And just like that, nearly six months have passed us by. Most of us are still living in isolation, as brought about by the pandemic but the future is starting to look bright compared to the same period last year when there was not a single shred of clarity. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly reset the way we conduct our lives. With six months nearly done, it is also time to reflect on how the year is going, at least in terms of reading and books. This book tag, which I first did in 2017, sounds just the right barometer to measure how my reading year has gone by. I have to admit though, “freak out” is kind of excessive for it is too early to push that panic button; perhaps sometime in October or November, LOL.
You can check my previous editions below:
- Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag
- Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (2019 Edition)
- Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag (2020 Edition)
But before we can proceed with my 2021 Mid-year Freak Out Tag, let me quickly run through how my reading year has gone so far, at least in terms of reading. With the continued quarantine in the Philippines, I have been breaking barriers in terms of reading volume (and yes, I have been buying more than I did in previous years). For the second year running, I have reached more than 40 books at mid year. Because of my reading momentum, I have increased my Goodreads Reading Challenge target from 60 to 75. Here’s a summary of the reading lists I have for the year and the current status:
- Goodreads 2020 Reading Challenge: 46 out of 75
- 2021 Top 21 Reading List: 9 out of 21
- 2021 Beat the Backlist Challenge: 4 out of 12
- 2021 Books I Look Forward To List: 1 out of 11
Compared to last year, I am lagging behind in all my reading challenges but with the second half of the year just over the horizon, I am aiming to make up for lost time but zooming through all of these (hopefully). The most challenging to complete, as always, is the 2021 Books I Look Forward To List. Whilst I have read one from the list already, I am having a challenging time procuring copies for the other books. Without further ado, here goes my own version of Mid Year Freak Out Tag.
1. Best book(s) you’ve read so far in 2021
With nearly fifty books done, I had a challenge picking up books that really has made an impression on me because a lot of them did. However, I rounded up my choice to Maryse Conde’s Crossing the Mangrove, Alejandro Zambra’s Multiple Choice, Eka Kurniawan’s Beauty is A Wound, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. The first three were my first works from these authors and I must say that they have all made deep impact on me. Multiple Choice, for instance, has an unorthodox execution; the story was related in the form of an aptitude test. Beauty is a Wound, on the other hand, was my first novel by an Indonesian novel and it won me over with its rich and lush tapestry.
2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2021
It was early in the year that I have learned that Pulitzer Prize winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen is going to release his second novel, nearly five years after his successful debut novel, The Sympathizer. The Committed, a continuation to the titular Sympathizer’s story, is a deep rumination on the impact of colonization on the nations colonizers deemed they have to “set straight” (for a lack of word). Vo Danh (Vietnamese for nameless) is still an unreliable and witty narrator. Nguyen hasn’t lost his touch.
3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to
There is actually quite a lot of 2021 releases that I am really looking forward to reading. At the top of the list are Ashley Audrain’s The Push, Zakiya Dalila Harris’ The Other Black Girl, Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle, and Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby. The first two novels are part of my 2021 Books I Look Forward To List and for good reasons. The two other novels were recently added to my reading list after I have encountered several glowing reviews on both books. Detransition, Baby was also longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Gladly, I already have a copy of The Push, and Detransition, Baby and I am looking forward to reading them after July.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
Had it not been for the latest Top Five Tuesday topic, I would have not learned that Benjamin Alire Saenz is releasing a sequel to his hugely popular work, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I admit, he also won a fan in me with this novel even though I have an aversion for young adult fiction. Expected to be published on October 12, Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World got me excited with what Ari and Dante has in store.
5. Biggest disappointment
When I learned that Nobel Laureate in Literature Kazuo Ishiguro was also releasing a new work this year, Klara and the Sun, I was excited. It is going to be his first novel since he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017. Even before I bought a copy of the book, I was already apprehensive because science fiction was really not my alley. I should have trusted my instinct but on the other hand, I cannot resist reading another Ishiguro novel. What I was disappointed in? First, I found the writing a little underwhelming. Second, the conclusion was a 360-degree turn of what the story tried to build.
6. Biggest surprise
When I bought José Donoso’s A House in the Country, I had not an ounce of expectation for he was a name I was unfamiliar with (it was an impulse and random purchase). However, when I read that the book was recommended by an online literary publication as one of the best books about Latin America, my expectation of the novel soared. And I was in for a treat! Donoso’s storytelling was spellbinding, and he was wittily making the readers part of the story. It was a lush prose, with tinges of magical realism, satire, and even parody.
