This year I barely managed to complete the Hub Reading Challenge, squeaking by on the last day with my 25th book–I am the Messenger–one that I own and had previously read. Like my fellow blogger, Steve, I started off at the beginning of February thinking I’d fly through this. Twenty five books in five months? There would be plenty of time to read five books each month. Then work, and family, and sleep, and other books got in the way and before I knew it, I was scrambling through the Hub’s eligible title list looking for anything I could finish quickly.
I’m well aware that the point of the Hub Reading Challenge is to encourage us to become familiar with last year’s award-winning young adult fiction, nonfiction, and audiobooks. The exposure to new titles and new authors is a winning proposition no matter how many books one finishes in the Challenge. And yet. . . once I started, it became a mad dash to the finish, using whatever strategies I could come up with to see me to the end.
I’m not an athlete and I’m not much of a competitor. I don’t even read fast! But last year, I finished the Hub Challenge for the first time, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it again. So this is what I did:
- I listened to as many audiobooks as I could get from the library catalog. When I physically couldn’t have a book in my hand, I was listening to one: in the car, while I cleaned, and when I cooked. I finished Paolo Bacigalupi’s Zombie Baseball Beatdown, Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, Daniel Kraus’ Scowler, Terry Pratchett’s Dodger, and L.A. Meyer’s Viva Jacquelina!: Being an Account of the further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Over the Hills and Far Away. The most memorable by far was Daniel Kraus’ Scowler (Read my review here.) although I enjoyed the listening experience of Eleanor & Park and Dodger after having read both books earlier. Also notable was Viva Jacquelina! narrated by the incomparable Katherine Kellgren.
- I read the Alex winners (adult titles recommended for teens) first. I don’t read much adult fiction, so I wanted to start on those early when I would have the most time and feel less rushed. I read The Universe Versus Alex Wood by Gavin Extence, The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay, Help for the Haunted by John Searles, and Brewster by Mark Slouka.
- I read graphic novels in between the long books. They were usually much faster to complete and most often, I could finish one in an evening. I read Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge, Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox, War Brothers by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance, and Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (why did that only count as one title when it’s two books?!).
- The “Quick Picks” and “Popular Paperbacks” are usually fast reads, often humorous in tone. I read them toward the end of the Challenge when I was beginning to feel the strain of completing. That’s why I read Don Calame’s Swim the Fly and Jeffery Brown’s Star Wars Jedi Academy.
- I read two nonfiction books: Chip Kidd’s Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design and James Swanson’s The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. Kidd’s book was dense with information and took me a while to get through, although I enjoyed how thoroughly it revealed the influence of good graphic design. James Swanson’s book on President Kennedy’s assassination left some details hanging but provided a solid overall view for young people researching this historical tragedy for the first time.
- The other titles I read were Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner, Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn, Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, and Winger by Andrew Smith.
- Lastly, I finished by rereading two books I own–Markus Zusak’s Getting the Girl and I Am the Messenger. He’s one of my favorite authors and it was a pleasure revisiting these books. Not something I do usually, since there are always so many new books jockeying for attention.
Will I do the Hub Reading Challenge again next year? Probably. It ‘s such a great way to read across a wide swath of recommended young adult literature.