Last month, sister sites Book Riot and Panels released their 2016 Read Harder reading challenges. If you’re not familiar, these challenges are a list of tasks that encourage readers to branch out from the kinds of books we typically read. This means trying new genres, reading more globally, or picking up books on topics we usually avoid.
Below are Book Riot’s challenges and the books I’m planning to read to complete each task. This year, reviews of these titles or any other books I read over the course of the year will be posted on the Cannonball Read blog. You can read my list of challenge books for Panels’ Read Harder here.
Read a horror book: Carrie by Stephen King
I’ve always had mixed feelings about horror: I love all things creepy, eerie, and Gothic, but I tend to avoid monster stories and lots of gore. Lately I’ve been acclimating myself to the genre so I can finally say I’ve read Stephen King. I picked Carrie because it is his first novel, and so I can then watch the horror classic that it spawned.
Read a nonfiction book about science: Proof by Adam Rogers
Hard science can be difficult to wade through, especially if you happen to be an English major ill-equipped to deal with math. So, I have chosen a book about something that I love and am always interested to learn more about: booze.
Read a collection of essays: Letter to a Future Lover: Marginalia, Errata, Secrets, Inscriptions, and Other Ephemera Found in Libraries by Ander Monson
I had no idea this book existed until today (many thanks to the great folks over at NYPL). It’s been a while since I’ve delved into a collection of essays, but books about books are one of my weaknesses, so I doubt I will have any problems reading this one.
Read a middle grade novel: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Lately I’ve been revisiting the fantasy genre that I’ve hardly touched since high school. Though I never read them then, these books are exactly the kind that I would have loved as a child. Plus, I do love me a good old controversial read.
Read a biography: Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
I know I’m not the only one who has, over the last few years, become aware of the unstoppable force that is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I picked this biography to learn more about this incredible woman, and how she has been catapulted into the spotlight of pop culture.
Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Yes, I am one of the few who hasn’t yet read The Hunger Games. I chose it to see for myself the roots of the recent dystopian trend in YA literature, and to celebrate the (supposed) conclusion of the film franchise. Leave it to me to finally join the hype after the hype is officially over.
Read a book originally published in the decade you were born: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
This one makes it on the list due to proximity to my birth year and impact on my childhood. My brother and I loved these movies growing up, but neither of us ever read the original story, despite the fact that our mother had read or owned just about every Crichton novel published up to that point.
Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie award: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I didn’t know that the Audies were a thing, but they are that is awesome. I have a physical copy of Yes Please somewhere in a storage unit it Tennessee because most of my books did not make it to Boston with me. Therefore, I will be listening to the lovely Amy Poehler read her memoir to me.
Read a book over 500 pages long: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Yes, another Pulitzer Prize winner that’s been on my TBR for ages. Of course, now I have no excuse for avoiding this daunting volume.
Read a book under 100 pages long: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
I have yet to read any of Flynn’s novels yet, even though I’ve been dying to try them. Part of me is worried that her books, particularly Gone Girl, have been over-hyped, and that I will be left disappointed. For that reason I’ve chosen to read her latest novella to determine whether I’ll pursue a more long-term relationship with her works.
Read a book by or about a person who is transgender: Nevada by Imogen Binnie
By or about? How about both? I can’t name many trans authors off the top of my head, but this BuzzFeed article lists several books by trans authors, and includes fiction, nonfiction, memoir, scifi, and more. Nevada isn’t the only book from this list that’s getting added to my TBR.
Read a book set in the Middle East: Zahra’s Paradise by Amir & Khalil
I found this graphic novel buried in the comics section of one of my many local indie bookstores, and I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else (barring the internet, of course). I chose this book because it demonstrates the impact of social media in Iran at the time.
Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
I’m a little miffed that this task wasn’t on last year’s challenge, because last year was when I discovered the excellence of Jhumpa Lahiri. Her stories have been on my mind a lot lately, so I think I’ll just keep the trend going with her most recent novel.
Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
I watched this movie years ago and loved it, and I’m eager to finally read the novel. I’ve heard that the audiobook is even better though, with narration that brings the book to life where imagination fails, so I might try to get my hands on a copy of that rather than the book itself.
Read the first book in a series by a person of color: The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison
I’ve been wanting to check out Jemison’s work for a while, and now is as good a time as any. I chose this series in particular because it just began this year and is on the Nebula Awards Suggested Reading List curated by members of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America guild.
Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last 3 years: Wytches by Scott Snyder
I read a preview of this comic last year when it debuted and it scared the crap out of me. I love the way Snyder has re-imagined witches and Salem because it is terrifying. I will be reading this comic in broad daylight with all the lights on.
Read a book that was adapted into a film, then watch the film: The Martian by Andy Weir
Is it cheating that I’ve already seen the movie? No, because I’ll just watch it again. Also because of all the book adaptations that came out this year, this was one of my favorites. I can only hope that the book will be just as good, but if what I’ve heard of it is true, then I have nothing to worry about.
Read a nonfiction book about feminism, or dealing with feminist themes: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I’m cheating a bit on this one because I’ve already seen the Ted Talk this book is based on. But this is one of those speeches that needs to be experienced in multiple formats, and that deserves to be read more than once.
Read a book about religion: The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
A lifelong fascination with magic plus a recent move to Boston has left me with a new-found obsession with everything Salem. This book is supposedly the most complete account of the Salem Witch Trials, and I can’t wait to read it.
Read a book about politics: Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
This poetry collection has been winning awards left and right, and has made several “best of the year” lists. It feels like both an appropriate follow up to a year full of racial tension and a preparation for the inevitable civil rights movement that’s coming.
Read a food memoir: Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Food has played a significant role in Knisley’s other memoirs, many of which don’t directly relate to cooking or eating. Because it’s obvious that food and cooking has such an impact on her work, I’m excited to read her official food memoir.
Read a play: Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes
This play was recommended by my boyfriend after he read it for a playwriting class his last year of college. Books about war and trauma are not the kind I would typically pick up, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
Read a book featuring a main character with a mental illness: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I feel like this is the kind of book that has the potential to either soothe old wounds or send me spiraling back into my college days of writing sad poetry and drinking too much. I’m actually surprised at myself for not starting it sooner, but I’m reading it now hoping for some resolution to a darker time in my life.
Read a book aloud to someone
I don’t know when, why, or how I will read a book to someone over the next year, so I’m not going to worry about planning one in advance. We’ll just have to see where the year takes us.