I have always been a reader.  In elementary school I was addicted to The Babysitter’s Club (if you were a fan of the books and have never been to Claudia’s Room you have to check it out!), Sweet Valley Twins, Anne of Green Gables and Little House On The Prairie.  Not only did I read a lot, I read fast.  It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to almost finish the newest BSC edition before we were even home from the store.

My sixth grade teacher was a lover of books.  I remember that year distinctly for two very different reasons.  We completed a unit on the Holocaust which required reading The Diary of Anne Frank and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  I’d read Anne Frank prior to then but Number the Stars really resonated with me.  Unfortunately after reading it I endured months of nightmares.  It was my first true experience with the profound impact reading can have on a person, negative or otherwise.  More positively, sixth grade also introduced me to what would become my favorite book. 

As a prize for winning the class spelling bee my teacher gave me a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  While I’ve read better books since then and hopefully will continue to, Francie’s story is the one I turn to when I’m feeling down or anxious or I just need a little comfort.  A few years ago my mom gave me a hardcover version for a Christmas gift, but I hung on to the tattered and well-loved paperback. 

In junior high reading was definitely my favorite hobby.  I spent so much time holed up in my room that my family came to call me “Basement Dweller”.  My room was in the basement.  They were extremely clever.  By this point I was fascinated with biographies and more complex novels.  As I started to pull out of my shell and get involved in more extra-curricular activities, reading took a backseat.  I still tried to read for fun, but I spent a lot less time in the basement.  During college I briefly considered an English major, however I quickly determined that it just wasn’t for me.

My post-college reading repertoire has been pretty limited.  It seems like I pretty much stick to chick lit – Jennifer Weiner, Jane Green, Sophie Kinsella, and so on.  In compiling my 30 list I knew that I really wanted to broaden my selection.  I originally intended to complete the first 25 books on Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels, but after trying to read the first book (Ulysses by James Joyce) I decided that it wasn’t the best approach.  I wanted to enjoy the reading and to be honest it felt more like a chore.  So, I’ve found a new list.  The library that I use provides recommendations from their librarians and book club members every three months.  I’ve combined a year’s worth of thier recommended titles to create the below:

The NEW Thirty Before 30 Reading List:

Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo – Lawrence Anthony  Completed 12/1/07
Christine Falls – Benjamin Black
Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter – Blaize Clement
Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill
The Knitting Circle – Ann Hood
Early Candlelight – Maud Hart Lovelace
Love Always, Petra – Petra Nemcova
The Collaborator of Bethlehem – Matt Beynon Reese
In Search of Mockingbird – Loretta Ellsworth
The Soap Game: And Other True Stories – Marie Sheppard Williams
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
Eat, Pray, Love: One Women’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia – Elizabeth Gilbert Completed 11.28.07
North River – Pete Hamill
River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze – Peter Hessler
Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm – Jon Katz
Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog – Ted Kerasote
Knitting Under the Influence – Claire LaZebnik
On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam – Asra Q. Nomani
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
The Gospel According to Larry – Janet Tashjian
Ice Moon – Jan Costin Wagner
The Book Thief – Markus Zuzak
Cheating at Solitaire – Ally Carter
The Dress Lodger – Sheri Holman
The Return: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery – Hakan Nesser
The Wild Trees – Richard Preston
Sacred Games – Vikram Chandra
A Spot of Bother – Mark Haddon
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive – Alexander McCall Smith
The River Between Us – Richard Peck
Leni Riefenstahl: A Life – Jurgen Trimborn
Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War II – Robert Kurson
My Bridges of Hope: Searching for Life and Love after Auschwitz – Livia Bitton-Jackson
Year of Impossible Goodbyes – Nyul Sook Choi
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susannah Clarke
Next – Michael Crichton
Bet Me – Jennifer Cruise (Ha! Even they couldn’t get away from the Chick Lit!)
The Persian Pickle Club – Sandra Dallas
The Sign of the Book – John Dunning
Plum Lovin’ – Janet Evanovich
The High Flyer – Susan Howatch
A Death in Belmont – Sebastian Junger
A Girl Named Zippy – Haven Kimmel
4th of July – James Patterson
Rise and Shine – Anna Quindlen
Torch – Cheryl Strayed
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

I am really excited about this compilation. It has a little of everything – non-fiction, mysteries, historical fiction, memoirs, local interest. I know that they aren’t award winners, some of them might even be junk, but the real purpose is for me to challenge my interests and try something new. The order in which they’re read will mostly be determined by what’s available at the library on any given day. There are 50 books. I have 27 months. That breaks down to about 2 each month. Totally doable. I plan to post reviews as I work my way through.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Also, FINALLY, an actual NaBloPoMo post. Awesome!