My absolutely favorite part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is researching all of the books I can use to complete these tasks! I always find some great ones, or use one of the prompts as an excuse to read something I’ve been meaning to for a while, and it’s just a great opportunity to revel in all of the books.
Like last year, below is a mix of recommendations for books I’ve read that you could use to complete the Read Harder Challenge, as well as a few options for books that I myself might read to complete the challenge. If you want even more ideas, be sure to check out the Goodreads group! The New York Public Library also has a helpful recommendation list, which you can check out here.
An epistolary novel or collection of letters
I think I might finally read The Guernsay Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows for this task, and then watch the Netflix movie after. Or I could reread Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. It’s an amazing WWII YA story, and I haven’t been meaning to reread it.
If you haven’t read it yet, I would highly recommend The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel might also count? They’re written in a kind of dossier style, and are both great scifi reads. Also The Martin by Andy Weir would be a great option if you haven’t gotten around to reading it yet.
An alternate history novel
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey would be a good option for this challenge, and I believe Gailey identifies as nonbinary if you want to double up on tasks. It’s set in a world in which a real law to introduce hippos into the bayous of Louisiana as an alternative meat source was actually passed and reads like a western. Plus it’s a pretty short read!
Personally, I think I’d like to finally get around to reading His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik, which is basically the Napoleonic Wars with dragons, or Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel Jose Older, a middle grade Civil War story with dinosaurs. Alternatively, I’ve heard great things about Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, a YA novel set in a world in which the Axis Powers won World War II.
A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018
Literary awards don’t interest me much because they tend to focus on literary fiction, which is a genre that I just don’t read, so I was a bit nervous when I saw this task. As it happens, though, I’m currently reading The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin, the second book in her famed Broken Earth trilogy, and I definitely plan to continue with The Stone Sky, which won the Hugo in 2018! If you haven’t read these books, I highly recommend this trilogy! It took me a bit to get into The Fifth Season, but it was definitely worth the effort.
A humor book
Some of the funniest books I read last year included Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick and Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson, two memoirs that I highly recommend. I might finally read Mindy Kahling’s memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me, though I also have Kevin Hart’s memoir, I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons, on Audible.
A book by a journalist or about journalism
Well if this isn’t a timely topic. A lot of my journalist friends have highly recommended that I read All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, written by the journalists who broke the Watergate scandal, so this would be a great opportunity to finally do that. I could also read Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou, which was on a lot of people’s favorites of 2018 lists and would double up for a nonviolent true crime book. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s about the scam perpetrated by Theranos, a biotech startup that was valued at more than $1 billion even though it didn’t have functioning technology.
The New Odyssey: The Story of the Twenty-First Century Refugee Crisis by Patrick Kingsley and Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks are two other books that I have on my TBR shelves on Goodreads that could also work for this challenge.
A book by an AOC set in or about space
I’m actually planning to read Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee, a middle grade scifi involving Korean mythology, and it would be perfect to fulfill this prompt!
An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
I struggled so much with the prompt a few years ago to read a book set in Central or South American by a Central or South American author, and I suspect I’m going to struggle again with this one. It’s good, though, because I didn’t realize how few Latinx-born authors were published; it’s all American-born Latinx authors!
Anyways, it turns out most of the books I found for that prompt are by South American authors. I haven’t found anything yet that I really want to read for this challenge, so I’ll have to keep looking. I’m hoping I can find some sort of memoir or nonfiction or mystery that I can read. Let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!
An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
This is a great challenge to get me reading something new, but it’s definitely a tough one! Since I tend to enjoy memoirs, I’m leaning towards Maori Boy: A Memoir of Childhood by Witi Ihimaera.
If you haven’t read it yet, I think Redefining Realness by Janet Mock could count for this one. She’s from Hawaii, and the book details her experience growing up both on the mainland and in Hawaii, as well as her experience as a trans woman and her eventually gender reassignment surgery. She talks a lot about Hawaiian culture compared to mainland culture and is half black and half white/native Hawaiian. Even if it doesn’t count for this challenge, it’s a great book that I highly recommend!
A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads
I thought this challenge was going to be virtually impossible, but as it turns out, there are quite a few books on my Want to Read shelf on Goodreads that have less than 100 ratings, including a few that I own.
The one that I own a physical copy of is Eleanor Roosevelt: Fighter for Justice by Ilene Cooper, a middle grade biography of Eleanor Roosevelt’s work as an activist (52 ratings, 17 reviews). I also own a digital copy of Stripped by Tara Wyatt, a contemporary romance with some Magic Mike vibes (95 ratings, 48 reviews).
Some others on my Want to Read shelf include The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres, which could also count as a historical fiction by an author of color (52 ratings, 29 reviews), The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking Guide by William B. Helmreich (34 ratings, 9 reviews), and Autism in Heels: The Untold Story of a Female Life on the Spectrum by Jennifer O’Toole, which could also double up as a book by someone who identifies as neurodiverse (32 ratings, 11 reviews).
A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
Oof, this is going to be a tough one for me since I’m rarely interested in translated books—they’re usually just not in the genres I gravitate towards! HOWEVER, my book club is planning to read All In by Simona Ahrnstedt, a romance that was originally written in Swedish! So that will work out really well for me.
If you haven’t read it yet, the sole translated work I read last year was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, which was translated from French. It’s a graphic memoir about Satrapi’s experience growing up in Iran and going abroad to Europe for school, and it’s amazing.
