I am extremely motivated by checking things off a list, and Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge is set up so that each book equals a checkmark. Every new tick mark is like a little rush of accomplishment.
The Read Harder Challenge is 24 categories of books to read through the year, with the intention of expanding your reading horizons. This year’s list was an especially tricky one, with some categories being multi-layered (I’m looking at you, “A collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.”) For the 2016 Challenge, I made a point of reading one book for each category (although they expressly say you can double or triple up if you like), and I wanted all the books to be ones I hadn’t read before.
For 2017, I decided to let some books double up, and allow a couple books I’ve read before. (One category, “A book you’ve read before,” kind of required that.) But I decided I wanted all the books to be written by women. This was mostly easy, although “A book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author” and the above-mentioned poetry translation didn’t offer a ton of choices. The poetry book, in fact, I couldn’t find anywhere besides on Amazon being sold by a third-party, and I shelled out like $17 for it. But it felt nice this year to be making the conscious choice to search out and read books by women.
This was a good group of categories and I loved this experience. I can’t wait for the 2018 Challenge.
First book I crossed off the list:
Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta
At the start of this challenge, I had planned on doubling or tripling up as much as possible. So I picked a book that was both a collection of stories by a woman and also a story by an immigrant, with immigration themes. This was a lovely and inspiring collection of stories.
Last book I crossed off the list (no one will be surprised by this):
Forward by Abby Wambach
Finding a book about sports by a woman was mildly challenging. This memoir was a super quick read, and engaging enough, although I felt like it got a little braggy at times. But I guess when you’re telling your own story, you have to talk about your thoughts and opinions.
The book I wish I had been able to include:
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
This is one of my favorite books this year, but by the time I read it I didn’t have a category for it. This book was brutal and hard to read, and I legit cried at least three times. But I would still shove it at anyone who reads. It’s beautiful.
Favorite audiobook on this list:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I know I’m not saying anything new here, but this story is so important, and the audiobook performance was stellar. Five stars.
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (also audiobook…great performance!)
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (I read a couple Sarah Waters back in New York, but forgot how much I like her writing and how devourable it is)
The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang (second one checked off the list…a funny and touching story of a family trying to hold it together)
And now, without further ado, my Read Harder Challenge 2017!
And yes, I know it’s only August. It’s the checkmark thing, I’m telling you. Next year I won’t double up on anything.