The 2019 Redemption Reader’s Journey

I would call this one a challenge but I thought – hey, why not mix it up a little?

Totally not because my previous reading challenges have crashed and burned due to my utter lack of continued persistence to keep it going.

Jokes aside – this will be my year of redemption. I’m absolutely determined to read all these books by December 31st, 2019. For the books that stand out, for either good or bad reasons, I’ll be posting book reviews (hyperlinked where available).

May the Gods of Literature provide me the strength, energy and renewed passion for the written word to make it through this list!


Italicized – read / completed month
(R) – book review available
Bold – currently reading / current month

Month Target Genre Book
February
Romance Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe (R)
Romance The Next Together 
Romance Persuasion
March
Historical Fiction The Book Thief
Historical Fiction The Red Tent
Historical Fiction The Tattooist of Auschwitz (R)
April
Mythology The Palace of Illusions
Mythology Who Fears Death
Mythology The Rise of Sivagami
May
Novella Animal Farm (R)
Novella The Little Prince
Novella Flowers for Algernon (R)
June
Sci-Fi Ready Player One
Sci-Fi Brave New World
Sci-Fi Here and Now and Then
July
Contemporary A Thousand Splendid Suns
Contemporary Fangirl
Contemporary Norwegian Wood
August
Drama Waiting for Godot
Drama The Kiss Thief
Drama Big Little Lies
September
Fantasy American Gods
Fantasy A Game of Thrones
Fantasy An Ember in the Ashes
October
Horror In the Miso Soup
Horror Misery
Horror Stillhouse Lake
November
Manga Tokyo Ghoul
Manga Akatsuki no Yona
Manga Otoyomegatari
December
Romance Let it Snow
Classics A Christmas Carol
Crime The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding
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12 Days of Christmas Reading

The pleasures of falling deep into the pages of a promising book are endless and an adventure I very much cherish when I get the chance to do so. With December right around the corner, distant memories of curling up in a bundle near my bedroom with a nice steaming cup of cocoa and a good book linger in the back of my mind. Granted, hot Indian winters don’t carry the Christmas-vibe as effectively, I still can’t wait for the season to begin.

And what better way to reignite my love for reading than with a Christmas reading list?

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Boy, would it be a wonder if I get through ’em all – here’s to hoping for a Christmas miracle!

*~~~*

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. 

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

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Asked to investigate an incident that needs to be dealt with discretion, Poirot reluctantly agrees to spend Christmas in the countryside with the Laceys. Dreading the cold and traditional English fare Poirot attempts to locate a missing ruby in order to save a kingdom…

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old German girl who given up by her mother to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann in the small town of Molching in 1939, shortly before World War II.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies

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When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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When the Countess of Morcar’s priceless blue carbuncle is stolen, a reformed thief is charged with the crime.

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami

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It is just before New Year’s. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank’s behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn’t until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle encapture the magic of the holidays shines in these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

The 2017 Reading Challenge

As someone who loves reading but hasn’t had enough time to dedicate to the beauty of it, I feel like this would be the right time to commit myself to a personalized 2017 Reading Challenge. Granted, 2015’s challenge was a failure but 2016’s went pretty well, I’d like to give it another shot! After all, one can have no regrets in giving books a chance, right?

For this year’s challenge, I’m doing a combination of various challenges I’ve found online as well as my own. Links to the various challenges I’ve borrowed from are provided at the end of this post. I’ll be updating this list and ticking off the challenges I finish as the year progresses. Recommendations would be very much appreciated!

If you, too, are doing the reading challenge, why not join me this year? Drop a comment below and let me know how 2017’s book-journey has been going so far! If you’d like me to review any book in particular, I’d be up for that too.

