Our POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2019 Summer Update

Posted by Lydia Eagle on

It happened again - we're in the last month of Summer, and it feels like it's barely begun. Who else literally has no memory of actually living through 31 whole days in July? Some of us (speaking solely for myself here) have not made nearly as much progress on our Summer reading lists as we hoped. But since we are all about reading challenges here at Page Chaser, we felt obliged to remind you that we are, indeed, still participating in the POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge. Last summer we highlighted our participation in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and while several of us are also doing that challenge this year, today we're raising the stakes with an update on an even bigger challenge. So here's the deal: The POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge consists of 40 prompt PLUS 10 "advanced" prompts for the extra ambitious among us. The goal is is A) to read more and B) to intentionally read books that are outside of our comfort zones. And, of course, a little fierce friendly competition doesn't hurt. It's during the busiest seasons when the reading challenge assassins sneakily make their way to the top of the roster, and this Summer is no exception.

In the fight to be the champion, who will come out on top?? Make your guesses in the comments below our POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge updates!

Stephanie N.:

Hi. I’m Stephanie, and I am a reading challenge delinquent. After a stellar 2018, where I completed both the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and my GoodReads goal of reading 75 books, I was flying high. But I was also burnt out. I … just … could … not … read … new … books. Note that I said “new” books. I read. I just reread and reread stuff I had read a million times, and I DO NOT count those books, people. I’m still trudging along. I’ll finish, but I won’t win - much to the chagrin of my enneagram one personality. This past week on vacation, I was working three books at one time – on the beach, in the condo, and audiobook in the car. I might not be able to tell you what I read at the end of it, but I WILL FINISH. giphy.com

Currently: 19/50

GoodReads: 33/75


A book with at least one million rating on GoodReads: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden Book featuring an amateur detective: Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas A book revolving around a game or a puzzle: The Friend Zone by Sariah Wilson


Thank goodness for audiobooks or else I would be at a grand total of one book in this challenge. Yup, that’s right, I’ve read one print book this year (including ebook, but I never read ebooks). However, my commute has become a haven of books, and that, my friends, is a wonderful thing. Unfortunately, I got off to a slow start by picking really long audiobooks, so I’m definitely behind the halfway point, and it’s August. Whoops!
giphy.com POPSUGAR 2019 reading challenge Audiobooks: The only way to read with your eyes closed.
I was making some headway through the summer after my slow start, but I made the mistake of listening to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. I did not realize the kind of cliffhanger that was going to be. Now I’m halfway through the second book in the series, and I’m trying to find a way to work that into the reading challenge because I’ve derailed the reading challenge train. Probably a bad idea to start a YA series and pretend that I wasn’t going to care what happened next, but here we are.

Currently: 14/50


A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – It’s a YA horse book. Of course it’s a favorite. A book recommended by a celebrity you admire: Becoming by Michelle Obama – I listened to a large portion of this on a four-hour flight to San Diego. And I cried. A lot. In an airplane. With people watching. But oh it was such a good book.

Jason Blackthorne:

I, Jason Blackthorne, am sauntering along at a nicely gait, but sadly, not aggressively enough to overcome Rachel Scott. Key to my strategy this year: short books, which totally explains why I chose The Goldfinch for my first entry, in the category A Book Becoming a Movie in 2019. This sucker is 771 pages in print, which equals 15 light years in e-book pages.

Currently: 30/50

Faves so far:

A book becoming a movie in 2019: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. My title: Please, Lord, Help Me Finish This Mule-Choker A retelling of a classic: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. My title: Oz Is MESSED. UP. A book with a Zodiac Sign or astrology term in the title: The Pisces by Melissa Broder. My title: Just When You Thought It Was Safe to Date Aquatic Creatures A book published posthumously: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. My title: Old People Relationships I’ve still got a ways to go, but have enjoyed just about every category. If I concentrate and if Netflix stops releasing any more new anything for the rest of the year, I should make it to the end of the list.


Last year, my reading challenge theme was “I had a baby and can’t read” and this year my theme is “Baby turned into toddler and now I read sometimes.” My reading is usually inhibited by sneaking in a couple chapters while my little human is sleeping or pausing my audiobook while I remind him for the millionth time to not go on full-on destruction zone mode 24/7 (note: when you have a human of the young boy variety, destruction mode is a state of nature). However, I think I’m at a pace where I’m going to finish this thing. Right? VALIDATE ME. That said, I have enjoyed the POPSUGAR Challenge immensely even though I am only a few cubicles away from being reminded that I am being thoroughly beat by the in-office competition. Insert: side-eye of Rachel and Taylor, who are CRUSHING it. giphy.com POPSUGAR 2019 Reading ChallengeWhat I love most about the PopSugar challenge is that it definitely forces me out of my reading comfort zone while also allowing me to indulge my “action-adventure novel with stoic female leads” preference.

