Wrap Up: Big Book Summer Challenge

Big Book Summer Challenge 2018 Recap (WildmooBooks.com)

Back in June I enthusiastically jumped into my friend Sue’s Big Book Summer Challenge. The challenge was to read books over 400 pages long between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

I wrote my sign-up post on June 4th and I cannot believe that was three months ago. It feels more like three weeks!

These are the books I had on my list:

  • The Odyssey by Homer (8th Century B.C.) The new translation by Emily Wilson (2018)
  • Little Women by Louise May Alcott (1868)
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-2)
  • One of Ours by Willa Cather (1922)
  • Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee (2007)

I managed to read two of these books and started a third but decided to postpone my reading of it until the winter.

Book Cougars at Orchard House
The Book Cougars, Chris & Emily, at Orchard House

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I re-read Little Women for the Book Cougars’ Summer of Little Women three-part readalong that Emily and I hosted. We read Little Women in June, March by Geraldine Brooks in July, and Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux for August.

This reading of Little Women was my second read of this classic. I first read it in my 30s and loved it. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it the first time. I was a wild single person when I first read Little Women and really connected with Jo and her ambitions to be a writer. I still connected with her on this reading, but also appreciated and better understood her marriage to Professor Bhaer. I was never in the “Jo must marry Laurie camp.” If truth be told, I wanted her to be a literary spinster (and by literary spinster, I mean lesbian), but as that was doubtful in a 19th-century children’s story, I was okay with her marrying Bhaer. At least Alcott didn’t follow the expected storyline. Now, as a more mature person who’s been partnered for 17 years, I appreciate that Jo found a mate who is compatible in temperament and interests. If you’re going to get married, dear reader, that’s the way to do it.

It was great fun to visit Alcott’s House in Concord soon after re-reading Little Women. The 150th-anniversary celebration of Little Women at Orchard House is on September 30, 2018, from 1-4:30 pm (click here to go to their page for details).


The Willa Cather Book Group at Book Club Bookstore (WildmooBooks.com)
The Willa Cather Book Group in action, discussing One of Ours. Photo credit: Book Club Bookstore & More

One of Ours by Willa Cather

I re-read One of Ours for the July meeting of The Willa Cather Book Group. We had an exciting discussion about the novel, and I was thrilled that all of the members enjoyed this one as it’s one of my favorites. I’ve written about this novel before as part of the Willa Cather Novel Reading Challenge that I hosted in 2012. Here’s a link to the “Introduction” post about the novel and here’s a link to the “Thoughts and Comments” post.

One of Ours was published in 1922 and earned Cather the Pulitzer Prize. The novel was inspired by the death of Cather’s cousin, G.P. Cather, who was killed in action during World War I. The story follows the life of Claude Wheeler, a young man born to a successful farming family in Nebraska who struggles to find a lasting sense of purpose in his life.

The next meeting of The Willa Cather Book Group is October 18th at 2pm at the Book Club Bookstore & More, located at 869 Sullivan Ave in South Windsor, CT. We’ll be discussing Death Comes for the Archbishop. All are welcome to join us, so if you’re local, come on over.


Middlemarch at the airport (WildmooBooks.com)
At the airport with Middlemarch.

Middlemarch by George Eliot

This is the novel I started but didn’t finish. I started reading a paper copy and then downloaded an audio version. Although I was enjoying the novel, both reading and listening, it just wasn’t the right time. I was on a trip to Chicago, had some work pressure, and other books were calling to me with louder voices, so I just wasn’t able to let myself sink into the novel as I would like to. So, I’m saving it for this winter.

I also hope to read The Odyssey and Free Food For Millionaires this year or during the winter months of 2019.

So, that’s my Big Book Summer Challenge Recap.

Did you read any chunksters this summer?

P.S. The orange & blue font color choices were purely coincidental. Upon reflection, I think it might have something subliminal to do with the Chicago Bears. Fall is upon us and once again I wonder if this is the year I’ll become a more engaged fan or simply continue to be a heritage fan, longing for the days when Mike Singletary and Walter Payton were on the field.


  1. Yay, Orchard House! I visited a few years ago and it was everything I had hoped it would be. I really need to re-read Little Women soon and Middlemarch has been on my TBR list for far too long. Happy fall reading!

  2. ha ha ha – Loved the “literary spinster” line! lol

    Congratulations on your first Big Book Summer, Chris! Finishing two biggies and starting another sounds like a great accomplishment to me.

    I didn’t join in the read-along this summer since I just re-read Little Women a couple of years ago myself, but I enjoyed listening to yours and Emily’s discussion on the podcast. And I have never read anything by Willa Cather, so I better get moving!

    I think I mentioned to you before that I ended up REALLY liking Middlemarch, even though it took me about a month to finish it, long after my book group had discussed it. I was really surprised – and delighted – by how witty Elliot was and how often her sentences applied equally well to our society today. I might choose print over audio for that reason – I ended up tagging plenty of passages that I might have missed if I was listening. But it’s probably good either way – hope you enjoy finishing it this winter.

    Here’s my wrap-up for the Big Book Summer Challenge – both my own wrap-up and the challenge overall:


    Hope you’ll join the fun again next summer!


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