Somewhere around August I discovered something called the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. The idea is to expand your reading sphere by completing 24 different tasks over the course of 1 year. (This averages out to 2 books a month.) To complete a task, you must read a book that fits certain criteria. Some tasks are fairly broad (i.e.: “Read a play” or “Read a book over 500 pages”) while other tasks encourage readers to explore specific genres they probably haven’t read much in the past (i.e.: “Read the first book in a series by a person of color”). There is a Goodreads group that provides suggestions of books to complete each task.
I gave myself a slight handicap, considering that it began last January and I didn’t start until August, but I successfully completed the challenge on Christmas Day with A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens [Read a book under 100 pages].
I enjoyed most of the books I read for this challenge, but I did have my favorites. A few of them are described below.
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean [Read a nonfiction Book about Science]
Sam Kean explores the periodic table element by element. Although he does describe each element and its properties, let me make it clear that this is a science book designed for non-science people. Each element is represented by an interesting story from history (i.e.: Gandhi’s dislike of iodine or Marie Curie and her experiments with radium, polonium, etc.). It’s a fun way to learn about the periodic table. For more periodic table fun check out the updated version of the “Periodic Table Song” performed by ASAPscience.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman [Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award]
Neil Gaiman is an amazing storyteller no matter the medium. He has created successful adult novels, children’s stories, television scripts, graphic novels, and books of essays. He is also an unbelievable reader. Happiness is an audiobook written and read by Neil Gaiman. This particular audiobook is a full-cast production, but Neil does participate.
The idea of the Graveyard Book is that a toddler is raised in a graveyard by ghosts after the death of his entire family. While I was listening, I kept thinking, “This is a lot like the Jungle Book!” I was right. Gaiman notes at the end of the book that his story was inspired in part by Rudyard Kipling’s.
**Quick shout-out to the short story The Sleeper & the Spindle also by Neil Gaiman [Read a book out loud to someone else]. It is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but Snow White also makes an appearance.**
The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood [Read a book originally published in the decade you were born]
This is essentially a modern-day (I’m counting the 90s as “modern-day”) retelling of a little-known Brother’s Grimm fairytale called The Robber Bridegroom. It takes place in Toronto and follows the lives of 3 middle-aged women and their frenemy Zenia. Let’s just say that Zenia has a way of tempting men away from their commitments.
Margaret Atwood included a present-day short story called “I Dream of Zenia with the Bright Red Teeth” which follows these same characters in Stone Mattress:Nine Stories.
The Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson [Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last 3 years]
I think the target audience for this comic series is middle-grade girls, but it’s great fun! The story follows the misfit cabin at “Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types” as they realize that something supernatural is going on in their neck of the woods. It’s very girl-power oriented and diversity-positive. Their slogan is “Friendship to the max!”
Book Riot recently announced the 2017 Challenge. It will again consist of 24 tasks, but this year they included suggested tasks from guest authors like Roxanne Gay and Celeste Ng.
TIP: Library books are free. Most libraries these days have digital collections as well as the traditional brick-and-mortar/paper set-up. Just go to your local library’s website and have your library card handy. You may have to download an app (most likely Overdrive) which will allow you to access free ebooks and audiobooks on your computer, smartphone, tablet, etc.