I finished the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge!! I’ve been casually following along with this challenge for a few years now but decided to really push myself to complete all of the tasks this year, and I finally did it!
For those who aren’t familiar, the Read Harder Challenge is a reading challenge put out every year by the people over at Book Riot. It consists of 24 tasks designed to encourage you to read more diversely across genres, authors, and publishers. You can totally use one book to complete more than one challenge, but I decided to be an overachiever this year and read a different book for each task.
I’m actually impressed by how many of these challenges I accomplished without even trying, because I think it shows how diverse my reading already is in a lot of ways (though as I discussed some in this post, there’s still room for improvement).
The ones I accomplished with no effort include:
- Read a debut novel
- Read a book you’ve read before
- Read a book set within 100 miles of your location (I’m super spoiled on this one since I live in New York. I didn’t realize how many books were set here until I moved here)
- Read a book set more than 5000 miles from your location
- Read a fantasy novel
- Read a book about war
- Read a book that has banned or frequently challenged in your country
- Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel
- Read a collection of stories by a woman
- Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color
There were also several that wound up being pretty easy for me to accomplish, as I already had books on my radar that I wanted to read and finally did because of this challenge. Those include:
- Read a book about sports
- Read a book about books
- Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
- Read a book published between 1900 and 1950
- Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+
- Read a classic by an author of color
- Read a superhero comic with a female lead
A few of them I had to put some effort into accomplishing, but that was fun, too, because it helped me discover a whole slew of books that I’d like to read eventually even though I didn’t wind up using them to complete the challenge, though a few topics, like reading a nonfiction book about technology, just didn’t interest me.
There were a couple of challenges I’m really grateful for because they finally pushed me to pick up books that I wound up loving. For instance, Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand has been on my radar for ages, but I never got around to actually reading it. As it turns out, I absolutely loved Seabiscuit, and I’m already part way through Hillenbrand’s second book, Unbroken. I wish she had a bigger backlist for me to read! I also wound up loving The Color Purple by Alice Walker. This was definitely a surprise favorite for me as I assumed it would be just another classic that I forced myself to read but didn’t particularly enjoy, but I found it really engaging and absorbing and just a beautiful story that I highly recommend.
One of the most difficult challenges for me to accomplish was to read a book written by a Central or South American author and set in Central or South America. I’ve been wanting to read more history books about other parts of the world, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. Only most of the history books about Central or South America are written by American or European authors, which is kind of a problem. How are there not more books written by Central and South American authors detailing their own history that are later translated into English? I suspect a fair amount of colonialism is going on here, plus history being written by the so-called “victors,” so I really shouldn’t be surprised, but I was definitely disappointed. It was a really interesting realization, though, and I’m glad Book Riot made this one of their tasks.
There were a few challenges, though, that seemed unnecessarily difficult to accomplish. For instance, read a book published by a micropress. I love Roxane Gay, who gave Book Riot the idea for this challenge, but I was not a fan of this challenge. It’s just really obscure and not something you can accomplish by borrowing a book from the library, since they don’t exactly carry micropresses…I would have preferred something about reading a book that wasn’t published by the major publishing houses or read a self-published book. I did complete this challenge, but it was a hassle and I didn’t feel like I gained anything from it.
Another challenge I hated was to read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. I already dislike poetry, so I feel like it already would have been enough of a challenge to read a collection of poetry on a theme other than love without the stipulation that it be translated, or to read a volume of translated poetry and not condition the topic. Honestly, I mostly saw people picking Neruda and Rilke on the Goodreads page, and it kind of defeats the purpose for me if there are really only two major options that people are going to pick.
Overall, though, I thought this was a great list of tasks designed to get me to read outside of my comfort zone, and I had a lot of fun finding books to fit the various challenges!
Right now, I don’t plan to commit fully to the Book Riot Reader Harder Challenge like I did in 2017. I ultimately didn’t feel like I gained much by forcing myself to complete some of the challenges, and I think I’d like to put together a more targeted list for 2018 of ways I’d like to expand my own reading based on what I read in 2017.
That said, I’m still a huge fan of the Read Harder Challenge and can’t bring myself to completely forgo participating. Instead, I think I’ll follow along and try to get close without forcing myself to keep reading books I don’t like just to tick off the challenges. This challenge is most useful to me in encouraging me to prioritize books I’d been wanting to read but haven’t and in forcing me to research and find books I wouldn’t have otherwise heard of, and I can do both of those things without completing every single challenge.
So there you have it! I’m really excited I completed the Read Harder Challenge at least once, as I’ve been casually following along for a few years now and never quite made it. And I’m looking forward to seeing what the challenges will be in 2018!
Have you participated in any reading challenges? What did you like or dislike about them? Let me know in the comments, as well as whether you plan to check out the 2018 Read Harder Challenge!