How to Read Harder in 2019

By Gwen Glazer, Librarian
December 28, 2018

It's time for the Read Harder Challenge, 2019 edition!

Every December, our friends at Book Riot come up with a list of 24 brand-new reading tasks for the brand-new year. Staring down that list of categories—and matching them to your existing TBR pile—can be daunting, so we're offering up some ideas for a convenient place to start. Handpicked by your friendly neighborhood librarians, these books stood out as especially interesting, thought-provoking, and boundary-pushing.

So, what do you think: Are you going to take on the challenge this year? And do you have more books you're looking forward to checking out? Let us know in the comments.

1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters

Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise by Oscar Hijuelos

When the English Fall by David Williams

Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The Letters of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath

2. An alternate history novel

The Arrival of Missives by Aliya Whiteley

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

 

3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018

My Life as a Goddess: A Memoir Through (Un)popular Culture by Guy Branum

Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda, art by Jonny Sun

You Can't Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson

How to Ruin Everything by George Watsky

5. A book by a journalist or about journalism

Nigerians in Space by Deji Bryce Olukotun

Exo by Fonda Lee

Dawn by Octavia Butler

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

7.  An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America

The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel (Mexico)

The Dream of My Return by Horacio Castellanos Moya (El Salvador)

The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli (Mexico)

A novel or book of poetry in Spanish by Gioconda Belli (Nicaragua)
 

8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania

Terra Nullius by Claire Colman

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Rani Patel in Full Effect by Sonia Patel

9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads

Trust by Cynthia Ozick

Brazil-Maru by Karen Tei Yamashita

Mrs. Hollingsworth’s Men by Padgett Powell

Selected Tales by Henry James

10.  A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Waking Lions by Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, translated from Hebrew by Sondra Silverton

Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye, translated from French by Jordan Stump

Human Acts by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith

11.  A book of manga

The Promised Neverland by Kaiu Shirai

My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi

Skip Beat by Yoshiki Nakamura

Fullmetal Alchemistby Hiromu Arakawa

12.  A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character

Fox 8 by George Saunders

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Empire of the Ants by Bernard Werber

13.  A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse

On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Autism Adulthood: Strategies and Insight for a Fulfilling Life by Susan Senator

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

14.  A cozy mystery

One Day in December by Josie Silver

Born of Persuasion by Jessica Dotta

What the Dead Leave Behind by Rosemary Simpson

12 Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

15.  A book of mythology or folklore

Tempest by Beverly Jenkins

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

A Dance with Danger by Jeannie Lin

As Rich as a Rogue by Jade Lee

17.  A business book

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg

Little Fish by Casey Plett

Nevada by Imogen Binnie

19.  A book of nonviolent true crime

The Greybar Hotel: Stories by Curtis Dawkins

Conversations with Myself by Nelson Mandela

Inside: Life Behind Bars in America by Michael Santos

Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet

21.  A comic by an LGBTQIA creator

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Wuvable Oaf by Ed Luce

The Backstagers, vol. 1: Rebels Without Applause by James Tynion IV, art by Rian Sygh

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

22.  A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (Rainbow Book List, 2017)

The Three Lucys by Hayan Charara (Arab American Book Award, 2017)

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Dolly Gray Award, 2016)

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle (American Indian Youth Literature Award, 2014)

23.  A self-published book

Different libraries have different policies about including self-published books in their collections, but Book Riot suggested a great place to start!

24.  A collection of poetry published since 2014

Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey

Cenzontle by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen

Thanks to fellow librarian Amanda Pagan for her expert help with this list, and Helena Escalante and Anne Rouyer for suggestions via earlier blog posts! To check out more of NYPL’s staff picks and book recommendations—including many that could help you find more books for the Read Harder Challenge!—visit our frequently updated blogs.

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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!