My 2016 reading challenge picks

The haunting story of Angelou's childhood in the American South in the 1930s. If this is one you've been meaning to read, give the audio version a try: Angelou's lilting voice brings her powerful, touching story to life.
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This international bestseller was originally published in Sweden in 2009. It's drawn comparisons to Forrest Gump, because the 100-year-old man of the title finds himself involved in key political moments throughout the course of his long life. Many of you have already read this as your book in translation. Not everyone loves it, but those who do have labeled it "clever," "quirky," and "un-put-down-able."
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There aren't many books that intimidate me anymore, but this 2004 novel is an exception: it's been called "as mysterious as a Zen koan" and that makes me nervous! It's also been called "unique," "interesting," and often, "indescribable." Several reviews on Goodreads simply say, "huh?" But the numerous rave reviews and a nudge from my local bookseller persuaded me to give this one a try.
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I read this as my "book you can finish in a day" for the 2016 Reading Challenge. As expected, it's not exactly scary, but Jackson is sure good at infusing a story with a creepy atmosphere. In this work, her last completed novel before her death, she tells the story of the Blackwood family. Not so long ago there were seven Blackwoods, but four of them dropped dead from arsenic poisoning several years ago and how that happened remains a mystery. Read this during daylight hours: its themes of family secrets, hateful neighbors, and mysterious deaths aren't the stuff of bedtime reading.
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As a foodie memoir devotee, I thoroughly enjoyed this. Journalist Ann Mah moves to Paris when her diplomat husband is given a three-year assignment there. She's overjoyed at the opportunity until he's reassigned to Iraq for a year-long solo stint and must figure out life in Paris on her own. And so she does, one pain au chocolat and boeuf Bourguignon at a time.
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This big, fat, Pulitzer-winning novel has been on my radar for years, so I chose it as one of my 2016 Reading Challenge picks to inspire myself to finally cross it off the list. It's not the kind of book I expected to love: the story revolves around a 3000 mile cattle drive from a dusty Texas border town to the unsettled lands of Montana in the 1880s. Yet I enjoyed it so much. I listened to the audio version of this one (all 36 hours of it—although thankfully at 1.5x speed it didn't take *quite* that long).
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I asked my husband to choose a book for this category. I expected him to recommend a book about technology or business or maybe mountaineering, but he surprised me with this lesser-known classic by the author of The Little Prince. After some quick googling I couldn't be happier with his choice: National Geographic ranked this third on its list of the 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time, saying "this remarkable classic attains its high ranking here by soaring both as a piece of writing and as a tale of adventure."
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This classic is set in the Gilded Age among New York City's high society, and depicts the rise and fall of Lily Bart, a young woman trapped by social conventions, a victim both of society and of her own choices. This feels like social commentary and reads like a tragedy, and while I feared it would be boring it was anything but.
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Fans adore this series, and in each book they accompany Mma Ramotswe as she meets her interesting clients, always with very interesting problems. Readers can't help rooting for Mma Ramtoswe as she solves her mysteries; she's funny, smart, and loves to buck convention—very, very tactfully. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel: the tone of this novel wasn't quite like anything I'd ever read, and it was easy to read, in the best sense. I'm looking forward to getting to know these characters better in the series' subsequent installments.
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