Are You Accepting the Read Harder Challenge in 2021?

By Emily Pullen, Reader Services Coordinator
January 7, 2021

For the last few years, Book Riot has offered readers a wide swath of literary challenges to encourage them to broaden their reading horizons and to step out of their bookish comfort zones. Sometimes it takes a little extra work to find marginalized voices that aren’t publicized or reviewed as widely, but the possibility of finding books you never knew to look for is well worth the effort. Here are the 2021 Book Riot Read Harder challenges, and a few suggestions for each to get you on your way.

1. Read a book you've been intimidated to read

Paradise Lost by John Milton
An epic poem on the clash between God and his fallen angel, Satan, is a profound meditation on fate, free will, and divinity, and one of the most beautiful works in world literature.

Moby Dick, or, The Whale by Herman Melville
A nineteenth-century tale of life aboard a New England whaling ship whose captain is obsessed with the pursuit of a large white whale.

Native Sonby Richard Wright
Traces the fall of a young black man in 1930s Chicago as his life loses all hope of redemption after he kills a white woman.

Middlemarchby George Eliot
In nineteenth-century England, Dorthea Brooke's wishes to defy social conventions are inhibited by the strict nature of her surroundings.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
A poet, critic and nonfiction author explores the possibilities and limitations of romance, love, desire and sexual identity by exploring her own relationship with a fluidly-gendered artist, Harry Dodge.

2. Read a nonfiction book about anti-racism

How To Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi
Combines ethics, history, law, and science with a personal narrative to describe how to move beyond the awareness of racism and contribute to making society just and equitable.

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad
The host of the “Good Ancestor” podcast presents an updated and expanded edition of the Instagram challenge that launched a cultural movement about taking responsibility for first-person racism to stop unconsciously inflicting pain on others.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incareration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Seldom does a book have the impact of Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow. Since it was first published in 2010, it has been cited in judicial decisions and has been adopted in campus-wide and community-wide reads; and it helped inspire the creation of the Marshall Project and the new $100 million Art for Justice Fund. Most important of all, it has spawned a whole generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Michelle Alexander's unforgettable argument that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it."

The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
Traces the idea of a white race, showing how the origins of the American identity were tied to the elevation of white skin as the embodiment of beauty, power, and intelligence, and how even intellectuals insisted that only Anglo Saxons were truly American.

For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood...and the Rest of Y'all Too : Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin
Drawing on his own experience of feeling undervalued and invisible in classrooms as a young man of color and merging his experiences with more than a decade of teaching and researching in urban America, award-winning educator Christopher Emdin offers a new lens on an approach to teaching and learning in urban schools. 

Bonus: Schomburg Center's Black Liberation Reading List

3. Read a non-European novel in translation

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata,translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori
A Japanese woman who has been working at a convenience store for eighteen years finds friendship with an alienated, cynical, and bitter young man who becomes her coworker.

Frankenstein in Baghdad> by Ahmad Sa’Dawi, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright
Hadi, an eccentric scavenger in U.S.-occupied Baghdad, collects human body parts and cobbles them together into a single corpse, but discovers his creation is missing just as a series of strange murders begins to plague the city.

The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea by Bandi, translated by Deborah Smith
Smuggled out of the country, an anonymously published collection of short stories depicts life under the North Korean regime and how it impacts a range of people.

The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal, translated by Nick Caistor
Juan Salvatierra began secretly painting a series of long rolls of canvas in which he minutely detailed six decades of life in his village on Argentina's river frontier with Uruguay. After his death, his sons return to the village to deal with their inheritance: a shed packed with painted rolls of canvas stretching over two miles in length. 

Agaatby Marlene van Niekerk, translated from the Afrikaans by Michiel Heyns
In 1940s apartheid South Africa, Milla discovers a child abandoned in the fields of her family farm and brings the girl, Agaat, into her home. But the kindness is fleeting, as Milla makes Agaat her maidservant and, later, a nanny for her son.  In complex and devastating ways, the power shifts between the two women, mirroring the historic upheavals happening around them and revealing a shared lifetime of hopes, sacrifices, and control.

4. Read an LGBTQ+ history book

And the Band Played On:Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts
An examination of the AIDS crisis exposes the federal government for its inaction, health authorities for their greed, and scientists for their desire for prestige in the face of the AIDS pandemic.

