In which I attempt to “Read Harder” and need recommendations…

The folks over at Book Riot issued a 2015 “Read Harder” challenge. They created a list of 24 reading tasks. Since I got the mug as a birthday present, I figured I had better participate…

It’s possible to check off more than one task on the list with only one book, but I’m trying to do each with a different book. Several tasks are easy for me and I have a ton of books I’ve read this year that would qualify. In those cases I tried to just chose the first book I read this year to list as my example.

These are the tasks I’ve completed so far:

  1. A book published by an indie press — Sword
  2. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ — Afterworlds
  3. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own — The Bone Clocks (plus a lot more…)
  4. A book that takes place in Asia — Fire Horse Girl (plus a few more…)
  5. A book by an author from Africa — Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah
  6. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.) — The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian
  7. A YA novel — The Raven Boys (plus a lot more…)
  8. A sci-fi novel — Fortune’s Pawn (plus a lot more…)
  9. A romance novel — The Duchess War
  10. A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.) — A Court of Thorns and Roses
  11. A book that someone else has recommended to you — Handmaid’s Tale
  12. A book published this year — Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids (plus a few more…)
  13. An audiobook — Astoria and The Rosie Effect
  14. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind (Hi, have you met Panels?) — Ms. Marvel vol 1 (plus a lot more…)
  15. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over) — re-read Suddenly Royal

And I have books in my TBR for these three tasks:

  1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 — I discovered that Snow Like Ashes qualifies here, and I already own it!
  2. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade — All the Light We Cannot See is on my hold list at the library…
  3. A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people) <– I have several of these in-progress… but I think I’ll try to read/finish Magic for Beginners because it came in one of my Indiespensible boxes this year…

That leaves six tasks where I haven’t figure out what to read yet. So, I’m looking for some ideas and/or recommendations for books that might check off any of these…

  1. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 <– no idea…
  2. A microhistory <– the suggestions offered in that linked article are okay, but maybe you have a better idea for me…
  3. A collection of poetry <– ugh. Poetry. I need a good suggestion here… something that I might actually like considering the only poetry I like is song lyrics…
  4. A book published before 1850 <– what do you think about Count of Monte Cristo? It’s already on my TBR… unless you have a better suggestion…
  5. A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”) <– Yuck. I hate self-help books. Does Lean In count? because I already own that one… not excited about reading it, but I probably should…
  6. A book that was originally published in another language <– I’ve heard really good things about My Brilliant Friend, but I can’t figure out if it is truly “in translation” or if it’s just written in English by an Italian author… anyone know or have other ideas?

If you have ideas, please let me know in the comments (or recommend me a book on Goodreads)!

Anyone else doing this “read harder” challenge this year?

7 thoughts on “In which I attempt to “Read Harder” and need recommendations…

  1. Looks like you’re off to a great start on the challenge. Here are a few suggestions:

    1) How about the MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood? While I’m not certain about the first book, books two and three should qualify. Atwood was born in 1939.

    2) I recommend The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

    3) You might enjoy Pablo Neruda.

    4) Frankenstein? Or something by Dickens, Austen, or the Brontë sisters?

    5) I don’t really read much in the self-help category. I enjoyed In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Have you read Marie Kondo’s book on decluttering?

    6) A Man Called Ove, which I recently read and loved, was originally in Swedish.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations! I’d forgotten about the MaddAddam trilogy! I’ve been thinking about picking that up for a while now… This would be a good excuse.

      I also really like your Pablo Neruda suggestion. I’ve never read any of his poetry, but his name comes up a lot. I’ve found a book on Amazon that has some re-translations of his poems and they are printed in both English and Spanish. Which is cool because I spent some time in Ecuador doing a Spanish immersion program, and I’d love an excuse to brush up on my language skills!

      I’d looked into that de-cluttering book. Did you like it? It got mixed reviews… But I’m a big fan of de-cluttering and organizing!

