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.