Books & Reading

My Reading Challenge 2018

Books on a sunny bookshelf for my Reading Challenge 2018

Setting my Reading Challenge 2018 at 30 books was always ambitious. A part of me knew I wasn’t going to complete it, but as I was in the last year of my 20’s I threw caution to the wind and thought I’d set it as the magical number of 30 anyway. (Read with sarcasm.)

So no, I didn’t complete it. But I’m not bothered about it. I was also supposed to split this post up during the year into 3 month update posts, as I did with my Reading Challenge 2017. But as ever, life gets in the way. So, in other words, this is going to be a BIG post as it’ll include all of the books I’ve read for my Reading Challenge 2018.

My Reading Challenge 2018

1. An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery by John Bills

I’d started to read this book at the end of 2017 and continued it into 2018, mainly because it was a chunky 493 pages and it took me a while to finish. Quite a few years ago, I stumbled upon John Bill‘s blog, although I can’t remember how, and loved his ‘An Illustrated History of Slavic Misery’ blog post series. Basically, it was a blog post series documenting the lives of famous Slavs, although not so famous to us Westerners. And when you read about their incredible life achievements you’ll wonder why we haven’t heard of those who have invented contact lenses, or had swam the length of the Amazon. He eventually decided to write this book, and I’d encourage you to read it.

2. How to Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee

I know, I know. I hadn’t read a classic like How to Kill A Mocking Bird until now -très tard (very late). Well, it’s better late than never and inevitably I had my nose stuck in this book as soon as I started reading it. So many tales and visuals from a past of the deep south, it felt incredibly real and, when it reached its pinnacle moment, so impactful. But of course, this is why this book is so well-known and loved. A legendary book.


3. In Her Own Fashion by Karen Moller

Going back in time again, but this time to the sixties. This book was a Christmas present and although I hadn’t heard of Karen Moller before, I’m glad this was picked for me. The successful fashion designer lived through the sixties, with beatniks in San Francisco and with bohemians in Paris. It’s a heady life story of characters and clothes in a decade that fascinates me the most.


The Art of Travel featured in my Reading Challenge 2018


4. The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton

Another present to me… I love reading, talking and watching about travel, but this book is about the thinking behind it. Such as you and your own moods that can travel with you across continents. Meaning a sun soaked beach isn’t the answer to your happiness when you yourself is not content. A really interesting, but simple series of essays.


5. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

As I hadn’t read How To Kill A Mocking Bird, I tried to ignore the talk around Go Set A Watchman, which is why I didn’t realise until after reading that Harper Lee hadn’t wanted her first draft (this) to be published. Having read it, I can understand why. Although, I am guilty of wanting to find out what kind of person Scout grew up to be. To those who have sworn not to read it, don’t worry, her reworked story How To… is still the better story out of the two.


6. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Unpopular opinion alert! I remembered it took me a while to get through Love in the Time of Cholera, but it felt like AN AGE to finish One Hundred Years of Solitude. I understand that the language is quite beautiful and flowing, but I just didn’t really enjoy it as much as everyone else seems to and I grew tired of reading it. Despite that, I lumbered on and finished it. Maybe magic realism just isn’t for me…


7. The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

Having never read any books by Dawn O’Porter, I took a chance on what I thought would be an easy holiday read and bought The Cows. I was pretty shocked by an ‘incident’ that happens at the start of the book and I really wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. (A woman masturbates on a tube… so call me a prude, I don’t care!) But oddly enough, I did grow to enjoy it, I felt the pains and struggles of all the characters, despite them all having opposing views too. I might check out some of her other books.

8. The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

I dusted off The Cows while I was on holiday, while David’s mum dusted off this book. Since she finished it, she recommended this to me and I’m really glad she did. I wouldn’t have picked this book for myself – with a narrative about a family secret and a hoarding mum, it wouldn’t have gripped me by just the back of the book blurb. But as I got into the story, I really couldn’t put this down. I’ve since read another Lisa Jewell book and she’s become a new author that I’ll now look out for in the Kindle sales.

9. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

Much like How To Kill A Mocking Bird, A Passage to India is another powerful piece on racism, however it digs deeper into colonialism and, I’d argue, when cultures clash. I hadn’t read it before, but I felt like I already knew the narrative. One side are the thoughtful Indians, whereas the other stands the educated British, but who are also suffocating in their ways.


10. The Beach by Alex Garland

This might be my favourite read of the year. Of course I’ve seen the film, so I had expectations, but the book blew them out of the azure blue waters of Thailand. I don’t know what it is about the dark and sinister side of backpacking, but it fascinates me, and I feel Alex Garland captured it so well in this book. I also 100% agree with the introduction by John Niven who claimed this book as the zeitgeist of the 90’s hedonistic traveller. I’d read it again!

11. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

This book is in my Reading Challenge 2018 because I couldn’t resist walking down memory lane. I remember reading this book when I was at university and thinking it was really ‘cool’. Hunter S. Thompson’s writing is still as good as I remember and although I said back then that I’d read more of his books, I still haven’t. (Note to self: I must, at least, put Hell Angels on my reading list.) Although, his description of the end of the sixties is still one of my favourite ever paragraphs written. It’s exactly how I imagine the sixties would’ve been like and this book is worth reading for these paragraphs alone.

Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton being read on a Kindle

12. Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

From one man’s chronicles to a woman’s… Like I’d mentioned in my New Purchases Show & Tell video back in September, Dolly and her book were on my radar but it wasn’t until the powerful marketing medium of word of mouth that I felt compelled to buy it. I’m so glad I did, I loved this book. Dolly’s memoir goes through awkward teenage years, booze-filled university days, fragile female friendships, painful break-ups, finding her way after university and basically everything I related to. If this sounds like you too, read it!

13. The Multi-Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon

After enjoying Emma’s Ctrl Alt Delete in last year’s Reading Challenge, I was really looking forward to reading this. Sadly, it fell a bit flat to me. There wasn’t a wealth of practicafcl tips in here and there seemed to be a lot of “9 to 5 in an office is outdated, here’s why” arguments. Although I realise everyone’s journey to success through freelancing is different, and so it’s hard to give a definitive set of rules that could apply to everyone. Which is why it stops me from saying this a bad book altogether. It’s still worth a read.

The Multi Hyphen Method by Emma Gannon being plucked out from a row of books

14. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Probably one of the year’s most popular books, and it probably features in A LOT of people’s Reading Challenge 2018 – but it’s popular for a reason. For what seems like such a simple story, I found this to be a real page turner. Eleanor is a bit of an oddball, or more a social recluse, and she pretends she’s fine, but really she’s not. It was quite an emotional and heartwarming story when her narrative begins to unravel. I really enjoyed it.


15. The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

I’ll always read a book if it’s recommended to me, which this one was. Although admittedly I didn’t have very high hopes for it, but its comparisons to Gone Girl and The Girl on a Train compelled me to read it and I found it an okay read. Although it wasn’t written as well or punchy as Gone Girl, it still had me turning pages and guessing, although not as wildly as The Girl on a Train – it felt like a milder version of both.


16. I Found You by Lisa Jewell

After reading The House We Grew Up In earlier in the year, I was glad David’s mum passed on a second Lisa Jewell book onto me. It was another truly gripping read, which kept me up late most weekday nights. After a man is found on a beach with no memory of how he got there or who he is, his story soon begins to unravel. Again the back blurb wouldn’t have influenced me to buy the book, but I enjoyed just as much as her other book I’d read. I thought it was more suspenseful, and just as good.


17. The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton

And now for something completely different. Having worked in marketing for a few years now, I’ve come to realise good marketing can be so subjective. With so many marketers pushing their ‘good’ ideas out onto the world, then it to flop, what evidence is there to help marketers in avoiding campaign disasters? Richard Shotton aims to put some science behind successful marketing campaigns, which is quite compelling and is the first I’ve come across to do so. But for those who don’t work in marketing, don’t worry I will get back onto my fictional reads now.

18. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Phillip K. Dick

This was one of my Black Friday Kindle buys. For some reason I thought it might be a bit of a bore, but I bought it, and read it, anyway. My hunch was wrong, this was actually fantastic and not a simple script of the film – in fact the film changed much of its narrative. There were so many stems of thought that are not limited to only ‘what it is to be human’ and all contained in a ‘short story’. I can see why it’s so popular.


Total: 18/30 books read

I actually want to ‘lol’ at the above. 18 books is my lowest amount of books I’ve read in a year since I’ve started doing Reading Challenges, and 30 books was my highest target I’ve set myself. I find it quite funny, really. Like I said at the start of this post, I kind of knew I wasn’t going to complete it, but it was worth taking a stab at it anyway.

How many books will I set myself to read in 2019? I’ve not yet decided and instead I’ve been thinking about setting myself ‘themes’ instead. Such as a Russian literature theme, or British classics, or a year where I only read books that are set in Japan. And if the last three years of me not completing my Reading Challenge has taught me anything, it’s about enjoying a book instead of rushing through it, just to ‘get another one down’.

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All front cover images on this post are embedded from They have been included for review only and are not being used commercially.

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