Your New Year’s Reading Resolution: Read Harder Book Challenge

Posted on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 by Lauren

Photo of a stack of books by Chris Champan, via FlickrSure, you can resolve to make 2016 the year to lose 10 pounds, run a marathon or learn to speak Spanish. Those are all fine goals. But here at the library we like our resolutions literary, and book challenges fit the bill quite nicely.

What’s a book challenge? Basically, you read books according to a certain set of guidelines and share your reviews of those books with other readers. There are food writing challenges, debut author challenges and “to be read pile” challenges, just to name a few.

This year I’ve got my eye on Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. The idea is to read a book in each of 24 categories, many of which will require you to sample new genres and stretch your usual reading boundaries. Read a play! Read a collection of essays! Read a nonfiction book about science! Join this book challenge and be a better person. (Or at least get way better at trivia night and cocktail party small talk.) If you want to join this challenge, you can download a pdf of the reading task list. Not sure where to start? I’ve got recommendations for each of the categories below. Enjoy!

Book cover for Broken MonstersRead a horror book
Shining Girls” or “Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes or “Revival” by Stephen King

Read a nonfiction book about science
The Nurture Effect” by Anthony Biglan or anything by Mary Roach (“Gulp,” “Packing for Mars“)

Read a collection of essays
The Empathy Exams” by Leslie Jamison or “Our Only World” by Wendell Berry

Book cover for To Kill a MockingbirdRead a book out loud to someone else
To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norton Juster or “The Book With no Pictures” by B. J. Novak

Read a middle grade novel
Wonder” by R.J. Palacio or “My Diary From the Edge of the World” by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Read a biography (not a memoir or autobiography)
Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill” by Sonia Purnell, “E.E. Cummings: A Life” by Susan Cheever or “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough

Book cover for Zone OneRead a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel
The Road” by Cormac McCarthy (obvious choice), “Zone One” by Colson Whitehead (zombies!) or “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel (no zombies! Shakespeare!)

Read a book originally published in the decade you were born
1960s: “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson
1970s: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” by John Le Carré
1980s: “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood
1990s: “Paradise” by Toni Morrison

Book cover for Still Foolin' Em by Billy CrystalListen to an audiobook that has won an Audie award
Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith (Read by Robert Glenister) or “Still Foolin’ ‘Em” by Billy Crystal (Read by Billy Crystal)

Read a book over 500 pages long
All the Light we Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr or “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt

Read a book under 100 pages
The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka or “Turn of the Screw” by Henry James

Book cover for George by Alex GinoRead a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender
George” by Alex Gino or “She’s Not There” by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Read a book that is set in the Middle East
The Ruins of Us” by Keija Parssinen or “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia
In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner or “Sightseeing: Stories” by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Book cover for The White QueenRead a book of historical fiction set before 1900
Caleb’s Crossing” by Geraldine Brooks or  “The White Queen” by Philippa Gregory

Read the first book in a series by a person of color
Devil in A Blue Dress” (first in a mystery series) by Walter Mosley or “The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms” (first in a sci-fi trilogy) by N.K. Jemisin

Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years
Descender” by Jeff Lemire or “The Woods” by James Tynion

Book cover for Brooklyn by Colm ToibinRead a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better
Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín, “The Martian” by Andy Weir or “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” by Jesse Andrews

Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes
How to Be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran or “Bad Feminist” by Roxane Gay

Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)
Learning to Walk in the Dark” by Barbara Brown Taylor or “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty” by Mustafa Akyol

Book cover for Team of RivalsRead a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln” by Doris Kearns Goodwin or “Double Down” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann

Read a food memoir
Blood, Bones, and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton or “Tender at the Bone” by Ruth Reichl

Read a play
Wit” by Margaret Edson or “The Piano Lesson” by August Wilson

Book cover for furiously happyRead a book with a main character that has a mental illness
Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson, “I Know This Much is True” by Wally Lamb or “Too Bright to Hear Too Loud to See” by Juliann Garey

Have other books you’d like to suggest in any of these categories? Let us know in the comments.

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