Popsugar Reading Challenge

After failing two years in a row, this is my year

Each year the Popsugar website releases a reading challenge. The goal of the reading challenge is to inspire people to read more and to diversify their reading experience.

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. -Richard Steele

As I’m writing this, I just completed my list of book choices for the challenge. For now, I’m only committing to the regular list which consists of 40 books. Popsugar adds a bonus list for overachievers with extra prompts. I’ll see how things go and determine if I want to go the extra mile later in the year.

Benefits of Reading

According to a study conducted by researchers at Emory University, reading serves to maximize your brains connectivity. This increased connectivity leads to better mental performance. The same study found that reading also increased individual’s experience of empathy. Therefore, those who read are likely to be more productive and better at engaging with others.

My choices

In deciding my book choices for the challenge, I used recommendations from the Popsugar Facebook Group and the Goodreads Popsugar Group. I also threw in a couple of books I had already started reading that fit challenge prompts.

I plan to listen to most of the books as I have a long commute, therefore I factored that in when making my choices. I wanted books that would work well on audio.

I will link the Goodreads pages for all my choices so you can check out the descriptions, read reviews, and decide if you might be interested in reading them as well.

For prompts that require personalization, I will put the personalization I chose in parenthesis beside the prompt title.

I hope my choices will inspire you to create your own reading list and make this your year to become well-read.

