Early 2020 Sumedha was like go big or go home.
I had never participated in an annual reading challenge before. I hadn’t even participated in monthly reading challenges. Readathons lasting a couple weeks with prompts were tried but didn’t work for me because I find it hard to stick to prompts with my mood reading.
why I participated
Going into 2020, I wanted to try something new with my reading. I wanted to force myself to branch out and knew that a challenge would help. I also wanted to get to my backlist TBR. The online book community focuses a lot on upcoming releases and new books that I perpetually feel behind. Hence, I don’t get to the old books on my TBR as often. That had to be changed.
I chose to commit to this challenge because it had many prompts, which allowed me to read diversely in authors, stories, genres and times. Many prompts would also fit my regular reading which meant that it had enough push without overwhelming/forcing me. That was the sweet spot.
how my experience was
My TBR changed several times throughout the year. A few times, I wondered why I was even setting TBRs with plans on what prompts to hit with which books. The books changed more often than not. Multiple times, I ended up checking off prompts with books I read without the thought of this challenge.
There were some prompts which I was able to use to get myself to read backlist books from my TBR. This goal was checked off. I finally got to some backlist books which I kept putting off.
The best part of the challenge was that some prompts were so specific, I had to find books for them. None of the books on my TBR or anticipated list worked. I crawled through lists on Goodreads to find books which would fit and also interested me. This led to me reading books I may have never come across otherwise.
Being an overachiever with challenges, I naturally planned to check off all 50 prompts. This was really a challenge. I may have not finished this challenge if the pandemic hadn’t occurred, giving me more time to read. It took me (almost) the entire year to finish this challenge because of all the books I wanted to read which didn’t fit in this challenge.
It was a good experience. Will I do it again? Maybe but definitely not soon. I want to go back to reading what I want more, but also do want some prompts which will push me. I’ll be looking for annual reading challenges with fewer prompts for 2021.
the prompts & books
I’ll share anecdotes about each book as we go. Also, you’ll notice that I tried to pick books that I liked for every prompt, if I could. Simply because I want to talk about books that I liked more. You may pick up some recommendations from here!
Note: If I’ve written my thought on the book, I’ll link it and put an asterisk (*) after the title to distinguish it. If not, I’ll link Goodreads pages for the books.
- A book that’s published in 2020 – The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
OMG this year has been so long, I feel like I read this book last year. It was actually one of the first books that I read this year. It was quite nice! 4/5 stars.
- A book by a trans or nonbinary author – I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver
The book stars a nonbinary teenager who gets thrown out by their parents when they come out to them and the events that follow after. It was quite enlightening for me, actually. 4/5 stars.
- A book with a great first line – The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I looked to Goodreads book lists to find one for this prompt. I’ve been meaning to read The Color Purple for a LONG time and this prompt pushed me to finally pick it up. It starts with “You better not tell nobody but God. It’d kill your mammy.” 5/5 stars.
- A book with a map – Ninth House* by Leigh Bardugo
This book had been on my TBR for so long that I needed a challenge prompt to push me to pick it up. It was nice but I wasn’t satisfied by the “dark academia” part of it since it barely dealt with academia. It was just set in an academic institution. 3.5/5 stars.
- A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club – Boss Man Bridegroom by Meghan Quinn
This was a romancetheque book club pick in April. The book was okay. Nothing extraordinary. 3/5 stars.
Mini rant: I was excited when the book club was announced but I’ve noticed that most of their picks aren’t to my taste. I still stuck with them until they did not pick a queer book during Pride month because they were “waiting for the perfect book to release.” There are so many great queer romances and yet they waited for one to release and chose it in the next month. That book was a good one, and one I enjoyed, but the entire thing on principle didn’t sit right with me. I dropped from the club then.
- A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics – Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows* by Billi Kaur Jaswal
I had a paperback of this book and thought let’s kill two birds with one stone. It was a really good book that delved into Punjabi lives in London and talks about what is “accepted” and what is not. 4/5 stars.
- A bildungsroman – Circe* by Madeline Miller
“A novel dealing with one person’s formative years or spiritual education.” I had a paperback of Circe as well and it fit very well for this prompt since it follows the entire life of Circe, a figure in Greek mythology whom I hadn’t known of. People mentioned that if I liked it, I’d like A Song of Achilles more but I actually like Circe better. 4/5 stars.
- A book with an upside down image on the cover – Verity* by Colleen Hoover
This book was SO GOOD. It had me up nights thinking about it after it was done. CoHo actually wrote this well, considering her main genre is romance. This was a mystery thriller. 5/5 stars.
- An anthology – Meet Cute: Some People are Destined to Meet* by Jennifer L. Armentrout and other authors.
I generally don’t read anthologies because I don’t like short stories. This challenge pushed me to try one. Staying safe, I picked one that I thought I’d enjoy and I did! Sometimes when I need a pick-me-up, I go back and quickly read my favourites from this anthology. The variety and diversity in the stories was great. 3.5/5 stars.
- A book that passes the Bechdel test – What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillaume
I barely remember this book, honestly. I think I enjoyed it but it wasn’t anything great. It did have a good fat representation, though. 3/5 stars.
