Reading Challenges 2015

When I moved into my dorm at MTSU a little over two years ago, I packed a box of about 50 books, thinking that I’d have all the time in the world to read them. I had been a voracious reader for the majority of my academic career up to that while, while also maintaining friendships, good grades, and club memberships. To my dismay, at the end of my first semester I still hadn’t touched a single one of the books I brought with me, and hardly read anything outside my required class reading. Now, having recently completed my degree, I find I have much more time on my hands to indulge in my favorite pastime. So, in order to get myself back into my reading flow and increase the variety of books I read, I’ll be taking on two new reading challenges this year: The Cannonball Read and Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge.

The Cannonball Read, a challenge to read and review 52 books in a year, is something I have attempted before–and failed miserably at. (I tried to use my required reading towards this goal, which didn’t pan out because I also had papers and tests on them.) This year it is not only a personal challenge, but also an attempt to beef up my review portfolio and perfect my reviewing method.

The Read Harder Challenge is completely new to me, but I am completely in love with the concept. Many yearly reading challenges are based solely on numbers: try to read x books in a year, and then you can call yourself a real lit geek. But this challenge causes readers to step outside their comfort zones and read books from authors and genres that they might not typically pick up. I think it’s a wonderful way to expand one’s reading horizons, so I’ll be giving this one a shot as well.

I’m also going to try my best to read books I already own for this challenge, rather than buy new books for these categories. I’m also going to try to avoid overlapping authors.

Below are the books I’m reading for Read Harder, all of which will also be reviewed for Cannonball.

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25:
1 The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon
2 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
3 This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
4 Home by Toni Morrison

A collection of short stories
5 Any of the annual Best Short Stories collections

A book published by an indie press
6 Katorga by Steven Lloyd Wilson

A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
7 Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
8 Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
9 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

A book that takes place in Asia
10 The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimmage by Haruki Murakami
11 The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

A book by an author from Africa
12 Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
13 Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous population
14 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

A microhistory
15 The F Word by Jesse Sheildlower
16 On Paper by Nicholas A Basbanes

A YA novel
17 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
18 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

A SciFi novel
19 Discworld by Terry Pratchett
20 The Martian by Andy Weir

A romance novel
21 Atonement by Ian McEwan

A National Book Award winner from the last decade
22 Shadow Country by Peter Matthiessen

A Man Booker Prize winner from the last decade
23 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
24 A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan

A retelling of a classic story
25 Wicked by Gregory Maguire
26 The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

An audiobook
27 Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind

A collection of poetry
28 The Wasteland and Other Poems by TS Eliot

A book that someone else has recommended to you
29 American Pastoral by Philip Roth

A book that was originally published in another language
30 Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir, or a collection of comics
31 I have about 12 titles on my pull list, so this one shouldn’t be a problem

A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure
32 I’m saving this category for an impulse buy that gets read immediately, when I should be working through this list or reading the books I currently own

A book published before 1850
33 Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A book published this year
34 The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
35 Yes Please by Amy Poehler

A self-improvement book
36 Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose

The following are categories that were not originally a part of the challenge that I am adding for myself.

A non-fiction science book
37 The Birth of the Pill by Jonathan Eig
38 The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

A mystery novel
39 In the Woods by Tana French

A full length play
40 Angels in America by Tony Kushner

A poetic epic
41 Inferno by Dante Aligheri

A memoir
42 A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
43 Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

I still need 9 books in addition to these to meet my Cannonball goal, but the books I’m currently working on which will comprise my first reviews will help knock that number down:
44 Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
45 The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
46 A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
47 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write by Sarah Ruhl
48 The Touchstone by Edith Wharton

…which leaves 6 slots for me to fill with impulse buys and recommendations.
Got any recs?


  1. The Namesake is really good but perhaps her other novel, The lowland is better! 🙂 if you haven’t read Russian authors, I’d suggest Gorky and Dostoyevsky! 🙂 and Khaleed Hosseini! Beautiful! Very awesome list btw….I wish u all the best 🙂


    1. I just bought The Lowland, and I’m really looking forward to reading it! And thanks for the great recommendations!


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