What I’m (probably) reading for the 2020 Reading Challenge

The 2020 Reading Challenge is here! Today I’m sharing the books I’m thinking of reading for the challenge in 2020.

In most categories, I share three titles I’m considering reading. I won’t read all of these, but wanted to share my ideas, for my own sake and in the hope they’ll inspire you.

If you haven’t joined this year’s reading challenge, it’s not too late. Enter your email below to join and we’ll immediately send you your free Reading Challenge kit with your checklists and bookmarks. Plus we’ll stay in touch throughout the year with tips and encouragement to help you meet your reading goals.

Let’s take another look at the Reading Challenge categories before we dive in to what I’m contemplating reading this year. I’d love to hear what you are thinking of reading in comments.

The 2020 Reading Challenge | Modern Mrs Darcy

We’ve chosen ten categories—for twelve books—because that’s far more than the average reader reads in a year, but few enough to let you choose those titles with care. Those categories are:

  1. A book published the decade you were born
  2. A debut novel
  3. A book recommended by a source you trust
  4. A book by a local author
  5. A book outside your (genre) comfort zone
  6. A book in translation
  7. A book nominated for an award in 2020
  8. A re-read
  9. A classic you didn’t read in school
  10. Three books by the same author

A book published the decade you were born

The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch, as discussed in this episode of What Should I Read Next.
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a book I’ve been meaning to read for years.
Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, another What Should I Read Next recommendation.

A debut novel

I already completed this category! I read Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, a debut novel coming on February 18.

We’ll publish a blog post later this year with lots of good debut novel recommendations.

A book recommended by a source you trust

The Crofter and the Laird by John McPhee. I love McPhee’s writing but haven’t read this one about his time in Scotland. My Scotland travel buddy Dave Humphries recommended this to me on a soon-to-air episode of What Should I Read Next.
Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber, recommended by my friend Mel Joulwan.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave, a novel by my husband’s maybe-favorite author. (Listen to Will talk about his favorite books in this episode of What Should I Read Next.)

A book by a local author

It’s up to you to define “local” in a way that makes sense for where you live.

A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. Grafton died in 2017 but for years she lived nearby here in Louisville. (She feels very local to me!)
Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard. I met Hannah at the Kentucky Book Festival in 2018; she teaches creative writing an hour away at the University of Kentucky.
A Small Porch by Wendell Berry, whose farm is less than an hour from Louisville. I bought this poetry collection a few years ago, and have dipped in and out of it but haven’t read it in its entirety—yet.

A book outside your (genre) comfort zone

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna. I’m reading this first installment in a YA fantasy series right now.
The Line That Held Us by David Joy, a book I’ve been told is considerably more gritty than what I typically read.
The Line Between by Tosca Lee. Reviews say this book “blurs the line between science fiction and terrifying real science” which does NOT have my name on it, but I love Tosca so I’m going to try it.

A book in translation

This is the trickiest category for many readers. Please check out this post featuring 20 wonderful books in translation; I assure you we’ll update this post in the coming months with 2019 and 2020 selections.

I already completed this category: I read The End of the Ocean by Maja Lunde, as translated from the original Norwegian; it was the first book I started this year. But I want to put more recommendations in your hands now, so please check out these three books in translation I intend to read this year:

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The premise of this Japanese novel reeled me in: it takes place in a nondescript Tokyo coffee shop where you can order coffee and go back in time, but but only for the amount of time it takes the coffee to cool.
Disoriental by Négar Djavadi, a highly-recommended memoir published by Europa Editions, one of my favorite publishers of books in translations.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry, a book on my actual bookshelves that I’ve been meaning to read for years, also published by Europa.

A book nominated for an award in 2020

We’ll definitely give you a great blog post or two about this year’s award nominees. In the meantime, check out this quick overview of 11 important literary awards.

A re-read

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali, because it’s our January MMD Book Club selection. (I usually read these selections once before I choose them and again with our members.)
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow, our February MMD Book Club selection. This could also qualify as my book by a local author, as Alix is a fellow Kentuckian.
The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher, just because I want to. (Listen to me describe why I love it in this short episode of One Great Book.)

A classic you didn’t read in school

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I’ve read plenty of Steinbeck, both in school and out, but never this one.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, because I’ve been meaning to for a decade now.
My Ántonia by Willa Cather, ditto the above.

Three books by the same author

This category is a commitment—and that’s one of the reasons we included it. This year I’m considering reading …

• James Baldwin, because I keep hearing such good things about so many of his works, and I’ve been meaning to for years.
• Elizabeth George, because she writes mysteries and writes about the writing life.
• Kent Haruf, because I love what I’ve read but have three more to go.
• And I have to tell you that with the publication of my third book, Don’t Overthink It, in March, you could now read my books for this category!

What are YOU reading for the 2020 Reading Challenge? (If you’re not on the list, click here to learn more and sign up!)


Leave A Comment
  1. Thanks for sharing your plans! It’s helpful! I’ve already completed 3 categories! For a book published the decade I was born, I read ‘The Joy Luck Club’. For a book by a local author, I read a book by Kate DiCamillo. For a book in translation, I read ‘Convenience Store Woman’ (which I did not care for!!!). I think for the 3 books by one author category, I will read Anne Patchett. Then I will have read all of her books! I have plans for all of my categories except a book recommended by a source I trust (will use something from the SRG!) and a book nominated for an award.

    • Sheryl says:

      Oh no! I loved Convenience Store Woman. I thought it was adorable and being single I really understood some of the things people say and pressure for relationships. It was definitely quirky, but cute.

  2. Jenny P says:

    I REALLY enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog a few years ago. I bought it on a whim, read it in gulps, and it earned a spot on my permanent shelf despite multiple cross country moves. I hope you enjoy it!