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bold: complete
(parenthesis: book assigned to a challenge)

*a book with a color in the title  (The Color Purple)

*a book of letters (Love Letters to the Dead)

*a book by a person of color (Persepolis)

*a book with multiple authors (Let It Snow)

*a bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read (Gone Girl)

*a book by or about a person who has a disability (El Deafo)

*a book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile (Flipped)

*a book that’s more than a hundred years old (Anna Karenina)

*a book set in a place you want to visit (The Saffron Gate)

*a book inspired by a a fairy tale (Stardust)

*a book under 200 pages (Man’s Search for Meaning)

*a book of poetry (Rumi)

*a book with a child narrator (The Diary of a Young Girl)

*an autobiography (Night)

*a novel set during wartime (A Cup of Tea)

*a book with an unreliable narrator

*a book set in two different time periods (The Next Together)

*the first book in a series you haven’t read before (Artemis Fowl)

*an adult novel (Big Little Lies)

*a Newbery Medal winning book (The Girl Who Drank the Moon)

*a gifted book (Looking for Alaska)

*a play (Nagamandala)

*a diverse folktale/mythological book (Who Fears Death)

*a book with religious themes (The Red Tent)

*a book on my back list (Can You Keep A Secret?)

*a book by a debut writer (The Hate U Give)

*a book recommendation from a Goodreads pal (How to Be Good)

*a book recommendation from your sibling (The Sword of Shannara)

*a handbook (How to be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life)

*a book by an Indian writer (The God of Small Things)

*a book recommendation from a professor (Waiting for Godot)

*a love story (Eleanor & Park)

*a tragedy (If I Stay)

*a book from your childhood (A Wrinkle in Time)

*your best friend’s favorite (Jane Eyre)

*a French book (Le Petit Prince)

*a controversial book (Lolita)

*a classical romance (Persuasion)

*a book you’ve avoided (The Rape of Nanking)

*a satire (The Importance of Being Earnest)

*a book set in the Victorian Era (Secrets of Midnight)

*a book featuring an animal as the main character (Watership Down)

*a visual novel (Saya no Uta/The Song of Saya)

*a manga (Sakamichi no Apollon/Kids on a Slope)

*a novella (Animal Farm)

*a horror book (In the Miso Soup)

*a book with terrible reviews (Leaves of Grass)

*a book in translation (1Q84)

*a book published the same year you were born (Tuesdays with Morrie)

*a book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able (A Monster Calls)

***

Inspiration from:

http://blog.betterworldbooks.com/2016/12/29/2017-reading-challenge-recommendations/

http://www.popsugar.com/love/Reading-Challenge-2017-42561300

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NC334TlViCh578-VEl9aUJ3WGAOEYY6R0YuC-MxVRj8/edit

http://modernmrsdarcy.com/reading-challenge-2017/

 

 

 

The Beauty of Character-Mania

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.” – Berkeley Breathed

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “If only they were real!” and understood just how deep those words run. Whether we’re talking about characters from books, movies, TV shows, animes etc. at some point, as readers, we all wish that they existed. To some extent, our desire for them to be real is driven by how much we adore the universe/world they are a part of, or how much we are in love with them. To a greater extent, however, it’s because of just how real these figments of our imagination come to be, and how as people, we are able to relate to them and their story.

Just two weeks ago, before leaving for a challenging exam, I decided to catch up on one of my all-time favorite mangas “Shingeki no Kyojin” (Attack on Titan). Half an hour prior to the exam’s start, I was reduced to tears upon reading the latest chapter and facing the death of one of my favorite characters of all time. I couldn’t get it out of my head through out the exam and in the days that followed.

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On Friday, I begun my obsession with an anime called NANA. After hours of practically binge-watching several episodes, I embarked on a Twitter-rant which provided as an outlet for my out-of-control emotions.

(And that’s just to name a few)

It’s two weeks past the mental funeral I’ve attended for a dear, sweet, boy, and a couple days past the emotional roller-coaster NANA put me in and I’m still mourning for these people, that by definition: are. not. real.

