My First Book Challenge: The March Classics Challenge!

MARCH CLASSICS CHALLENGE.jpeg

One of the things I love about Bookstagram is that there are so many monthly challenges to inspire you every month. They include daily prompts, usually surrounding a theme, and are just really fun to be a part of and to be creative with throughout the month. So, a couple of friends and I, who are also huge fans of the classics, we decided to create a challenge for the month of March inspired by the classics. Now, fear not, even if you’re not a big fan of the classics or would like to discover some more classics, you can participate in this challenge. It’s not limited to the classics, i.e. you can post whatever you feel expresses the prompt of the day and interpret it however you like. For example, for Day 24 “Bright Star by John Keats (high fantasy or sci-fi)”, you can do anything that you feel expresses either of those prompts, whether it’s posting a photo inspired by Lord of the Rings (e.g. high fantasy) or a photo inspired by the great, big galaxy itself. Just have fun and be creative! I can’t wait to see what you guys come up with! ūüėÄ

What I Learned from Venturing Beyond the Classics

13534036_285761048445243_987297944_n

In the first grade, my mother bought me a beautiful, dark blue, cloth-bound edition of the¬†Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales. The cover felt like velvet and the pages smelled like vanilla cake. For years, it was my favorite book. I would carry it with me everywhere and no one was allowed to touch it. Unfortunately, I was forced to learn the whole “sharing is caring” lesson by lending it to a neighbor and I never saw my favorite book again, because¬†someone decided to move and to take my precious book with them.¬†Anyway, that is not the moral of the story here. Well, maybe a little, that being “Don’t lend your favorite books to people who might steal them,” but the actual point is something else. That book was what got me obsessed (and I mean,¬†obsessed) with classic literature.

Ever since the first grade and that cherished, never-forgotten edition, I was obsessed with the classics, which I took to mean “anything published before the 2oth Century.” The only time I ever deviated from the classics was when the Harry Potter books came into existence and I became obsessed with those, too. My first editions are still hiding somewhere in my old closet back home (yes, my bookshelves weren’t big enough, so I threw out half my wardrobe and commandeered a closet for my books). It wasn’t until 2015, at the ripe, old age of 23, that I dared to venture beyond the classics again, and boy, am I glad that I did. I didn’t realize that I was limiting myself to the classics, that I was contradicting the pure essence of literature itself: to voyage beyond the realm of possibility.

I discovered Bookstagram in December of 2015 and through that community, I discovered Young Adult fiction, a genre I had previously dismissed as being frivolous and boring. At first, someone recommended Fangirl (by Rainbow Rowell), then the Shatter Me series (by Tahereh Mafi) and then, another person recommended the Throne of Glass series (by Sarah J. Maas) and after reading Fangirl and the first books in those two series, I was hooked. Now, I had read fantasy and science fiction before, but never in a YA style, because, for some reason, I thought YA was purely chick lit and teenage sob stories. I never thought that this genre would become one of my favorites so quickly.

These books weren’t frivolous or boring. They talked about depression and mental illness, awkwardness and anxiety, happiness and purpose, grief and loss, and all the things in between. The classics tended to skirt around these sorts of issues in one way or another, but I’ve found that YA books are so much more open about discussing them and incorporating them into their stories. Granted, I’m still a staunch advocate of the classics and I love seeing proper English being used. But if James Joyce has taught me anything, it’s that language is a flexible, malleable, and living entity, meant to be experimented with and played with and changed with the times. So, if I wanted to sum up what I’ve learned from daring to broaden my literary horizons, it would be these lessons:

  1. Literature is not limited to linguistic or aesthetic masterpieces; it is an infinite and ever-changing field, fueled by creativity and human expression.
  2. Never judge a book by its cover, description, or genre.
  3. Always keep an open mind and try new things, because you never know what you might end up liking and what you might not.

