For the last several years, I have attempted to complete Book Riot’s Read Hard Challenge, which aims to introduce new genres, new authors, and new worlds, both real and imaginary, into your reading life. And each year, I have failed 🙁
This year however, I feel like I will finally read finish all 24 tasks. So far, I’ve managed to pace myself pretty well, finishing two books a month for the challenge in January, February, and March. I didn’t do quite as well in April, only finishing one challenge, and May might only have 1 as well, but I still feel like I’ve set myself up well.
I’m also hoping that by posting it publicly here, I can motivate myself for success. Below, I’ve listed every challenge and the titles I’m considering to read, as well as the tasks I’ve already finished and which I read for them.
# of Tasks Completed: 8/24 (as of May 25)
1. A book published posthumously
Planned title: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
I’ve wanted to read this one for years. I’ve actually read a bit of it back when I was in university, but I never finished it (which means I could also use it for task #24, if I come up with something else for this one).
2. A book of true crime – Completed
I could have counted this one as the posthumously title as well, but decided to go with true crime because it’s not a genre I read a lot. I listened to this title on audio and it was just brilliant and devastating all at the same time. And then, along with others, I cheered when the alleged GSK was finally apprehended. Even though this book will probably never get officially acknowledged for the role it had in that arrest, I know that it definitely had a hand in it.
I also loved this one so much that, even though I owned the audio, I had to go out and pick up the print book as well, so I can experience it all over again.
3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
Planned title: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
I haven’t read a lot of Christie’s work but I would like to check out more. After reading Murder on the Orient Express last year, a friend recommended this title to me, so I picked up a used copy when I was in London. There is a chance I might switch this out for Georgette Heyer … or I might just read books from both of them because why not?
4. A comic written and drawn by the same person – Completed
Like many people, I discovered Alison Bechdel through the Bechdel test. But for years, I never went further than that. However, after an episode of the podcast Nancy mentioned the musical adaptation of Fun Home, I listened to the soundtrack on Spotify and decided I had to see it. The show was performed in Toronto this year so, in preparation, I read the book and really enjoyed it – though I think I might actually like the show just a bit more.
5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa) – Completed
I’ve been getting into mystery and thriller more in the past year or so, though reading this book made me think that I’m probably more of a thriller fan. The Widows of Malabar Hill was a very enjoyable book but I found it had a slowish start that kept me from getting into it right away. Luckily, I had heard so many great reviews of it that I kept on reading and am very glad to have finished it (and returned it to the library just in time to avoid late fines).
6. A book about nature
Planned: either Woolly by Ben Mezrich or The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
I have both of these books out from the library at the moment but I’m not sure which one I’m going to read first. I’ve discovered recently that I am very much a mood reader, which means that sometimes a book that I would otherwise enjoy just doesn’t do it for me. Which also means there’s a good chance that I might end up reading something entirely different!
7. A western
Planned: I have no clue. Maybe Lonesome Dove? Or this ebook I got for free years ago called Unicorn Western. This is not my genre at all normally so I am really not sure.
8. A comic written or drawn by a person of color
Planned: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
I’ve wanted to read this book for years. It was one of the books on my Indigo wishlist for the longest. Finally, I bought a copy and I have actually read the first half, aka Persepolis Book 1. I am saving Persepolis Book 2 for a moment when I have time to sit down and read the whole thing in one sitting because I really enjoyed what I’ve read so far.
9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
Planned: No idea because I’m not entirely certain what this challenge means. I’m really hoping the eventual Read Harder podcast (available for Book Riot Insiders) covering this episode gives me some good ideas.
10. A romance novel by or about a person of color – Completed
I received this title through a book exchange and it was one of the best things ever. This series centers on a fictional version of “Dancing with the Stars” and it was full of delicious twists and turns. Also it features the line “a mountain of a man named Stone.” <3
11. A children’s classic published before 1980 – Completed
I somehow never read this book growing up. I heard about it but it just wasn’t part of my childhood canon. But with the movie coming out, a friend lent me the book and I finally checked it out. And it was enjoyable, though I will admit that much of it seemed quite dated. I feel like I would have liked it more if I’d read it when I was younger, though I’m still glad to have checked it out.
12. A celebrity memoir – Completed
Probably about a third of my audiobook listening is celebrity memoirs read by the author. I just love them. While this one was not the best that I’ve ever heard, I still really enjoyed it because I love Drew Barrymore and always will. And she is really fun to listen to, though I do wish the volume had been turned down a few times.
13. An Oprah Book Club selection
Planned: The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (or one of the other books I’ve bought because Oprah suggested it but never actually got around to reading).
Again, because I’m a mood reader, I don’t really know which one I’ll read of the options. But The Underground Railroad is definitely the front runner, given that it won all the things last year.
14. A book of social science
Planned: Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein
This is another title that I might switch out, though I feel like there is a less a chance of that since I don’t have a ton of social science books lying around the house to choose from.
15. A one-sitting book – Completed
I love Kendare Blake’s Three Dark Crowns series and so I read this one pretty soon after it came out, in one sitting … sort of. I must admit, I was getting a bit drowsy while reading it (because it was Christmas/New Years, not because of the book!) and so I ended up needing to take a nap between chapters. But I didn’t actually stand up, so that’s one sitting, right?
16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series – Completed
Another audiobook on this list – and also another book that I now own in print as well because I just loved it. This book is pretty much Mean Ballerinas and that hit my wheelhouse very hard. I also love that the audiobook has 4 different narrators, once for each character who gets POV.
I also quickly ordered and listened to the sequel, Shiny Broken Pieces, which was just as good.
17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
Planned: The Prey of Gods
I’m halfway through this book currently and really enjoying it. I did ponder for awhile whether or not I could really say it has a female protagonist, since it’s very much an ensemble story, but many of those ensemble are female, so I think it works.
18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
Planned: The first vol of either Lumberjanes or Heavy Vinyl
I actually bought Lumberjanes last year, for the all ages comic Read Harder task, but never ended up finishing it. Normally, this would give it a leg up but after hearing about the premise of Heavy Vinyl (When Chris joins the staff at her local record store, she’s surprised to find out that her co-workers share a secret: they’re all members of a secret fight club that take on the patriarchy and fight crime!) I just couldn’t resist picking it up, so I don’t really know. I will probably just read them both.
19. A book of genre fiction in translation
Planned: No idea because I apparently missed the “genre fiction” part of the task when initially planning.
Oops. I suspect I’ll go with The Queue or The Three-Body Problem.
20. A book with a cover you hate
Planned: I really don’t know about this one. Eventually, I need to just go through my bookshelves at home and see if I can find a particularly egregious cover – I must have at least one.
21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
Planned: Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke
I’ve heard so many good things about this book that I just need to read it. Though I just realized that The Widows of Malabar Hill could also count for this one, so I may move things around. Regardless, Bluebird Bluebird is pretty high on my TBR.
22. An essay anthology
Planned: Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, edited by Manjula Martin
I have this book out from the library as well and am really looking forward to reading it. As a writer, I think it will be very interesting to hear what other writers, some of them big names, have to say about writing as a means of making money.
23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
Planned: Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
I really want to watch the Netflix movie but I am making myself read the book first. But, like so many other things, I haven’t been in the mood to read it yet – hopefully soon.
24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)
Planned: There are so many books I could choose from I can’t even.
I was not always the best English student but a lot of the books I never quite got around to finishing sounded pretty great. So I kept a lot of them around, which means I should have no problem picking up something that fits my mood at the moment.