Book Challenge, January 2016: The Dead, the Living, and the Living Dead.

As some of you are aware, I decided to challenge myself in 2016 and try to read at least 50 books. I had fallen out of the habit of devouring books despite it defining my entire childhood, until a couple of years ago when I decided to read all of Terry Prattchet’s Discworld. It was a very pleasant year of reading, that reignited my passion for the written word. Then a friend insisted I read Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, going as far as to transport his copies of the books all the way from Switzerland to Greece in order to lend them to me, which pretty much meant that with the addition of Neil Gaiman’s works I had been reading very few books that weren’t fantasy. Wanting to depart from my reading comfort zone, I asked my tumblr followers to send me recommendations and they really came through.

As of this month I have read 5 out of the 50 books, which means I am well on my way to victory.

Smoke gets in your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory – Caitlin Doughty (8th of January-13th of January): I honestly can’t tell you why I decided to start the year with a non-fiction book about death and cremation, but both the non-fiction and the cremation angles interested me. See, I haven’t really read any non-fiction books and cremation is a very foreign concept in Greece, what with it being illegal and all until very recently. The book is vibrant, informative, and at times philosophical. It’s like having a conversation with a friend about things that happened at their job, ranging from the funny to the frustrating, and the profound to the gross. Meaning that if you are uncomfortable with the idea of death this is both the best and the worst book for you. It goes into detail (at times oozing, weirdly colored, and foul-smelling detail) sparing no feelings, while also giving insight into matters most are too scared to bring up. Having no hang ups about death, I found this an interesting view into the anthropological aspect of the rituals with which all civilizations surround death, and would heartily recommend it.

Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates (13th of January): This book isn’t for me and it isn’t about me. No matter how much I relate to things, like the feeling that my body doesn’t belong to me as a woman, it is never to this extent, never under these circumstances. There is so much anger behind the poetic words in this book, but it is never unwarranted. There is also frustration and exhaustion and fear for the future. Yet the fact that many people chose to focus on the anger, just proves the point that the book very eloquently makes about the danger of expressing that very human emotion, when people that identify as white are so ready to use it not only to disregard an argument, but also consider someone a threat and feel justified in doing so. Well worth the read.

The Newsflesh Trilogy – Mira Grant (Feed: 14th-20th of January, Deadline: 20th-26th of January, Blackout: 26th-29th of January): Let me just open by saying zombie stories aren’t really my thing. I much prefer my undead with fangs. However, since the entire point of this challenge was to expand my horizons and a story about bloggers following a presidential campaign while the world survives an ongoing apocalypse seemed fun (an assumption that in retrospect is bursting to the seams with tragic irony), I decided to give this a go. The world-building is excellent (apart from a couple of things, but no one is perfect) and the first books suffers for it. See in most books that focus on the story and world-building, the characters don’t get as much attention, and the other way around. Since I mostly enjoy characters in a story you can see how that would be a problem. The last third of the first book is stellar, which made me decide to continue, although you could just read the first one, as it is a complete-ish story. The second book is my favorite, probably because the existing characters have some time to breath (well, not really cause the plot is viciously out to get them, but you catch my drift) and I love all the new ones introduced. It took a disturbing twist (and even though the books are full of disturbing twists, trust me you’ll know it when you see it) and I loved every gasp-inducing moment of it. The third book starts out strong, but then the switch between POV chapters started confusing me (which may have been a result of reading on public transport after a tiring day). The choice for last POV chapter was thematically beautiful and a great way to end the series. I loved it.

I have now started the Killing Moon and I’ll tell you all about it in next month’s recap.

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