We're nearly one month through the 2020 Reading Challenge. We know our readers have made varying amounts of progress. Some of our most voracious readers have finished six or more of the twelve required books, while others are probably about midway through that first book right about now.
I (Aaron, one of the authors at the DMPL Blog) decided I wanted to map out how I would progress through the DMPL Reading Challenge this year. I've included my (tentative) selections below. Our great staff put together lists of recommendations for many of the categories, which definitely came in handy. In other spots, I went with books I found or have been wanting an excuse to read. Hopefully this list will help inspire you on your journey!
Don't forget - if you finish just one book by the end of the month and log it, you'll be eligible for our monthly drawing. If you don't quite finish, don't worry. You can still be eligible for our next drawing by finishing two books in two different categories by the end of February. Be sure to check out the DMPL Reading Challenge Facebook group as well for tons of other suggestions and to talk about your favorite books!
Let’s start our journey with a book from a Des Moines native. Bill Bryson took a trip around Britain in 1995, which became the subject of his 1995 book, Notes From a Small Island. In 2015, he once again traversed the isle, form south to north – this time, as a British citizen. This book is hilarious and endearing, and it certainly encapsulates the type of rural road trip I’d like to take across a foreign country one day.
Jacqueline Woodson will be the final author in the 2020 AViD series, arriving at Sheslow Auditorium on Wednesday, May 27. Woodson has had a lengthy career as a celebrated young adult novelist, but her turns at adult novels have also been successful. Another Brooklyn was nominated for a National Book Award in 2016. I chose her newest book, Red at the Bone, as it encompasses issues of race, class, family, and loss – lots of emotion packed in less than 200 pages.
Choose a book... from your favorite genre:
Science fiction is my favorite genre, and I’m going to use this slot to dive back into one of my favorite science fiction series. Leviathan Wakes is the first book in The Expanse series. You may have heard of the television series adapted from the book series. It shares the same name, and its fourth season was just released on Amazon Prime. The series takes place in the 24th century, in a time where humans live on an overcrowded Earth, underground on Mars, and in space stations across the solar system. The ninth and final book in the series is due to be published sometime in 2020.
We turn to what promises to be a fun read to fill out this category. Author Casey McQuiston is openly bisexual and uses she/they pronouns (contrasting with myself, a cis-hetero male). Her best-selling romance novel explores the relationship between Henry, a young British prince, and Alex, the American president’s son. What begins as a feud between the young men turns into a secret romance which threatens to upend Alex’s mom’s campaign. I love the plot description - it sounds like something out of a Hallmark movie. Can love save the world? I can’t wait to find out!
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the Volstead Act, the beginning of the Prohibition-era in America. As such, it’s time to read up about one of the most famous stories of Prohibition: the story of how a town of less than 500 people in Carroll County became the cornerstone of a bootlegging empire. I'm excited to read a true story about farmers, small merchants, and attempting to make the best whiskey possible in Templeton, Iowa.
Investigative journalist Barbara Ehreneich has written more than 22 books, but this 2001 book is perhaps her most famous work. Ehrenreich spent eighteen months undercover working in low-wage jobs, including as a waitress, hotel maid, Wal-Mart “sales associate”, and more. The book describes Ehrenreich’s life in dilapidated motels, working two jobs, and facing constant beratement. Nickel and Dimed has been featured in the past on the American Library Association’s list of the top ten books being challenged for "drugs, offensive language, political viewpoint, and religious viewpoint."
Choose a book... that came out the year you were born:
I was born in 1988. As I scrolled through a list of books published in that year, one immediately caught my eye. The Alchemist, originally published in Brazil, has sold more than 65 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 80 different languages. It follows the story of Santiago, a Spanish shepherd boy whose dreams lead him on a quest across the Egyptian dessert. The novel is about discovering one’s destiny, and I’m excited to see how Santiago’s travels inspire me.
(To find a book that came out the year you were born, go to our catalog and use the "Publication Date" filter along the left side)
Ironically, The Alchemist would have been a great pick for this category as well. That said, as I perused suggested books in this category on our Recommended Reads page, I came upon the brief description of this book: “The darkly suspenseful tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives—all over the course of one meal.” The intimacy of the setting intrigued me, and the book immediately went on my to-read list. The book was originally published in Dutch in 2013 before being translated into 33 languages.
Masha Gessen’s glimpse into modern Russian life was one of the most acclaimed books of 2017. In addition to winning the National Book Award for Nonfiction, Gessen was awarded the New York Public Library’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism, and her book landed on a plethora of “Best Books Of 2017” lists. The book charts the lives of four people born around the time of the Soviet Union’s fall as they grew up in the new Russia – one that mirrored the old Soviet regime in numerous, terrifying ways.
This isn’t your traditional quest, and Tuesday Mooney isn’t your traditional adventure hero. Indeed, she keeps to herself, watching Twin Peaks and X-Files. But when an eccentric billionaire ties his fortune to a what’s essentially a scavenger hunt involving Edgar Allen Poe, Tuesday is inspired to leave the house. Part-treasure hunt, part-rat race, part-underdog story, this is the perfect read for adventurers and literature lovers both.
Though science fiction is my favorite genre, I love a good western as well. The author of this book, John Larison, is familiar with frontiers, having spent much of his childhood in remote regions of Australia, the Caribbean, Canada, the South Pacific, Alaska, and the American West. His debut novel stars 17-year-old Jessilyn Harney, who finds herself alone and abandoned on her family’s homestead in 1885. In order to survive, she must disguise herself as a man and set off to find her brother, who is a fugitive from the law.
This book comes as a suggestion from our librarian Carrie, who recommended it during our Favorite Books of 2019 podcast. Dan Mayrock isn’t feeling great about his life. He loves his wife Jill, and she wants to start a family. However, the bookstore Dan owns and operates isn’t doing well. He has yet to tell Jill about their financial troubles when she finds out she's pregnant. The book is presented entirely in the form of lists that Dan makes. Carrie says that the format works really well for the story and holds its own.
Last Modified February 29, 2020