Amanda Reads: Midyear “Read Harder” Challenge Check-up

Hello, internet people. It’s been a couple of posts since we’ve had an edition of Amanda Reads, so I figured it’s about time we check in with what’s been going on. As a contrast to my speed reading in the earlier months of the year, I’ve been in the middle of quite a book slump lately. As such, I’ve decided now is a good time to pause and take stock of the reading year so far. Therefore, I’m updating you all on my progress in the Book Riot read harder challenge.

My very high-tech way of keeping track of the challenge.
My very high-tech way of keeping track of the challenge.

In the earlier parts of my challenge, I paid VERY close attention to the books I was choosing and how they fit into the challenge. However, once the book slump began to set in, I started picking up the same old types of things I always have. Nothing quite saved me in my book life like Saint Anything, even if it in no way fits into the challenge. This taught me the very important lesson that your entire book life cannot be prescribed to fit any sort of standard–you need a little fun, too.

Celeste NgStill, I’ve been having a lot of fun with branching out in my reading life. I read Mr. Fox, for instance, because it is a fairy tale retelling and also because it came in my Quarterly box from Book Riot. It wasn’t the sort of book I would normally choose on my own, and yet I ended up loving it. Similarly, multiple recommendations of Everything I Never Told You inspired me to read a book that centers around a death/potential murder–another thing I wouldn’t typically do. Side note: I just met Celeste Ng, and it was awesome! She liked seeing the numerous sticky tabs I’d put in her book to track character development.

On the other hand, I still haven’t managed to get through the romance novel I picked (it’s a period romance, as per the Book Riot box, and I’m starting to think period romances are NOT my thing). I did finish a romance novel, but I counted it as “guilty pleasure” considering it was fairly poorly written and very much not something I’d want people to know I was reading as I sat in the hallway while my mother took her college entrance exam (which I did).

Technically, I’ve read “a YA novel” several times over, considering the fact that I’m currently working my way through The Princess Diaries series again so that I will officially be caught up and ready for Royal Wedding  (more on that later in a dedicated post).

One of the most interesting things I’m noticing about my reading this year is that the percentage of eBooks and audiobooks has gone way up since I got a Kindle and started working full time, giving me 30 minutes per day in the car to focus on book listening. Read Harder Books

I’ve still got most of the more difficult reading challenge books ahead of me (in terms of finding something to read), such as indigenous cultures, etc, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Let’s hope my Princess Diaries cleanse gets me back in the reading spirit–especially since I’m about to have a lot more time to read since summer hours have started at work.

As summer settles in, I look forward to lounging by the pool or on my porch, reading through challenge and non-challenge related books.


Amanda Reads: The Other Side of Paradise

I’m going to go ahead and assume that I’m going to get some backlash from the literary community for what I’m about to say, but I’m in the business of being honest, so… here we go.

For the first item on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge (book by an author who was under 25 when it was written), I decided to give good old F. Scott Fitzgerald another go. I’ve never been a big fan of The Great Gatbsy, but I’m always willing to admit that Fitzgerald can turn a beautiful phrase. One of my favorite literary quotes, in fact, comes from The Other Side of Paradise: “Why don’t you tell me that ‘if the girl had been worth having she’d have waited for you’? No, sir, the girl really worth having won’t wait for anybody.” (I have whispered this to myself after a breakup in order to encourage self-respecting behavior more times than I care to admit).

However, as a reader and as a writer, I think these beautiful phrases are often held up on highly visible strings that don’t equate to anything particularly worthwhile. In the case of Gatsby, my issue was the overblown mechanism of the symbols (I will forever roll my eyes at green lights). Still, I decided to try, try again, which brings us to this:
I hoped to see something worthwhile in The Other Side of Paradise, something that would show me why Fitzgerald is so beloved. In glimpses and glimmers, I do see it. The man has a way with words, he truly does. Sometimes he captures the human condition in a sparkling and crisp way that sent me highlighting in a feverish frenzy. But, as is so often the case in early writing, the main character Amory is such a thinly veiled portrait of the author as the author wished to see himself that I found it difficult to take anything seriously.
Amory is pretentious and conceited, seeing value in himself for the sheer fact that he feels he ought to be valuable (a human thing to do, perhaps, but we don’t all go around parading our significance the way Amory does). To follow his life is exhausting, made even more so by the fact that Fitzgerald doesn’t seem to have ever bothered to decide on a style or structure for the novel. It is pieced together in different formats and sections that seem more like a rough draft than anything worthy of publication. The beautiful phrases are beautiful, but they are stitched together clumsily in such a way that made it a true struggle for me to finish the book. Amory was less a character than an outlet for ideas, a way for Fitzgerald to display his (admittedly youthful) worldview about the sheer impossibility of being content as a great artist. So all in all, I can’t say I’m really that glad that I dragged myself through this one, and wouldn’t really recommend doing so to anyone. If you must read Fitzgerald, it’s best to start with Gatsby and see how you like it from there.