Without Further Ado…

  1. A book published in 2021- This is the only prompt I’m leaving blank. I want to see what comes out over the course of the year to spark my interest.
  2. An afrofuturist book- The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead: I chose this book because I have wanted to read it for some time and this prompt provided the perfect opportunity.
  3. A book with a heart, diamond, club, or spade on the cover- Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie: Who doesn’t love Agatha Christie?
  4. A book by an author who shares your zodiac sign (Scorpio)- Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: I have been intrigued by this book since Anne Bogel of the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog said it was one of her favorites.
  5. A dark academia book- Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas: I had never heard of the genre dark academia prior to this year’s challenge. Catherine House was recommended by Popsugar and the description sounded intriguing.
  6. A book with a gem, mineral, or rock on the cover- Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor: I chose this book because it is a historical romance that has been compared to Gone with the Wind, which is one of my favorite books.
  7. A book about your dream job (writer)- The World According to Garp by John Irving: I chose this book mainly out of curiosity. I had heard it mentioned in a lot of book groups and the synopsis looked interesting.
  8. A book that won the women’s prize for fiction- Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell: I already had this book checked out from the library and it was recommended by Popsugar for this prompt. According to the synopsis of the book, it is about the loss of Shakespear’s son that led to his writing Hamlet.
  9. A book with a family tree- A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Taylor: I chose this book because I have been meaning to read it for some time and have never gotten around to it.
  10. A 90’s bestseller- Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: I have already started reading this book, this prompt will make me finish it. I read the first Outlander book and loved it.
  11. A book about forgetting- The Book of M by Peng Shepherd: I had to do some digging to find a book for this prompt. I didn’t want to read anything about Alzheimer's or dementia. When I read the synopsis for the book of M, I was hooked. The book takes place in a future world. People have started losing their shadows and this leads to the loss of all their memories.
  12. A book on someone else's bookshelf (Reese Witherspoon’s)- The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott: I have less than 2 hours left in this audiobook and I have loved it so far. Female spies and the story of how Dr. Zhivago was smuggled out of Russia, yes please.
  13. A locked-room mystery- One of US IS Lying by Karen McManus: I chose this book because it was billed as a modern Breakfast Club and sounded intriguing. No Exit by Taylor Adams would also be a good fit for this prompt, but I read it prior to the challenge.
  14. A book set in a restaurant- Last Night at the Lobster by Stuart O’Nan: I choose this book because of the synopsis. This book covers the last night of a Red Lobster that is being closed by corporate.
  15. A book with a black and white cover- Is This Anything? by Jerry Seinfield: I chose this book in the hopes that it might be a funny read for my commute.
  16. A book by an indigenous author- The Things She’s Seen by Ezekial Kwaymullina and Ambelin Kwaymullina: The synopsis of this book reminded me of The Lovely Bones, a book I loved.
  17. A book with the same title as a song- Layla by Colleen Hoover: I found the synopsis of this book intriguing. This book is about a woman who is attacked and how the attack affects her relationship.
  18. A book about something you are passionate about- How To Kill a City by Peter Moskowitz- This book was recommended by Popsugar for this prompt because it discusses the housing crisis in America. I’m looking forward to it.
  19. A book about body positivity- One to Watch by Kate Staymon-London: I chose this book because the synopsis made it sound like a light read that might produce some laughs.
  20. A book from the Black Lives Matter reading list- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander: I can’t wait to read this book as it was powerful enough to enact criminal justce reform.
  21. A genre hybrid- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: The synopsis of this book says a “spirited young woman discovers the secrets of a beautiful, old, mansion.” I think this book might have been written for me.
  22. A book set mostly or all outdoors- A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson: I chose this book because I have lived in the Appalachian mountains my whole life and I have been interested in this book for some time.
  23. A book with something broken on the cover- How to Save a Life by Eva Carter: I choose this book solely based on the synopsis. It’s about the exploits of med students.
  24. A book by a Muslim American author- Ayesha at Last by Uzma Jalaluddin: This book is billed as a modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, enough said.
  25. A book that was published anonymously- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous: I choose this book based on the synopsis. It’s basically the diary of a girl who has gone through addiction.
  26. A book with an oxymoron in the title- Bittersweet: A Novel by Miranda Beverly Whittemore: I chose this book based on the synopsis. The book involves an average person who enters the world of the elite.
  27. A book about a do-over or fresh start- Anne of the Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: I chose this book because I have been wanting to read it for years.
  28. A book featuring magical realism- Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim: I was stumped by this category for a bit because I don’t really care for magical realism. I chose this book because the synopsis made it sound light and fun.
  29. A book set in multiple countries- Winter of the World by Ken Follett: I just finished this book, I counted it for the challenge because I finished it after the challenge came out. This is the second book in Follet’s Century Trilogy. I gave Fall of Giants (book #1) and this one five stars. I have already started Edge of Eternity (book #3) and it is very good so far. These books are on my favorite books of all-time list.
  30. A book set in a place you would like to visit in 2021- The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren: I chose this book because it was set in Hawaii and I could use a nice tropical vacation in 2021.
  31. A book by a blogger, YouTuber, etcetera- Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: I have been interested in this book for some time and it is perfect for this prompt.
  32. A book starting with Q, X, or Z- Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain: This book is another I have been meaning to read for some time.
  33. A book featuring three generations- Who Does She Think She Is by Benilde Little: I chose this book based on the synopsis. A woman is set to marry when she falls in love with a man who isn’t her fiance. Sounds like a set up for drama.
  34. A book about a social justice issue- This Changes Everything: Capitalism Vs. The Climate by Naomi Klein: I chose this book because I’m interested in learning more about climate change.
  35. A book in a different format than you normally read (hard copy)- Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett: I have already read the first two books in this trilogy, and have recently started this one.
  36. A book with less than 1000 reviews on Goodreads- Write in Time by Meg Matenaer: I choose this book based on its 12 rave reviews.
  37. A book you think your best friend would like- Pet Cemetary by Stephen King: I know my best friend likes this book, in fact, she decorated her home in Stephen King vignettes for Halloween one year.
  38. A book about art or an artist- Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain: I chose this book because I enjoyed reading one of her other books, The Stolen Marriage.
  39. A book everyone seems to have read but you- 1984 by George Orwell: I have been meaning to read this book for some time.
  40. A favorite prompt from a past challenge (2019 Debut Novel)- Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak: I chose this because it is mentioned in The Secrets We Kept which I am also reading for this challenge (see #12).

Final Thoughts

I put a lot of thought into each choice. For some of the prompts, I read multiple synopses before finally picking a book to add to the list.

If you decide to complete the Popsugar challenge, make it your own. I have noticed so many people holding themselves to arbitrary rules that take away from the true intent of the challenge. Don’t stress over the time frame or the exact interpretation of the prompts. Simply pick out books that catch your interest and read them and don’t forget to have fun.

Happy Reading!

Sarah Lyall-Neal

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