by Kevin Kwan, 2015
If there’s one thing I don’t understand, it’s people who get on a train or a plane, buckle their seatbelts, and proceed to stare forward for the duration of the trip. They don’t put in earbuds, they don’t watch a downloaded movie, they sure as hell don’t crack open a book, and they don’t even close their eyes and rest their heads. I don’t particularly love flying, but I do enjoy knowing that for a definite period of time I will be required to do nothing more but entertain myself, which is to say, I will have guaranteed reading time. I read the second installment of the Crazy Rich Asians series while coming back from visiting my parents over the Christmas break where, you guessed it, my seatmate did nothing but stare forward. Well, he did ask me if I were studying for an exam, because apparently that’s the only reason one would be reading. Anyway.
by Leni Zumas, 2018
Feminist dystopian literature is certainly having a moment. The success of the fortuitously timed release of The Handmaid’s Tale series amid the current political climate has ushered in a new generation of stories that focus on one general idea: we women are terrified. Red Clocks is no different. A clear child of Atwood’s bleak imagining of a totalitarian control on reproductive rights, Red Clocks depicts a future in which embryos have rights, in vitro fertilization is illegal, only two-parent households can adopt, and Roe v. Wade is overturned. Of course, history tells us that this does not mean fewer women will have abortions, just that more women will die from them. This book is history repeating itself.
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 2013
As the year came to a close and I finished both the Read Harder Challenge and my Year Of challenge, I decided to try to squeeze in some books that I’ve long wanted to read. The previously posted My Brilliant Friend was one, as was this tale of two lovers split between Nigeria and the United States that I continue to hear so much about. Such hyped books always run the risk of not living up to their reputations, either because their plots have been spoiled, they were never really that good and were just the result of some excellent marketing, or their stories just aren’t for you (see again: My Brilliant Friend). I’m happy to say that none of this was the case with Americanah, for the writing was as brilliant as I had been promised, the story was as relevant as could be, and the emotions were raw and poignant. This is one book that I expect to be read for decades to come.
by Elena Ferrante, 2012
I’ve heard so much about the Neapolitan novels since they infiltrated the English literature market and I’ve always been curious about these sweeping tales of two girls growing up in 1950s Italy. I’ve made the erroneous assumption before that something that is popular cannot also be good (Devil in the White City, Harry Potter, Big Little Lies), so I’ve started to suspend my judgment until I actually read the work in question. How does My Brilliant Friend stack up? Eh…it was okay.
by Yaa Gyasi, 2016
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A book of colonial or postcolonial literature.
This is the book that convinced me to forge ahead with the Read Harder Challenge. After hearing so much about it when it was first published, and having wanted to read it since then, I knew it would be the perfect book to fulfill the “a book of colonial or postcolonial literature” task. Of all of the books I had selected, it was the one I wanted to read most and I saved it for last. Given that, it seemed rather silly to not do my best get it done. I’m so glad I did.
by L.M. Montgomery, 1908
Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series.
I’m not sure how this happened, but I’ve never read Anne of Green Gables. I read everything by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I loved The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Although I have different feelings about them now, I adored Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. It seems like Anne would have been an obvious choice for me, yet, somehow, it never was. With this Read Harder Challenge category, I decided it was time to remedy that.
by Octavia E. Butler, 2005
Octavia Butler’s final novel is a vampire story, but it’s not your everyday “I want to suck your blood” tale of horror. While some elements remain true – the vampires hail from eastern Europe, including Transylvania, and they must feed on human blood for sustenance – their relationships with humans are symbiotic rather than predatory and they can never turn a human into a vampire, for the vampires, called Ina, are a completely different species. Fledgling differs from the typical vampire narrative in other important ways, because this, like so many of Butler’s works, is a story about race.