Wrapping Up: A to Z and POC Challenges

I credit the A to Z Challenge and POC Reading Challenge with being the reasons I read so broadly in 2010. While I picked a couple of books solely based on the author’s last name, I read so many more that I’d been putting off for years. Choosing my favorite reads is a little dicey, because there were a lot of good ones, several of which will be in my forthcoming fiction favorites of 2010 post. In order to “cheat” and mention more books, I won’t the same book twice in this post. And since I recently talked about my least favorite books of the year–it goes without saying that those were my least favorite books of the challenges–I won’t include them in this post either:

There were three options for the A to Z challenge: read 26 books alphabetically by author, 26 by title, or 52 by author and title. I went with author last names. I kinda shouldn’t be wrapping this challenge up yet because I haven’t read my “D” book. That’s intentional, because I want to end my year with Junot Diaz’s Drown. But consider it done.

Okay, so favorites: I’m madly in love with Elfriede Jelinek’s The Piano Teacher. I haven’t reviewed it yet because I just finished it a couple of weeks ago, but *swoon*. Another favorite, which I’ve mentioned before, was The Crime of Father Amaro by José Maria Eça de Queirós. My final pick is Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Loved it.

My second-least-favorite book of the challenge was Chris Cleave’s Little Bee. I was going to include it in my Not-So-Favorites of 2010 post, but there’s nothing so egregiously bad in the book that would justify listing it in that hall of shame. All the same, I hated Little Bee. My friend and I, for the life of us, cannot understand the love that book gets.

There were five levels for the POC challenge, and I picked the highest one, 16-25 books by authors of color. My personal goal was to read at least 20 books, and I exceeded that. When I finish Drown, the grand total will be 23.

One of my favorites for this challenge was Jean Kwok’s Girl in Translation, which I listened to on audiobook. I’ve mentioned it a couple of times this year already for a good reason. Another favorite of mine was Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I can’t believe I’d never read any of Alexie’s longer works before this year! And I think my last pick for this challenge has to be Sky Burial: An Epic Love Story of Tibet by Xinran, because once I got hooked I could not put it down.

My second-least-favorite book of this challenge was the Pulitzer-winning The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos. I haven’t written a review for it yet, so I’ll keep it simple: the writing in gorgeous, but ultimately, I could care less about the protagonist’s self-made problems.

I’ll be doing both of these challenges again next year. I’ll list the POC books as I go along, but my (still unfinished) tentative list for the A to Z Challenge is posted here.

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5 comments

  1. amymckie

    I have been actively avoiding Little Bee as well. I feel it will be everything I dislike in books – men writing about women (badly), and a Westerner talking about a Nigerian’s immigrant experience and about Nigeria. I will continue sticking to those books on the subjects written by actual Nigerians.

    Congratulations on completing both challenges and finding great books for both. I haven’t actually JOINED the A-Z challenge but I did read book titles for all letters… but am missing an X author still. I just have to grab a Kindle book and read it, but being as I really didn’t join the challenge I might just not. We shall see 🙂

  2. Lu

    The A-Z challenge is the one challenge I’m considering for this year (though I do do an unofficial POC challenge on my own) because of what you said! You find such great surprises that you never would have read before. I’ve never actually finished the A-Z challenge and I’d really like to. It was the first challenge I joined as a blogger, so I’m a little sentimental 😉

  3. Opal

    You’ve inspired me. I’m going to do the POC Reading Challenge in 2011. I’ve never done a reading challenge before, so we’ll see how I fair.

  4. Ari

    Melissa, the above comment made by Opal is awesome and all thanks to you and your reviews!!

    That’s interesting that you hated Little Bee. I’ve read some RAVE reviews of it and the summary is so vague that I really wanted to know what happened. Hmmm. I never intended on buying but your reaction has me even more curious to read it!

    I want there to be a Sherman Alexie challenge which will make sure I read all his other books! I want to read at least 2 of his other books this year.

    • Melissa

      Ooooh, a Sherman Alexie challenge! I would *love* that! I also want to read all his other books. I put everything my library has of his on my list, so hopefully I’ll get through a few this year.

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