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  • Writer's pictureEmily

The six things I learned from my alphabet reading challenge

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

Last December, I wanted to try something new with my reading and set up some challenges for the new year. I think that this is by far the longest that I've ever stuck with a resolution, probably because it has been pretty fun. I had more than one challenge, but I'm going to stick with the alphabet challenge for today.

It's very simple: I'm going through the adult fiction books in my library, picking an author from each letter section. I'm getting books that I've never read, and I think so far I've always picked up an author that's new to me.

I'm halfway through my year-long challenge, so it's time to see if I'm halfway through the alphabet. In June, I read books by Sandra Ireland, Elizabeth Klehfoth, and Byron Lane. (Last month, I didn't get around to reading an "I" but did read Dubliners by Joyce.) So, I'm coming along very well. I've averaged 2 alphabet books per month, and I always knew that I'd have to pick up an extra a couple of times, so I'm pleased with my progress.

Before I write about June's books, I've been thinking about what I've learned over the last six months of following a reading challenge.

1) There are authors whose books cover multiple shelves and have clearly been read numerous times, but who I have never heard of. And whose books have no appeal to me at all. Of course, I already knew about many very popular authors that I'll never read even though they write four books a year, but there are so many more that I've never heard of! They must be awfully popular. They span every genre, I think. I never realized it before, but I instinctively skip authors who have more than a dozen books, and when I go away from that to try to branch out, I usually regret it.

2) Which brings me to my habit of DNF-ing. When I was younger, I'd never quit a book. And there are times when I've pushed through a dull (to me) opening and been rewarded with something good, but after making myself read many books that I don't like this year, I'm renewing my permission to DNF. I usually try to get to 10 to 15 percent of a book before ditching. All These Beautiful Strangers, which I read in June and will cover below, is a good example of a book that I didn't like at first but it surprised me. That said, I'm going to allow myself to DNF books in the challenge after 20%. There's no point to slogging through something I just can't get into, when there are so many other great books.

3) I've always been a reader, often with multiple books going, reading books about books sometimes, re-reading, etc., but now I have a better idea of what I Do Not Like. And I'm glad of it because there are so many amazing books that I'm never going to read them all, so being able to recognize that I'm not going to like something and giving it a pass is a great time-saver. I've really read several books that are not my "usual thing" this year and sometimes detested them. So, now I know to avoid anything that is heart-warming or inspirational, or at least to read ten or fifteen pages before deciding on it.

4) Humor is so subjective, that it is hard to predict what will appeal to me. I was really disappointed when I tried to read Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson as an e-galley. I was so ready to love this book, but I wanted to throw my tablet across the room. I don't know why! It just drove me nuts. I'll probably watch the movie. In June, I read A Star is Bored, and it had the double-problem of having humor that I usually wasn't crazy about and was about rich people.

5) I usually don't like books about rich people. They're crazy.

6) I like mysteries, but I don't usually like thrillers or "domestic suspense." I don't like a book that's supposed to be scary or mysterious but all comes down to a mentally ill person being mentally ill (*** Spoiler alert: Bone Deep this month and The Whispering House last month).

I chose my book challenges without much thought of learning anything- it was mostly supposed to be fun. I'm always seeing books in the stacks that look good but which are complete strangers to me, so the alphabet challenge was a way to seek out those books and go over every bit of my library's fiction section. I'm enjoying it.


I've been moving and I'm tired. I haven't been taking great notes, so I'm going to make this quick.

Ireland, Sandra- Bone Deep

This was a pretty interesting set-up, but the most interesting thing was the parallels between an old folk tale and the modern characters, which pretty much came to nothing. And it really went off the rails at the end. The characters weren't likeable or interesting, and for me, they've really got to be one of the two.

Klehfoth, Elizabeth- All These Beautiful Strangers

I almost made up my mind about this book too quickly. It's a mysterious book set in a boarding school for the moneyed elite. I've already mentioned that I don't like books about rich people, but I'm a sucker for secret-society-mysteries-on-campus types. I didn't like the main character in the first chapters but- I won't say much to avoid spoilers- she grows alot. The mystery was interesting, I liked the setting, and, as I said, it surprised me.

Lane, Byron- A Star is Bored

I was interested in this, as many other people were, because the author worked for Carrie Fisher. She seems so cool and so smart, that I wanted to see what he'd say about her, although I knew that this was fictionalized. Anyway, in hindsight, I think I should have known that I wouldn't like it very much. I'm not really interested in celebrities. If I tried to be an assistant for a famous person, I'd probably commit a murder before a week was out.


For July, I've read my Goodreads books and am nearly through a nonfiction. I have an M book checked out but don't have my N book yet, so I have that to look forward to. I like going through the shelves to see what I'll find. I doubt that I'll have time to read anything else this month; I'm still unpacking and cleaning and putting away. I hope to tackle one of my stretch challenge books next month. I think that I might have Byron's Roland in an anthology I kept from college, which is in one of these book boxes...


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