      And I’m definitely adding Man Called Ove to my TBR. It looks really good.


  2. This is amazing; I wish I had more patience for challenges. I generally lunge from one book I’m dying to read to another, though; it’s all I can do to squeeze in the occasional book club choice. I’ll have to see how my own list maps to the challenges, though.

    Suggestions! These are just what leap to mind:

    1) Ooh, Ursula Le Guin’s “Lavinia” came out when she was in her early 80s and I LOVE that book. Or her entire Powers series. Or anything Le Guin wrote in the last 20 years; highly recommended. Or you could read Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” which is lovely but very sad.

    2) These are not generally my thing, but my husband really, really enjoyed “Salt,” which was one of the suggestions on your list. Or would Bill Bryson’s “At Home” work, which is a history of our modern idea of a house, gone through by room–kitchen, living room, hall, bedroom, etc. I love Bill Bryson, and I think that might be the most micro of his books.

    3) I have been dying to read Audre Lorde’s “Dream of a Common Language,” from which I’ve read a few poems that I have loved. But what you might really love is “Poisoned Apples,” which is by Christine Hepperman and is a recent book of poetry for and about teenaged girls. I’ve read about half of it and it’s AMAZING–highly recommended.

    4) “Count of Monte Cristo” is the one I’d pick, since it’s on my to-read list, too. Too bad Louisa May Alcott published a few years after that; unrelated to your challenge, you should read her “Behind the Mask” at some point, because it’s amazing.

    5) Hm. I think this will depend a lot on what you want to read about, but if you haven’t read “Stumbling on Happiness,” you might enjoy that. It’s mostly pop psychology, but it’s got a self-improvement bent to it. I do think “Lean In” would count, but I don’t think I could read that all the way through. Ooh, or you could read “Buddhism for Beginners”–I’m always interested in learning more about meditation and mindfulness techniques, and I feel like I don’t quite “get” mindfulness, so I always learn a lot of useful stuff when I read those books.

    6) No clue about whether your choice was first in English. If I were you I’d read something by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, because I keep meaning to read more of him and rarely get around to it. But I’d also like to suggest “The Three Body Problem,” which was a huge Chinese scifi bestseller that’s been a big hit here–it’s supposed to be very thoughtful and scientific and fascinating and it’s translated by a really great American writer, and I’m really excited to read it myself.

    I LOVE GIVING BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS! Thank you for the opportunity.


    1. Thanks for your recommendations! I’ve actually already read a bunch of these already. We have similar reading tastes, I guess… 🙂

      I also thought of Ursula Le Guin, but I’ve already read Lavinia. It was on the shelf of a house we were staying at a few years ago, and I read it while we were there. And I’ve also read Poisoned Apples and Stumbling on Happiness. Greg read The Three Body Problem earlier this year and enjoyed it, but said it wasn’t his favorite.

      I didn’t actually set out to do this challenge at the start of the year. I only really looked into it after my mom got me the mug for my birthday and realized I’d already covered a bunch of these tasks. So definitely check your reading list. I bet you have a lot of these covered already.

      Maybe we could do a “buddy read” of Count of Monte Cristo? Like a virtual book club…

      I think I’m going to go with My Brilliant Friend for the translation book. I noticed that Amazon lists a translator in the by line. So, I’m going to assume it was originally published in Italian. Plus I have familial links to Naples…


      1. Ooh, we could do a joint review blog post for Monte Cristo! Give me a few weeks to clear up some queue space and I’m totally in!

        Another poetry book I love: Jane Kenyon’s Constance. But I’m not sure if that’s just because I saw her read.


  3. Toni Morrison was born in 1931, so many of her later novels should qualify for the “over 65” category.

    I can recommend some good investment books if you think that would qualify as “self-improvement”. Also, I got a lot out of Intuitive Eating. Being Mortal might also fit this category and was really good.

    Papillon was originally published in French, I believe, and it is one of my favorite books. So you might consider that one.

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