A book of manga
I’ve never read manga before, so this will be an interesting challenge! I know Caz from Little Book Owl loves the Fullmetal Alchemist books, and Caz and I tend to enjoy a lot of the same books, so I think I’ll try that one out.
A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
This seems like an odd prompt. It’ll definitely diversify my reading, but I’m not sure what benefit there really is from reading a book with an animal or inanimate object POV. Anyways, nothing I’m seeing so far is really jumping out at me as a good option for this prompt other than Redwall by Brian Jacques, which I remember loving as a kid, so maybe I’ll revisit the first book for this prompt.
A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, a story about an autistic woman who hires a male escort to teach her about sex, would be a great option for this prompt! As would The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (ADHD hero who discovers he’s the son of Poseidon), The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie by Jennifer Ashley (historical romance featuring an autistic hero), and The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian (m/m historical romance featuring an autistic hero).
Personally, I’m planning to read The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, which is the sequel to The Kiss Quotient. And I have A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert on my kindle, and someone recommended that on Goodreads, so I think I’ll try to make an effort to read that this year as well. Autism in Heels by Jennifer O’Toole would be a good fit for this task, too.
A cozy mystery
This prompt is the perfect excuse to finally continue reading Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen! It’s a series about a girl in 1930’s England who’s 30-something in line for the throne who gets caught up in solving the mystery of a dead body left in her bathtub. I read the first one at my sister’s recommendation and thought it was cute, but never got around to continuing the series even though she loves it so much.
A book of mythology or folklore
As a big fan of mythology-inspired stories, this is going to be an easy prompt for me to fulfill! I’m sure I’ll read another Rick Riordan book this year (he has Greek/Roman, Egyptian, and Norse mythology stories), and I’ll definitely be reading Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse, the sequel to Trail of Lightning, a post-apocalyptic fantasy influenced by Navajo mythology. Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee would also count for this, as it features Korean mythology. And while I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Song of Achilles, I’ve seen so many people rave about Circe by Madeline Miller that I’m thinking of giving it a shot.
An historical romance by an AOC
I can recommend SO MANY! Beverly Jenkins has great historicals (Indigo is one of her most famous, about two members of the Underground Railroad, though I’d also recommend Topaz, which is more of a western), and I can’t rave enough about An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole, which features two Civil War spies. My Beautiful Enemy by Sherry Thomas, about two spies who meet in western China and reconnect years later in England, would also be a great fit, as would any of Courtney Milan’s historicals. The Duchess War is a popular place to start.
I’m sure I’ll read more Beverly Jenkins this year, and I’m really looking forward to Alyssa Cole’s third Loyal League book, An Unconditional Freedom. I also wouldn’t be surprised if I wind up reading more Courtney Milan historicals this year too. I’m most looking forward to checking out some of Jeannie Lin’s books, though, because they’re set in China, and so few historicals take place outside of England. I have Butterfly Swords on hold at the library, about a fallen princess and a warrior in Tang Dynasty China falling in love.
A business book
I would recommend Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki for this one, as it’s a fairly easy read but really challenges your thought process in regards to employment and investing. Though it turns out that a lot of books on my radar qualify as business books! If I really want to double up on tasks, Bad Blood by John Carreyrou counts for this task as well, but other options include The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. My sister also recommended American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company by Bryce G. Hoffman to me, and I could read that for this challenge as well.
A novel by a trans or nonbinary author
I highly recommend Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, which I mentioned earlier could probably double up for an #ownvoices Oceania book. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey would also be great and double up with the alternative history task.
Personally, I think I want to get around to If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo, a YA love story featuring a trans heroine. And Charlie Jane Anders’ new book, The City in the Middle of the Night, sounds interesting.
A book of nonviolent true crime
Dang, I didn’t realize how little nonviolent true crime is out there! As I mentioned, Bad Blood John Carreyrou by would be perfect for this one and could double up with other challenges. And I think The Library Book by Susan Orlean, which Reese Witherspoon just picked for her book club, would also count for this. It’s about a fire set at the Los Angeles Public Library in the 1980’s. Google gave me mixed results on whether arson is a violent crime or not, but I’m inclined to count it since no one died in the fire.
A book written in prison
A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
I will for sure be reading Bingo Love by Tee Franklin for this prompt. It’s about grandmas playing bingo and falling in love. How cute does that sound?!
A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
George by Alex Gino is the book that most frequently pops up in response to this prompt and I’ve heard good things, so I’ll probably go with that myself.
If you want to read a series (and double up on the mythology prompt), the second book in Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series won a Stonewall Award in 2017, and the series is completed if you want to binge! It would also double up for the mythology task, as it heavily features Norse mythology.
A self-published book
I would recommend Dance All Night by Alexis Daria, a super cute holiday novella, or anything self-published by Courtney Milan (her historicals would double up for a historical by an author of color since Milan identifies as hapa). I’ll probably be reading more Courtney Milan myself for this one! I’ve barely made a scratch in her backlist, so I have a lot to pick from, though I really need to read Trade Me already. It’s about a wealthy hero and a poor heroine who trade places and fall in love.
A collection of poetry published since 2014
I probably won’t complete this one, not going to lie. I’d be willing to listen to a book told in verse on audio, but I don’t think I’ll pick up a poetry collection. If I do decide to attempt this task, I’ll probably go with The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace, which was published in 2016.
So I have to do a little bit more work myself to complete some of these tasks, but hopefully this is a good starting point if you’re hoping to complete the Read Harder Challenge yourself! And if you’re not participating, hopefully you still found some recs that are interesting to you.