Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 Reading Challenge: Week 13

This week, I read River of Doubt by Candice Millard.  Let me say first off, it's kind of hard to write a bad book about Teddy Roosevelt.  Bigger than life in everything I've ever read about him, this book does nothing to dispel that image.  The book tells the story of Roosevelt's journey down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon, and the hardships (and calling them "hardships" is really the tip of the iceberg here) the exploration party encountered during the trip. The group of explorers that went on this trip was probably the best suited to explore this area, in an era where no one got to pop off to REI for a nice lightweight canoe that folded up and army rations for food.  The twin leaders of the group Roosevelt with his larger-than-life personality, and the Brazilian explorer, Candido Rondon, a taciturn military man, are polar opposites about many things, but both of them knew a thing or three about seemingly unworkable odds for a good outcome of bad ventures.  The group experienced setback after setback, and Roosevelt himself winds up injured and extremely ill during the exploration trip.  (At one point in the book, he tells the group to go ahead without him.  He's got raging fevers and a horrible infection in his leg with abscess formations and can scarely walk.)

The book is a blend of naturalist facts about the Amazon, the river itself, the rain forest, the creatures in it (this was, in theory, also a trip to catalogue flora and fauna of the region, as well as map The River of Doubt itself) and a history of the explorer's trip.  The author does a fantastic job weaving historical tidbits about each of the members of the expedition together with world history at the time, and anecdotes about Roosevelt himself.  Well-written, engaging and fascinating - I highly recommend this one!  (I also appreciated greatly the extensive followup section that chronicled what happened to the main members of the party after the expedition finished up - that was worth the price of admission for me right there.)

I've now started Belle Cora, for week #27 - a book with a beautiful title.  I've read the first quarter or so and I'm really enjoying this one. It's a historical fiction book spanning the early 19th century through the Great Earthquake in San Francisco at the beginning of the 20th - told from the perspective of a young woman who became a well-known madame in San Francisco after growing up in a fervent Evangelical household in the 1840s.

The 2016 List
1. A book you meant to read in 2015, but didn't
2. A book set in a different continent
3. A book from the Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 (winner or nominated)
4. A book by an author you discovered in 2015: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr - DONE.
5. A book with a title beginning with the 1st letter of your name:  Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose - DONE.
6. The highest rated on your TBR
7. A book about books
8. A classic book with less than 200 pages:  Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence - DONE
9. A book that was mentioned in another book
10. A book by an author you feel you should have read by now
11. A book from the Rory Gilmore challenge
12. A childhood classic
13. Reader’s Choice:  Vienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell - DONE.
14. A book with one of the five W’s -or H in the title (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) What She Left - T.R. Richmond - DONE.
15. A book set in the past (more than 100 years ago):  Cervantes Street by Jamie Manrique - DONE.
16. A book from the top 100 mystery novels
17. A book with a beautiful cover: Bluebeard's Egg by Margaret Atwood
18. A book on a summer/beach reading list
19. A non-fiction book
20. A book with a first name in the title
21. A book from the Goodreads Recommendations page
22. The first book in a new to you series
23. The next book in a series you are reading
24. A "between the numbers" book of a series (0.5, 1,5, 2.5, etc.):  The Three Monarchs by Anthony Horowitz - DONE.
25. A book whose main character is in a profession that interests you
26. A book everyone is talking about
27. A book with a beautiful title (in your own opinion): Belle Cora - Richard Margulies
28. A biography, autobiography, or memoir
29. A book by an author who writes under more than one name:  The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) - DONE.
30. A fairytale from a culture other than your own
31. A work of young adult fiction:  The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge. DONE.
32. A historical fiction book
33. The 16th book on your TBR
34. A book about mental illness: Adeline by Norah Vincent - DONE
35. An award winning book: River of Doubt by Candice Millard - DONE.
36. An identity book - a book about a different culture, religion or sexual orientation:  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - DONE.
37. A book that you've seen the movie of but haven't read
38. A book about an anti hero:  Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace - DONE.
39. A previous suggestion that did not make it into the list
40. A novella from your favorite genre:
41. A book about a major world event (fiction or non-fiction)
42. A top 100 fantasy novel
43. A book about a thing that goes bump in the night
44. A book you're embarrassed to read in public
45. A book related to a hobby or passion you have
46. A crime story:  The Cutting Season by Attica Locke - DONE.
47. A book with a type of food/drink in the title
48. A dystopia
49. A book with a great opening line
50. A book originally written in a language other than English:  Tove Jansson's The Summer Book - DONE.
51. A short story from a well-known author
52. A book published in 2016

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