I’ll never stop reading and re-reading the classics, because they are what got me into reading in the first place and helped me through so many phases of my life, but now, I can add YA to that category as well. So, if there’s any genre that you’ve sworn off without ever having tried, then I suggest that you at least give it a shot. You might hate it and that is perfectly okay, thereby cementing your opinion that it’s just not for you, but you might also love it and discover a whole new world of books that you never knew existed. The moral, in the end, is: read outside of your comfort zone. So, this month (March, I mean, because February is almost done anyway), try to challenge yourself and read something from a genre you’ve never tried before and dare to venture beyond your comfort zone.

January Book Wrap-Up

12357520_1541655439480653_1248969079_nI’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I know how lazy and forgetful I am. So this year, instead of making some bullshit resolution that I know I wouldn’t uphold for more than three days, I started my first ever Goodreads Reading Challenge, and set a goal of 100 books for 2016. I did much better than I thought I would during my first month and actually finished 7 books. Seven books! That’s probably more than I read in the entirety of last year! So I thought I would do a little wrap-up for the month and talk a little about these books.

  1. Throne of Glass¬†by Sarah J. Mass: I actually started this book in November, but took my sweet time reading it. I finished it on January 1st, so I hope that still counts. This book was one of my first attempts to explore the modern¬†YA fiction¬†genre, and I¬†loved¬†it. My previous experience with YA or something like it was limited to Harry Potter (which is sort of YA/fantasy, I guess?) and a couple of John Green books. Hardly an expert. Which is sad, since I pride myself on being well-read. Reading this book made me realize that not all modern YA fiction is wannabe sci-fi or fantasy crap that’s posing as literature.
  2. Ugly Love¬†by Colleen Hoover:¬†My mom is an avid Danielle Steele fan, so I guess it makes sense that my guilty pleasure is trashy romance novels. I loved Hoover’s writing style and her ability to piss me off with her characters and premises, but I still can’t get behind a love story that revolves around two equally immature, senseless jerks.¬†Still, you can’t really hate a book that gets you all riled up and pissed off.
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone¬†by J. K. Rowling:¬†I still consider this one of the greatest stories I have ever read. As an only child who struggled to fit in, it was this book that made me believe in magic and hidden potential. Hats off to the Queen.
  4. Peter Pan and Wendy¬†by J. M. Barrie:¬†Peter Pan was one of my favorite childhood characters and I felt like revisiting this timeless classic and feeling that rush of adventure again. Who wouldn’t love fighting pirates and splashing around with mermaids? Yeah, yeah, I know, the mermaids aren’t exactly friendly in these stories, but I don’t care, I’d win them over and we’d become besties.
  5. Crown of Midnight¬†by Sarah J. Maas:¬†So I¬†had to read the next book in the¬†Throne of Glass series. Although this book was much slower, it was still an epic story. With every page, Celaena became more of a badass and she is probably one of the best female characters I’ve ever come across in fantasy books. She’s fearless, lethal, scarred, strong, funny, and yet goodhearted.
  6. No Ordinary Life¬†by Suzanne Redfearn:¬†I got a digital ARC of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review, and although it’s not a genre I’m inclined to explore that often (women’s fiction), it was still a very well-written and often entertaining read.
  7. Finnegans Wake¬†by James Joyce:¬†Of course, not a month goes by without some James Joyce quality time. I got myself a vintage edition of¬†Finnegans Wake¬†for Christmas and I tore through it like a rare Angus steak with a red wine sauce. Joyce’s books are like a collection of abstract paintings with words instead of brushstrokes and I will never tire of admiring his masterpieces.

So that’s it for now. I’m currently reading¬†Fangirl¬†by Rainbow Rowell, finally, after so many people recommended it to me. I’m liking it so far. She’s very funny and the characters are so lovable. Nick is kind of weird though, so I’m not sure I like him. I plan on reading many more YA books this year, since it’s a genre I’m interested in exploring right now. So we’ll see what February has in store for this bookworm. What are your top reads of January?