Like a lot of people, I did the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge last year. I finished the book for my last required category on December 30, 2016, just in the nick of time. I'm so happy with myself for completing this challenge. I stretched myself with some of these books, but mostly I was looking for a way to knock things of my forever long To Read list. It didn't quite work out that way, but I still had fun. Here's what I read for each of the categories, and what I thought of each.
- Read a horror book: Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss. This was fun. It had the slow burn, slow build rhythm of a gothic horror novel, but with a talking cat and a contemporary setting.
- Read a nonfiction book about science: Alex & Me by Irene M. Pepperberg. This ended up being more of an animal memoir than a book about science, so I found myself wishing for more science, but I still enjoyed it for the most part.
- Read a collection of essays: Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan. I got about 1/3 of the way through this book before I gave up. Yes, there was a lot of promise in these essays and stories, but I doubt this book would have been published if the author hadn't been a pretty, white, cishet young woman who died just after her graduation from an Ivy League school.
- Read a book out loud to someone else: Mee-Yow by Lee Priestly. I love this goofy book that is basically a build up to a goofy pun. Read it to my boyfriend who rolled his eyes almost the entire time.
- Read a middle grade novel: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Some middle grade novels work well for anyone, no matter the audience, but this one didn't quite do it for me. I liked the idea, but the end was a bit too schmaltzy for my tastes.
- Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography): Notorious R.B.G. by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik. I enjoyed learning about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but the writing style was a bit off.
- Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I had a little bit of a hard time getting the gist of this book at first, but once I did... wow, it grabbed me and never let go.
- Read a book originally published in the decade you were born: Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. This book was deliciously strange and convoluted. Loved it.
- Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. This memoir audiobook was one of the best things I listened to last year (and I listen to audiobooks all the time).
- Read a book over 500 pages long: Digger by Ursula Vernon. I'm somewhat obsessed with Vernon's writing and with her art, so this forever long graphic novel about the adventures of a wombat and Ganesha was the perfect combination.
- Read a book under 100 pages long: Four Eyes v. 1 by Joe Kelly. A kid, during the depression era, gets involved with a dragon fighting ring. I always enjoy Joe Kelly's work, so of course I had fun reading this.
- Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock. This was an important book, and I'm glad I read it, but Mock's writing style shows her professional origins (popular press magazines) and was not to my taste.
- Read a book set in the Middle East: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed. I loved this book. Loved it. Rich world building; relatable, flawed characters; and an engaging story line.
- Read a book that is by an author from Southeast Asia: Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan. The characterizations of women in this book made me put it down shortly after I picked it up. Sexist nonsense.
- Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: Salamander by Thomas Wharton. This was another slow build kind of book, and a convoluted story, but so lovely.
- Read the first book in a series by a person of color: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho. This was, perhaps, my favorite thing I read last year. It was also the last thing I read for the challenge, so it's fresh in my memory, but dang I loved this book. Great characters; a surprising plot; and rich language.
- Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years: Mae #1 by Gene Ha. I was not a fan. It was too slow to start and the characters didn't grab me.
- Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better: Skellig by David Almond. Nothing to debate here - the movie was horrible because they changed too much about the story. Ugh. No. Just read the book.
- Read a nonfiction book about feminism or dealing with feminist themes: Shrill by Lindy West. I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I did identify with a lot of what she said, but... Yeah.
- Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction): Getting Unstuck by Pema Chodron. Ani Pema's writing is what sent me down the path to embracing Buddhism, and this was a helpful book for me.
- Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction): BioGraphic Novel: The 14th Dalai Lama by Tetsu Saiwai. Learning more about the Dalai Lama was nice, but as sequential art goes this was kind of meh.
- Read a food memoir: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I know it's not just about food, but the first third of the book is about her eating her way through Italy so I think it counts. And I loved this book so much that I bought a copy for my own collection.
- Read a play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling. This reads like mediocre fan fiction. Don't do this to yourself, even if you are a fan of the series.
- Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness: The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I also gave up on this book. I just can't handle books where women are more object than subject.
I had so much fun doing this challenge. Even the books I ended up hating weren't wasted effort. For instance, I've always thought I *should* read Eugenides, and now I know I don't have to.
In 2017, I'm going to do a different challenge - something I've designed for myself. Like so many other people, I buy more books than I read... and I put even more books on my GoodReads To Read list than that. So for 2017, I am going to make myself stick to the unread books I have already decided are worth reading - whether by purchasing them or by putting them on a list. I'm going to allow myself a loophole, however: if one of my favorite authors publishes a book, I can buy and/or read those books, too.
I'm claiming this goal publicly in hopes that you'll help me stick to my goal. I have so many unread books on my shelves and on my To Read list that it would take me around 17 years to read them all if I read at my current rate. I know I'll give up on and/or change my mind about some of those book, but I'm never going to get through the list if I keep adding to it.
So, I've got a lot of reading to do. Feel free to give me this look if you find out I'm breaking my promise to myself.
How about you? What are you planning to read this year? Or are you just going to take it as it comes?