Reflections on the Reading Women Challenge 2020

In 2020, I participated in the Reading Women Challenge. I read 32 books for the 24 prompts plus 2 bonus prompts. It was a great experience and I wanted to share my journeys through some of those books.

First, I must thank @snehaprabhu for starting the group and inviting me to join. Second, I want to acknowledge all the members of the group who shared their passion for reading, book recommendations, reviews and encouragement. I couldn't have finished the challenge without you. Third, let me clarify that when I say "read" books, I mean "listened to" books on Audible.

Also, spoiler alert: While I will try to be careful, I may say things about these books that you may consider a spoiler. Sorry! With that, let's get started.

The book that shook me the most was The Fifth Season by @nkjemisin. I have read a lot of Sci-Fi but this was different. It was raw and relatable. It reflected on the problems of our society, not from a distance, not as an observer, but from being immersed in them. Yet, it remained a fantasy and took the reader on an epic journey through a world so different than ours!

Of course, then I had to finish the rest of the Broken Earth trilogy and it was ground-breaking! After reading the trilogy, in my mind, @nkjemisin was the voice of an entire generation. I needed to read more. So, I read her earlier work, the Inheritance trilogy which was just as epic and mind-bending but incredibly real at the same time. This series gets into the world of gods and godlings. You could make a case that it draws a thread of inspiration from Hinduism, at least in terms of having a lot of gods around doing things, good and bad, caring and callous.

Then I read her later work The City We Became. As a former New Yorker, I *loved*. Who hasn't been that guy in Central Park? Who hasn't been in one of those cabs? Who hasn't seen those beautiful graffiti murals in Brooklyn and the Bronx?

On deck for me is another book of hers: How long 'til Black Future Month?

I started following @nkjemisin on Twitter and saw that she mentioned Octavia Butler as her inspiration. I had not read Octavia Butler, and the Challenge had a prompt for "new to you author". Hmmm... so I dove in. I ended up reading the Kindred and the Patternmaster series.

The suffering, cruelty and helplessness she explores is moving by itself. The matter-of-fact way in which it is presented is shocking at first and then it helps you cope with the fact that it keeps going. The small triumphs of the characters bring unbridled job and the suspense is kept up, page after page.

On a lighter note, I also read Aru Shah and the End of Time. It is more "YA" than my usual fare, but I really liked it! It is a journey of an unsuspecting hero with mysteries to unravel and worlds to travel. So, of course, I had to finish reading the rest of the Pandava series. Book 4 came out this year (2021) and it is on my list.

(to be continued... I will keep adding more books as I find the time)