- A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it – Pride by Ibi Zoboi
This book is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice but with teenage Black main characters. The book also talks about gentrification of Black neighbourhoods but manages to keep the book light enough. I’m looking forward to reading more of the author’s works. 3/5 stars.
- A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name – Fumbled* by Alexa Martin
This was actually a reread. Fumbled is a comfort read for me because of the friendships it shows. Also there wasn’t a shoddy break up act in the book. 4/5 stars.
- A book about or involving social media – Stores We Never Tell* by Savi Sharma
This was a random pick at the bookstore. I didn’t have much expectations from it but it actually turned out to be nice. I wasn’t impressed by it in the beginning but it turned around by the end and had a good representation of how social media affects mental health, especially for influencers. 3/5 stars.
- A book set in a country beginning with “C” – The Joy Luck Club* by Amy Tan
I had never heard of this book before I went searching for a book for this prompt. Turns out, it’s a popular old book which even has a movie? I loved the exploration into the relationships between Chinese mothers and Chinese-American daughters and how the gap between the generations feels like an ocean. My only complaint is that the writing style didn’t appeal to me and hence I wasn’t able to connect with the book or characters. 3/5 stars.
- A book that has a book on the cover – The Bookish Life of Nina Hill* by Abbi Waxman
This book was so underwhelming. It was a repetition of many books that I had already read and didn’t have anything special. I don’t get the hype it had. 2.5/5 stars.
- A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics – Room by Emma Donoghue
This book wasn’t as good as I expected it to be, considering the hype. It does showcase some things well but it didn’t feel worth the hype. 3/5 stars.
- A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins – Pride, Prejudice and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev
This was a nice romance book where we also got to see family focus with Indian traditions. I really liked the main characters. 4/5 stars.
- A book published the month of your birthday – Love Lettering* by Kate Clayborn
I didn’t even try for this prompt, lol. I simply went through the books I read around June and found one which was published in December. I liked Love Lettering because of the emphasis on calligraphy and font styles. They interest me. 4/5 stars.
- A book about a book club – The Bromance Book Club* by Lyssa Kay Adams
Considering how popular this book became this year, of course I chose it for this prompt. I was going to read it anyway. It was great! 5/5 stars.
- The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed – The God of Small Things by Arundati Roy
Initially, the plan was to do this in a bookstore but the pandemic happened and I didn’t get to. So I made a shelf with unread books at home and picked one. This book was really good. I annotated it a lot and it made me think a lot. The author writes really well, although her style didn’t suit me very well. 4/5 stars.
- A medical thriller – The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
I’ve never read a medical thriller before so this was interesting! The book was quite gross but I liked it. 3/5 stars.
- A book with a made-up language – To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
This was a solid fantasy standalone book. It was new, exciting, and adventurous. True enemies to lovers (not just rivals to lovers) romance with a heist! Unfortunately, it didn’t make me feel much so my rating is slightly low. 3/5 stars.
- A book you picked because the title caught your attention – The Thing Around Your Neck* by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was at the bookstore and about to pay when this book caught my eye next to the billing counter. I just picked it up and added it to my stack without checking what it was about. Turns out, it was a bunch of short stories, which I’m not a huge fan of. But it was okay. Some were great, some made no impression on me. 3.5/5 stars.
- A book that won an award in 2019 – Darius the Great is Not Okay* by Adib Khorram
I don’t even remember what award it was. I just saw that it won an award when I was looking for titles and decided on it. THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. I’m really looking forward to the sequel (no I haven’t read it yet…). 4/5 stars.
- A book about or by a woman in STEM – Truth or Beard* by Penny Reid
The STEM representation was actually bad in this one. The main character was a math major but she took math simply because it’s useful and needed everywhere. That.. wasn’t good for me. The book wasn’t good overall too. 2/5 stars.
- A book with a pun in the title – Frankly in Love* by David Yoon
This is one of my BEST BOOKS of the year. Such a great book. I will forever recommend it. 5/5 stars.
- A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader – Becoming* by Michelle Obama
This was one of my first reads of the year, and it set the tone for 2020. More non-fiction, and finally reading big books. Becoming was really good. 5/5 stars.
- A book on a subject you know nothing about – Persepolis* by Marjane Satrapi
Initially I thought I’d use this prompt to read an entirely new book but towards the end, I simply didn’t have the energy to read something that would require brain power. I had already read books about things I hadn’t known about, so it wasn’t hard to fit in one of them for this. Persepolis is an autobiography set in Iran during the Islamic revolution and shows the turbulent events that occurred. 3/5 stars.
- A book by or about a journalist – Inappropriate by Vi Keeland
Vi Keeland’s books are always either a hit or a bye, and recently it’s been more byes than hits. This book wasn’t good. Let’s move on. 2/5 stars.
- A book with a bird on the cover – The Black Flamingo* by Dean Atta
This book was so nice! Although the poetry in the middle felt out of place at times, it was a good book and a good story. 3.5/5 stars.