    • Fiona says:

      I enjoyed The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Two friends recommended it to me. One friend says it’s the perfect book, the only ten out of ten she’s ever given. It’s her all time favourite book. I did find the first part of the book a bit slow, but as soon as the new character was introduced I sailed through it! I read it a few years ago and still remember the characters so that shows it was worth reading.

  3. Danielle Diehl says:

    Oh, you will LOVE My Antonia! Read this on a whim ten years ago and fell in love. The writing is gorgeous. The story is beautiful.

  4. Leisa M says:

    I really liked Little Bee, but one caveat, there is one highly disturbing scene in it. I understood why he put it so graphically, but it was still really hard to read.

  5. Laurel Ragland says:

    I reread My Antonia last year. Willa Cather is a favorite author. The Elegance of the Hedgehog also has a permanent place on my shelf.
    I liked Convenience Store Woman. It was one of my Top Ten last year.
    I haven’t made any choices yet. I’m also in a couple of book clubs and doing another challenge so reading so far for those.
    Enjoying the posts.

  6. Jennifer Roy says:

    Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom is definitely one of my favorite reads from last year. I definitely recommend it. It is a little slow in the beginning but it picks up quickly.

    • Susan V says:

      Jennifer, I agree with you about The Hiding Place! That book is in my Top 5 of all time, and it has impacted me tremendously in my personal life. Anne, you NEED to read this book!! I’m going to be reading another Corrie Ten Boom book for a book written in the decade I was born (1950’s).

      • Heather says:

        Great book! In fact my youngest sister, Corrie, was named for her. My dad had read the book, and loved the name. He had me and my sisters read it too.

      • virginia westlake says:

        I was fortunate to be able to visit Corrie ten Boom’s home last August. A friend told us he liked it more than the Anne Frank house. We rode a trolley, train and a bus , then walked around for 45 minutes in 90degree heat. No one seemed to have heard of it. Finally, I saw a book store and said they would know. The woman lit up when I asked her. When we finally found it, there were a lot of people waiting. They said there are 20 here and that’s all they take. My husband said let’s wait and see. For the next tour, we went in at the back of the line. She said 22 will be okay. The guide was wonderful! It was worth the trouble getting there. I read The Hiding Place when I got home and loved it. We also saw the Anne Frank house which was a moving experience.

    • Mimi says:

      I agree! Anne, you have to read The Hiding Place. I first read it in high school and later in my 20’s. It would be a perfect reread for me this year. And thanks Susan V for the mention of another book by Corrie Ten Boom. I’ll have to find that one.

    • Julie R says:

      Chiming in to say that you should definitely read The Hiding Place. So good! I think I’m going to add it to my “to-reread” list.

      • Janna says:

        Anne, please, definitely read The Hiding Place. It is life-changing… Actually, I should say, Corrie ten Boom is life-changing. I am going to put it on my list as a re-read. Can’t endorse it enough. And just to give myself some credibility, I read (and loved) “Station Eleven” and “Rules of Civility” because you recommended them, so we share some similar tastes!
        It is a hard read, though. Don’t read it at the beach. (Although, I did read “Unbroken” at the beach years ago, but that was because I was on a book club deadline… Who’s to say what a “beach book” is for each individual, amirite?)

  7. Kendra McIntyre says:

    I feel silly because I read the first category as the year you were born, but it’s neat because A is for Alibi was published the year I was born! So if I don’t change my mind, we’ll read one similar book by chance this year. Haha! Angie Thomas is local to me, just one town over, and I have never gotten into any of her work so I am borrowing The Hate You Give from my sister. She’s also going to be doing a book talk with Nic Stone about her new book this weekend. Excited to hear that! I’ve already finished my first reread, Where’d You Go Bernadette? And will be doing another because my book club picked Educated. I’ll be reading the Beartown series for my book in translation, but Before the Coffee Gets Cold sounds good! For the classic, it’s got to be Pride and Prejudice! And for three by the same author, I am reading the Percy Jackson series this year. All the other categories are open for the moment. Looking forward to a great reading year!

  8. Christina Myers says:

    Definitely read “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”. I’ve read it twice and it had the same emotional resonance each time. Amazing book.

  9. Marissa says:

    The Line that Held Us was one of my favorites of 2018; David Joy’s writing is beautiful. It is gritty, and dark, but his prose carries you through. I hope you enjoy it!

  10. Gretchen Schrock-Jacobson says:

    I have only planned what I will read for one category so far. It is for a book by a local author. While I live in State College, PA (home to Penn State University), I chose a book by an author from my hometown: Marilou is Everywhere by Sarah Elaine Smith. Not only is she from Greene County, PA like myself, the novel takes place there, which is a rural county 50 miles south of Pittsburgh. It is definitely not an area that finds itself often represented in fiction. Plus the author graduated from the same high school that my father taught German and English at for 40 years. I believe that he had her in class! I am so excited to read it. It is next on my list.

    • Natasha says:

      I am also from Pennsylvania,but I live in Michigan now. Will definitely add this PA writer to my home state authors list. Have you read anything by Jennifer Haigh. She is from Barnsboro PA. I have read several of her books and have enjoyed them all.

  11. Patti says:

    I’m reading Little Women now. Despite earning an English degree, I never read it. So far, I fail to see the appeal, but I’m continuing on. I love to go to the movies, and the current adaptation is well-reviewed, so I want to finish the book and then see the movie.

    • Jennifer says:

      I am re-reading Little Women, inspired by the viewing the movie. I am enjoying it much more than I did as an early teen, when it struck me as hopelessly old fashioned and preachy. Knowing that Alcott was groundbreaking in revealing daily life from a female viewpoint with her family in the transcendental circle which included Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and lived experience underscoring the struggle women still wage with their roles and the challenging nature of self improvement allows this work to resonate with me now as a mother/wife/career woman.

