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Read Harder in 2018! NYPL's Suggestions for Book Riot’s Annual Challenge

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

The newest installment of the Read Harder Challenge lays out 24 new tasks for 2018. This year’s categories are better than ever, with an emphasis on diversity and inclusion in many different forms—and a touch of whimsy. (A book with a cover you hate, and a book you couldn't finish in school? Sold.)

Challenge-takers, we’re here for you. Below are suggestions in each category for books in the New York Public Library’s collections. You could even add an extra facet to this challenge: Complete it using only books you checked out from your local library!

Are you doing the challenge this year? Have more suggestions for books that fit the tasks? Let us know in the comments.

**Note: This post was updated to include books on Oprah's Book Club list, not the recommended reading lists on Oprah.com. We apologize for the mistake!

1.  A book published posthumously

last
four
ellison
suite













Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin

Four Reincarnations by Max Ritvo

Three Days before the Shooting... by Ralph Ellison

Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky

 

2.  A book of true crime

wicked
kirn
long
57


The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

Blood Will Out by Walter Kirn

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts by Laura Tillman

The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater

 

3.  A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)

In 2017, some of our expert librarians wrote primers for different genres with TONS of suggestions in these categories! Check them out: horrorscience fictionromance, and thrillers.

hill
sophy
left hand
wimsey


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (horror)

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (romance)

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (sci fi)

Lord Peter: The Complete Peter Wimsey Stories by Dorothy Sayers

 

4.  A comic written and illustrated by the same person

concrete
tillie
prince
sweet tooth


Concrete Park by Tony Puryear

The End of Summer by Tillie Walden

Prince of Cats by Ronald Wimberly

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

 

5.  A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)

melo
selection
china
woman


The Body Snatcher by Patrícia Melo (Brazil)

Selection Day by Aravind Adiga (India)

One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment by Mei Fong (China)

The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso (South Africa)

 

6.  A book about nature

water
maytrees
octopus
bestiary


The Water Will Come by Jeff Goodell

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
 

7.  A western

Our book experts compiled a list of modern Westerns; check them out too!

round
wicked
close
box


The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Wicked Cowboy Charm by Carolyn Brown

 Close Range: Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx

Open Season by C.J. Box

 

8.  A comic written or illustrated by a person of color

monstress
shadow
boundless
hafrocentric


Monstress by Marjorie Liu

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki

(H)afrocentric by Juliana "Jewels" Smith

 

9.  A book of colonial or postcolonial literature

things
lucy
desai
strong


Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye 

 

10.  A romance novel by or about a person of color

wrong
dimple
blessings
impulse


Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins

Acting on Impulse by Mia Sosa

 

11.  A children’s classic published before 1980

westing
fern
phantom
sidewalk


The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

 

12.  A celebrity memoir

year
nia
sounds
belong


Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Instant Mom by Nia Vardalos

Sounds Like Me by Sarah Bareilles

I Don't Belong to You by Keke Palmer

 

13.  An Oprah Book Club selection

say
night
open house
sula


Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

Night by Elie Wiesel

Open House by Elizabeth Berg

Sula by Toni Morrison

 

14.  A book of social science

origins
champions
maps
crow


The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language by Christine Kenneally

Champions Way: Football, Florida, and the Lost Soul of College Sports by Mike McIntire

Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World by Tim Marshall

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

 

15.  A one-sitting book

afar
teeth
prime
thornhill


Afar by Leila Del Duca

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

Thornhill by Pam Smy

 

16.  The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series

rita
ship breaker
lanterns
dragonet


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui Sutherland

 

17.  A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author

lagoon
small
defy
lo


Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

 

18.  A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image

pashmina
living boy
customer
chaboute

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani (First Second)

The Only Living Boy by David Gallaher (Papercutz)

The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond (Drawn & Quarterly)

Park Bench by Chabouté (Gallery 13)
 

19.  A book of genre fiction in translation

problem
perfume
aya
vineyard


The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (sci fi)

