2016 Reading Goals & Challenges

During the past two years, I’ve set myself a list of 10 books that I definitely want to read during the coming year, and every time I’ve managed to read about six of them. So this time I’m hoping to fool myself into reading more by making two separate shorter lists.

Top 5 SFF books to read in 2016

The Privilege of the Sword Broken Kingdoms Red Seas Under Red Skies The Golem and the Jinni A Natural History of Dragons
1. The Privilege of the Sword (The World of Riverside #2) by Ellen Kushner
2. The Broken Kingdoms (Inheritance #2) by N.K. Jemisin
3. Red Seas Under Red Skies (Gentleman Bastard #2) by Scott Lynch
4. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
5. A Natural History of Dragons (Memoir by Lady Trent #1) by Marie Brennan

These are either authors whose works I enjoyed in 2015, or completely new authors to me whose books just feel like something I would love.

Top 3 Classics to read in 2016

Brideshead Revisited Hangsaman Dracula
1. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
2. Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
3. Dracula by Bram Stoker

I think I read two classics last year, and both of those were modern SFF classics. So, in an effort to finally get to the classics I’ve been planning to read for a long time, I chose three classics from my shelves. I have actually read Dracula many years ago, but I plan to read my gorgeous illustrated edition while listening to the Audible full cast production of it.

TBR Triple Dog Dare

TBR Triple Dog Dare
I was searching for different TBR challenges, and found this dare by James Reads Books.

During the first three months of 2016, you can only read the TBR books you had as of midnight December 31, 2015. It is allowed to include books you had already placed on reserve at the library before this date, and I intend to do so. There are also other exceptions that you’re allowed to make, but I’m only going to use the library one. So, from January 1st to April 1st, I’m only going to be reading books already on my TBR shelf. Which is good, since no more books would fit on it, anyway.

Hercule Poirot in Order

Agatha Christie Logo
I’ll also continue to read Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot books in order throughout the year. I’m up to book number nine, Lord Edgware Dies.

These are all my goals for the year 2016. I think they are possible to accomplish, although the TBR Triple Dog Dare might prove to be quite tricky!


A Stranger in Olondria Review (2015 SFF Reading Challenge 6/10)

A Stranger in Olondria
A Stranger in Olondria

By: Sofia Samatar
First published in 2012
Book 6/10 of my 2015 SFF Reading Challenge

Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home—but which his mother calls the Ghost Country. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. Just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.

A Stranger in Olondria is a beautifully written book that manages to evoke the feeling of traveling abroad and of suddenly seeing something gorgeous when you turn a corner. It also has a deep love for books, stories, and the wonder of literacy. I’m not surprised it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2014 – the prose is so beautiful that it’s difficult to believe this is Samatar’s debut novel.

The main character, Jevick of Tyom, has lived all his life on his father’s pepper farm. His Olondrian tutor taught him to read and write, since there is no written language in his mother tongue, and Jevick grew up reading about the wonders of Olondria. After his father’s death he finally has the chance to visit the city of Bain on the yearly spice spelling trip.

Jevick’s reactions to visiting Olondria and seeing the beautiful city of Bain reminded me of my visit to Rome, or seeing the Place Masséna in Nice. That wonder of turning a corner and being presented with a beautiful sight that takes your breath away was captured perfectly. Jevick also visits more barren countrysides, which were also described well, conveying the feel of large space and long stretches of land and stars spreading around you.

In addition to the descriptions and the awe of the main character when he travels, the world of the book is built by stories. A lot of the characters tell stories: either their life stories, or a myth of their people. This abundance of stories makes the world seem old and deep, like there is so much history behind it, more stories than this book will be able to tell.

This book is best read in long doses, because it always takes a little bit of time to sink into the writing style, the atmosphere and the long descriptions. I was planning to give the book five stars, but I fell out of the enchantment right at the very end. I assume this was because of the flu I had, which hurt the attention span needed to fully enjoy the story and sink into the writing style.

The plot itself was very unexpected, not going where I was thinking it would go, at all. To be fair, I hadn’t read the back cover description. The plot, for me, was the least important aspect of the book. I was drawn in by the weight of history and by the descriptions. If you are a plot-centered reader, I’d be interested in your reactions to the book.

4 out of 5 stars