Unread Shelves Challenge 2021
Book Recommendations

What I’m Planning to Read for the Unread Shelves Challenge

Thanks to Stephany’s post, I discovered a new-to-me challenge that PERFECTLY fits the bill on what I was needing from my reading life this year. One of my 101 in 1001 goals is to start reading a lot more from my own shelves (50 books, in fact), but I was struggling with a way to go about it. Enter The Unread Shelves Challenge, which you can read all about on this blog, where it originated.

Now, I’ve seen a lot (and I mean a LOT) of book challenges over the years (and I’ve even created a few of my own!), but I usually am not overly motivated to actually dive in and participate in one. Maybe this was just a case of right thing, right time, but I am feeling ALL IN for this challenge this year!

Below, I’ve included the categories for each month from the original challenge, as well as what I plan to read for each (and why).

Happy reading, everyone!

Note: There are affiliate links to the books mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you.

Unread Shelves Challenge 2021

I *almost* picked Circe for this category but ended up changing it at the last minute because this Christmas gift to myself finally arrived in the mail the other day :). I’m a total mood reader, and lately I’ve been in the mood for complete comfort reading the majority of the time, which often looks like books about home and cooking and thoughts on ordinary life. I learned about this author from one of my go-to comfort reads authors, Katrina Kenison, which she listed as one of HER favorite comfort reads. This book combines anecdotes of memorable meals made and shared, thoughts on home and cooking, as well as the recipes for the dishes mentioned. I’ve only glanced through it thus far, but I think this is EXACTLY what I’m in the mood for right now.

McDougall’s smash hit Born to Run earned a solid five stars from me and forever changed how I thought of so many things when it came to running and endurance and what the human body is capable of, and I was thrilled when my friend surprised me by gifting me his latest release in the mail soon after it was released. I started this one almost immediately upon receiving it, but then had to put it aside after getting pregnant and then giving birth to my daughter. Between juggling a full-time teaching job and trying to adjust to life as a brand-new mom, this book fell by the wayside, and then it was packed away (with almost all my other books) in boxes for over three years. In this nonfiction book by McDougall, he travels to the Mediterranean to research the power of the human body and exercise in a different format, this time by weaving together mythic tales of the ancient Greek heroes with the true story of a daring band of WWII fighters who carried out the nearly impossible abduction of a German general. Reviews on this are decidedly mixed, so I’m curious to see where I’ll fall!

So, I’m not one to really buy books on trips. In fact, one of the hardest things for me about packing for a trip is choosing the books I’m going to bring with me, which has often meant that I purchase books right BEFORE a trip (#truth). If you want to get technical, I *kind of* bought this on a trip—if you consider a visit to our folks who lived an hour away at the time a “trip”–but it’s about the only one I could come up with. My favorite used bookstore of all time is in the town I grew up in, and I often visit it whenever we’re home with family. I purchased this on just such an instance, as Lisa See has always been a favorite author of mine. This particular book by her is much different than her usual fare, however—rather than being a historical fiction, this one is historical fact, and it’s based on her own family’s rich and colorful history. Seeing as how I’m a bit obsessed with family history and genealogy and have always enjoyed See’s writing, this one should prove a winner.

I know, I know—I’m way behind the times on this one. This is the perfect example of a book I’ve been intending to read forever continuously getting overshadowed by the new and shiny. However, since I’ve heard this quirky book about a socially challenged professor on the lookout for love is hilarious and charming and totally a feel-good book (all of which I could use more of in my life right now), I’ve decided that IT’S FINALLY THE YEAR FOR THIS.

I got this as a brand-new release through my Book of the Month box (a subscription that has been a delightful spot of joy in my life since I joined last year as it was clear the pandemic was going to rage on), and to be honest, I’m not sure if I can wait until May to read it. Gyasi’s debut novel Homegoing was stunningly written and thought-provoking, and I’ve heard almost nothing but positive about this sophomore achievement about a young woman coming into her own as she grapples with the forces of her scientific profession and her childhood faith after her brother dies of an overdose.

I’ve always had a bit of wanderlust, but due to budgetary constraints, the difficulty of traveling with small children, and the current pandemic, I haven’t gone hardly anywhere in recent years. This memoir by an award-winning journalist about her journey to discover who she is as a truly independent woman–apart from everyone else’s expectations of her–as she travels through Europe should hopefully be a breath of fresh air as we’re all mostly (still) stuck at home for the time being.

I did buy this book for the cover, but not in the way you might think—I actually bought it because of the sticker. For many years, I was very list-driven when it came to what I read and what I purchased to read, almost exclusively only buying books that had won awards or been a runner-up for an award. Now, my reading tastes have come a long way since then, but as I’ve heard phenomenal things about this book—especially how well it seems to work as a read-aloud–I think it’s a purchase I’ll be glad I made anyway :). I don’t know yet if I’ll do this one as a read-aloud with my children or not, but I’m expecting to enjoy it either way!

I followed Weaver’s blog Tea & Cookies for years and years (which you unfortunately cannot access anymore, sadly), and so when I heard that she’d finally published the memoir she’d been working on for so long, I knew it would eventually end up in my hands through one way or another. I purchased this from an independent bookseller through Biblio (my favorite online resource for used books), and I think this story of one mother-daughter duo who strive to mend their fraught relationship through reviving a neglected garden will be perfect for the late summer, when I’ll need all the motivation I can get to keep tackling the weeds that will surely be in my own.

For many, many years, I nursed the dream of wanting to publish a book, and I purchased many a volume on writing and revising and editing during that time. While that dream doesn’t hold the fire for me that it once did, I still enjoy writing and blogging about my own life and my own thoughts, which means that if I ever do decide to write a book, it will likely be in the nonfiction genre. I don’t know if this will rekindle my old dream, but I’m hoping that it will help me to want to keep working on improving my craft, even if it’s just for my own journal or for my blog posts here.

If you’ve gotten my free mini magazine of 25 of the books on my life’s bucket list, you’ll already know that it’s no secret that I’m afraid to read this book. I’ve read two other books by Morrison before, but I was pretty young and missed much of the significance of them both, although many of the images from them still stay with me. This modern classic of a mother having to confront her horrific past and the lengths she went to keep her child from slavery is not going to be a fun read or a light read. Many people hate it. However, I’ve long felt this would be an important book for me to tackle, so I’m hoping that this year, I can muster up the courage to finish it.

Stegner’s Crossing to Safety easily makes it into the top 5 favorite fiction books I’ve ever read, so it’s incredible to me that I still haven’t tried anything else by him, although I have purchased a couple other works of his (including this one, obviously). This title won the Pulitzer in 1972, and it’s narrated by a wheelchair-bound retired historian who sets out to chronicle the sweeping story of his grandparents as they built up the Western frontier. I’m expecting this one to be lush with description, heartbreaking but stunning, and one that I’ll be rereading passages of just to savor the language a little longer.

Historically, December is always my worst reading month, so I needed to pick something easy and quick. This children’s lit pick was a favorite of my best friend’s growing up, but although I’ve owned it for a long, long time, I just never got around to reading it. The Logan family has always prized the land, but it’s not until the race riots and personal prejudice against them starts breaking out that they realize just how deep their love for it is. I honestly don’t know much about this book at all, but almost every single friend of mine on Goodreads has given it a 4- or 5-star rating, and I’m fully expecting this to help me finish my reading year strong.

What books from YOUR shelves would you pick with these categories in mind? Drop three (or more) titles in the comments below!

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