So my plan was to casually follow along with the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and use it as an excuse to research different books I might not have found otherwise, but after reviewing the tasks for this year and putting together the list below, I’m kind of thinking I might push myself to go for it again! We’ll see. But I’ll definitely be fulfilling a number of the tasks below!
This post started as a list of some of the books I would consider reading to complete each challenge, but it evolved to include some books I would recommend reading for some of the challenges if you’re thinking about participating. So read on and prepare yourself for lots of books!
A book published posthumously
Another book on my TBR that could count for this one is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. This one is a bit tricky because, while it was published after Malcolm X’s assassination, it was cowritten with Alex Haley, who was alive at the time of publication. I think it’d still largely count, though. I’ve also been hearing a lot lately about When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (I somehow missed this when it first became popular) and might read that as well.
If you haven’t read it yet, The Diary of Anne Frank would be a great pick for this challenge. I can’t say I enjoyed reading it since it’s ultimately a young girl’s diary, but it’s an important piece of literature that I think is worth reading. I could also see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson being a popular choice.
A book of true crime
Oooo, I like this challenge since this is a genre I don’t read often. I actually have Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann on my TBR, and I think that’d be perfect for this challenge. It’s about the murder of Osage Nation members after oil was discovered beneath their land and their role in the creation of the FBI.
If you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson for this one. It follows the stories of the creator of the Chicago World’s Fair and a serial killer who used the fair to find his victims. Larson is an amazing story teller and writer and I highly recommend checking out his works.
A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
While I actually do want to reread some Lisa Kleypas and Julia Quinn romances this year that I think could be called classics of the genre, that’s not much of a challenge for me, is it? Though I would highly recommend either of them for this challenge. Lisa Kleypas’ Devil in Winter and Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I are some of their best known and beloved works. I’ve also been meaning to read Indigo by Beverly Jenkins, which is also a classic and would double up for the challenge of reading a romance by an author of color.
If I decided to go with the mystery genre, I might decided to read something like The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, since I enjoyed And Then There Were None so much. Or maybe a Miss Marple book since that would double up with the challenge to read a book with a female protagonist over 60. I also just bought Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which I believe is a classic of the mystery genre.
You’ll also see me mention some westerns and sci fi books later in this post that I could use to double up with this challenge.
A comic written and illustrated by the same person
According to Book Riot, graphic novels count for the comic challenges. In that case, I want to read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi for this. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while as it sounds interesting and I’ve heard great things, and I believe Satrapi illustrated it herself. Plus it conveniently checks off the other two comic challenges on this list…
I don’t read a ton of graphic novels, so I don’t have many to recommend, but I read and enjoyed both Maus by Art Spiegelmann and My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Vol. 1 by Emil Farris. If I wind up reading the sequel to My Favorite Thing Is Monsters this year, that could count for this challenge as well.
A book set in or or about one of the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
I feel like this is the type of task I should have a ton of ideas for, but I actually don’t. Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime, which I talk about in the celebrity memoir section, could probably count since he’s originally from South Africa, so I could double up with that one. I have The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth on my TBR, which are both set in India, so those would count if I read them this year. I’m kind of surprised I don’t have anything on my radar set in China, though, and this prompt is making me think I should look into books set in Brazil since I don’t think I’ve read a book set there. We’ll see how this task winds up going!
A book about nature
So this is an interesting task since I really don’t read books about nature, but I haven’t seen a ton of books pop up that I want to read. Although I will admit that The Death and Life of the Great Lakes sounds like it could be interesting. It’s an in-depth look at the historical development of the Great Lakes and the shape they’re in now as a result.
So an easy book for me to read to fulfill this would be Like a River Glorious by Rae Carson since I’ve been wanting to continue the Goldseer trilogy, and while this series has some fantasy elements in it, I considered the first book to be more of a western. I could also read Retribution Rails by Erin Bowman since I surprisingly liked her first western, Vengeance Road, so much.
But I also like the idea of going back and reading a classic Louis L’Amour book, which could also count for the classic of genre fiction. He’s a really well known North Dakotan, but I’ve never actually read his books, so that could be cool. Sackett’s Land seems to be one of his most iconic, so I’d probably start there.
A comic written or illustrated by a person of color
If I decide to be ambitious and read more than just Persepolis (which I really should), then March by John Lewis, which Jen at Firewhiskey Reader suggested, sounds like my kind of thing. Lewis marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement, so I think his memoir would be really interesting.
I’m also kind of interested in checking out Monstress by Marjorie Liu, which would also count for this challenge, and I don’t think you can go wrong with Black Panther by Ta-Nehisi Coates or Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay.
A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
I also saw Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie mentioned a lot for this task, which are books I feel I should read eventually, but I think I’ll stick with either Homegoing or Pachinko.
A romance novel by or about a person of color
It should come as no surprise that I don’t consider this one to be much of a challenge. I’ve been wanting to read A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev and The Preacher’s Promise by Piper Huguley for a while now, so those could easily qualify. I also have an advanced copy of A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole that I’m excited to read. I’ve heard amazing things about all three of those books, so I think they’re definitely worth checking out. And then there’s Beverly Jenkins, K.J. Charles, and Courtney Milan to consider. So many great options!
If you’re looking for recommendations based on books I’ve actually read, I highly recommend An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole. I also don’t think you can go wrong with Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai if you haven’t already.