Currently: 23/50

A couple favorites? So glad you asked:

A book about someone with a superpower: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. Recommended to me by Taylor, this book was everything I wanted. Feisty female? Check. Magical beings? Check. Villains that evolve into empathetic characters? YEP. Plus, the writing is marvelous and the AUDIOBOOK. This audiobook, y’all. There’s a reason it won an Audie Award. It’s done so well. Get the audiobook, for SURE. A book with a title that contains "Salty," "Sweet," "Bitter," or "Spicy.": Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller. What can I say: murder mysteries that take place in old manors with an unreliable narrator is just my THING, man. Also, there’s this magic realism thing happening here that has a tinge of Marquez to it; I’m into it. A book inspired by Mythology, Legend, or Folklore: Till We Have Faces by C.S Lewis and Joy Davidman. I’ve already talked about why I love this book. The audiobook is perfection. This book is perfection. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.


Okay, so a little bit of context is required before we begin. Last year, I didn’t even manage to finish my Goodreads goal (spoiler: it was fewer than 50). It was pretty sad. But this challenge has given me all the oomph! (I’m not at all competitive.) giphy.com Popsugar 2019 reading challenge I flew through the first couple months and loved the motivation to read outside my comfort zone or finally get to that book that’s been on my TBR for 2 years. I finished 22 prompts before March, read almost all 4- and 5-star books, and to be fair, probably got a bit overconfident. Because then I hit a Brick. Wall. giphy.com popsugar 2019 reading challenge I inexplicably spent 2 months on a book that was <300 pages long (that I actually enjoyed no less). And I ran out of audio. *Side note: I’m generally fairly relaxed with my reading. Watch the movie first? Sure. Audiobooks count? Absolutely! But if I’ve never read a classic before, I’ll sit down with my hardcover every time. In early June (in the middle of my two-month stretch reading Northanger Abbey of all things), I finished my last audiobook of the challenge. And I commute an hour each way every day. I need my audio. But alas, everything I had left were books I wanted to read rather than listen to. So I’ve spent the past 2 months DETERMINED to get back with the program before Jason Blackthorne and Rachel popped up out of nowhere with the challenge completed two times over.
giphy.com popsugar 2019 reading challenge Actual footage of me and my colleagues discussing ways to beat Rachel
And as of last night, I did it! I’m not going to lie, it felt like a real struggle sometimes, especially when I read several duds in a row or I started a series but couldn’t commit to the whole thing because they didn’t fit, but I feel so accomplished and have really loved some books I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise.


I’ve read some really outstanding books this year (40+ 4.5 and 5 star reads!), but Lydia is making me pick only three, so here goes. A book by an author whose first and last names start with the same letter: Circe by Madeline Miller. I’m typically rather wary when a book gets a lot of hype, but let me tell you, this one delivered. It’s a beautifully written, sometimes-fun-sometimes-tragic, sweeping epic – from a female perspective no less. Two books that share the same title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. Hands down one of my favorite books of the year. And it’s a debut! It’s Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day, and let me promise you that you are never prepared for the next revelation. (I stretched a little here and paired it with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) A book featuring an amateur detective and A book revolving around a puzzle or game: A Study in Scarlet Women, A Conspiracy in Belgravia, and The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas: I’m totally cheating here, because it was IMPOSSIBLE to narrow it down! But this series is simply fantastic. Smart, witty, and so much fun. I cannot wait for book 4!

POPSUGAR: 50/50 Read Harder: 18/24 Goodreads: 74/52



This may be the POPSUGAR Challenge, but I’m not gonna sugar coat my progress report: I’m about eight or nine books off pace, which is . . . not great. But this is a marathon, not a sprint; the tortoise beats the hare; it ain’t over till it’s over; Aesop’s Fable reference here>. In other words, I still feel pretty confident I can catch up, even if it means buckling down in the second half of the year. Of the eighteen books I’ve read, only two have been clunkers. (Apologies to fans of The Goldfinch, but why is almost every single character in that book a terrible human being?) Sixteen of the eighteen have been written by women, but I want to up my game when it comes to reading works by people of color; only four out of eighteen titles were written by nonwhite authors. In fairness, I’ve read three additional books by women of color—Michelle Obama’s Becoming, Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere, and Luvvie Ajayi’s I’m Judging You—that I haven’t counted toward the challenge, but reading diversely is important to me, and I want to do better.