  12. Katie says:

    I’m picking The Shell Seekers from the Library today for the decade I was born book, I can’t wait to dive in! I finished The Outsiders yesterday as my book by a local author. My personal goal was to read the Anne of Green Gables series this year because I never have, I know! That takes care of the books by the same author. I finished Normal People as my book by a source I trust (shockingly I didn’t love it! 🙈) I haven’t committed to the rest yet but this is so fun! Thanks for sharing your picks with us!

  13. Brittany Headley says:

    My Antonia is so good! I read it a couple of years ago and couldn’t believe I didn’t have to read this in school. It’s such a good story on friendship.

  14. Lizabeth Snell says:

    Best book in translation I’ve ever read: Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck.. stunning writing, and a story that changed my life. Highest rec.

  15. ellen erhard says:

    Way off topic here…
    Does anyone have a “formula” that they use to decide which books to read as hard copy/e-reader or to listen to as audio books?
    I read Becoming by Michelle Obama when it first came out. A friend (confined to home after a foot injury) is listening to it now-read by Michelle of course. (And she’s knitting while she’s listening.) Sheer bliss!
    Why did I NEVER THINK to listen to that book and savor it? I’m sure it would have been so much more intimate. My TBR list is as longgggg as my driveway. Might someone have some suggestions for which books to read or listen to?

    • TracyK says:

      I listened to Becoming last year, and loved it. I especially like books read by the author.
      I get as many audio books as I can from my library so I can do other things while listening: my daily walk, sewing, cleaning house, and when I am in the car alone. Unfortunately, some aren’t available from the library on audio, so I get hard copies of those. Listening to audio books has helped me make a (very small) dent in my ever-growing TBR list!

    • Katy says:

      Personally I listen to non-fiction audio books, mostly science or psychology books. For me they read like podcasts. Poetry is good too but it’s harder to find what I like to read in audio form. After trying a few audiobooks where I don’t like reader, whether he/she reads too fast or in a strange way, I now listen to a sample first which you can do on audible. I have listened to fiction on audio, but I don’t prefer it.

    • Judy C. Harvey says:

      Ellen, I also enjoyed listening to Becoming being read by Michelle Obama. What type of books to you like? I enjoyed listening to The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and am also making my way through the Maisie Dobbs mystery series in audiobooks. The English accents of all of those add to the experience.

  16. Camille A Wilson says:

    Oh, my! Be sure to read “My Antonia” by Willa Cather. The story is wrapped in beautiful writing and wonderful storytelling.

  17. The Hiding Place! It’s a classic and so rich. Worth it.

    I’m reading Emily Wilson’s new translation of The Odyssey and LOVING IT. Wishing that translation had been around when I was in school. Then it hit me: it’s a book in translation! For a book recommended by a source I trust, I’m reading The Tripods by John Christopher. It’s a YA sci-fi series written in the 60s. My 12-year-old son and I are fighting over them. Sooo glad I listened to my friend’s recommendation. We’re hooked.

  18. Nancy Willard says:

    I like your nod back to some older books and thus some of my favorite reads from the past. The Elegance of the Hedge Hog is wonderful, and Little Bee was the beginning of my addiction to his books. I just found Ken Haruf’s debut The Tie that Binds, which was his only I hadn’t read.
    And those classics….you are in for a treat!!!!

  19. Adrienne says:

    Thanks for the ideas! Here’s my list so far:
    1) A book published in the decade I was born – either ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote or ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou;
    3) A book recommended by a source you trust – ‘The Last Romantics’ by Tara Conklin from Anne’s 2019 Summer Reading Guide.
    4) Book by a local author – ‘Nothing to See Here’ by Kevin Wilson. He teaches at Sewanee University which is about 30 miles away, and he was my daughter’s English professor last year;
    5) Book outside your genre comfort zone – I don’t typically read science fiction of fantasy novels, so I’m looking for something in those genres.
    6) A book in translation – I had picked the Elegance of the Hedgehog, but the premise of ‘Before the Coffee Gets Cold’ seems fascinating so I may switch (or read both)!
    8) A re-read – ‘What Alice Forgot’ by Liane Moriarty.
    9) A classic I didn’t read in school – I’m leaning towards Jane Eyre, or Emma, as I have being meaning to read both of these for ages
    10) Three books by the same author – I’ve just finished book 3 in the Cormoran Strike series, so I’m planning to read book 4 and book 5, which I hear is in the works.

    Happy 2020 reading everyone!

    • Mimi Pollack says:

      I will be reading The Martian as my debut book, but you could read it outside your genre! I was told it was even better than the movie!

  20. Annette Silveira says:

    I vote for Corrie Ten Boom in that category. It’s the most beautiful book.
    I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet series.” I don’t remember the premise of A is for Alibi, but you should know that Kinsey gets herself into some very tense situations!

    • Fiona says:

      I’ve read all the Sue Grafton’s from A to Y. I love all the characters – the main character Kinsey, but also her neighbor Henry and his siblings. It’s wonderful to read a book where there are characters who are over seventy and still vital.

  21. Suzy Bennett says:

    Are you familiar with Sena Jeter Nasland? According to Goodreads, is writer in residence at the University of Louisville, although may be retired now (we were in college together and I’m enjoying retirement). Ahab’s Wife is one of my favorites. The Fountains of St. James Court is set in Louisville. Hard to get more local than that!

    • Natasha says:

      I googled Michigan authors and got several. A couple authors I found were Jeffrey Zaslow (unfortunately he is now deceased). He wrote a book called The Girls from Ames. Just within the last few months I read a book by Viola Shipman called The Charm Bracelet.

      • Kathy says:

        I did some googling yesterday as well and found Erin Bartels. She’s written several books that look appealing to me, and she’s actually from the Lansing area and not just Michigan. I’m going to check out Jeffrey Zaslow and Viola Shipman as well! Thank you!

