2016 Reading Challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy: My Picks

By Monday, January 18, 2016 , , ,

If you’ve been around here for long, you may have heard (read?) me singing the praises of one of my favorite blogs, Modern Mrs. Darcy, from time to time. Anne Bogel is the woman behind it, and everything she writes is insightful and interesting. She’s read more books than I could ever hope to, so her bookish posts are usually my favorites! Recently, she issued her 2016 Reading Challenge, which offers prompts to help you mix up and plan your reading a bit for the year. There are twelve prompts, which means you can shoot for around one book per month. They’re creative and have already helped steer me to books I might not have picked alone. Admittedly, I already had a huge TBR list before she put out the challenge, so several prompts were easy to fill, but others required a bit more work. Here are my picks! 

Photo Credit: Modern Mrs. Darcy

A book published this year: The Summer before the War by Helen Simonson 
One thing I love about Anne Bogel is that she’s so up to date on current reading trends! I’m working on that, so I was quite appreciative when she wrote a whole post on 2016 books she’s looking forward to. The description of this one caught my attention immediately: an English countryside setting, fascinating historical details, and memorable characters. Done!
A book you can finish in a day: Heir to Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson 
A fellow Anglophile and Jane Austen fan eagerly recommended Edenbrooke to me last year, and I positively flew through it. It sucked me in quickly and has all the charm and sweetness that Regency romance fans love. This new prequel to Edenbrooke shifts to the hero’s perspective, and I’m excited to get a detailed view of his side of the story. There were many times I wanted to get inside his head, so thank you, Julianne Donaldson, for giving us the chance! 

A book you’ve been meaning to read: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph Loconte
This has been on my TBR list for over a year, I believe. I first noticed it when Eric Metaxas, one of my favorite contemporary nonfiction authors (read more), endorsed it on social media. Plus, anything C.S. Lewis grabs my attention! This book explores the background of Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous friendship, as well as the effects of World War I on their lives and writings. Excited to get my hands on it!
A book recommended by your librarian or bookseller: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah 
This book kept popping up towards the end of last year, and I put it on my “keep in mind” list a while ago. Recently, I got more excited about it after reading further details about the plot – World War II, occupied France, and two women caught in perilous situations and decisions. And my librarian’s excitement over it sealed the deal! I’ve officially started this one and am eager for more! 

A book you should have read in school: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 
Somehow, this was never assigned reading for me in high school or college, and I’ve thought for a while that it was high time I got on it. It was one of the first that I put on my 2016 list at the end of last year, so here’s hoping it lives up to all the praise for me!
A book chosen for you by your spouse, partner, sibling, child, or BFF: Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith 
This is my BFF’s all-time favorite and she was quick to recommend it when I shared the challenge with her! Her words were “It’s super sweet and so real-life!” Sounds good to me! Set in 1927, it’s a love story that perseveres through poverty, hardship, and life challenges. That certainly sounds like real life, and I like a story that can tackle difficulty endearingly.
A book published before you were born: Jeremy Poldark; Warleggan by Winston Graham 
Books 3 and 4 in the acclaimed Poldark series. Yes, I’m slipping in two here, but... I had been planning on this, plus it’s hard to separate them. After falling in love with BBC’s new TV adaptation of Poldark, I promptly devoured books 1 and 2 – Ross Poldark and Demelza basis for the first season. I can’t wait for more of Graham’s stunning narration and further development of these characters I’ve come to love so much. Whether I can wait to read them at the same time that season 2 airs later this year remains to be seen.

A book that was banned at some point: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh 
I looked into this one when Anne Bogel wrote that it’s one of her favorite books. The summary I read reminded me of Downton Abbey with a bit more of a haunted air. It analyzes the downfall of the English aristocracy with some religious discussion woven in. I’m honestly not sure what to expect on this one, so we’ll see how it goes!
A book you previously abandoned: Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis 
C.S. Lewis’ autobiography that I first tried to read in high school. It’s a goal of mine to read several of C.S. Lewis’ nonfiction works this year, and this prompt made me remember Surprised by Joy. I think I was too young to totally understand Lewis’ thought processes and to fully appreciate his style outside the Narnia books. Hopefully this second try will turn out better!
A book you own but have never read: Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller 
Keller is a gifted pastor and teacher, and I’ve honestly been a little scared of this book in the past because I know I’ll be convicted! It’s a lengthy analysis of how our work in this world connects to God’s work and how His purposes for us are related to how He designed us to work. I’m at a fitting stage of life to read this one, so I’m looking forward to picking it up.
A book that intimidates you: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell 
Elizabeth Gaskell is a great place to start for Jane Austen fans who are tempted to just read Austen’s six novels over and over for the rest of their lives. Gaskell knows how to write a spunky heroine and a swoon-worthy hero. I read Wives and Daughters by her last year and really enjoyed it. However, North and South has made me nervous because of its size, and there are some aspects of Gaskell’s style that make her more difficult for me to follow than Austen at times. But I’ve been told many times that I would love the story and the BBC adaptation with Richard Armitage (be still my heart!), and this is a case where I’d like to have read the book first. So here’s hoping I can get past my fear! 

A book you’ve already read at least once: The Painter’s Daughter by Julie Klassen 
I sang the praises of this Regency era gem at the end of last year. It was easily one of my favorites that I read in 2015, and I knew before I’d finished it that it would be a reread this year. It’s a stunning story of redemption, forgiveness, suspense, and steadfast love, and the characters are some of Julie Klassen’s finest. I can’t wait to dig into this book again. I read it compulsively fast the first time, so I’m looking forward to savoring it a bit more slowly this time!


I hope you're planning good reading for this year too! Grab the Challenge's printable from Anne's post on the Reading Challenge and get inspiration from her Pinterest board devoted specifically to it! And be sure to check out her new podcast, "What Should I Read Next?" for more ideas on where to go next in your reading! She has more than abundant suggestions!

What are you reading this year? Have you read any of my picks? What did you think? What are your picks for the 2016 Challenge if you're participating? I'd love to hear! 

*I do not own the rights to the book images in this post. Photo credits linked below*
Summer Before the War; Heir to Edenbrooke; A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War; The Nightingale; To Kill A Mockingbird; Joy in the Morning; Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan; Brideshead Revisited; Surprised by Joy; North and South; Every Good Endeavor; The Painter's Daughter 

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  1. Hi Elizabeth,
    I've been silently popping in on your blog for the past few months, but when you mentioned North & South I had to say something. Gaskell is one of my favorite authors and North & South may be my favorite of hers. The tone is much more serious than Wives & Daughters as it deals with some heavy social issues. But it has the same wonderfully complex characters and relationships. (And the miniseries is top-notch.) Enjoy!
    Bethany G.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Bethany! :) It's encouraging to know you've been reading and I'm glad for your feedback about North and South. I've heard nothing but wonderful things about it and it's definitely my kind of genre, so I'm hoping to be pleased for sure! The little nervousness kinda pops up whenever I think about it, so it's going to be a matter of just starting, haha. Thanks for the extra nudge! I'm looking forward to the story!