I decided to try and read more last year, and 2017 ended with a respectable 36 books tallied. Not bad for a year spent in the intellectual doldrums. (That isn’t drama, either; the worst and longest of my depressive episodes had me vegetating on the couch, staring blankly as episodes played on loop on the TV.) This year, I’m trying to sustain that momentum by signing up for another round of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.
Reading challenges abound at the start of every year, but I love Book Riot’s for its focus on diversity and reading outside comfort zones. The tasks cover good ground, and with the total at 24 (around 2 books a month), the list is challenging enough without feeling impossible.
Not that Book Riot sets hard “rules,” let alone gets draconian about them: the Read Harder challenge operates on personal accountability. Participants set their own pace; they can choose to have one book fulfill multiple tasks; they don’t suffer any punishment for falling behind, skipping a task, or not finishing the challenge. For neurotic perfectionists like me who break out into hives when given a rigid set of rules for compliance, that kind of flexibility is a blessing.
I’ll post updates on my progress as the year goes on. (The plan is to write reviews or impressions after finishing each book, but I reserve the right to ditch that for capsule updates if life gets in the way.) I’ve already got some titles in mind for a few tasks — in fact, I’m reading a Carrie Fisher book for the celebrity memoir task right now. (Of course, I started that first. SMH.)
If a fellow challenge participant happens to read this, I’d love to hear from you.
Here’s the complete task list for this year:[UPDATED: 30 January 2019 with final list, not all entries of which got a review, capsule or otherwise. 14/24, or a little more than half.]
- A book published posthumously
- A book of true crime
- A classic of genre fiction
- A comic written and drawn by the same person
- A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
- A book about nature
- A western
- A comic written or drawn by a person of color: Runaways (ongoing) written by Rainbow Rowell and drawn by Kris Anka
- A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson
- A romance novel by or about a person of color: Huntress by Malinda Lo – not necessarily a romance novel per se, but a love story does anchor the book’s emotional throughline; alternatively, Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend, I guess?
- A children’s classic published before 1980
- A celebrity memoir
- An Oprah Book Club selection
- A book of social science: Why Not Socialism? by Gerald A. Cohen
- A one-sitting book: Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
- The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
- A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
- A comic that isn’t published by DC, Marvel, or Image: Boku no Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi
- A book of genre fiction in translation
- A book with a cover you hate: The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley – It really is an ugly cover
- A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato – In my head, I cast Carly Rae Jepsen as Molly Metropolis, and all was well.
- An essay anthology
- A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
- An assigned book you hated (or never finished): The Once and Future King by T.H. White – I never finished this in high school, at least not in a way that let me appreciate it. The reread fixed that.