Currently: 18/50


A debut novel: Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes A book inspired by mythology, legend, or folklore: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Rachel S.:

Another reading challenge, another year of warding off people at parties by admitting I read 12 books last month. I foolishly believed this year was going to unequivocally be The Year of Rachel. I was going to out-pace Jason Blackthorne. I wasn’t going to get stumped by like, three books and trip at the finish line. I was gonna be a contender. Who has two thumbs and for sure tripped at the finish line??
Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Live footage of me @ this challenge
With only three books left in the entire challenge, I discovered about myself: I do not like books about or by musicians. Truly, not at all. Is it because I was born and raised in Nashville and I love y’all, but pass? Or because I can barely do nonfiction? Maybe because Donald Glover has not written a book yet and I’m holding out? Likely a combination of all three. Either way, with “A book written by a musician” (fiction or non-fiction) staring me in the face, I gracelessly gave up and started reading The Woman in the Window. WILD, y’all.


This challenge gave me the Illuminae Files series (“A Book You Think Should Be Made into a Movie,” “A Book Set In Space,” and “A Book With a Zodiac Sign or Astrology Term in the Title”) and Let It Be Known that I have not loved a YA franchise this much since The Hunger Games. If you read the beautiful visual masterpiece that it is, hear me out, you need to listen to it again on audio. Apologies to everyone on Harding Road who watched me scream in my car. After hemming and hawing over the fact my library didn’t carry any of the indie-published Mass Effect books, I finally caved and picked up Wildcard – the sequel to Warcross – for my “LitRPG” book. I read Warcross last year, and it disappointed me. Now I am grateful to the challenge, because while Wildcard was not my favortie book of all time, I think it did a fantastic job of re-centering the franchise and executing its original concept in a more more original way. Yay, second chances! Believe it or not, a nonfiction book makes my list. If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late (“A Book with an Item of Clothing or Accessory on the Cover”) is a book I have to keep prefacing quickly, because it’s a book written about a veteran divorce lawyer about all the reasons people get divorced. And I think it’s one of the top 3 marriage books I’ve read.


Most marriage books (obviously) focus on all the good things to do, the ways you should communicate and conflict-resolve and other healthy things. And that’s great. But it was also kind of beneficial to see the other side. He doesn’t really give advice (because he says it’s not his job to know what a good marriage looks like), but instead lays out all the things that lead to divorce and leaves it up to the reader to decide what paths to take. His most shocking fact: he thinks everyone should delete their Facebook. He called it a “divorce factory,” and attributed it as the instigator in the vast majority of his present business.

Books read: 47/50

Date I will stop holding out for Glover to suddenly drop a book in the middle of the night: 12/31

Date I will inevitably speed-read Phil Joel’s Redwoods and Whales: 12/31


Hello, my name is Lydia, and I have never done a reading challenge before (queue an echoing chorus of "hi, Lydia"s). I joined the team in March and thus still possess my tattered New Card to fall back on while everyone else compares their heavily marked up and check-boxed printouts of the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. Not to say I haven't made an effort - I've actually read loads more than I had in ages, which has felt really good.
giphy.com POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge Me, accepting I'll never be a fierce competitor but being content with my personal reading accomplishments
I started out by taking the approach of reading things that I've been wanting to read and hoping I can fit them into one of the POPSUGAR prompts. Fortunately, this has worked pretty well for most of them. Unfortunately, many of the books I've been dying to read are LONG. Or a trilogy I felt obligated to finish even though only the first one was any good. Don't get me started. However, with the discovery that the local public library loans out ebooks (and my personal compromise to read ebooks despite preferring print), I've suddenly gained access to practically every book I'm interested in. It's a little overwhelming. Just this weekend I picked up five books from a massive secondhand bookstore (another new discovery) AND received two library books I had on hold for my Kindle. So maybe there's hope for me yet.

Currently: 9.3/50


A debut novel: Carrie by Stephen King. This was only the second King book I've read (I started with IT. LOL.), and it did not disappoint. A quick read, but a classic. A book that's published in 2019: To Best the Boys by Mary Weber. I enjoyed this fast-paced Hunger Games-meets-Mulan YA novel. It managed to portray a hint of romance without sacrificing the integrity of the strong female protagonist, which is a win-win in my book. A book with a two-word title: Bird Box by Josh Matterson. LOVED this one. Yes, I read this solely because the movie came out and I wanted to read it before watching it. FYI - the book is SIGNIFICANTLY better. Not just in a "they-left-out-important-details-in-the-movie" way, but the "they-jacked-up-85%-of-the-plot-and-made-up-characters" way. I anticipate a rage post about this injustice in my future. A book told from multiple character POVs: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I'm only 1/3 the way through this one but I know there's a twist coming. I can feel it. I am ready for it. So there you have it! We've had a lot of strong participants in the POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge, and even several who are participating in multiple reading challenges. We hope some of our picks find their way to your TBR list!

How have you been doing on the POPSUGAR 2019 Reading Challenge? Share your update in the comments!

HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc. (HCCP) operates Page Chaser, and is the publisher of Redwoods & Whales and To Best the Boys.
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