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (mystery)

Aya: Love in Yop City by Marguerite Abouet (graphic novel)

The Vineyard by María Dueñas (historical romance)

 

20.  A book with a cover you hate

Note: We have nothing against these books! Librarians don't discriminate! These covers just don't appeal to us personally; no hard feelings! 

archie
gatsby
wells
goosebumps


Archie & Friends All-Stars, vol. 4: Betty and Veronica Beach Party 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Complete Short Stories of H.G. Wells, ed. by John Hammond

Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy 3 by R.L. Stine

 

21.  A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author

cutting
sleeping
lie
flint

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Rita Mae Brown

Assault with a Deadly Lie by Lev Raphael

A Frightfully English Execution (or any of the Inspector Singh books) by Shamini Flint

 

22.  An essay anthology

fire
cuba
new york
aliens


The Fire This Time, ed. by Jesmyn Ward

Cuba on the Verge, ed. by Leila Guerriero

Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York, fromthe editors of New York magazine

Aliens: The World's Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life, ed. by Jim al-Khalili

 

23.  A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60

emma
pollifax
sky
emily


Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax by Dorothy Gilman

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

Emily, Alone by Steward O'Nan

 

24.  An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

Check out these lists of most frequently assigned books in high school and college for ideas for books that you may have never finished...

wuthering
guide
miserables
narrative

Wuthering Heights by Emile Bronte

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass

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Are you taking on the Read Harder Challenge? Have more suggestions for these categories? Let us know in the comments!

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Thanks to Tracy O'Neill for the category suggestions.

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!

Comments

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.

Yay! Thank you so much for

Yay! Thank you so much for doing this again. It’s my third year doing the challenge with NYPL’s help. I love the motivation this provides to expand the types of books and range of authors I read. Happy 2018 Challenge!

hooray!

Excellent -- we're so glad! Happy reading!

Read Harder in 2018! NYPL's Suggestions for Book Riot’s Annual C

23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 "The Stone Angel" Margaret Laurence

23

Echoing the endorsement of "The Stone Angel." Wonderful book.

excellent

Great suggestion -- we'll check it out!

Thanks!

Loved listening to you and Frank discuss this and other book challenges on the podcast this week, will be doing a display at my library! -Katharine, Adult Services Librarian, McFarland WI

excellent

Thank you, Katharine! What a great display idea!

Read Harder 2018

Female Protagonist over 60: Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout) Published Posthumously: Manual for Cleaning Women (Lucia Berlin) Published Posthumously & True Crime: I'll Be Gone in the Dark (Michelle McNamara) Oprah & BRICS: A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) BRICS: Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Madeleine Thien) Memoir: The Last Black Unicorn (Tiffany Hadish) Nature: The Thing With Feathers (Noah Strycker) Essays: Feel Free (Zadie Smith)

excellent

These are great suggestions -- thank you!

60?

Who's over the age of 60 in A hat full of sky : a story of Discworld?

Weatherwax!

Granny Weatherwax! One of my favorite witches in all of literature. Hat Full of Sky isn't far before the events in the final book GW appears in, when she's revealed to be in her 80s, if I remember correctly. And Tiffany is 11 in Hat Full of Sky and still a very young witch in GW's final book. Let me know if you disagree with my timeline, though -- I could be wrong!

#13 Oprah book club picks. Not showing book club picks

None of the books listed under Oprah book club picks are Oprah book club picks. What you are showing are books the Oprah.com website recommends for us to read.

#23 - Question

Thanks for putting together this list! I love how many of my favorites from The Librarian Is In are here. And I'm enjoying how much attention challenge #23 - Female protagonist over the age of 60 is getting here! It was definitely the challenge that had me the most stumped when I first saw the read the list of challenges. My question is also related to this task. Has anyone read The Little Old Lady Who Broke All the Rules? I really enjoyed A Man Called Ove and The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, and I wondered if this would be similar?

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