careful with the content if triggers are a problem for you.

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So, how about you? Did you join us in our reading challenge? What book did you read this month?

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