Stonewall Reader edited by The New York Public Library
Presents a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines, and newspapers chronicling the years leading up to and the years following the Stonewall uprising.

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton
Drawing on 19th and 20th-century medical illustrations, pickup notices, fugitive-slave narratives, true-crime books, documentary films, and poetry, the author analyzes the connections between blackness and trans identity in the context of ongoing black and trans deaths

When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan
A groundbreaking story of the neighborhood’s colorful and forgotten queer history, from the mid-1850s up to the present day, shows how the formation of the Brooklyn we know today is inextricably linked to the stories of the extraordinary people who created its diverse neighborhoods and cultures.

Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Regency Landowner, Seducer and Secret Diaristby Angela Steidele, translated by Katy Derbyshire
Anne Lister's journals were so shocking that the first person to crack their secret code hid them behind a fake panel in his ancestral home. Anne Lister was a Regency landowner, an intrepid world traveller...and an unabashed lover of other women.

5. Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
When a small town needs her help in finding a missing girl, Maggie Hoskie, a Dinâetah monster hunter, reluctantly enlists the help of an unconventional medicine man to uncover the terrifying truth behind the disappearance and her own past.

Not For Nothing by Stephen Graham Jones
The town is Stanton, Texas, population three thousand; the private investigator is disgraced Midland homicide detective Nicholas Bruiseman, who's so down on his luck that he's forced to take a job as a live-in security guard for the town's lone storage facility. This is his new life—starting over with nothing in the town he grew up in.

Empire of Wildby Cherie Dimaline
A story inspired by the Canadian Mâetis legend of the Rogarou finds a woman reconnecting with her heritage when her missing husband reappears in the form of a charismatic preacher who does not recognize her.

A Girl Called Echo  graphic novel series by Katherena Vermette
A time-traveling adventure starring a young Métis girl.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
A tale set in the near future finds the world thrown into chaos by rebelling artificial intelligences under the leadership of a murderous technology called Archos that kills its creator and takes over the global network, triggering an unprecedented united front among all human cultures.

6. Read a fanfic

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (The Iliad)
A retelling of the legend of Achilles follows Patroclus and Achilles, the golden son of King Peleus, as they lay siege to Troy after Helen of Sparta is kidnapped—a cause that tests their friendship and forces them to make the ultimate sacrifice.

No One is Coming to Save Usby Stephanie Powell Watts (The Great Gatsby)
A tale inspired byThe Great Gatsby is set in the contemporary South and follows the difficulties endured by an extended black family with colliding visions of the American dream.Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (Jane Eyre)
Beautiful and wealthy Antoinette Cosway's passionate love for an English aristocrat threatens to destroy her idyllic West Indian island existence and her very life.Death Comes to Pemberleyby P.D. James (Pride and Prejudice)
Pemberley is thrown into chaos after Elizabeth Bennett's disgraced sister Lydia arrives and announces that her husband Wickham has been murdered.Mycroft Holmes series by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar & Raymond Obstfeld, art by Joshua Cassara (Sherlock Holmes)
At the behest of Queen Victoria, Mycroft Holmes embarks on a globe-trotting adventure to retrieve a stolen handbook that contains plans for a civilization destroying weapon.

7. Read a fat-positive romance

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
When her viral fan-fiction leads to a disastrous publicity-stunt date with her celebrity crush, a talented plus-sized writer discovers that the actor secretly writes his own popular fan-fiction against studio rules.

Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge
After a string of sexual conquests, Natalie is determined to figure out why the intense romantic connections she's spent her life chasing have left her emotionally high and dry. As she sifts through her past and her present, she confronts her complicated feelings about her plus-sized figure, her bisexuality, and her thwarted career in fashion design.

One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers and a massively broken heart. Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: the hit reality show​ Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition&;under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner
When a friend she has not spoken to since the fight that ended their friendship six years earlier asks her to be her maid of honor, Daphne Berg confronts the dynamics of friendship and forgiveness during the increasingly disastrous wedding.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown! by Talia Hibbert
Emerging from a life-threatening illness, a fiercely organized but unfulfilled computer geek recruits a mysterious artist to help her establish meaning in her life, before finding herself engaged in reckless but thrilling activities.