A children’s classic published before 1980
I actually just reread Nancy Drew and the Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene last year, so it’s too bad I can’t just count that again. I’ve been contemplating rereading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, so that could be a good choice, or I could continue rereading the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery.
Although now that I think about it, I’ll probably pick A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle since I’ve been meaning to reread that anyways before the movie comes out this spring. The trailer looks amazing and I’m super excited for it!
A celebrity memoir
Oooo, I’m definitely planning to read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime this year, so that’s what’s going to fulfill this challenge. I’m also interested in Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling. Oh, and This Is Just My Face by Gabourey Sidibe looks good, too.
And if you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend Yes Please by Amy Poehler. I really enjoyed that one.
An Oprah Book Club selection
Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 seems to count for this challenge and I’ve actually been wanting to read The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, so that would be the perfect pick for me.
I could also potentially read the copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens that I found when sorting through my closet at home and brought out to New York with me.
A book of social science
So I’ve been wanting to read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander about the role of racism in today’s prison system, and I saw that pop up as a suggestion for this task, so if that counts, I could definitely read that. Some other contenders that might count include Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Evicted by Matthew Desmond.
I could actually see myself reading a bunch of books that wind up fulfilling this task as I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and Freakonomics, both of which would fulfill this task, and I should really get back into reading more books in that vein.
A one-sitting book
I don’t think I’m going to pick out a specific book for this, because every once it a while it just happens naturally that I sit down and finish a book in one sitting. A couple that I remember doing this with in 2017 are When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, plus I know I do this with romance novels fairly frequently.
The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
This is another challenge that will be a piece of cake for me to check off. I’m really excited to read The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, and Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman. One, if not all, of these is definitely happening in 2018.
A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
I’ve been wanting to read Kindred by Octavia E. Butler for a while, so that would be the perfect book for this challenge, and it would fulfill the challenge to read a classic of genre fiction. Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor is another book from my TBR that could be a good option. Or Binti, also by Nnedi Okorafor.
A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
Other than the two Black Panther Comics, which are obviously published by Marvel, and Monstress, which is published by Image, all of the graphic novels I’ve mentioned in this post could easily double up for this task.
A book of genre fiction in translation
So I actually don’t have any picks for this task! I’m hoping to read a few more books in translation this year since I only read three (out of 167 books) last year, but I’ve noticed that a lot of the books I’m interested in that are written by authors from other countries are still mostly written in English! So I’m planning to wait until Book Riot comes out with some recommendation lists and see if I can’t find something there. Ideally I’d like to read a romance novel or fantasy book in translation, but I think mystery is a more commonly translated genre, so we’ll see what happens.
A book with a cover you hate
I think some of the worst covers on my Goodreads TBR are all classic adult fantasy. I’m thinking the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson (the American covers—I specifically bought the U.K. ones because I love them) and the Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb. YA fantasy has such great covers, but adult fantasy covers always make me cringe. They’re just really not cool, and I am not a fan.
I have also always hated the covers of the Mercy Thompson books, so assuming I finally read Silence Fallen, that could count for this challenge.
A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
When I first saw this challenge, I figured it was one that I might get to eventually but that I probably wouldn’t. But Rincey of Rincey Reads named Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke as one of her 17 favorite books of 2017, and that’s making me a lot more interested in actually completing this challenge.
An essay anthology
Not That Bad edited by Roxane Gay. Boom, done.
A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
Oooo, this is a really interesting challenge since, now that I think about it, most of the protagonists in the books I read are pretty young. Actually, this one would be a good one to add to my checklist for next year.
One of the Miss Marple books by Agatha Christie sounds like it could be a good fit for this, though the New York Public Library recommended The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman and it sounds really good! It follows a widowed grandmother from New Jersey as she joins the CIA and finds herself in hot water in Mexico City. Oh, and I saw someone mention on the Goodreads group that they think The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid would work for this challenge, and I just bought a copy of that!
An assigned book you hated (or never finished)
I like the idea of this task, but it just doesn’t really work for me. As far as I can remember, I finished all of my assigned reading through high school and college, so there aren’t any books I can go back and finish. And as for the ones I hated? I don’t think you can pay me to reread books like The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne or The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. And I did reread The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because I was assigned to read it in both high school and college, and I still hated it.
I could maybe see myself going back and rereading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. I remember not liking it (though I wouldn’t say I hated it) in high school but could potentially see myself liking it now. Or maybe The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, or Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich, which fall into the same boat.
Honestly though, I’m more likely to twist this challenge into reading a frequently assigned book that I think I’ll hate, because I’m reading Wuthering Heights by Charlotte Bronte this month, and while I think it’s an important piece of literature and I do want to say I’ve read it, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it.
Ok, those are some of the books I’m thinking I’ll pick up to complete the Read Harder Challenge. I’m really excited about the tasks this year and am reconsidering whether or not I want to complete it, but we’ll see how the year goes! If you’re interested in keeping track of what I’ve actually read to complete the challenge, you can follow along here.
If you’re still looking for more recommendations for some of these challenges, I highly recommend checking out Book Riot directly, where the creators of this challenge are in the process of putting together lists of ideas for each challenge. Their Goodreads group is also a helpful resource, and I really enjoy the list that the New York Public Library put together, which you can view here. Oh, and I really liked Feminist Texican Reader’s idea of putting a feminist spin on this challenge!
Are you participating in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge? Let me know in the comments!