7. Favorite new author (debut or new to you)
Maryse Condé. I first encountered Maryse Condé’s name during the leadup to the announcement of the 2018/2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Many a literary critic favored her to snatch one of the two awards. Unfortunately, she lost to Peter Handke and Olga Tokarczuk. Nevertheless, it was enough to bring her to my attention and the moment that I encountered one of her works, I did not hesitate in purchasing it. Crossing the Mangrove was a treat of a read for its well thought-out structure. It made me want to read more of her works. (My copy of Segu just arrived today).
8. Newest fictional crush
Having fictional crush, I guess, is not my thing.
9. Newest favorite character
Patroclus from The Song of Achilles. Contrary to expectations, it was Patroclus who narrated The Song of Achilles. In Patroclus, the readers meet a loyal friend and lover who stood by Achilles despite the challenges they had to go through. Achilles’ mother, Thetis, for instance, made his life a living hell but he stood his ground, defying the gods to stay by Achilles’ side.
10. Book that made you cry
I rarely cry because of books I read and it was the same this year. Rather than a book that made me cry, I am listing a book that made me emotional. Buchi Emecheta’s The Joys of Motherhood is an eye-opening story about the challenges not just African but women in general in a world where patriarchy remains prevalent. The story of Nnu Ego and the hardships she had to deal with – from destitution, to starvation, to her husband’s second wife (as custom allows) – gave me a deeper insight on what women have to deal with. It did remind me of my mother, whom I am always thankful to and grateful for.
11. Book that made you happy
Picking an for this question was a challenge for most of my reads this year are on the heavy and dark side. Nevertheless, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is a beacon that shines bright because of its message about survival. A couple of years aback, the movie adaptation of the Man Booker Prize winning novel was a sensation. A couple of years thence, I am finally reading the text version of the movie. It is packed with philosophies, some I don’t agree with, but it all made for an interesting reading journey. It was literally a journey!
12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)
I think of all the books that I have bought this year so far, Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby had the most appealing cover. It was supposed to be one of the books to be included in my 2021 Books I Look Forward To List but I there was just too many good choices to choose from. Had the book not been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, it might not have piqued my interest again. Thankfully, it was not a challenge availing a copy of the book, which I acquired through an online bookseller. And whilst I am not a fan of color green, the eccentric and eclectic combination easily caught my attention.
13.What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
For this question, I usually list books from my Top 20/21 Reading List but for this year, I am deviating from my own norm. Of all the books in my reading list, two title stands out to me, two titles I badly want to read before the year ends. The first one is Maggie Shipstead’s Great Circle. I have been reading positive reviews and feedback on the back that even though I have never heard of the writer or any of her works before, I didn’t hesitate in adding it to my (perpetually growing) reading list. I just hope I get to avail a copy of the book soon. Another book I have been longing to read is Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs. I am a fan of Japanese literature but majority of what I have read are from popular and established writers such as Haruki Murakami, Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, and Kenzaburo Oe. And need I say more that they are all males. In reading Breasts and Eggs, I am hoping to get an insight on the role of women in Japanese society. My target is to read the book next month.
14. Favorite book community member
Apart from WordPress, Goodreads is the only book community that I am part of. Well, WordPress is not even a book community but through it, I have encountered several bookworms who share the same passion I have. Among my favorite members in the blogging community are Éimhear @ A Little Book Haze, Em @ Embookstuff, Riddhi @ Whispering Stories and Happymess Happiness. I appreciate your blogs and I am grateful that you try to engage in my own blog. Your inputs are all appreciated.
So there goes my version of the Mid-Year Freak Out Tag. Interested to do it? Go ahead. Just don’t forget to tag me.
I’ve been looking forward to reading Americanah, so the fact that it is in your top picks of the year (so far) has me even more excited! 🤗 And I didn’t know Aristotle and Dante would be getting a sequel until you informed me just now, so apparently, I live under a rock… Anyway, I hope the second half of your reading year turns out just as good as the first one! Great post, Carl!
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I was just reading a book featuring Achilles – The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker. I loved it. Greek myths are having a good time at the minute – they’re in fashion! I agree with you about Klara and the Sun.
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I will look up A House in the Country. Sounds great!
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I hope you like it 🙂
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