  22. Tara Nichols says:

    I’m planning to do James Baldwin for the three books by the same author too! He’s AMAZING. I’ve already read a few by him, but the ones I’m planning to read this year are If Beale Street Could Talk, Another Country, and Just Above My Head. If you do end up reading him Anne, I think I’d recommend The Fire Next Time and Go Tell It on the Mountain. Go Tell It is a semi-autobiographical novel, and Fire is nonfiction that gives some more context to his beliefs and upbringing. I think they pair together really well.

  23. Kitty Balay says:

    I didn’t know Sue Grafton lived in Louisville. She also lived in Santa Barbara, California, so I consider her local for me! Of course, the alphabet series is set in Santa Barbara. I once wrote to & suggested she set a murder at the theatre where I work. She wrote back a lovely message. She said she was well aware of our theatre and would consider it for a future novel.

  24. I 100% endorse ‘The Elegance of the Hedgehog.’ I’m listening to it on audio right now, and although I haven’t read it in print, based on how much philosophizing there is — and how delightful the voice acting is — I recommend the audio version. There are two narrators, the middle-aged concierge and a 12-year-old girl, and they’re FANTASTIC. It’s sweet, funny, smart… I’m really enjoying it.

  25. Maria Ontiveros says:

    So far I read Still Waters by Viceca Sten for my book in translation but I may change it and do three books by her! If I do, I’m looking at The Murmur of Bees or The Time In Between instead. Also just finished The Dutch House, which might fit somewhere. Thanks for the My Antonia suggestion!
    I’m doing Autobiography of Malcolm X for my birth year book, What We Were Promised as debut, Night Tiger as local – Palo Alto author and I live in the Bay Area, Lola Quartet (just started) as recommended, probably The Handmaid’s Tale as reread (but may tackle A Prayer for Owen Meaney), most likely Circe for outside my comfort zone and three Louise Penney books (though may do three Sten books or even three Margaret Atwood books – handmaid’s take, testaments, and alias grace).

  26. I love ❤️ The Hiding Place and I have reread it several times. And I love that you have a Wendell Berry book on your list. I have recently discovered him and I find his writing style so engaging and real. I actually think his style is similar to Willa Cather who I also love. My Antonia is great but my favorite by her is Death Comes for the Archbishop. I look forward to including your suggestions into my reading list this year. Thanks!

  27. Tory Brogan says:

    Regarding Baldwin- I read “Another Country” last fall and it was impressive. I describe it as raw and relevant (although published in 1960). The story and the characters are still lingering with me even though I finished it a few months ago.

  28. Kari Sweeney says:

    I hope you read Plainsong, Eventide and Benediction by Kent Haruf and enjoy them as much as I did. I’ve read all his books except The Ties That Bind and I’m kind of hoarding it.

  29. Kim says:

    I think I will read “The Dearly Beloved” for my debut novel. “The Rosie Project” for a book recommended by a source I trust. “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” for a book outside of my comfort zone. I almost exclusively read fiction and a few Christian books, but I have heard so much food feedback about this book! I was going to read “Beartown” for my book in translation to give Backman one more try, though I didn’t really enjoy the other book I (tried) to read by him.(A Man called Ove.) But after reading the comments above, “Go, Went, Gone,” sounds fantastic! Or, I might combine this category with the book by a local author category. I live in St. Petersburg, Russia, and while I know that reading Russian authors would help me understand the soul of the country I live in, I just find most Russian literature…daunting….and sometimes boring. I have started and abandoned “Anna Karenina,” “Crime and Punishment,” and “The Brothers Karamazov.” Any recommendations on that front?? I’ve been wanting to reread the Harry Potter series, so I think I’ll start that this year. I’ve chosen Little Women for my classic that I didn’t read in school, and Taylor Jenkins Reid for my author. I also want to read “The River” and “Educated” this year. Any recommendations for a book published in 1980? I looked through some lists online but nothing was calling out to me. I like modern fiction, (not too lovey dovey), and I also enjoy YA fiction and dystopian fiction. Every once in awhile I’ll read a memoir. Thanks! Excited to read what others are reading!

  30. Susan says:

    The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Please tell my what is so enjoyable about it and why someone would consider it excellent. We read it for book club and I just could not understand why someone would choose to read it. Great title though. I loved A Gentleman in Moscow. And I’m a big fan of Louise Penny. Have read all of Sue Grafton and now plan to read My Antonia.

    • Aimee says:

      Completely with you on The Elegance of the Hedgehog and A Gentleman in Moscow. Not a big mystery fan.

      So know you are not alone on Hedgehog. 😉

    • SusieQ says:

      It’s been a while since I read “Elegance of the Hedgehog” but I remember I liked the little girl and I liked their evolving friendship. I liked that the apparently stupid concierge turned out to be hiding her smarts. I liked that two such different people had a meeting of minds. I liked the Japanese man’s involvement. It was altogether satisfying (and elegant!). I’m also a big fan of A Gentleman in Moscow and Sue Grafton!

  31. Alexandra says:

    I tried SO HARD to read Ten Thousand Doors because of your recommendation and I think I finally have to waive the white flag. I just can’t get into it and I just don’t enjoy reading it.

    • Mari says:

      I tried to like it too and I just couldn’t. In my case, I am a fantasy reader and I just kept wanting the characters to GET TO THE DIFFERENT WORLD PART already! I think for people that are hesitant about fantasy or are new to the genre, they might like it. But I was bored.

