Monthly Archives: August 2017

Read Harder Challenge 2017

I am extremely motivated by checking things off a list, and Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge is set up so that each book equals a checkmark. Every new tick mark is like a little rush of accomplishment.

The Read Harder Challenge is 24 categories of books to read through the year, with the intention of expanding your reading horizons. This year’s list was an especially tricky one, with some categories being multi-layered (I’m looking at you, “A collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.”) For the 2016 Challenge, I made a point of reading one book for each category (although they expressly say you can double or triple up if you like), and I wanted all the books to be ones I hadn’t read before.

For 2017, I decided to let some books double up, and allow a couple books I’ve read before. (One category, “A book you’ve read before,” kind of required that.) But I decided I wanted all the books to be written by women. This was mostly easy, although “A book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author” and the above-mentioned poetry translation didn’t offer a ton of choices. The poetry book, in fact, I couldn’t find anywhere besides on Amazon being sold by a third-party, and I shelled out like $17 for it. But it felt nice this year to be making the conscious choice to search out and read books by women.

This was a good group of categories and I loved this experience. I can’t wait for the 2018 Challenge.

First book I crossed off the list:
Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
At the start of this challenge, I had planned on doubling or tripling up as much as possible. So I picked a book that was both a collection of stories by a woman and also a story by an immigrant, with immigration themes. This was a lovely and inspiring collection of stories.

Last book I crossed off the list (no one will be surprised by this):
Forward by Abby Wambach
Finding a book about sports by a woman was mildly challenging. This memoir was a super quick read, and engaging enough, although I felt like it got a little braggy at times. But I guess when you’re telling your own story, you have to talk about your thoughts and opinions.

The book I wish I had been able to include:
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
This is one of my favorite books this year, but by the time I read it I didn’t have a category for it. This book was brutal and hard to read, and I legit cried at least three times. But I would still shove it at anyone who reads. It’s beautiful.

Favorite audiobook on this list:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I know I’m not saying anything new here, but this story is so important, and the audiobook performance was stellar. Five stars.

Other standouts:
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (also audiobook…great performance!)
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (I read a couple Sarah Waters back in New York, but forgot how much I like her writing and how devourable it is)
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (second one checked off the list…a funny and touching story of a family trying to hold it together)

And now, without further ado, my Read Harder Challenge 2017!

And yes, I know it’s only August. It’s the checkmark thing, I’m telling you. Next year I won’t double up on anything.



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First day of TK

Today was B’s first day of transitional kindergarten. For those of you not steeped in this the way we have been lately, transitional kindergarten is like a bonus year of California public school if your kid’s birthday is between Sept 1 and Dec 1, making them ineligible to start kindergarten this year. It’s great, because it’s at the school he will now theoretically attend through 5th grade. His class actually happens to be a TK/kinder split, so he’s really getting a good introduction into the public school system.

This is us waiting outside the classroom this morning, and keeping the attitude light and playful:

He went inside, put stuff in his cubby and found his desk with his name on it. Then his teacher collected all the kids and went through the process of getting them seated on the rug in a circle. Once all the kids were seated, he passed out nametags to everyone, and we waited until B had his, and then Drew and I snuck out. (We were definitely not the last parents out of the room. I’m also proud that we didn’t film the entire circle ordeal, because it took forever and wasn’t super interesting.)

When I picked him up from after care, he was building this “fire fighting machine.” He was at the same table as the son of a coworker of mine, which was cool. If they were friends it’d be nice because her son did TK last year, they’re at the same aftercare, and we live close to each other.

He said he had a good day. He said at circle they practiced good listening, and near the end some kids didn’t listen, and got in some trouble. I asked if he was one of them, and he said, “Um no, not me.” I believe him because he sucks at lying, but I’m still curious.

This has been quite a week. B has clearly been anxious about the transition from his preschool to this new school, and he’s been showing it in a quiet, subdued attitude, needing extra cuddles, and getting really upset over things that aren’t really things. I feel for him. He reminds me so much of me. Over the last week, I haven’t wanted to talk to anyone, I’ve gotten mad at Drew upwards of six times over things that aren’t really things, and I’ve cried at least once a day. At least.

Tomorrow he won’t go to extended care, and I’ll just drop him and pick him up at the classroom. It’s weird not seeing his teacher (just seeing the aftercare teachers at the end of the day). But it’s the first day. There are also things that I am still unclear on, but I’m hoping they’ll all get ironed out. We’ll get there. And by the time we have to do this with H, it’ll be a snap.

It feels like such an accomplishment to get through the first day. So I’m just going to take that feeling of pride and accomplishment and run with it.

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