The 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is here! This year’s list looks as promising as last year’s and I’m excited to be able to add a lot of books already on my TBR. After reviewing my reads from this year (more on that in my upcoming end-of-year post), I want to focus on reading more diverse authors, so I’m going to do my best to fill most slots with non-majority authors or subjects. It is actually not at all difficult to do this. I don’t have every category decided yet, but here’s what I have figured out for 2017. Feel free to offer suggestions for my undecided categories:
1. Read a book about sports. – K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts. I picked up this book from the library after watching a documentary about it on Netflix and after having read Into Thin Air. I was in a moment of “too many books checked out, not enough time!” so it went back unread. Time to correct that.
2. Read a debut novel. – Either Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng or The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. I’ve been given a good recommendation for Everything I Never Told You (and Ng herself has a suggestion on this list) and I’ve had Oscar Wao on my shelf for years. I’m not sure which one I’ll pick, but hopefully I’ll get to both this year.
3. Read a book about books. – La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I started reading this earlier this year, but then the election happened and I had no brain space for figuring out a mystery in Spanish. I did find the book about a forgotten author and the man who aims to burn all copies of his works quite engaging, so I plan to finish it here.
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – I’m going for the big one: Cien años de soledad (100 Years of Solitude) by Gabriel García Márquez. I’ve read a few of García Márquez’s books and it’s well past time to cross this one off my list! I think I’ll also purchase the audiolibro to improve my Spanish listening skills while I’m at it.
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. – Either In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero or The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez. The first is a memoir by the Orange is the New Black/Jane the Virgin actress recounting her parents’ and brother’s arrest and deportation (as a natural born citizen, Guerrero was able to stay in the US). The second is a work of fiction detailing a teenage love story between a Mexican girl and a Panamanian boy, both immigrants. I will probably choose Guerrero’s memoir for the task, but both books seem relevant and interesting.
6. Read an all-ages comic. – This year I read the first in Congressman John Lewis’s March series. I’ll complete this task with March: Book Two. I believe the series tells an important part of history that is appropriate for all. The more we learn about how far we’ve come and, sadly, how far we’ve strayed, the better.
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson. First published in 1933, this book is about the failures of a Euro-centric education, which seems as pertinent an argument as ever. Bonus: one of the three regional libraries here takes its name from Woodson.
8. Read a travel memoir. – I’m not sure what I’ll pick for this task, but after reading A Walk in the Woods, I definitely want to check out some more by Bill Bryson. Any suggestions for other authors?
9. Read a book you’ve read before. – I’ve been wanting to reread W.E.B. DuBois’s seminal work The Souls of Black Folk for a while now. This is the perfect time to get it done.
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – Many years ago I read Adam Langer’s Crossing California, a coming of age story set in 1970s Chicago. I’ve had its follow-up, The Washington Story, gathering dust on my shelf ever since. Time to finally take that one down.
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. – I have Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime on my library hold list, so I will probably use his memoir about growing up biracial in apartheid South Africa here, but Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala has also piqued my interest, as I want to read it before watching the acclaimed film. Perhaps this will inspire me to tackle both.
12. Read a fantasy novel. – I’m not a huge fantasy fan, so I’ll probably stick with Cress, the next in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, or The Dream Thieves, the next in Maggie Steifvater’s Raven Cycle. I don’t have much desire to reach too far in this category.
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. – Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm. I grew up very close to the Trinity testing site in New Mexico, so when I came across this graphic history, I knew I had to read it.
14. Read a book about war. – This seems the perfect opportunity to tackle Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning, World War II-centric All the Light We Cannot See. Barring that Beasts of No Nation would also make a fine entry in this category.
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. – I’ve been wanting to read Meredith Russo’s If I Was Your Girl for a while. This book written by a trans woman, featuring a trans protagonist, has gotten quite a bit of hype. Here’s to seeing how it measures up.
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. – I think I’ve read part of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, but not enough to remember and certainly not enough to matter. The American Library Association includes it on their frequently challenged books with diverse content list.
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. – I don’t read many superhero comics, so help me out here. Where should I start? What’s a good read?
19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. – I’m not entirely sure if this counts as a spiritual journey, but I’ve had Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things for years, so I’m hoping this will fulfill the task. Thoughts? Suggestions?
20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. – Without a doubt, I’ve got to read Benjamin Alire Sáenz’s Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Bonus points that the author is basically from my hometown.
21. Read a book published by a micropress. – Chicago author Joe Meno has put out several books on Punk Planet Books, which seems to now be owned by Akashic. I’ve been wanting to read The Boy Detective Fails – about an older Encyclopedia Brown-type – for many years. Cross another off the list!
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. – What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi. An easy pick, as it was already on the TBR.
23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. – I’m considering going super classic here with the Robert Fagles translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid. I read his translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey and enjoyed them both, something I never thought I would say.
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. – Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros. I loved The House on Mango Street and have owned and wanted to read this multi-generational tale of a Mexican family for ages.
And there, save for a few categories, is my entire list! Tell me, are you doing the challenge? If so, what are you clamoring to be read?