  32. Carol Quan says:

    I made a list before the new year do these were my original ideas. With all of these great suggestions, I may change. Loved the “probably” on your list!
    Book Published in the Decade You Were Born-East of Eden
    Debut Novel-Such a Fun Age
    Book Recommended by a Source You Trust-Stationary Shop-recommended by Anne!
    Book by a local author-I am from the Bay Area too (Dublin) and found out Jasmine Guillory is from Oakland so I will read The Proposal.
    Book Outside Your Comfort Zone-Station Eleven or I might read a thriller or some sci-fi.
    A Book in Translation-either The Shadow of the Wind or Murmur of Bees
    Re-read-originally I had Little Women, which I read as a kid or based on what others are saying here I might change to My Antonia, which I read in Jr. High
    A Classic I didn’t read in school-Wuthering Heights or Emma
    Three Books by the same author-either Anne Patchett or Pam Jenoff

    Fun to see what others are planning and will be interesting to see how my choices change. I really want to dig into ones I own though.

    I am doing another challenge with prompts plus one to read from by shelf!

  33. Lindsay says:

    I’m combining three reading challenges this year : MMD’s (of course), one which recommends reading your bookshelves, and to celebrate turning 35 this year, I’m borrowing an idea from a WSIRN podcast guest and reading a book published each year I’ve been alive (so 1985-2020). I’m on my first book : IT by Stephen King which is on my shelf, a reread, and a book published during the decade I was born. Plus, I’ll be able to check off 1986 from my list!

  34. Glen says:

    IM tempted to quit reading this blog, cuz my list of books is now way past what I can read in a year (and I read fast and a
    Ot of hours in a day!) but you bring up books that sound so interesting! What’s a poor reader to do? Publishers keep putting out books and readers keep trying to read….

    And having said that….putting the TBR shelf (shelves!) in order and then reading the next book in the shelf I see working wonderfully well. A few books have been put in the “I will never read the book again” and even the ” I really don’t want to read this book at all” pile, but the shelf is getting empty. And one surprise has been Aaron Lansky’s book, “outwitting history” about aging a man I million books from destruction, books about Jewish history, language, culture. Everything! Some, maybe even most written in yiddish. Stories to make you laugh, hungry you hungry, (I love latkes!), and even break your heart. A wonderful book.

  35. Sonia says:

    I always have a hard time finding books from earlier decades – will they resonate as well today as they did in the 50s, 60s or 70s?

  36. Kimberly Fox says:

    My book in translation is a book by Italo Calvino called The Baron in the Trees. My husband and I were watching Treehouse Masters a couple of years ago and the host of the show was overseas looking at other treehouses. One of the people he visited with mentioned this book. I immediately ordered it and have been waiting for the right time to read it.

  37. April Schmick says:

    So many great suggestions. For my potential MMD 2020 Reading Challenge:
    Birth Year Decade – All the Presidents Men and/or The Final Days by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
    Debut Novel – Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
    Recommendation – Station Eleven (Anne talks about it a lot)
    Local Author – Furious Hours by Casey Cep (we graduated from the same high school)
    Classic Never Read – To Kill a Mockingbird
    Re-read: The Secret Garden (childhood favorite)
    Outside Comfort Zone – considering fantasy The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe or a Stephen King horror novel
    Book in Translation – Fredrik Backman (working my way through his backlist as I read Beartown and sequel in 2019 and loved)
    Three Books Same Author – going with Steinbeck or Louise Penny as I started listening to the Gamache series last year

  38. Rose says:

    My antonia is my favorite book! I DID read in high scholl and several times both before and since. The fact that I love it probably has nothing to do with the fact that I am a Bohemian farm girl from Nebraska!😊 As a matter of fact, I think it’s time for a reread!

  39. Debi Morton says:

    I don’t do reading challenges, but I do want to highly recommend 2 books on your list. The Hiding Place is an incredible story of bravery and faith during WWII. In addition to reading it I had the privilege of hearing “Tante Corrie” speak and meet her before she died. Then I heard the woman who was her assistant and traveling companion for many years. Finally, to my joy my husband and I were able to travel to see the Ten Boom family home in Holland including the Hiding place in which my husband took my picture.
    Secondly, I loved My Antonia. We read it in my book club a couple of years ago, and I thought it was delightful, although a bit sad. I do want to read more Cather.

  40. Aimee says:

    Not positive but this is what I’m thinkin:
    Book published in decade I was born: “Are you There God, It’s Me, Margaret” Never read it before
    A debut novel: Field Guide to the NA Teenager
    Recommendation: This one is complete. I finished The Weight of Ink last night – I wish you had read it because I want to know what you think of it!!!
    Local Author: True Grit, not from my town but from my state
    Outside my genre – Possibly The Giver which both of my kids loved but has never seemed enticing to me
    Book in Translation: Before the Coffee Gets Cold sounds fascinating
    2020 award nominee: Not sure I can pick one since 2020 just started…will keep an eye on it but probably a romance as that’s one of my favorite genres 😉
    Re-Read: My beloved Anne of Green Gables series
    Classic I didn’t read in HS: Canterbury Tales
    3 books by same author: am thinking Jenny Colgan as I love her books but I’m afraid I may have already read all of them – ha!

    • Cindy Harris says:

      The audio version of Becoming was excellent, Ms Obama did an excellent job narrating it. I listen to most books while I quilt. They go together marvelously.
      Are you here God? It’s me Margaret was a favorite from my teens many years ago. True Grit is a delight, listen to it on Audible if available.