- A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the title – The Bronze Horseman* by Paullina Simmons
This book got added to my TBR after I saw an bookstagrammer show her 70+ copies of this book. I was super intrigued. After years of being neglected, I finally picked it up for this prompt. It was good, but it wasn’t that great. 3/5 stars.
- A book by a WOC – Love from A to Z* by S. K. Ali
A huge chuck of my books this year would fit this prompt! “WOC” (Women of Colour) is so broad. I chose this book because I want to talk about it. THIS BOOK IS AWESOME. YOU SHOULD READ IT. 5/5 stars.
- A book with a three-word title – The Vanishing Half* by Brit Bennett
Another BRILLIANT book. I loved this one so much. Twins who run away together and end up leading very different lives. Amazing exploration of identity, racism, internalized racism, vanity, and more. I’m looking forward to reading more from the author. 4/5 stars.
- A book with at least a four-star rating on Goodreads – The Third Best Thing by Maya Hughes
No idea why it has such a high rating on Goodreads. It was nice but not that nice, in my opinion. 3/5 stars.
- A book you meant to read in 2019 – We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I was trying to finish a prompt and didn’t have much patience. This book was easy since it’s very short. 5/5 stars.
Note: I have since found out that the author is transphobic. I need to reevaluate my thoughts on her works, especially since this is a book on feminism.
- A book with a pink cover – #TheRealCinderella* by Yesenia Vargas
Hmmmm I don’t even remember this book, if I’m being honest. But I wrote a review, so please check it out haha. I tend to forget books that I don’t like. 2/5 stars.
- Your favorite prompt from a past POPSUGAR Reading Challenge – The School for Good and Evil* by Soman Chainani
I just chose one which works for me lol. “The book at the bottom of your TBR.” This book was added to my Goodreads TBR in 2013 and was #1 for all these years. Finally read it. 4/5 stars.
- A Western – My Calamity Jane* by Cynthia Hand, Brodie Ashton and Jodie Meadows
I actually had to look up the definition of “a Western” haha. This book was perfect for this prompt. I didn’t like it as much as book 1 but it was good in other aspects. 2.5/5 stars.
- Read a banned book during Banned Books Week – The Bluest Eye* by Toni Morrisson
I didn’t read it during banned week but I read it, lol. It was nice. 5/5 stars.
- A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character – The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
This was the first audiobook that I LOVED. The world building was reall good. The characters were well formed. But my favourite is definitely the plot. The plot was really cool. The audiobook was an experience.
Note: I’ve since heard that book 2 is transphobhic. I haven’t read it (and mostly won’t) so can’t say myself, but do be warned.
- A book with “20” or “twenty” in the title – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore* by Robin Sloan
Would not have found and read this book if not for this prompt. So glad I found it though. What a good book! Involves a bookstore with a cult formed around cryptic books, machine learning, a heist, and more. This was also the last prompt that I checked off. 4/5 stars.
- A book written by an author in their 20s – Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
I can’t believe that the author wrote this in their 20s! It’s such a detailed, well-researched book. Highly recommend it. 5/5 stars.
- A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement (a nod to 20/20 vision) – 100 Days of Sunlight* by Abbie Emmons
I had been meaning to read Abbie’s debut book for a long time. It was SO GOOD. Watching the main characters grow and form a bond while also dealing with their disabilities was an emotional experience.
- A book set in the 1920s – These Violent Delights* by Chloe Gong
I was actually worried about this prompt because I don’t read books set way back in time. Imagine my surprise when I realized that this book fit this prompt after I finished it. It’s set in 1928 Shanghai with gangs, blood feuds, and a mysterious monster. 3.5 stars.
- A book from a series with more than 20 books – The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
This was a hard one. I initially planned for a James Patterson book but didn’t have the patience. I didn’t like this attempt of Christie too. Have decided that I won’t like her works. 2/5 stars.
- A book by an author who has written more than 20 books – Release* by Patrick Ness
I finally read a Patrick Ness book! It was nice enough. I liked half the book and wanted to skip the other half. 3/5 stars.
- A book set in Japan, host of the 2020 Olympics – Kafka in the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Well, that didn’t happen did it. Just like how I didn’t like this very hyped book. I had mixed feelings about it. 3/5 stars.
- A book with more than 20 letters in its title – My So-Called Bollywood Life* by Nisha Sharma
This was actually a cute desi YA contemporary. I’m looking forward to the author’s next book that’s coming out in 2021. 4/5 stars.
- A book published in the 20th century – The Silva Mind Control Method by José Silva
A friend had lent me this book wayy back in 2019 and it took me until Jan to actually finish. It’s about meditation and using the power of your mind to do well in life. Can’t rate it because it’s a very subjective thing. Was informative and motivating enough, though.
- A book with a main character in their 20s – Well Met* by Jen DeLuca
Most of my books fit this prompt lol. Well Met was nice. Enjoyable. 4/5 stars.
And done! Phew.
50 prompts was not easy to check off. This post also took me way too long to write. I’m proud of my accomplishment, though. Probably would not have made it without the pandemic giving me more time to read.
Did you participate in any reading challenges in 2020? Do you like challenges and prompts?