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Taking On the 2017 Read Harder Challenge? Start Here.


At the start of each new year, our friends at Book Riot issue a challenge: Read consciously, thoughtfully, and outside your comfort zone.

The 2017 Read Harder Challenge lays out 24 new book tasks. They're more fun and more challenging than ever, with the added bonus of category suggestions from awesome authors like Roxane Gay and Celeste Ng.

To support anyone tackling the challenge, our book experts here at The New York Public Library are suggesting books in each category for readers looking to fulfill the tasks—particularly readers who want to use mostly library books!

Are you taking on the challenge? Have more suggestions for books that fit the tasks? Let us know in the comments.

1. Read a book about sports.


Playing Through the Whistle: Steel, Football, and an American Town by S. L. Price

Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

Blacktop: Janae by LJ Alonge

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach


2. Read a debut novel.

girl at war
german girl

Girl at War by Sara Nović

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa

The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead


3. Read a book about books.

how heroine
avid reader

Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country by Louise Erdrich

Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason by Nancy Pearl

How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb


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

under my skin

Shantytown by César Aira

Custody of the Eyes by Diamela Eltit

Halting Steps: Collected and New Poems by Claribel Alegría

The Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli


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


Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbne

Almost a Woman by Esmerelda Santiago

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos


6. Read an all-ages comic.


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

Kristy’s Great Idea by Ann M. Martin (the Babysitter’s Club graphic novel reboot by Raina Telgemeier)

Jellaby, Vol. 1 by Kean Soo

Help Us! Great Warrior by Madeleine Flores


7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.


The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf

The Dubliners by James Joyce

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair


8. Read a travel memoir.

wide open

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman

Around the World in 50 Years by Albert Podell

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

Wide Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed One Family's Lives Forever by John Marshall


9. Read a book you’ve read before.

We don’t know what you’ve read before… but here are our picks for the Read Harder Challenge last year!


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


Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (Queens)

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (Brooklyn)

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (Manhattan)

Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen (Westchester)


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


Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta (Nigeria; 5,425 mi from NYC)

Sightseeing: Stories by Rattawut Lapcharoensap (Thailand; 8,509 mi from NYC)

I Have a Right to Destroy Myself by Young-Ha Kim (South Korea; 6,961 mi from NYC)

The Mayor of Mogadishu by Andrew Harding (Somalia; 7,508 mi from NYC)


12. Read a fantasy novel.

three dark crowns

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake


13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.


Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art by Virginia Heffernan

Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology by Eric Brende

The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google by Nicholas Carr

How to Make a Spaceship by Julian Guthrie


14. Read a book about war.

billy lynn

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

The War: A Memoir by Marguerite Duras

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story by Caren Stelson

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain


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

great american

The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson


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

black boy


Black Boy by Richard Wright

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Robie Harris' children's books: Who's in My Family?, It's Not the Stork!, It's So Amazing!, or It's Perfectly Normal

(Here's the American Library Association's list of most frequently banned and challenged books in the United States; Wikipedia has a list for many other countries.)


17. Read a classic by an author of color.

bend river

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang


18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.


Faith by Jody Houser

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by G. Willow Wilson

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North

Storm by Greg Pak


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


for colored girls who have considered suicide, when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova


20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.

night watch
two boys
if you could be mine
let go

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

Don’t Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble


21. Read a book published by a micropress.

Tough to find them in the Library, but we want to hear about them! Please leave a comment if you know of a great micropress read in our catalog.


22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.

unknown errors

Know the Mother by Desiree Cooper

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

Family Furnishings by Alice Munro

The Unknown Errors of Our Lives by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni


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


Let the Words: Selected Poems by Yona Wallach, translated by Linda Stern Zisquit

Uncollected Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow

Bright Scythe: Selected Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patricia Crane

The House in the Sand: Prose Poems by Pablo Neruda; translated by Dennis Maloney & Clark M. Zlotchew


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

lucky boy

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

The Vagrants by Yiyun Li

Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy


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.

2017 RHC

I would most definitely like to participate (and read outside my comfort zone which is mostly Fantasy and Comics). Thanks for the categories although I will most probably try to fit books from my to-be-read pile. :-)

2017 Read Harder Challenge

I wholeheartedly recommend "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" by Betty Smith. And this wonderful book also satisfies challenges 2, 7 (1943), 10 (if you're within 100 miles of Brooklyn) and (or) 9 - if you've already had the pleasure of reading my favorite book!

Thank you!

Thank you for this compilation! I will wholehearyedly takeon this challengw for 2017! (wish me luck on the Fantasy division..... my husband & daughtet's area... I will be a newbie here!

Thank you!

Thank you for this compilation! I will wholehearyedly takeon this challengw for 2017! (wish me luck on the Fantasy division..... my husband & daughtet's area... I will be a newbie here!

good luck!

You can do it!

Can we save this somewhere?

Is there a way to save this on our library lists? Is there a print version without all the graphics? Thanks.


Here's a PDF that you should be able to download and print:

A Few Suggestions

"Not Your Sidekick" by C. B. Lee would qualify for both 15 (Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.) and 20 (Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.) For 21, How about "Citizen" by Claudia Rankine? It's published by Graywolf Press, which qualifies, I think!

Thanks and a suggestion

My sister and I are going to use this for our 2017 challenge. We are excited that it includes suggestions and are eager to dig in and see what we can find as well. It would be great if in the future this could include a pdf version. I just spent about an hour transferring it to a Google doc so that we will be able to have it at our finger tips all year. Afraid this article will get lost and the graphics make it difficult to save and/or print.

good suggestion

Here's a PDF that you should be able to download and print:

What an awesome list, I'm so

What an awesome list, I'm so inspired. I don't think I'll be able to average two books a month though... Maybe it'll have to be a two year challenge :)


A PDF would be handy but I should be able to save the list to Pinterest. I am going to incorporate the Book Riot challenge into my Goodreads challenge of 104 books for the year.

here you go!

A PDF to save to Pinterest, download, and/or print:

#4: Books and authors from Central and South America

One Hundred years of solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a MUST, especially for anyone interested in Latin American literature. I also recommend books by Isabel Allende, her earliest novels.

Micropress books

... do poetry chapbooks count?


I don't see why not, as long as they're published! Chapbooks are awesome.

Selecting books

I'm in the middle of 3 books right now and none of them fit the categories -- But I'm going to start at #1 (as soon as I finish one of the current 3) -- Sports and I'll pick a baseball book by David Halberstam. I've read many of his political books but have skipped sports. I'll buy it used as it's hard for me to get to the library and hard for me to return books on time. I googled "debut novel" and got lots and lots of very good suggestions. I have to take it easy or will get lost just making lists of books I want to read.

LGBTQ+ genre romance

In response to a reader's request, three more suggestions for #20: SUTPHIN BOULEVARD by Santino Hassell; the CUT & RUN series by Abigail Roux; and the CODA series by Marie Sexton

2018 Read Harder Challenge

I love these Read Harder Challenge suggestions and have used them for the 2016 and 2017 challenges. Will you be doing another for 2018? I see Book Riot released the new challenge. Thanks!


We just published our 2018 recommendations -- here they are! Thanks for asking, and good luck with the challenge this year!

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