  41. Raquel Evans says:

    I wrote up my tentative reading challenge ideas on my blog, but I’m not sure if linking would be tacky, so here’s the gist of my plans:

    a book published the decade you were born:
    Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’amour
    The Disciplines of the Christian Live by Eric Liddel

    a debut novel:
    The Jane Austen Project
    (finished this one, didn’t like it nearly as much as I hoped)

    a book recommended by a source you trust:
    To Sell is Human (my husband recommend this book for me a couple years ago and I REALLY need to finally read it)

    a book by a local author:
    From Emporia: The Story of William Allen White

    a book outside your (genre) comfort zone:
    (one of this smattering of kindle books I own that are short story collections, or just not ‘speculative fiction’, which with classics is my main go-to)
    The Most Important Thing Happening
    Code Name Camelot
    The Grave Winner
    The Canterbury Tales
    The Gray House
    When Never Comes

    a book in translation:
    (both of these are kindle books I got free last year in Amazon’s World Translated Book Day event–or whatever it was called exactly)
    Last Train to Istanbul
    The Great Passage

    a book nominated for an award in 2020:
    (no plans yet)

    a re-read:
    (so easy to fill I don’t need to plan specifically)

    a classic you didn’t read in school:
    Little Dorrit

    three books by the same author:
    Anne Bronte
    Melanie Cellier
    Ellen MacGregor
    Andrew Peterson
    ND Wilson
    Suzannah Rowntree
    (I like a lot of series, and fall behind on them, so this is not a difficult category for me. 😀 I do also really like the idea of finally reading Anne Bronte–two novels and a book of poetry.)

  42. Mari says:

    A book published the decade you were born -A Distant Mirror by Barbarar Tuchman. My dad had this on his shelf for years! It could also fit the category of books recommended by someone I trust/
    A debut novel -the Silent Patient -loved it.
    A book recommended by a source you trust -Rediscovering the Saints by Matthew Kelly. Our church gave it out as a Christmas present. 🙂
    A book by a local author -Abandoned Queens. The author is coming to our library to speak on Saturday!
    A book outside your (genre) comfort zone -Just read “A Treasury of Victorian Murder.” It’s a graphic true crime novel. Waaaaay outside my comfort zone but I picked it up and couldn’t stop reading it! Surprisingly entertaining! Now I want to read the rest of them!
    A book in translation -I may read the IQ Something Something book but it looks very long. May just settle for a re-read of The Brothers Lionheart” by Astrid Lindgren. Have been reading stuff to my son -so I think this book can kill two birds with one stone! Unless anyone else can reccomend children’s fantasy in translation? I liked “The Never-Ending Story too.
    A book nominated for an award in 2020 – I don’t like the books that win major literary awards. I have actually sat on a few of these committees and I have seen excellent books and authors get overlooked or deliberately shoved aside for political /cultural/religious reasons. In other words, nothing to do with the quality of the book -but because the author is disliked or the POV in the book is opposed to the award givers POV. Very off-putting. So I will probably look at the Catholic Writer’s Guild and see what they award. Maybe not a major literary award, but more likely to be to my taste. Or at the very least, the author and the people recommending the author to me are less inclined to despise my own beliefs and opinions.
    A re-read -Hatchet by Gary Poulson or The Brothers Lionheart. I am always rereading books.
    A classic you didn’t read in school -done! Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska. Never heard of it but saw it on my library’s “classics” shelf. Think “Tree Grows in Brooklyn” but Jewish and angrier. Great find and I enjoyed it.
    Three books by the same author….hmmmm. Perhaps some of the non-Narnia books by C.S Lewis.Or finish up (finally the Flavia DeLuc series. I’ll see.
    Also for those of you liking “My Antonia” , “Daeth Comes to the Archbishop” is great and I have heard good things about “O Pioneers.”

    • Penny says:

      Death Comes to the Archbishop is a beautiful book. I recommended it to my husband who is an infrequent reader so I am very careful in what I suggest. He also loved it.

  43. Penny says:

    Good suggestions thanks. Will definitely look for the Hiding Place. I mis judged the local author requirement and my first read for the year was an Australian author, Chris Hammer, who lives nowhere me but who writes about very familiar territory, the beach, wrapped as a crime novel. Book called Silver, And it’s pennyhis second book. I’ll looked for something closer to home!

  44. Lee Ann says:

    I *hated* The Elegance of the Hedgehog. The main characters are snobbish and unpleasant; I finished it, but it was close to joining my very small “throw this book across the room” list.

    For a re-read, I’ve recently picked up Patrick O’Brian’s outstanding Aubrey/Maturin series after about four or five years and am currently reading The Surgeon’s Mate.

    I’ve never read Willa Cather, so I might try Death Comes for the Archbishop, which is set in my home state. Or I could try to finish Les Miserables or Wuthering Heights, which I already have on my Kindle.

  45. Selena says:

    This helped me think about and pinpoint some of my own selections. Thanks for sharing. Also, the category “classic you didn’t read in school” sparked my own challenge to read 10 of those books this year. Books I’ve always wanted to read because I “missed” out on them, but have never gotten around to committing to. Thanks for the inspiration!

  46. Read the Hiding Place. And once you’ve read it, reread it every so often. It’s a good story and it makes you think and contemplate in real life. I’ll give you a spoiler: In the concentration camp Connie’s sister tells them that they should be thankful for the____, even tho they are super annoying. I read this story when i was in High School more than once, and it comes back to me, esp. when i’m having an awful experience. I’m not as good as Betsie is, being grateful, but i do try. After the birth of my children i get a big long bout of OCD. I didn’t know what it was the first time; i just felt super guilty about reoccuring thots. After the birth of my second child, 14 years later, i had the internet and also germophobe OCD symptoms. That’s when i found out what ‘the mess’ was that i had last time. Can you say ‘thank-you ‘ for OCD? I’m not sure how well i did; it certainly was a battle, both getting rid of it and being thankful for it.

    Anyway The Hiding Place is a great book, with some very interesting themes in it.

