These reading challenge wrap-up articles became a tradition on this blog. Every year, each new article I publish is about my reading challenge.
Even though I do this for 4 or 5 years now – I think – I will present the concept once again, hoping some of you will pick it up as well.
Table of Contents
What is a Reading Challenge?
Not sure if this is the original source of the reading challenge, but GoodReads has a section on their platform where they invite users to set a yearly reading goal.
You can set whatever goal you want and when you mark a book as read in the current year, it will be added to your list. There’ll be a percentage progress bar letting you know if you’re right on schedule or not.
At the end of the year, you’ll get a cute report of your reading challenge: best and worst reviews you left, shortest and longest books and so on.
I personally enjoy it very much and I find it a nice way to keep track of your readings.
You can learn more about GoodReads features at www.goodreads.com.
2020 Reading Challenge
Every single year I try to change the format of the article a little.
Reviewing 15-20 books in an article can be a little too much, so for this year I thought to share with you my highlights in terms in best and worst books of 2020.
I often share the best books I’ve read throughout the past year, but bad books should also get a spot. I often check the GoodReads reviews before buying a book, just to make sure I’ll enjoy it or not. It’s frustrating to spend money on a book that you discover that’s not your cup of tea, so this year, I decided to share these too.
This year I failed – again – to read 20 books and I think the main cause of that is because I read some very bad books that put me off. I don’t like abandoning books so I struggle to finish them at all costs.
Anyway, into the list now…
Best Books Read in 2020
There are some extra nice books I’ve discovered last year, but these are my top 5 picks.
The Girls in The Picture by Melanie Benjamin
I labeled this book as “girl power” because it highlights the amazing influence a female friendship had over the silent film era of Hollywood.
The book is inspired by the true friendship of actress Mary Pickford and successful screenwriter Frances Marion. Both women became very close friends and had a major influence on the industry. They faced the birth of Los Angeles as a go-to location for cinema stars and teamed up with Hollywood’s rich and famous.
It’s a story about female friendship with highs and lows, success brought by true friendship, envy, despair, and more. Personally, I find the book portraits female friendship accurately, although the timeline is set to almost 100 years ago.
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland
Holly Ringland follows Alice Hart from her childhood filled with trauma thanks to an highly abusive father up to adulthood.
Due to an unfortunate event, Alice ends up living with her grandmother she had no idea existed. Her grandmother owns a flower farm and here young Alice learns the language of flowers.
Throughout her life, flowers follow Alice everywhere, leaving hints of her future.
Alice has a troubled life, filled with challenges. But things finally fall into the right place as she learns about her family and things become more clear for her and what she’s supposed to do with her life.
I found this book kind and full of hope, although it’s set with a background of domestic violence. I highly enjoyed it and I hope you will too!
Normal People by Sally Rooney
The TV series Normal People was such a hit last year! When I was reading the book, the series was just coming out and I really didn’t get the hype. I got to watch the series a couple of weeks ago since it landed on the local HBO Go app and I still think the hype is not fully justified. Don’t get me wrong – the book and series are both nice, but I didn’t find them exceptional.
I enjoyed the book because of the teenage romance/drama. It’s been a while since I came across a book featuring teenage romance and I missed it.
Sally Rooney does an excellent job portraying her characters and sometimes she’s too good, to be honest. There were moments when I felt she turned Connell into a total Mary Sue – he was too good to be true.
I loved that she featured male mental health issues which is something we don’t see or discuss often enough. I would have enjoyed her to focus more on Connell’s internal battles though.
There’s definitely room left for a second novel and considering the huge success the TV series had, I bet Sally Rooney is writing as we speak.
The Little Book of Colour by Karen Haller
A small encyclopaedia about the meaning and interpretation of colours, The Little Book of Colour is ideal for those who work in creative industries or simply are creative, curious people.
The book and its information is not very complex but gives a great overview of the meaning and history of colours and how different cultures use them.
You can also get insights about how to decorate your home, how to mix and match colours for a balanced layout, warmer home and more.
Colour is everywhere and our mood is highly influenced by it.
I think everyone should have this book in their library and read it from time to time.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
Another pretty famous book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz was the only book I felt like I needed courage to buy. I felt like I couldn’t read a book about Auschwitz.
While I don’t have any relatives or acquaintances (that I know of), who went through the Holocaust, I just can’t bear the thought of visiting a place like Auschwitz or even read about it.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz turned to be a huge surprise. It isn’t about all the trauma and atrocities that happened but about love and its power to get us though anything.
Yes, it presents the hunger, despair, frustrations and hopeless situation of the Auschwitz prisoners. But I felt the book was a breath of fresh air since I read it during the first round of lockdown when things were very confusing.
It helped me realise that things were not bad at all since we had to cope with living indoors for a few weeks, wear a face mask and wash our hands frequently.
I loved this book – its story is real and this makes it even more special.
Worst Books Read in 2020
I came across a few books that drove me crazy.
You know those books that you keep reading hoping that something will happen?! These are the exact type of books I came across this year. Double-check the reviews before buying these and decide if you agree with the best and worst reviews and ratings.
To Know a Woman by Amos Oz
With a very appealing title and an intriguing synopsis, Amos Oz promised SO much with his book – To Know a Woman.
Yoel Ravid is a secret agent for Mossad (Israeli secret services) who finds out his wife suddenly passed away. Although their relationship wasn’t great, he suffers a great deal and he’s faced with the situation of taking care of his sick daughter together with his mother and mother-in-law.
Yoel turns into a walking dead person and I think the book tries to portrait his grieving process.
The book is utterly boring, sometimes uncomfortable and odd and nothiiiing happenes. You keep reading when you come across references that give you that “aha! this must be a clue or a trigger for a plot twist” – but nothing ever happens.
All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy
Another book that promised a lot but nothing happens.
The book tells the story of Chand Rozario, a young boy who grows up without his mother. Chand’s mother leaves his father attempting to regain the life she previously had before being forced into marriage. After he’s abandoned by his wife, Chand’s father retreats into different activities and neglects his young son.
We follow Chand throughout his empty, unfulfilling life and his imaginative scenarios with his lost mother.
The book never gives a proper ending and is confusing and a little frustrating. It pictures the trauma of a young kid and how that trauma follows him through his entire life but I feel it lacked substance – maybe that was the purpose, but I had different expectations from this book.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson
I think Mark Manson found his milk cow with this book: bold title, the first book landed him another book deal and his blog is thriving thanks to it.
Personally, I think Mark Manson had to wait a little longer before writing this book. It’s very poorly written – he still doesn’t understand the concepts he tries so desperately to explain in this book.
For those who read personal development books from known authors in the area (like Dale Carnegie, Robin Sharma, etc.) might understand what Manson tries to say. But for those who are newbies in the area, this book will be just confusing.
It could have been a brilliant book if Manson waited a little longer to let all the info sink in so it was clearer for him first, then put everything in a book for others.
All in all, for me, this this just a hype-book with a bold title that was not worth my time.
I have another 4 or 5 books I started last year because I found myself very picky in regards of book during the last part of 2020. My goal is to finish reading them this year. Some are outragrous, some start very slow, but I intent to bravely read them all in 2021.
Last year I bought more printed books, mostly for my Mum so she can read them too and I have to say – I miss reading on my Kindle (here’s something I never thought I’ll say).
If you’d like more books recommendations or inspiration, you can check the previous reading challenges here.
What were the best and worst books you read last year? Please share them with my in the comments down below, I’d love to discover new books!