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Am I a freak of nature? No. Is it a crime to have an intense emotional attachment to characters? No. In fact, it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Growing up, I related more to the people that spoke through literature, through the television screen or in my mind than those that were actually around me. During the day, I’d immerse myself in the real world but once I lost myself in the pages of a book or the colorful screen of the telly, I was whisked away to a world unlike any other. I was among friends. I was home.

That’s not to say that I love every single character I have come across. There are several I’ve come to harbor intense animosity toward, for example, Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Shou Tucker (Full Metal Alchemist), and most recently Patrick Bateman (American Psycho). I am continuously fascinated by how capable characters are of provoking a wide range of emotions from their observers which is exactly why I decided to write about it.

Why do we care?

Now I don’t want to get into the science of it, because, yes, there actually is a logical explanation as to why  we got super attached to characters.

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In a nutshell, the descriptive language used in a book or the images that jump out to us from the screen all light up a part of our brain that’s responsible for triggering these ideas by linking it to things we’ve already experienced. That’s why when we come across metaphors or vivid imagery in books, it’s easier for us to picture or feel what the writer is trying to deliver to us.

Personally, I believe what makes a character stand out as more ‘real’ than others would depend on the skill of the writer to engage with the reader through said character. To form the kind of bond with fictional people that normally would take years to form with those around us is a testament to how well they’re written. A prime example here would be the case of how people interpret the book version of Bella Swan versus Kristen Stewart’s rendition of her in the movie. I’m not a Twi-hard, but a lot of my friends have commented that Bella Swan in the books was way more ‘tolerable’ than the version brought to the screen.

Whether or not characters are 100% real, the relationships we form with them play a crucial role in deciding how emotionally real they can be. Don’t we look up to certain characters as role models? Don’t we take something away from every person we read or come across?

Writers create characters that are flawed. They give us the reins, as readers, to step into the shoes of different people and learn about them, learn from them as well. Haven’t you ever wondered you could read someone’s mind, know what their thinking or have an insight into their lives? With characters – that’s exactly what happens. They come to be a part of us through the little discoveries we make with every page we turn.

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Why it isn’t the worst thing

Stories are fragments of the very reality we are a part of. Fiction is a mere expansion of imagination that is grounded in the real world, and in what we experience. That being said, although stories belonging to the genre of fantasy, magic realism, or adventure might not be scientifically possible, their characters are still very much real in the sense that their essence is rooted in what the writers know or have felt. These characters help us understand reality.

As a university student pursing a degree in business, the curriculum still requires it mandatory to take up English and Additional Engish (both covering Literature) as two of my subjects through out four semesters. The texts chosen range from poetry and short stories to plays and articles – but each, chosen with a purpose of enlightening us students in one way or the other. We explore characters that are suppressed because of the color of their skin or their gender. We read the impact that a partition of a country or a mass genocide can have on families, on children.  And while, yes, these stories are a work of fiction, by reading about the thoughts, emotions and inner turmoils of these characters – we learn.

Those who say that ‘living in books’ or taking away learning lessons from literature is foolhardy are speaking utter hogwash. To borrow from Phoebe Buffay, what sad little lives they must lead.

Because what better way to gain wisdom than to live a thousand lives?

That’s what every character gives us: an opportunity to let go of ourselves in their reality, in their lives, and in the process come to understand our own.

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The best characters are the ones that are every bit as real as us.

The best way to build a three-dimensional character is to make them realistic, and not just in the minds of the writer who is their creator and therefore, naturally, knows their in-and-outs but also to the reader. The thing that most people who frown upon us, lovers-of-fiction, don’t realize is that every character is based on someone, or something, or some iota of reality that the writer themselves draw from.

For instance, dementors in Harry Potter are actually a representation of depression. And while these soul-sucking guards of Azkaban aren’t actually going to pop out and try to kiss us (which would be the worst thing ever), the darkness they act as a symbol of is very much real. Depression is not make-believe.

