2018 BookRiot Read Harder Challenge TBR & Recs

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One of the other most exciting parts of the new year (aside from parsing down my shelves) is determining what, exactly, I’ll be reading this year. From new releases to old goodies to under-the-radar works I want to dig into, I have so many decisions to make – always keeping in mind I surely won’t be able to finish everything I want to. Oh, the horror!

I think I read fairly diversely when it comes to genres, and I am generally conscientious of how often I’m reading women and/or POC authors. I’m deeply supportive of groups and publishers who also stand behind reading diversely such as We Need Diverse Books. Yet this year, I really want to push the envelope. So that means I’m going to do my best to tackle the 2018 Read Harder Challenge list. Below are the books I plan to read for each challenge, and a couple of recommendations for books I’ve read that would fulfill these, as it stands today (January 14). Ready, set, go:

  1.  A book published posthumouslyNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I’m excited to have a classic on the list, and I’m in the mood to pick up a Jane Austen anyway.
  2. A book of true crimeUnder the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer. I hauled this earlier in the month and couldn’t be more excited for some chilling, thrilling religious murder. Already-Read-It Recommendation: American Fire by Monica Hesse
  3. A classic of genre fictionMurder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. This will be my second Christie, having read And Then There Were None last year. I enjoyed the twists and the fun intricacies of Christie’s writing, and I’m excited to pick up another.
  4. A comic written and illustrated by the same personThe Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I’ve heard such good things about these comics, which depict Satrapi’s girlhood in the Iran of the Islamic Revolution. Already-Read-It Recommendation: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
  5. A book set in or about Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South AfricaBorn a Crime by Trevor Noah or The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. I’m pretty torn between these two and will probably wind up reading both. Looking forward to the variety provided by memoir & short stories, and I so rarely read about either South Africa or Russia that I hope these hyped works live up to my expectations.
  6. A book about natureThe Big Picture by Sean Carroll. This dive into human meaning and the ways of the universe looks awesome, but the physics may be over my head. This could quite possibly be the biggest challenge on this list. In case I truly can’t finish it, I will probably pick up Lab Girl by Hope Jahren, which comes highly recommended by one of my former professors.
  7. A westernTexas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa and translated by Samantha Schnee, published by one of my favorites – Deep Vellum. I picked this up at their storefront and have been itching to dig into it. I always strive to read more fiction in translation, particularly women in translation, and Boullosa is one of Mexico’s premier female writers. A mid 19th century borderland history displayed through the eyes of Mexicans, I expect this to be inventive and rich with detail.
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: I’m double dipping and will be counting Persepolis for this as well.
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature:  Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have deeply enjoyed and been moved by Adichie’s other writing, including her short stories. Ideally I’d like to get through her whole backlist.
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of colorThe Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory. This looks cute and it was praised by Roxane Gay. I don’t need to know anything else!
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, originally published in 1964. I loved this book as a child but don’t remember much of it. I’m quite thrilled to have an excuse to grab it from my library and reread!
  12. A celebrity memoir: Another double dip, with Born a Crime.
  13. An Oprah Book Club selectionBehold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. I plan to pick this up in February for my Black History month TBR (post forthcoming!).
  14. A book of social scienceAll the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister. I own no shortage of social science books, so this was tough to narrow down. Ultimately, this book is timely in light of the forthcoming 2018 elections and I’m always down for reading analyses of gender & politics.
  15. [completed] A one sitting bookEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. My interpretation of this challenge (a book you read in one sitting, regardless of length), means that I’m counting this! I polished this off in a couple of hours earlier this month – deeply enthralling and I’m looking forward to everything Celeste Ng will ever write.
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade seriesTo All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. I generally (well, always) stay away from YA – the attempts I’ve made recently have ended in DNFs and a vow that I’ve learned my lesson: YA just doesn’t do it for me. It’s probably because, well, I’m no fantasy fan. But – here we go. Thanks, BookRiot, for forcing me to try again (though I’m not touching any YA fantasy, sorry). Luckily, every other YA series is new to me – I had lots to pick from! I may switch this up as some newer YA series wrap up this year.
  17. A sci-fi novel with a female protagonist written by a female authorParable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler. Another Black History month read!
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or ImageMarch: Book One by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell. I deeply admire John Lewis, and while my academic knowledge of the Civil Rights Movement and Lewis’ involvement is fairly developed, I’m eager to see how his story is adapted for a younger audience (and with pictures!).
  19. A book of genre fiction in translationTarget in the Night by Ricardo Piglia, translated by Sergio Waisman. Piglia is well-regarded in his native Argentina, and this thriller/mystery originally published in Spanish was highly praised. Another Deep Vellum translated pick.
  20. A book with a cover you hateThe Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. I own the movie tie-in cover of this book, and man is it ugly. I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s Exit West (unpopular opinion?), and I want to get to other Hamid soon.
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ authorBluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke. I think this is the final Black History month TBR book on this list. This mystery/thriller is top of my priority list.
  22. An essay anthologyNot That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay. Forthcoming, to be released on May 1. For this one, I’m sticking to the strict definition of an anthology (it must include multiple writers). This collection looks like it’ll be emotionally tough but resonant, especially in light of this year’s #TimesUp movement in Hollywood and beyond.
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. I’ve been eyeing this one since it was featured at Book of the Month, and I’m keen to read something from an older perspective. It’s rare I do that and I’m glad this challenge is on the list.
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)The Essential Feminist Reader by Estelle Freedman. I may be skirting this challenge a little, but I was never assigned the entirety of this essay anthology (lo, another one for challenge 21!) and I would like to read the whole thing. I sure as hell hated Wuthering Heights in high school but I just can’t bring myself to do it again. I know that’s the whole point of this one. Sorry, Read Harder, I’ve let you down.
Current tasks completed: 1/24


Whew – I’m exhausted just reading my list and I’ve only finished one task. Are y’all doing this challenge? Which tasks are you finding most or least difficult? Have we picked any of the same books? Let me know!

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