Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Biblio File

NYPL's Suggestions for the 2016 Read Harder Challenge


Our friends at Book Riot came up with a doozy of a New Year's resolution: Spend a whole year reading consciously, thoughtfully, and outside your comfort zone.

Book Riot's latest Read Harder Challenge lays out 24 new reading tasks to complete in 2016. Here at The New York Public Library, our expert recommenders have come up with a few book suggestions to fit the criteria of each task.

We used a “something old; something new” theme: The books on this list were (mostly) published before 1950 or in 2015. Our picks range from 19th-century Gothic literature to new YA bestsellers. And, of course, all of them are available from the public library or downloadable for free online.

More than 4,000 (!!) people became members of the challenge's 2015 Goodreads group last year. This year's tasks are even more inspiring and challenging, and we—Gwen, Jessica Pigza of the Rare Book Division, Carolyn Broomhead of the Research Libraries, and maybe some other NYPL book experts if we can convince them too—have both accepted the challenge this year ourselves!

Follow along on our blog, Bibliofile, or find us on Twitter @NYPLRecommends.

Read a horror book.

Bits and Pieces, Within these Walls, Slade House, Frankenstein

Bits & Pieces
Within These Walls
Slade House

Read a nonfiction book about science.

Black Man in a White Coat, The Only Woman in the Room, Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, Notebooks, English virtuosi, and early modern science

Black Man in a White Coat
The Only Woman in the Room
 How the Bed Bug Infiltrated our Bedrooms and Took Over the World
 Notebooks, English virtuosi, and early modern science

Read a collection of essays.

Letter to a Future Lover, The Opposite of Loneliness, Thoreau: Essays, The Souls of Black Folk

 marginalia, errata, secrets, inscriptions, and other ephemera found in libraries
The Opposite of Loneliness
The Souls of Black Folk

Read a book out loud to someone else.

Wolfie the Bunny, The King and the Sea, The Popcorn Astronauts, Felicity

Wolfie the Bunny
The King and the Sea
The Popcorn Astronauts

Read a middle grade novel.

Echo, Dream On, Amber, The Jumbies, Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco

Dream On, Amber
The Jumbies
Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco

Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography).

The Goddess Pose, Symphony for the City of the Dead, Most Dangerous, The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

The Goddess Pose
Symphony for the City of the Dead
Most Dangerous
The Boys Who Challenged Hitler

Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Gold Fame Citrus, Find Me, The Country of Ice Cream Star

The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Gold Fame Citrus
Find Me
The Country of Ice Cream Star

Read a book originally published in the decade you were born.

Check out Goodreads' great list.

Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award.

Yes Please, Furious Cool, The Graveyard Book, The Bully Pulpit

Yes Please
Furious Cool
The Graveyard Book
The Bully Pulpit

Read a book over 500 pages long.

City on Fire, Winter, A Brief History of Seven Killings, A Little Life

City on Fire
A Brief History of Seven Killings
A Little Life

Read a book under 100 pages.

The Country of the Pointed Firs, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Nose

The Country of the Pointed Firs
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Nose

Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender.

What We Left Behind, George, Trans: A Memoir, Becoming Nicole

What We Left Behind
 A Memoir
Becoming Nicole

Read a book that is set in the Middle East.

The Wrath and the Dawn, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Orhan's Inheritance, Written in the Stars

The Wrath of the Dawn
Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Orhan's Inheritance
Written in the Stars

Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia.

America is in the Heart, Doveglion, Of Bees and Mist, Sympathizer

America is in the Heart
Of Bees and Mist

Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900.

An Ember in the Ashes, The Winter Queen, The Wake, The Just City

An Ember in the Ashes
The Winter Queen
The Wake
The Just City

Read the first book in a series by a person of color.

Sorcerer to the CrownThe Book of Phoenix, Dawn, Sparks of Temptation

Sorcerer to the Crown
The Book of Phoenix
sparks of temptation

Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years.

Lumberjanes, Decender, Roller Girl, Rat Queens

Roller Girl
Rat Queens

Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.

The Secret in Their Eyes, The Price of Salt/Carol, In the Heart of the Sea, The Mayor of Casterbridge

The Secret in Their Eyes
The Price of Salt or Carol
In the Heart of the Sea
The Mayor of Casterbridge

Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes.

Bad Feminist, Spinster, Headscarves and Hymens, The Cycling City

Bad Feminist
 Making a Life of One's Own
 Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution
The Cycling City

Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction).

The Witches: Salem, 1692, The Library at Mount Char, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, After Buddhism

 Salem, 1692
The Library at Mount Char
Islam and the Future of Tolerance
After Buddhism

Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction).

In the Country, Citizen: An American Lyric, A Woman in Arabia, The Prize

In the Country
 An American Lyric
A Woman in Arabia
The Prize

Read a food memoir.

Stir, Audrey at Home, Life From Scratch, Day of Honey

Audrey at Home
Life From Scratch
Day of Honey

Read a play.