“It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”  – J.K Rowling

The characters we relate most to are believable because they are rooted from reality. As readers, we share something in common with them that way making them every bit as real, if not more, than the people around us.

 

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Captain America (Chris Evans) visiting a children’s hospital proving that our heroes are real.

If anyone ever tries to put you down by arguing with you and telling you that these people that make you laugh, cry, feel joy or love are a waste of time – just shake your head and feel sorry for them. Because these characters they ridicule?

They are capable of inspiring and changing the lives of millions of people. They aren’t just printed text, no. They bleed through the pages and into our lives, filling the gap between reality and something more. And those who don’t feel that and condemn others that do are highly unfortunate.

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So the next time you encounter someone in a book that makes you feel a whirlwind of emotions; don’t run away. Embrace them, and board the feels train. While the journey is not one that most take, it is definitely the one worth being on.

My Progress On The Reading Challenge

It’s been a while since I posted a book review on this blog, or gave you guys an update as to how my 2015 Reading Challenge is going so far. And the reason why that section of the blog has been absent for a while is because…well… [hangs head in shame] I haven’t made much progress at all.

I tried, I really did. But then, I got sucked into the merciless abyss of ‘distractions’ which involved binge-watching animes, watching re-runs of some of my favorite shows, singing along at the top of my lungs to karaokes, and napping. Lots of napping.

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I know, I know. I did wrong, so you can stop shaking your head at the screen.

I think one of the major reasons why I’m not as excited about reading books as I used to be is the fact that I have to read them off my computer screen. Since I’m not going to school at the moment and live in a country which doesn’t have a public library with the kind of books I would like to read, it means I can only read these books on my computer. Which is great! Hail technology, the internet and the fact that I have a decent laptop for a reading device. But there is one huge drawback to reading novels like this:

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It takes a lot of energy to sit in front of my laptop and continuously read line after line after line of text. This is also why I’ll never get a Kindle device (well, maybe not never but it’s at the bottom of my list). Paperbacks rule. Real books are meant to be held and read while curled up on a nice sofa. I used to collect bookmarks as a kid and have several but never got the chance to use them for years now. It’s not much fun poking a flat screen with a thin bookmark and hoping it would magically go through. That is the one major reason why I don’t read as much nowadays. It hurts my eyes and frustrates my brain.

That’s why I’ve been engaging my time doing other things – some of which have sparked my creativity. Believe it or not, I get a lot of inspiration for my stories from animes. So I may not be spending my time productively as I could but I’m still not wasting it away either. At the moment, I’m watching an anime called Tokyo Ghoul which is a paranormal thriller/horror. I’ve never had the guts at attempting to write in that genre but I might after this as the anime and its story line is stirring up some ideas of my own.

Plus, I’ve also been doing lots of reading of stories on writing community websites like Protagonize and Wattpad. Although they don’t count as books that I can add to my reading challenge for the year on Goodreads, if they did, I’d be far ahead by now. If only…

The good news is I won’t be stuck in this situation for much longer. Once I head back to India and start university in June, the first thing I’ll do is find a wonderful public library, become a member and start checking out a heck-load of books. Finding the time to read them will be another issue in itself, but I think for the first couple days, I’ll just spread them around my bed and lie down amidst the company of the beautiful works of literature. I might also sniff a few (is it just me or do books smell beyond amazing?)

Until that moment arrives however, I’m going to get back to reading – slowly but surely. I managed to dig around a few unpacked boxes and found my hard copy of The Kite Runner. Maybe that’ll get me a little pumped about reading again.

In any case, I am terribly sorry for not updating this blog with more book reviews as I had been doing before, but here’s to hoping I get back on track very soon!

P.S. It’s my birthday today. So if any of you want to bite my head off or scold me for being an unworthy and uncommitted reader, I’m going to pull out the birthday card.

The 2015 Reading Challenge

One of the resolutions I made for this year is to read again.