8. Read a romance by a trans or nonbinary author

A Safe Girl to Love by Casey Plett
Eleven unique short stories that stretch from a rural Canadian Mennonite town to a hipster gay bar in Brooklyn, featuring young trans women stumbling through loss, sex, harassment, and love.

Coffee Boy by Austin Chant
After graduation, Kieran is offered the internship of his dreams, but the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things especially when he develops an awkward crush on supportive, but prickly Seth.

The Queer and the Restless by Kris Ripper
Ed Masiello has been on testosterone for a year, is working his dream job as a reporter, and is finally passing as a man. But the investigation of a murder case is starting to take over his life. Afraid he's becoming obsessed, he goes to the local club to relax, and meets the flighty, whimsical Alisha. As their relationship heats up, so does the murder case. 

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
A girl hiding the truth, a boy with secrets from his past, and four sisters who could ruin them both.

Bad Boy by Elliot Wake
A fast-paced, mind-bending romantic thriller about a transgender vlog star who struggles with a past that continues to haunt him as he sets out to prove that he's not a bad boy, but something else entirely: a good man.

9. Read a middle grade mystery

Me, Frida & the Secret of the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes
When Lizzie and Gael share an irresistible challenge, to find the peacock ring that once belonged to artist Frida Kahlo, Paloma decides it is the perfect way to honor her father.

The Greenglass House by Kate Milford
At Greenglass House, a smuggler's inn, 12-year-old Milo, the innkeepers' adopted son, plans to spend his winter holidays relaxing, but soon guests begin arriving with strange stories about the house, sending Milo and Meddy, the cook's daughter, on an adventure.

Emperor’s Riddle  by Kat Zhang
During a family trip to China, eleven-year-old Mia Chen and her older brother, Jake, follow clues and solve riddles in hopes of finding their missing Aunt Lin and, perhaps, a legendary treasure.

The Story Collector  by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb 
A story based on the author's childhood introduces 11-year-old Viviani Joffrey Fedeler, who lives in the New York Public Library and decides to play a Halloween prank on a girl who teases Viviani for believing in ghosts.

The Wig in the Windowby Kristen Kittscher
When their game of neighborhood spying takes a dark turn one night, pre-teen sleuths Sophie Young and Grace Yang find themselves caught in a dangerious cat-and-mouse game with their bizarre guidance counselor, who may be hiding something sinister.

10. Read an SFF anthology edited by a person of color

A People’s Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers& edited by Victor LaValle and John Joseph Adams
Each of 25 speculative stories by such writers as Violet Allen, Charlie Jane Anders, Ashok K. Banker, Tobias S. Buckell and Omar El Akkad imagines the future of America, with the collection featuring tales of both dystopias and utopias. 

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings: 15 Retellings of Asian Myths and Legends edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
Fifteen authors of Asian descent reimagine the folklore and mythology of East and South Asia, in short stories ranging from fantasy to science fiction to contemporary, from romance to tales of revenge.

New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl
Showcases emerging and seasoned writers of many races telling stories filled with shocking delights, powerful visions of the familiar made strange.

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018 edited by N.K. Jemisin
Boundary-pushing and experimental, this diverse selection of science fiction and fantasy stories illuminates what it means to be human and explores the ever-expanding and changing world of SFF today.

11.Read a food memoir by an author of color

The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old Southby Michael Twitty
A culinary historian uses the story of his own ancestors, both black and white, to trace the origin of barbecue, soul food, and Southern cuisine, revealing the power of food to bring people together.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate by Padma Lakshmi
The host of Top Chef presents a memoir about her immigrant childhood and complicated life in front of the camera, tracing her formative experiences in her grandmother's South India kitchen and her relationships with people who influenced her culinary skills and career.

Fresh off the Boat by Eddie Huang
A Taiwanese-American rebel restaurateur chronicles his rise to success from his difficult childhood in the American South to his decision to embrace all he had learned about food in his father's restaurants and his mother's kitchen to create his own culinary identity.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Samuelsson traces his Ethiopian birth, upbringing by an adoptive family in Sweden and rise to a famous New York chef, sharing personal insights into his challenges as a black man in a deeply prejudiced industry.

A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family by Cheryl Lu-lien Tan
In a heartwarming, charming and delicious memoir about food and family and the meaning of home, the author explains how she longed for and became reacquainted with her childhood home of Singapore.

