My 2011 50 Book Challenge: The Results!


Since I entered graduate school, I’ve often bemoaned the fact that my pleasure reading has fallen by the wayside. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when reading becomes a huge part of your day job, it becomes the last thing you want to do on your time off. But this year, I decided to reclaim reading as a hobby by setting myself a “50 book challenge.” I made it my goal to read 50 non-school-related books from cover to cover, and I just barely made it across the finish line in time.

I found this challenge really rewarding. 50 books isn’t really that many—it boils down to about one per week. All in all, I ended up reading roughly 17,742 pages of text—the longest book was George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords at 1,128 pages, but there were some really short selections like The Time Machine and The Metamorphosis thrown in as well. Anyway, setting this goal helped to keep me reading consistently. I loved that it gave me the excuse to read classics and catch up on new fantasy and young adult sensations. And even though it took time, I really think it helped my general state of mind to do some reading outside of my Japanese language study and dissertation research. I thought I would share with you the final 50, in case some of you might be looking for reading suggestions. Books are listed in the order read. The items in bold are recommended. Ratings are rough evaluations: Star = didn’t really like it; StarStar = it was ok; StarStarStar = liked it; StarStarStarStar = really liked it; StarStarStarStarStar = it was amazing

Title Author Rating
The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements Sam Kean StarStarStar
A Matter of Magic Patricia C. Wrede StarStar
Far From the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy StarStarStar
The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde StarStarStarStar
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Joshua Foer StarStarStarStar
Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut StarStarStar
To the Lighthouse Virginia Woolf StarStarStarStar
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark StarStarStarStar
The Lost Hero Rick Riordan StarStarStarStar
The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins StarStarStarStar
Catching Fire Suzanne Collins StarStarStarStar
Mockingjay Suzanne Collins StarStarStar
The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown Charles R. Morris StarStarStar
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick StarStarStarStar
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Aimee Bender StarStarStarStar
The Postman Always Rings Twice James M. Cain StarStarStar
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey StarStar
Artemis Fowl Eoin Colfer StarStarStar


Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading Nina Sankovitch StarStarStar
Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen StarStarStar
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies Seth Grahame-Smith Star
Anthem Ayn Rand StarStar
Shiver Maggie Stiefvater StarStarStar
Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader Anne Fadiman StarStarStar
Everything Matters! Ron Currie Jr. StarStarStar
Linger Maggie Stiefvater StarStarStar
Death with Interruptions Jose Saramago StarStar
The Magicians Lev Grossman StarStarStarStar
The Magician King Lev Grossman StarStarStarStarStar
Forever Maggie Stiefvater StarStarStar
South Of The Border, West Of The Sun Haruki Murakami StarStarStar
A Game of Thrones George R.R. Martin StarStarStarStar
A Clash of Kings George R.R. Martin StarStarStar
A Storm of Swords George R.R. Martin StarStarStarStarStar
A Feast for Crows George R.R. Martin StarStarStarStar
A Dance with Dragons George R.R. Martin StarStarStarStarStar


The Fallen Celia Thomson StarStar
The Chosen Celia Thomson Star
The Stolen Celia Thomson Star
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian Sherman Alexie StarStarStar
The Imperfectionists Tom Rachman StarStarStarStar
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Maya Angelou StarStarStarStar
The Time Machine H.G. Wells StarStar
The Death of Ivan Ilych Leo Tolstoy StarStar
Eats, Shoots & Leaves Lynne Truss StarStar
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell Susanna Clarke StarStarStarStarStar
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Agatha Christie StarStarStarStar
The Metamorphosis Franz Kafka StarStarStar
The Turn of the Screw Henry James StarStarStarStar
The Screwtape Letters C.S. Lewis StarStarStar

For those of you looking to invigorate your fun reading, I highly recommend joining Goodreads, where you can track/review your books, explore new selections, and meet readers with similar tastes or reading goals. I’m currently part of the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die group, which is currently working through the list via a monthly reading selection (I just finished the December selection, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and I loved it!). I’m also totally inspired by the people participating in the Around the World in 52 Books challenge, though I probably won’t be able to take part. Anyway, if you’re looking for a reading support group, Goodreads may be a good place to start!