I love reading. It’s probably the biggest passion I’ve had ever since I was a child. I would spend my after-school hours in the school library, instead of going home and watching movies or playing games like most children my age did then. I would check out the maximum amount of books I could, and since I was a favorite of the librarian, got to check out five more than normally allowed for an elementary student (an advantage I abused way too much). I won two award certificates – one in elementary school, and again in middle school for being the student who read the most books on campus (something I pride myself in till this day). I would tell my parents goodnight at a decent hour and head to bed but sneak in a book under the covers of my blanket. With the bedside lamp turned on and the sound of the cool air whooshing into the room from the A/C, countless hours of sleep would be sacrificed devouring each and every word a book had to offer me.

Sometimes I wanted to know more about the characters. Sometimes I just wanted to tag along on the journey of when the protagonist explored a new land or planet. I wanted to get away from the mundane life I believed I had and immerse myself in a universe with limitless opportunities.

All I ever wanted to do was to read. 

Over the years though, as school-work started to pile up and suddenly life took first priority and wasn’t so ‘mundane’ anymore, I stopped reading. When I moved to Sierra Leone and went to a school that didn’t have a good library, I was truly heartbroken over the fact that I didn’t have any access to endless shelves stacked with books, books and more books. I stopped reading – and I hate that I did.

That’s why this year, I want to do what I love again. For 2015, the reading challenge I set myself  is to read a minimum of 50 books. I have a feeling I’ll definitely pass the 50 mark but I didn’t want to be too ambitious especially as I never know how busy life might make me again. I definitely don’t want these 50 books to be ones I’ve read before, unless the challenge states otherwise. I’m planning on reading mainly classics, books released in 2014 and sci-fi/fantasy genre novels.

I came across a reading challenge list on Tumblr. It looked pretty interesting so I thought; hey! Why not give it a shot? I’ve got nothing to lose, right? I’ll be updating this list and ‘tick off’ the challenges I complete as I go along. If you guys have any recommendations for books that I could read, do comment! I would be even happier if they were classics/sci-fi/fantasy/published in 2014. And if you’re doing the reading challenge as well, why not join me in this adventure?

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bold: complete

(parentheses: book assigned to challenge)

*a book you can finish in a day (Maybe Someday)

*a book with more than 500 pages (East of Eden)

*a classic romance (Persuasion)

*a book that became a movie (Wild)

*a book published this year (The Girl on the Train)

*a book with a number in the title (1984)

*a book written by someone under 30 (Hyperbole and a Half)

*a book with nonhuman characters (Watership Down)

*a funny book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

*a book by a female author

*a mystery or thriller

*a book with a one word title

*a book of short stories

*a book set in a different country

*a nonfiction book (The Official Preppy Handbook)

*a popular author’s first book

*a book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

*a book a friend recommended (The Scarlet Letter)

*a Pulitzer Prize winning book

*a book based on a true story

*a book at the bottom of your to-read list

*a book your mom loves (A Tale of Two Cities)

*a book that scares you

*a book more than 100 years old (Anna Karenina)

*a book based entirely on its cover

*a book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t

*a memoir (Our Last Summer)

*a book with antonyms in the title

*a book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit

*a book that came out the year you were born (Tuesdays with Morrie)

*a book with bad reviews

*a trilogy

*a book from your childhood (Charlotte’s Web)

*a book with a love triangle

*a book set in the future

*a book set in high school

*a book with a color in the title

*a book that made you cry

*a book with magic

*a graphic novel (Ouran High School Host Club)

*a book by an author you’ve never read before (I’ll Give You The Sun)

*a book you own but have never read (The Kite Runner)

*a book that takes place in your hometown (Gods, Kings & Slaves: The Siege of Madurai)

*a book that was originally written in a different language

*a book set during Christmas

*a book written by an author with your same initials

*a play

*a banned book

*a book based on or turned into a TV show

*a book you started but never finished

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