12. Read a work of investigative nonfiction by an author of color

Beneath the Tamarind Tree : A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram by Isha Sesay
The first definitive account of the lost girls of Boko Haram and why their story still matters by celebrated international journalist Isha Sesay.

A Moonless Starless Sky: Ordinary Women and Men Fighting Extremism in Africa by Alexis Okeowo
A staff writer for the  New Yorker  describes the true stories of Africans who are bravely resisting the fundamentalism sweeping their country, including a women's basketball team in Somalia, a vigilante against Boko Haram, and kidnapping victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA.

Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle of Ten Short Lives by Gary Younge
Tells the stories of the lives lost on November 23, 2013, profiling ten victims whose deaths exemplify the statistic that on an average day in America, seven young people aged nineteen or under will be shot dead.

Pandemic by Sonia Shah
A science journalist tracks the story of cholera to explore the origins of epidemics, including coronaviruses, and discuss modern pathogens that have the potential to follow in the disease's pandemic footsteps.

The Golden Thread: The Cold War and the Mysterious Death of Dag Hammarskjöldby Ravi Somaiya
Investigates the mystery behind the 1961 death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, drawing on previously undisclosed evidence, recently revealed firsthand accounts and groundbreaking interviews to identify the powerful international cabal behind his death.

13.Read a book with a cover you don’t like

This one is so subjective that we can’t begin to make suggestions. However, if there is a genre of books that you tend to steer clear from because you don’t like the covers (romance, fantasy, classics), now is the time to lean into that aversion, and give one of those a try.

14.Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay (Puerto Rico)
When seventeen-year-old Jay Reguero learns his Filipino cousin and former best friend, Jun, was murdered as part of President Duterte's war on drugs, he flies to the Philippines to learn more.Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez (Argentina)
Seventeen-year-old Camila Hassan, a rising soccer star in Rosario, Argentina, dreams of playing professionally, in defiance of her fathers' wishes and at the risk of her budding romance with Diego.I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn (Japan)
Eagerly visiting her estranged grandparents in Japan to distance herself from the mother who disapproves of her fashion ambitions, a talented young designer immerses herself in Kyoto's markets and cherry blossom festival and bonds with a cute med student while uncovering illuminating family secrets.When Morning Comes by Arushi Raina (South Africa)
It’s 1976 in South Africa, and four young people are living in Johannesburg and its black township, Soweto: Zanele, a black female student organizer; Meena, a South Asian girl working at her father's shop; Jack, an Oxford-bound white student; and Thabo, a teen-gang member, or tsotsi. From each of their points of view, this book explores the roots of the Soweto Uprising and the edifice of apartheid in a South Africa about to explode.

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Iran)
In Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, seventeen-year-olds Sahar and Nasrin love each other in secret until Nasrin's parents announce their daughter's arranged marriage and Sahar proposes a drastic solution.

15.Read a memoir by a Latinx author

In the Dream Houseby Carmen Maria Machado 
The award-winning author of Her Body and Other Parties shares the story of her relationship with an abusive partner and how it was shaped by her religious upbringing, her sexual orientation and inaccurate cultural beliefs about psychological trauma.Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
An award-winning poet chronicles his experiences of growing up undocumented in the United States, describing how his family and his attempt to establish an adult life were heartbreakingly complicated by racist policies.An Unlikely Journey by Julian Castro
The former San Antonio mayor and secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama shares his life story, recounting how his mother's political activism inspired his ascent from poverty to a successful political career.Spirit Runby Noe Alvarez
At nineteen, Álvarez learned about a Native American/First Nations movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys—epic marathons meant to renew cultural connections across North America. He dropped out of college and joined a group of Dené, Secwépemc, Gitxsan, Dakelh, Apache, Tohono O’odham, Seri, Purépecha, and Maya runners, all fleeing difficult beginnings. Telling their stories alongside his own, Álvarez writes about a four-month-long journey from Canada to Guatemala that pushed him to his limits. Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Diaz
A biographical debut by a Pushcart Prize-winning writer traces her upbringing in the housing projects of Puerto Rico, her mother’s battle with schizophrenia, her personal struggles with sexual assault and her efforts to pursue a literary career.

16. Read an own voices book about disability

Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Pianoby Andrea Avery

A rich and vibrant memoir that weaves chronic illness and classical music into a raw and inspiring tale of grace and determination.


