Read Harder 📚💪

Each year, Book Riot issues a challenge to read consciously, thoughtfully, and outside your comfort zone. The 2017 Read Harder Challenge lays out 24 book tasks, in wide-ranging categories, to help find readers find new books and genres and authors and characters to fall in love with.

I was stoked to discover the Read Harder Challenge at the beginning of the year, and made it a New Year’s resolution that I was excited to keep. I’ve always loved to read, and I had a lot of fun pushing myself to discover books that I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. I especially had fun with the categories that called for comic books (sorry, “graphic novels”), and listened to audiobooks to help liven up my commute.

Below are my picks for each task — I’d recommend pretty much all of these, some really great finds. If you’re interested in taking on the challenge (do it!), there’s an awesome community on Goodreads with tons of suggestions for each category as well.

✅ My 2017 Read Harder Challenge

1. Read a book about sports

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

Honest and vulnerable, Abby’s story is less about soccer and more about the pressure she puts on herself to perform at the highest level and struggling with self-destructive behaviors.

2. Read a debut novel

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

Suspenseful and creepy — this story got to me, and certain parts lingered in my mind long after finishing it.

3. Read a book about books

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Lucia Graves

Spanish writers always seems to have some mystical, magical style of prose that seems more poetic, and this epic was no exception. Beautifully written.

4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author

The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pacheco

An inside look at the impact of Columbian drug wars, told in a series of interconnected stories.

5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

My first foray in to YA books in a long time, but I was immediately captivated by this story — a quick, fun read that makes a statement.

6. Read an all-ages comic

Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson & Brittany Williams

Bonus pick — graphic reboot of the BSC! Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin

7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

Wise words, inspirational for women writing in particular - glad I picked this one up.

8. Read a travel memoir

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

The audiobook narrated by the author was hilarious — highly recommend this version.

Bonus pick: My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende

9. Read a book you’ve read before

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

I don’t usually re-read books, but realized I forgot so much of this story, the details, and the lovely writing style — I really enjoyed a fresh read.

10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Set in Seattle, but the story didn’t do much for me.

11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location

Sightseeing: Stories by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

A collection of short stories set in Thailand, interesting perspective from a local about the farang tourists.

12. Read a fantasy novel

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin

A good fix while waiting for the new season of Game of Thrones this summer.

13. Read a nonfiction book about technology

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

Super insightful and well researched, this book blew my mind a bit. Took quite a few notes that I’ve already found myself referencing regularly.

14. Read a book about war

War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans

A novel based on the memoirs of the author’s grandfather — a Belgian soldier in the First World War and an amateur painter all his life.

15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Another YA book that surprised me — unexpectedly magical and full of love.

16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country

1984 by George Orwell

Making this book fit for this task, for a chance to finally read it. Did not disappoint.

17. Read a classic by an author of color

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

I’ve been meaning to read Maya Angelou’s poetry for years, but I’m glad I started with this story. A raw and honest account of her childhood, eloquently expressed.

18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead

Faith, Volume 1 by Jody Houser

19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

21. Read a book published by a micropress

Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution by Julia Alekseyeva

More learning about history through comics — why not?

22. Read a collection of stories by a woman

A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin

Stories that find moments of grace in everyday life, raw and engaging.

23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love

Selection of poems about Chile, by Pablo Neruda

24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

An incredible and horrific look at history, colonialism and slavery in Ghana and America, across 250 years. Epic in scope but very readable, with compelling characters and rich storytelling. Lives up to the hype.

What are you reading this year? Always looking for good recommendations, and happy to chat more about any of these books.



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Maya Hampton

Digital professional, creative life. Product manager for design systems at REI.