Tag: Bestseller Code 100 (Page 1 of 10)

Book Review of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I read this book as part of the 2017 European Reading Challenge and also The Bestseller Code Reading Challenge.   Locations include Belgium &  The Netherlands, mostly Amsterdam, and the United States.

The Goldfinch*, by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

The Goldfinch (2014) is Donna Tartt’s third novel, following her critically acclaimed debut novel The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2003).  Observe the number of years between each publication date; Tartt takes her time, writing large novels, both in length and in scope.


When I finish a book, I like to read other descriptions and reviews.  Sometimes those reviews gel the thoughts and feelings I had while reading the novel, while other times I disagree entirely with the reviewer.  While reading through a few reviews for The Goldfinch, I came across a new term (to me): bildungsroman.  Merriam-Webster provides this definition:

literature : a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character – a bildungsroman by Charles Dickens

This is certainly an apt description for The Goldfinch, as Tartt leads the main character, Theo Decker, on a decade long journey of life-altering catastrophes, emotional and physical upheavals, grief, and survivor’s guilt, providing plenty of opportunities for moral and psychological growth.  As a reader, Theo drew me in from the very beginning, and I followed his journey avidly, hoping he would make it through the storms, while preparing myself for the possibility that he would not.

Truisms and Real Literature

Some reviewers blasted The Goldfinch for not being “real literature” because the novel explained too much to the reader and didn’t require said reader to have to analyze the book for its underlying message.  The last chapter presents several “truisms” that Theo has come to realize from his bildungsroman, and they are spelled out for the reader.  These reviews included long rants about what the term “real literature” means, what makes a book “serious” and “literary” rather than merely a contemporary novel, quickly read and easily forgotten.  The same discussion occurs with art.  What is art?  What makes it art?  Tartt addresses this:

You see one painting, I see another, the art book puts it at another remove still, the lady buying the greeting card at the museum gift shop sees something else entire, and that’s not even to mention the people separated from us by time—four hundred years before us, four hundred years after we’re gone—it’ll never strike anybody the same way and the great majority of people it’ll never strike in any deep way at all but—a really great painting is fluid enough to work its way into the mind and heart through all kinds of different angles, in ways that are unique and very particular.


In the end, art is whatever makes us, as individuals, feel.  Literature is the same.  It challenges us individually.  It speaks to us individually.  It affects us individually.  For me, The Goldfinch is definitely literature, worthy of the time it took to read.  It’s a book that I will think about and mull over for weeks to come, and one that I will quite likely read again.

This is an abbreviated review.  For the full review, please visit It’s A Mystery Blog.

Book Review of Us by David Nicholls

I read this book as part of the 2017 European Reading Challenge.   Locations include Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium, France, and England.

I was first introduced to David Nicholls when I read One Day as part of the 100 Bestsellers List reading challenge. I enjoyed One Day and I liked Us even more. Us is narrated by Douglas Petersen, a middle-aged Englishman living a typical suburban life with his wife, Connie, and their seventeen-year-old son, Albie. An upcoming summer Grand Tour of Europe’s capitals has been planned as a last family vacation together before Albie goes off to university. Douglas is hoping this trip will provide one last chance to bond with Albie, with whom he has always felts somewhat of a stranger. Shortly before the trip, Connie tells Douglas that she’s thinking of leaving him, maybe “sometime in the fall,” and now Douglas has the added pressure of making Connie love him again during the Grand Tour.

Us *, by David Nicholls

(*Amazon Affiliate link)

I really liked Douglas. He reminded of people I know, and often, even myself. He means well, he has lofty ideals and goals of how he will communicate and treat those he loves, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty, he becomes tongue-tied and reverts to banal statements. He wants his son to succeed, but can’t see success in Albie’s choices of busking and photography. The more he worries about his relationship with Albie and Albie’s future as an adult, the more he pushes Albie and the more alienated Albie becomes.

In addition to the present day story line of the Grand Tour, Nichols fills in Douglas and Connie’s backstory in alternating chapters, which allows us to see what two such different personality types initially saw in each other and what compromises they made throughout their married life. All the characters in this story are well-written and believable. The ending has a bit of a twist, not necessarily the happy ending one would have wanted when first starting to read Us, but satisfying, just the same. I will be looking for more David Nicholls books to read in the future.

The 26-Book 2017 Reading Challenge Recap

I participated in three separate reading challenges in 2017.  Luckily, several of the books I read fulfilled the requirements for multiple challenges, so that helped immensely.  I am still working on the 2017 European Reading challenge, as that one runs from January 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018, so a recap will be posted in late January.  The Bestsellers Seller Code 100 reading challenge is ongoing – we’re a little better than a quarter through the 100 books.

Even though there are 3 days left in 2017, I am done with the 26-Book 2017 Reading Challenge.  I fulfilled 23 of the 26 “categories” in the challenge – I ran out of time and was unable to complete the first 3 in the challenge.

Here’s the list, along with the books I read to complete the categories.

  1. A book you read in school
  2. A book from your childhood
  3. A book published over 100 years ago
  4. A book published in the last year – The Immortal Irishman: The Irish Revolutionary Who Became an American Hero, by Timothy Egan, published 03/01/2016 (02/24/17)
  5. A non-fiction book – Happy Herbivore Light & Lean: Over 150 Low-Calorie Recipes with Plans for Looking and Feeling Great, by Lindsay S. Nixon (04/16/2017)
  6. A book written by a male author – The Last Child, by John Hunt (01/05/2017)
  7. A book written by a female author – Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory (04/08/2017)
  8. A book by someone who isn’t a writer (think Paul Kalathani or Richard Branson) – Here’s The Story, by Maureen McCormick (05/16/17)
  9. A book that became/is becoming a film – One Day, by David Nicholls (02/27/2017)
  10. A book published in the 20th Century – The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans (03/02/2017)
  11. A book set in your hometown/region – Fountain of Youth, by Jim Gullo (08/20/2017)
  12. A book with someone’s name in the title – Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (02/12/2017)
  13. A book with a number in the title – Sisters One, Two, Three, by Nancy Star (01/08/2017)
  14. A book with a character with your first name – World War Z, by Max Brooks (05/10/2017)
  15. A book someone else recommended to you – The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict (07/07/2017)
  16. A book with over 500 pages – The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, 1858 – 1919, by Douglas Brinkley (03/23/2017)
  17. A book you can finish in a day – Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modern Bestiary, by David Sedaris (09/11/17)
  18. A previously banned book – The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein (08/11/2017)
  19. A book with a one-word title – Cashelmara, by Susan Howatch (11/25/17)
  20. A book translated from another language – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson (01/20/17)
  21. A book that will improve a specific area of your life – How to Get Out of Debt, Stay Out of Debt, and Live Prosperously*: Based on the Proven Principles and Techniques of Debtors Anonymous, by Jerrold Mundis (06/27/2017)
  22. A memoir or journal – Tell My Sons: A Father’s Last Letters, by Mark M Weber (10/12/2017)
  23. A book written by someone younger than you – The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (10/07/2017)
  24. A book set somewhere you’ll be visiting this year – Official Tour Book Yellowstone National Park (07/02/2017)
  25. An award-winning book – The Orphan Master’s Son, by Adam Johnson (04/03/17), Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2013)
  26. A self-published book – The Mill River Recluse, by Darcie Chan (01/13/2017)

While this was fun, I don’t think I will participate again in 2018.  I have a couple of other challenges in mind, which I will post about later on.

Did you join any reading challenges in 2017?  If so, how did you do?

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