2016 Reading Challenge: 50 books

Little Bee by Chris Cleave

This book is a masterpiece of storytelling. The human and emotional depth is especially impressive given the vast cultural difference the author also had to include and make understood. There is nothing funny about this book. What makes it so good is the depth of honesty and pain that the author doesn’t shy away from. One of the best books I’ve read this year.



A Severe Mercy by Sheldon VanaukenI didn’t expect a book focusing on marital love and relationship and subsequently loss, to have such a profound impact on me. This book examines humanity and spirituality in a way that is so clear, yet also fraught with hard questions. Sheldon Vanauken faces the inevitable difficulty that comes with the mystery of faith and having to believe without concrete assurances. I will recommend this book to everyone I ever discuss book suggestions with. I foresee reading it again and again throughout my life and finding different insights in it every time.

The Shepherd's Life by James Rebanks

This book reads a bit like a poem at times. I enjoyed the prose and flowing language as it seems to fit with the topic well. The story of farms and the generations of families that have worked the same land is beautiful and amazing. As someone who has walked and enjoyed the countryside in the Lake District, it was a pleasure to read more about the people who call that land home and so graciously share it with the many visitors is receives each year.


Z by Therese Anne FowlerFor casual enjoyment and a story that paints a broad picture of the life and experience of being Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, this is a great read. The writing changed cadence throughout the book, and felt a bit strained in places, as if the story wasn’t quite flowing; but overall, I found it an enjoyable and captivating book about love, fame, and the reality of being mortal.


Just Mercy by Bryan StevensonThe writing isn’t particularly magnificent, but the words and message are so incredibly important. This is yet another book that will be on my mind for a very long time. Shortly after finishing it I realized that the strong emotions I had from just spending several hours immersed in the stories of these inmates is only a fraction of what Bryan Stevenson must be experiencing on a daily basis. The affect of such close proximity to so much brokenness is evident in the pages of this book. I cried and mourned as Bryan told some of these stories. I found myself hesitant to get too excited about a potentially positive outcome for a case because this book quickly strips back the layers of humanity and a terribly unfair system, leaving you wondering if good really can, or will, prevail over evil in the end.

This book is one I would recommend for anyone trying to understand the plight of African Americans trying to live as equals in our 21st century America. An America that has oppressed people of color and underprivileged communities for so long that the traumatic treatment of entire communities has resulted in a psychological ripple affect that will continue to have real and unavoidable consequences for these communities. The work of EJI and Bryan Stevenson is admirable, impressive, and incredibly heartening. While not terribly uplifting, this book is a reminder that racial reconciliation, while difficult and complex, is possible. We all have to do better, and this book convinced me of that.


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesTa-Nehisi Coates is an author whose stories evoke an emotional response; his words sunk into my heart and, at times, tore it to shreds. Framed as a letter to his son, it read like an intimate portrayal of his struggles, wisdom, pain, fears, and at a few points, his hope. Not so thinly veiled throughout the book is his plea for black America. More than that, a plea for the protection of his sons body. And in his son, the reflection of every darkly complected male living in the America so many of us have come to fear.

I read this book with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart because I also remember Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and the countless others who have lost their lives because of a dangerous system. I too, have spent hours reading articles with tears sliding to my keyboard because people, children, are being murdered by our system. A system many call color-blind, fair, just. A system that consistently reminds me that my own brother’s life is expendable. Read this book. Take a break from it and then read it again. Consider your circumstances and consider the pain and the experience written on these pages. I know that I, for one, will be ruminating over these passages and pieces of wisdom for a very long time.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins

Beautiful and heart wrenching short stories – worth a read and particularly fitting for the current state of American society.



Exodus by Paul Antony JonesExtinction Point by Paul Antony JonesBricking It by Nick SpaldingAnomaly by K.A. TuckerAllegiance by K.A. TuckerAsylum by K.A. Tucker

Anathema by K.A. TuckerHoly Island by L.J. RossCity of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra ClareCity of Lost Souls by Cassandra ClareCity of Fallen Angels by Cassandra ClareCity of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City of Ashes by Cassandra ClareHide Her Name by Nadine DorriesRoom by Emma DonoghueCity of Bones by Cassandra ClareThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeKindred by S.J. West

Broken by S.J. WestHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy SchumerThe Trespasser by Tana FrenchThe Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha ChristieThe Last Girl by Joe Hart

Notes from a Small Island by Bill BrysonA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinThe Locust Effect by Gary A. HaugenThe Last Kingdom by Bernard CornwellAlice in Wonderland by Lewis CarrollThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Heavenfield by L.J. RossSycamore Gap by L.J. RossTrial by Fire by Josephine AngeliniRevelations by Paul Antony JonesHollow City by Ransom RiggsMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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