Alternative title: What I read in the second half of the year.
After getting through the A-Z author challenge I didn’t want to organize my reading in any way. I just wanted to find more great books by authors I enjoyed. No pressure. So that’s what I did in the second half of the year.
I put holds on Ruth L. Ozeki’s earlier novels, All Over Creation and My Year of Meats. I definitely think A Tale for the Time Being is her best work, but her previous novels entertained me and made me reconsider what I eat and also more aware of fertility issues.
Daniel Alarcón’s At Night We Walk in Circles was a great sophomore effort. I enjoyed it more than Lost City Radio (I was a little burnt out on the torture/disappeared topic). On the other hand, Meg Wolitzer’s previous novels, The Uncoupling and The Ten Year Nap didn’t captivate me like The Interestings. It might have just been too many white middle/upper middle class women in New York. I needed a change of scenery which I got by reading the oeuvre of both Rainbow Rowell and Gillian Flynn. Both popular writers set their novels in small towns or cities in the Midwest. That’s about all they have in common as Rowell writes young adult/romance novels that are quick “beach reads” and Gillian Flynn writes dark, disturbing suspense-filled novels. While I found Gone Girl overhyped, I was surprised that Flynn could come up with characters and plots that were even more messed up. Amy and Nick Dunne seemed like relatively normal people compared to those in Sharp Objects and Dark Places.
Some time late in the summer I decided I wanted to read more books set in Los Angeles or Southern California. That was the impetus behind adding The Magician’s Assistant (I also really liked Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto), The Madonna’s of Echo Park and The People of Paper. I wasn’t a fan of the last book and put it down a couple of times before finally completing it.
In November I started to play around with my reading spreadsheet — oh how I love anything that can be tracked via spreadsheet — to see how many letters I was missing for an A-Z challenge by title. I needed 10 or 11 books which seemed doable if I was strategic about my choices. I picked a few books by authors who were new to me in 2014 for ideas. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and Interpreter of Maladies were my favorites read specifically to complete the challenge.
The J, K, X and Z books were okay but less enjoyable. I slogged through Xicano Duende, a poetry collection. Cherríe Moraga’s A Xicana Codex essay collection would’ve been a better choice, but it was checked out at the university libraries. I found Zen and the City of Angels rather silly. I need to find decent mystery novels where motives actually make sense.
My reading goals for 2015 include some challenges, but they’re not focused on the alphabet. I’ll touch on those later.
The full list of books read for the A-Z author challenge (or, what I read from July through December):
All Over Creation by Ruth L. Ozeki
At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
Drink: The Intimate Relationship Between Women and Alcohol by Ann Dowsett Johnson
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
The Guts by Roddy Doyle
How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid
Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
The Lunch-box Chronicles: Notes from the Parenting Underground by Marion Winik
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse
The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
Marbles, Mania, Depression and Me by Ellen Forney
My Year of Meats by Ruth L. Ozeki
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia
Queen of America by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala
Xicano Duende: A Selected Anthology by Alurista
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Zen and the City of Angels by Elizabeth Cosin
2 thoughts on “A-Z Challenge by Title”
Interpreter of Maladies is one of my favorite books of all time. My book club read a tale for the time beings last summer. Other people in the group said they had read Ruth’s other works but they were a bit “out there”. Did you enjoy the Madonna’s of Echo Park? I’ve been meaning to read that for a while. I really enjoy your posts on these challenges.
I don’t think Ozeki’s other works were out there, they were just slightly ham-fisted (if that’s possible) on the social responsibility message. I think she was a little ahead of her time writing about organic foods and farmers, non GMO food and the problem with eating meat (especially those grown on factory farms with lots of “inputs”). That said, the narratives and the characters were well-written and compelling. I didn’t expect the aspect of fertility issues and mom/daughter issues which comes up in both All Over Creation and My Year of Meats.
I thought Madonna’s of Echo Park was okay. It’s told in a non-linear style with vignettes about several characters that all end up being connected in some way. I needed to make myself a little people map to keep everyone straight. I feel it would’ve worked more as a series of loosely connected short stories (think Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her or Sandra Cisneros’s House on Mango Street) rather than as a novel.
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