Being Heumann: An Unrepentant Memoir of a Disability Rights Activist by Judith Heumann

An influential disability-rights activist recounts her lifelong battles for education, employment and societal inclusion, in a personal account that includes coverage of her role in advising the Carter administration to help create the Americans with Disabilities Act.


We Should Hang Out Sometimeby Josh Sundquist

The Paralympic ski racer, YouTube star, and motivational speaker documents his coming of age as an amputee cancer survivor and his efforts to investigate past dates gone wrong to discover why he was still single.


Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong

This collection of essays from contemporary disabled writers celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act focuses on issues such as disabled performers in the theater and the everyday lives of the community.

17. Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain

When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

When her best friendship with Layla implodes beyond repair, Cleo pursues other relationships before she is assigned to tutor her former friend and forced to come to terms with her choices. 

Solo by Kwame Alexander

Seventeen-year-old Blade endeavors to resolve painful issues from his past to navigate the challenges of his former rockstar father's addictions, scathing tabloid rumors, and a protected secret that threatens his own identity.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Coming of age in a land where her magi mother was killed by the zealous king's guards along with other former wielders of magic, Zélie embarks on a journey alongside her brother and a fugitive princess to restore her people's magical abilities.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett 

Hiding the truth about her HIV-positive status when she moves to a new school, a teen pursues new interests and works to keep her viral load controlled before an anonymous blackmailer threatens to expose her unless she breaks up with her new boyfriend.

You Should See Me in a Crownby Leah Johnson
A Black, underprivileged misfit from a wealthy, prom-obsessed midwestern community carefully plans to attend a prestigious medical college before the unexpected loss of her financial aid forces her to compete for her school’s prom-queen scholarship

18. Read a book by or about a non-Western world leader

Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper

A portrait of the first democratically elected female president of an African country shares insights into her imprisonment for defying her country's oppressive patriarchal rule and her leadership of the Liberian women's movement.


Nehru: A Political Life by Judith M. Brown

The first prime minister of India after independence from British rule, Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964) was a major architect of India as a nation state. His dedication to politics led to imprisonment under British rule, a deeply disturbed family life, and eventually to nearly two decades in power during which he ceaselessly pursued his vision of a transformed and democratic India.


Benazir Bhutto: Favored Daughter by Brooke Allen

Draws on contemporary news sources and eyewitness reports as well as narratives by Bhutto herself, her supporters and her enemies to profile the amazing, tumultuous life this Pakistani woman whom was tragically assassinated during her comeback presidential bid.


Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

The leader of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement chronicles his life, including his tribal years, his time spent in prison, and his return to lead his people.

Madame Chiang Kai-shek  China's Eternal First Lady by Laura Tyson Li

A portrait of one of the twentieth century's most powerful and controversial female political figures traces the life of Soong Mayling, from her youth in one of China's most powerful families, to her status as wife, adviser, interpreter, and propagandist to Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, to her role as an international crusader against Communism.

19. Read a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist

How Much of these Hills is Gold by C. Pam Zhang

Two orphaned Chinese immigrant siblings flee the threats of their gold rush mining town across an unforgiving landscape where their survival is tested by family secrets, sibling rivalry and disparate goals.


Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

Chronicles the picturesque adventures and romantic misadventures of Nan King, a onetime oyster girl from a provincial seaside town who follows a local music hall star to the gay and lesbian world of late Victorian London


An Unconditional Freedom by Alyssa Cole

Rescued from slavery after his dreams of becoming a lawyer are shattered, Daniel is offered a position with a covert organization of spies, unaware that his new partner is a double agent intent on betraying him.


Malinche by Laura Esquivel

Historical novel that retells the story of Hernâan Cortâes and Doäna Marina, his interpreter and mistress during the conquest of Mexico.

20. Read a book of nature poems

Oceanic by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

With an encyclopedic range of subjects, Nezukumatathil takes a wide-angle look at our planet, its vulnerabilities, and the human condition.


The Wild Irisby Louise Glück

Poems examine the relationship between humans and nature and consider mortality, consciousness, identity, and love. 

Nature Poem by Tommy Pico 

A book-length poem about how an American Indian writer can’t bring himself to write about nature, but is forced to reckon with colonial-white stereotypes, manifest destiny, and his own identity as an young, queer, urban-dwelling poet.