  47. Anneke Woodward says:

    SO many good suggestions. Thank you! I made my tentative list as soon as the challenge was posted. Current plan =
    a book published the decade you were born: 
    Man’s Search for Meaning – Frankl
    a debut novel: 
    The Song of Achilles – Miller (I read ‘Circe’ in 2019.)
    a book recommended by a source you trust: 
    The Thirteenth Tale – Setterfield (finished this week)
    a book by a local author: 
    The Invention of Wings – Kidd (from Georgia)
    a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: 
    Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Dillard (philosophical ruminations on nature)
    (finished last week. still not my comfort zone, but beautiful writing.)
    a book in translation: 
    The 100-Year-Old Man (etc.)- Jonasson
    a book nominated for an award in 2020:  TBD
    a re-read: 
    How Green was my Valley? A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?
    a classic you didn’t read in school: 
    Hundred Years of Solitude – Garcia Marquez
    three books by the same author:
    Wendell Berry? Tana French? Louise Penny? Kent Haruf?

  48. Sonja says:

    I really enjoyed The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. Is The End of the Ocean number 2 in a series? I am definitely adding this one to my list.

  49. Natasha says:

    For read a book from The Decade You Were Born. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I just finished it as an audiobook today. I keep asking myself why did I wait so long to read this book? Next up is A Reread of The Little Prince. I’m not much for re reading books, but I originally read it in French for my college French class many years ago.

  50. Christine from Australia says:

    I’ve chosen two for most categories, I may read both – we’ll see how it goes
    A book published the decade you were born –
    Katherine Susannah Prichard, N’goola; Barbara Pym, Excellent Women,
    A debut novel –
    Trent Dalton, Boy Swallows Universe; Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Purple Hibiscus
    A book recommended by a source you trust – Melissa Lucaschenko, Too Much Lip; Don Watson, The Bush
    A book by a local author (Canberra, Australia) –
    Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann, The Marmalade Files ( a spy story set in Canberra); Marion Halligan, Valley of Grace, The Apricot Colonel or The Golden Dress
    A book outside your genre comfort zone – Stephen Fry, Mythos; Samantha Shannon, The Priory of the Orange Tree
    A book in translation –
    Emile Zola, Germinal (this has been on my list for the last 2 years – maybe this year?); Sigrid Undset, The Cross,(I aimed to read the whole trilogy last year, but only managed the first book)
    A book nominated for an award in 2020 – I’ll see what gets nominated for the Miles Franklin award (Aussie equivalent of the Pulitzer/ Booker)
    A re-read – Zeyn Joukhadar, The Map of Salt and Stars (I read this last year and thought it was stunning – and important);
    Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose (haven’t read this in years)
    A classic you didn’t read in school – Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; Patrick White, A Fringe of Leaves,
    Three books by the same author –
    Ali Smith, Autumn, Winter, Spring,

  51. Natasha says:

    I googled Michigan authors and got several. A couple authors I found were Jeffrey Zaslow (unfortunately he is now deceased). He wrote a book called The Girls from Ames. Just within the last few months I read a book by Viola Shipman called The Charm Bracelet.

  52. Kim Colpitts says:

    You won’t be disappointed by The Hiding Place. It was on my to-read list forever and I finally got around to reading it in 2019. I read the 35th anniversary edition which I think has a bonus chapter(s).

  53. Jennifer says:

    The Line That Held Us by David Joy is so good. Yes, it is gritty. I attended his talk at the Decatur Book Festival in 2018. He is the real deal!

  54. Sue says:

    Anne, I’m glad you’ll be reading both The Elegance of the Hedgehog and the Sue Grafton series! Well, I say series because I’m sure you won’t be able to resist going on. You might as well put that in as your 3 books by same author! My family eagerly read each book as it came out, Kinsey is family to us now. And I found Elegance at a book sale, knowing nothing about it, but I liked the interesting cover. It was good! Well worth the time.
    I have never done a Reading Challenge before, and I was tempted to just wait 6 months in and see which categories I could fill in, but that isn’t really the spirit, is it!? It’s about searching for books to fit the bill, books you might not have thought of, and it’s part of the fun, right? I have enjoyed seeing what everybody else is planning. Because of the stellar reviews and enthusiasm, I am seriously considering dumping East of Eden as my classic, in favor of My Antonia. And as a companion, I would suggest Giants in the Earth by Rolvaag—have you read that?? Very powerful, haunts me to this day.
    The books I might read keep coming under several categories—and I discovered, on looking up books from my birth decade, the 50’s (the LATE 50’s!) that there were a TON of famous books read in the 50’s and I have read many of them already. Books written in the 50’s include Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 450, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, Exodus, Charlotte’s Web, The Old Man and the Sea, Lord of the Rings, A Separate Peace, Hawaii, On the Beach, the Narnian Chronicles, Dr. Zhivago, I, Robot, The Once and Future King, The Caine Mutiny, My Family and Other Animals, and The Invisible Man, all of which I’ve read already! So, I’m looking at maybe East of Eden,

  55. Sue says:

    (Cont.) for my birth decade, or The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer, or On the Road by Jack Kerouac.
    I’ve already done my re-read—Olive Kitteridge, to ready me for Olive, Again.
    Debut–haven’t done any research, but The Silent Patient sounds good!
    Local–I live in Maine, so we have tons of good authors—the aforementioned Elizabeth Strout, Tess Gerritson, Richard Russo, James Nelson, Paul Doiron, Stephen King, Robert McCloskey, Monica Wood. I may read Monica Wood and I may read 3 of hers….or Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World.
    Recommended–probably one of MMD’s picks, like The Dutch House or Ayesha at Last.
    Outside comfort zone—I like just about anything, but Non-fiction self help books are not my thing, so maybe Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, or Don’t Overthink It!!
    Sorry for going on and on, but I’m so enjoying the “conversation” among book lovers!