Sequoyah and His Talking Leaves, Mother Courage and Her Children, Antigone, The Invisible Hand

Sequoyah and His Talking Leaves
Mother Courage and Her Children
The Invisible Hand

Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness.

Placebo Junkies, Challenger Deep, Furiously Happy, Tender Points

Placebo Junkies
Challenger Deep
Furiously Happy
Tender Points

Have trouble reading standard print? Many of these titles are available in formats for patrons with print disabilities.

Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Goodreads link is not working

Hi there, I think your link to Goodreads for books by decade needs to be edited, the code is not right for a functioning link. Perhaps you meant to link here?

thank you!

You're right -- I had the link wrong! Thanks for noticing; it's fixed now.

One more challenge

I suggest adding one more seemingly obvious challenge: Read one book of poetry (any language, any period) (Bonus if you also read a collection published in the last 5 years!)

One More Challenge

We had "A Collection of Poetry" for 2015. I appreciate having different categories for 2016.

Thanks for pointing to the

Thanks for pointing to the 2015 challenge. I'm glad to see the range of tasks and that poetry was included. I hope the challenges expose readers to categories that will cease being challenges and become pleasures.

Should the Southeast Asia

Should the Southeast Asia category include authors who are from India? Not that they are of any less merit, but India is normally considered part of South Asia, and there are many, many exceptional authors both before 1950 and from this past year that could have been included that are actually from Southeast Asia.

This classification bothered

This classification bothered my OCD a pidgin as well.

Thank you

Thank you both for pointing this out -- excellent point! I replaced them with two new books, one by an author born in Indonesia and one by an author born in Vietnam.

Read Harder Challenge

Is there any way to get the list of suggested books in a more print-friendly format (maybe just a list of the books and authors). I would sure appreciate it. Thanks!

Working on it

Thanks, Cynthia -- we are trying to deal with the crazy formatting of this page! Thanks for bearing with us; we'll update when we get it fixed.

A book about Isis counts as a

A book about Isis counts as a book about teligion? As a Muslim, I'm not really feeling that representation of my religion under that category.

Switched it out...

... for a book specifically about Islam. You're right; thanks for pointing that out.

Jo Walton

I loved The Just City, but Jo Walton is not from Southeast Asia? She is, I believe, Welsh-Canadian?

Different category

So, the Jo Walton book is in the "historical fiction set before 1900" category, not the Southeast Asia category. I know the book covers are all jumbled up in the mobile version of this page... we're working on it, so please stay tuned!

Added links

We just finished adding book titles, so you can click on those without having to deal with the jumbled covers. It looks better on my phone, at least! Hope it helps some of you.


I came here before the new year and I could've sworn I saw "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in the science section. I have wanted to read it and when I saw it as a rec, I was excited to have an idea of what to read for that challenge. Was it there but removed during an edit? I'm just curious if it would still be a good choice for my science non-fiction, since I'm not a big science person.


That book looks really interesting -- it was never on the list (and therefore was not removed during an edit), and it looks like it fulfills the science task to me! I say go for it. Happy reading!

How is Mario Vargas Llosa a

How is Mario Vargas Llosa a person of color?


He was born in Peru and is a prominent Latin American author. Feel free to choose another writer for that task.

Person of Colour

So, if you had been born in Perú and written prominent Latin American literature, would that make you a person of color? Such ignorance!


I'm sorry. I've removed Llosa's book from that category and put a different one in its place.

Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars should be removed from the "Read a book that is set in the Middle East" category. This book takes place in Pakistan, which is part of South Asia, not the Middle East.


You're right! I'd confused it with The Wrath and the Dawn. Thank you for pointing that out!

I just finished Written in

I just finished Written in the Stars, and I think gwenglazer@nypl has it confused with another book. This is not a fantasy book and all but the first couple of chapters are firmly established as taking part in modern-day Pakistan. It is completely about that culture and place. I'm sorry to admit that I was ignorant of the geography until I googled it after I finished the book. Pakistan, while adjacent, is NOT the Middle East... Not that I want to discourage anyone from reading the book, which I raced through in one sitting. It just doesn't fit this category.

you're right!

Oh my gosh, thank you for solving this mystery! I had it mixed up with The Wrath and the Dawn... totally different books. Thank you for clarifying, and my apologies!

Is autism considered a mental illness?

I read "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime" last month before I stumbled upon this amazing list. The main character has Asbergers Syndrome which is in the autism spectrum. It was a great book by the way.

complicated question

Hello - this is a hotly debated topic, and I'm not qualified to answer! Totally your call.

Native American literature?

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see any literature by Native American authors. Shouldn't those be included somewhere? I know there are many essay collections and novels (although I've had trouble finding them through NYPL :/)

Native American literature?

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see any literature by Native American authors. Shouldn't those be included somewhere? I know there are many essay collections and novels (although I've had trouble finding them through NYPL :/)

Post new comment