>A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver

Presents a collection of poems that explore such themes as the wonder of nature, the power of attention, and the mysteries of the daily experience.

21. Read a children’s book that centers a disabled character but not their disability

King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Krömer
Even though he is confined to a wheelchair, a Pakistani boy tries to capture the most kites during Basant, the annual spring kite festival, and become "king" for the day.

Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell
Yearning for life in a cloistered scriptorium, thirteen-year-old Princess Matilda, whose lame foot brings fear of the evil eye, escapes her scheming cousin Ivo and joins her servant Judith and an old friend, Parz, in hunting dragons and writing about them.

Hello, Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari, illustrated by Patrice Barton
A student who uses a wheelchair finds a way to see her dog each day in school.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale, artwork by LeUyen Pham, color by Jane Poole
When her best friend Adrienne starts hanging out with the most popular girl in class, Shannon questions with whether she and Adrienne will stay friends, and if she is part of the clique.

22.Read a book set in the Midwest

Real Lifeby Brandon Taylor
Keeping his head down at a lakeside Midwestern university where the culture is in sharp contrast to his Alabama upbringing, an introverted African-American biochem student endures unexpected encounters that bring his orientation and defenses into question.The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
When a bizarre phenomenon causes the cataclysmic disappearances of numerous people all over the world, Kevin Garvey, the new mayor of a once-comfortable suburban community, struggles to help his neighbors heal while enduring the fanatical religious conversions of his wife and son.The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
Learning after a half-century of family life that their house on Detroit's East Side is worth only a fraction of its mortgage, the members of the Turner family gather to reckon with their pasts and decide the house's fate.Summerlong by Dean Bakopoulos
The tensions beneath the surface of Claire and Don Lowry's seemingly contented marriage explode in the bedrooms and backyards of a small town over the course of a long, hot summer, as they discover that married life is not what they had predicted.Gileadby Marilynne Robinson
As the Reverend John Ames approaches the hour of his own death, he writes a letter to his son chronicling three previous generations of his family, a story that stretches back to the Civil War and reveals uncomfortable family secrets.

23. Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness

Hyperbole and a Halfby Allie Brosh 

Collects autobiographical, illustrated essays and cartoons from the author's popular blog and related new material that humorously and candidly deals with her own idiosyncrasies and battles with depression.


Thin Slices of Anxiety: Observations and Advice to Ease a Worried Mind by Catherine LePage 
Not to worry, a book on anxiety is finally here! A clever antidote to everyday angst, this illustrated book captures universal truths and comforting revelations about being human.


Dear Scarlet: The Story of My Postpartum Depression by Teresa Wong 

Teresa Wong writes and illustrates the story of her struggle with postpartum depression in the form of a letter to her daughter Scarlet. Equal parts heartbreaking and funny, Dear Scarlet perfectly captures the quiet desperation of those suffering from PPD and the profound feelings of inadequacy and loss.


First, We Make the Beast Beautiful: A New Journey Through Anxietyby Sarah Wilson
Wilson challenges cultural beliefs about anxiety from the perspectives of medical and spiritual leaders and the Chinese proverb, "To conquer a beast, you must first make it beautiful," to explore how the condition needs to be viewed less as a burdensome affliction and more as a source of divine growth.

24. Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
Discovering clues that indicate his beloved wife may not have died accidentally, Paul Iverson begins a perilous search for the truth while attempting to teach his dog, who witnessed the crime, to communicate.


Biloxi by Mary Miller

Newly single, retired, and waiting for an inheritance that may never come, sixty-three-year-old Louis McDonald makes the impulsive, life-changing decision to adopt a dog.


Travelling Cat Chroniclesby Hiro Arikawa

An ode to kindness, sacrifice, and the power of small things traces the experiences of adventurous Nana the cat and his owner, Satoru, as they embark on a road trip across Japan to visit three old friends.


Lost Cat by Caroline Paul and Wendy McNaughton

What do our pets do when they're not with us? Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton used GPS, cat cameras, psychics, and the web to track the adventures of their beloved cat Tibia.


Crictorby Tomi Ungerer (picture book)

When Madame Bodot receives a boa constrictor for her birthday, he soon becomes a lovable pet



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