  56. Deborah Hirschmann says:

    My boyfriend and I have really enjoyed selecting books for this reading challenge. We’ve both started Kindred by Octavia Butler for our ‘70’s read and I’m already totally drawn in. I may also read Roots by Alex Haley, published the year I was born, but it’s a tome! Having discovered Ann Patchett last year, I plan to read 3 more of her books. The Ten Thousand Doors of January was simply delightful, and also a debut. As for a re-read, I regularly re-read my favorite books, so that won’t be hard at all. I’m thinking Possession by A.S. Byatt, which I read and loved probably 20 years ago. It’ll be interesting to see if it lives up to my memory. My BF recommended The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal as a sci-fi book that I’d enjoy. Don’t know about the others, but that’s part of the fun.

  57. Melinda Malaspino says:

    You will be HOOKED on Sue Grafton once you start. I was so sad when she died before finishing the alphabet series. Kinsey Millhone is an awesome character.
    I may have to choose this as my re-read!

  58. Janice Hitchcock says:

    Published in 1950’s:
    Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith
    The Diary of a Young Girl, Ann Frank
    The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith
    Wise Blood, Flannery O”Connor
    Nine Stories, J. D. Salinger
    Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
    Debut Novel: The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Patchett
    Book recommended by a source you trust: American Spy, Lauren Wilkenson (B Obama)
    Book by a local author (St Louis):
    Betsey Brown, Ntozake Shange
    Sisterland, Curtis Sittenfeld
    A book outside your (genre) comfort zone: A Briefer History of Time, Stephen Hawking
    A book in translation: Beartown, Fredrik Backman (Swedish)
    A re-read: Olive Kitteridge
    A Classic you didn’t read in school: Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
    Three books by the same author: Ann Patchett

  59. Oooh, I hope you pick up Madame Bovary, it’s one of my favourites and I’d love to hear what you think! And an additional suggestion for anyone else on the hunt for a book in translation would definitely be Convenience Store Woman. It’s not imposing at all, and I’d love to see it in more readers’ hands!

  60. Sarah J Askins says:

    I loved “The Elegance of the Hedgehog.” It has been a book that I think about so often and probably should go back and reread. For “Madame Bovary,” the BEST translation is the Lydia Davis one. Davis won an award for this translation because it captures the poetry of the French even in the English translation. I loved it so much.

  61. Marion says:

    Good ideas for the 2020 Reading Challenge. I would like to recommend for A Book In Translation:

    Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck. I read this timely German novel last year about a retired Berlin professor taking up the cause of Africans that are seeking asylum in the city. The translation by Susan Bernofsky is excellent. Also, I believe this novel would be great book clubs.

  62. DIane says:

    I’ve selected and purchased these four so far:
    – Slouching Toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion for a book in the decade I was born.
    – The Dutch House
    – Track 9 by Sue Rovens, a local author
    – Mrs. Dalloway, a classic not read in school

    This is my first reading challenge and I’m excited to finish Putnam my list!

  63. Anita Hohl says:

    I only have 5 picked out so far. A book published the decade you were born: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, translated by Gregory Rabassa. A debut novel: The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. A book by a local author: The deepest roots by Miranda Asebedo. A book outside your genre comfort zone: Recursion by Blake Crouch. A book in Translation: The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, translated by Stephen Snyder

  64. Jami says:

    Before the Coffee Gets Cold, sounds really interesting! Adding it to my list now. I am reading The Ten Thousand doors of January right now and it is soooo good! Very beautiful writing!

  65. Anne says:

    I’m trying to decide on a book from the decade I was born (1970s). Here is my short list:

    Watership Down
    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
    Briefing for a Descent Into Hell
    100 Years of Solitude

    Please advise

  66. Donna Frame says:

    I highly recommend The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I read it years ago and then reread it with my book club. It is beautifully written and has great characters. Elizabeth George is another favourite. I’ve read all of her Lynley novels and continue to be enthralled by her characters and how much depth and complexity she brings to the genre. I do suggest reading them in order to appreciate the development of the characters and relationships. A suggestion for future challenges: non-fiction and/or memoir.

    • Fiona says:

      Yes you should definitely read some Elizabeth George. Read the Lynley novels in order. Fantastic characters. If find myself thinking about them for months afterwards. Very complex stories.

  67. Juls Owings says:

    Jan I read books of 3 LOL actually I read more than that but …
    Nora Roberts Chronicles of The One.. book 1 Year One/book 2 of Blood and Bone/ and book 3 The Rise of Magicks. I also read Nora Roberts The Guardians Trilogy.
    Book 2 Stars of Fortune/ book 2 Bay of Sighs/ and book 3 Island of Glass.

    Feb I am Reading Teresa Carter Kizzie book about her life and seeing her father kill her mother called THE JOURNEY WITHOUT YOU.

    I am also reading Jackie Clay book about her life and how she gets through homesteading after her husband dies called STARTING OVER Chronicles of a self-reliant Woman.

    My reread is every year at this time Bonnie Ness Worline THE CHILDREN WHO STAYED ALONE. Original title was Sod house Adventure

  68. Penelope says:

    I’m currently reading The Mirror and The Light, the third of the magnificent trilogy by Hilary Mantel about Thomas Cromwell. I adored the first two, that both won the Booker Prize, and the third lives up to all expectations, 200 pages in. It would have to be in the category of recommended by someone you trust, i.e. me, but publication of the book this year, makes it an unmissable event.

  69. Penelope says:

    For a book in translation, I highly recommend Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. I admit that I read it because I moved to Portugal but the translation is beautifully written and it is a very thoughtful book.

  70. Fawn says:

    I got an email from Goodreads letting me know that a title I marked “Want to Read” is currently available for free. In celebration of World Book Day, Amazon is offering 9 titles in translation from 9 different authors and parts of the world. I have purchased books from bookshop.org recently to support local indie book stores, but it’s hard to pass up free titles from Amazon, especially when you can complete one section of the MMD Reading Challenge for 2020! http://www.amazon.com/WorldBookDay

  71. Paige says:

    Any updates on number 7, books that have been nominated for an award in 2020? Having trouble narrowing it down! Looking for any insight 🙂

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