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 book cover
When the English Fall book cover
Not Exactly a Memoir book cover
The Letters of Sylvia Plath book cover

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 book cover
The Three-Body Problem book cover
The Calculating Stars book cover
Dread Nation book cover

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

Lucky Broken Girl book cover
Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess book cover
Piecing Me Together book cover
Stay with Me book cover
My Life as a Goddess book cover
Gmorning, Gnight book cover
You Can't Touch My Hair book cover
How to Ruin Everything book cover

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

The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era book cover
Reporter book cover
No Turning Back book cover
Dopesick book cover
Nigerians in Space
Exo book cover
Book One of the Xenogensis Series book cover
Ninefox Gambit book cover

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 book cover
The Dream of My Return book cover
The Story of My Teeth book cover
El Pais de las Mujeres book cover

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 book cover
Bridge of Clay book cover
The Descendants book cover
Rani Patel in Full Effect book cover

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 book cover
Brazil-Maru book cover
Mrs. Hollingsworth's Men book cover
Selected Tales of Henry James book cover

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 book cover
Waking Lions book cover
Ladivine book cover
Human Acts book cover

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 book cover
My Hero Academia book cover
Skip Beat book cover
Full Metal Alchemist book cover

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 book cover
The One and Only Ivan book cover
Watership Down book cover
Empire of the Ants book cover

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 book cover
Autism Adulthood book cover
The Kiss Quotient book cover
The State of Grace book cover

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 book cover
Born of Persuasion book cover
What the Dead Leave Behind book cover
The Twelve Clues of Christmas book cover

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

Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes book cover
Don't Know Much About Mythology book cover
Norse Mythology book cover
Asian Mythology book cover
Tempest book cover
An Extraordinary Union book cover
A Dance with Danger book cover
As Rich as a Rogue book cover

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

The Art of Gathering book cover
Rework book cover
The Magic of Tiny Business book cover
Skin in the Game book cover
Long Black Veil book cover
Confessions of the Fox book cover
Little Fish book cover
Nevada book cover

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

Our Bodies, Our Data book cover
Bad Blood book cover
Red Card book cover
Chain of Title book cover
The Graybar Hotel book cover
Conversations with Myself book cover
Inside book cover
Our Lady of the Flowers book cover

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 book cover
Wuvable Oaf book cover
The Backstagers book cover
A Family Tragicomic book cover

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 book cover
The Three Lucys book cover
Rain Reign book cover
how i became a ghost book cover

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 book cover
Cenzontle book cover
Wade in the Water book cover
When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities book cover

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.


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!