I missed doing all my usual wrap up posts last year, I had great intentions to do them but work was busy and then I felt a bit silly posting those type of posts in May. They felt more like January and February posts. So I’m hoping to get a start on them now and get them up in the next month or two.
This was my 3rd year doing the Read Harder challenge and I’ve noticed a pattern. I get hyped about it when it’s announced, put together a list with potential reads for each challenge, read about half of them in the first 4-5 months, forget about it for a few months then rush to finish all the challenges I’ve been putting off. This year was no different. But I still succeeded!
1. Read a book published posthumously- Ariel by Sylvia Plath
A collection of poetry, which I mostly enjoyed.
2. A book of true crime- The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale
A true life whodunnit, a murder is committed in Victorian England in a locked house. Was it a stranger or an inside job?
3. A classic of genre fiction- The Murder of at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
The first Miss Marple book from the Queen of Crime herself, Agatha Christie. Really enjoyed this and want to read more from her.
4. A comic written and drawn by the same person- Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Slightly strange graphic novel that I mostly enjoyed but I was a tad bit baffled at times.
5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China or South Africa)- Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina
Written by one of the Pussy Riot members, it tells the tale of their rise to fame and her subsequent jailing. The book was written in a style of a stream of consciousness which didn’t translate well to my e-book copy, I think I would have preferred it as a physical book. But it was still a fascinating read.
6. A book about nature- H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Following the death of her father, Helen buys a hawk and attempts to train it. Not exactly what I thought it would be at times but I did like it and it was beautifully written.
7. A western- Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
I struggled with choosing something for this and went with a YA book as it would be shorter and easier to read. Lots of fun and I loved the characters, there’s a follow up companion novel that I might pick up if I want to return to this world.
8. A comic written or drawn by a person of color- Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Didn’t love it as much as Scott Pilgrim series but I still liked it.
9. A book of colonial or post-colonial literature- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
Covers being both colonial and post-colonial.
10. A romance by or about a person of color- The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
I saw this recommended by squibblesreads and it was a light enjoyable romantic story set mostly in San Francisco.
11. A children’s classic published before 1980- The Twins at St. Clare’s by Enid Blyton
I loved this series as a child (as well as the Mallory Towers series) so thought it would be fun to reread the first book.
12. A celebrity memoir- Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
I loved this, I highly recommend the audio version as Mara narrates it herself.
13. An Oprah Book Club selection- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
14. A book of social science- Dent’s Modern Tribes by Susie Dent
Probably the loosest choice for any of the categories, there were other books that suited the social science element better but it does work! A look at the lingo used by particular to groups within society; from bird watchers and bin men to doctors and politicians.
15. A one sitting book- Dear Ijeawele by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is a letter Chimamanda wrote to her friend when she had a baby, with suggestions on how to raise your child to be a feminist. Lots of interesting points and a super short read.
16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series- Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli
I wasn’t sure if ‘new-to-you’ meant a series that I only discovered in 2018 or one I hadn’t read before. I took it to be the latter. I enjoyed this, I think I would have preferred to have physically read it instead of as an audio book as the emails being read out was annoying but it was cute and I liked the film.
17. A sci-fi novel by a female author with a female protagonist- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
This novella (is that cheating? I don’t think so!) came recommended by booksandpieces.
18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC or Image- Archie Volume 1 by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples
I chose this reboot of the Archie comics as I enjoyed watching the Riverdale series on Netflix.
19. A book of genre fiction in translation- The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George
A romantic novel translated from German. I mentioned this is my Women in Translation post earlier this year.
20. A book with a cover you hate- Almost Love by Louise O’Neill
In general I hate people on covers and this is no exception. The book was a let down too.
21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author- Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee
The final book in the YA The Agency series about a teenage spy in Victorian times. Thoroughly enjoyed the series
22. An essay anthology- Feminist Don’t Wear Pink curated by Scarlett Curtis
Probably not a proper essay anthology, I saw a lot of different explanations for what it meant and I decided this counted.
23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60- Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
I did enjoy it while reading it but not as much as Joanna’s first book The Trouble With Goats and Sheep.
24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
So if you were observant you’d have noticed that The Poisonwood Bible is there 3 times. Now usually I only use one book per challenge. The hardest challenge this year was the final one, an assigned book you hated or never finished. I finished all the books assigned to me in school and liked them all. So I decided I’d find another book that was on our reading list the year I did my exams and I’d read that.
I started reading The Poisonwood Bible for the Oprah or colonial challenge. When I started it, I hadn’t decided which one it would be for. My plan was to finish it and then pick which challenge it was for based on what I wanted to read next. But as I was sick in December, by the time I finished it I didn’t have the energy to read another book for the challenge so I decided it would work for both those challenges. And seeing as it also fit for the assigned book one, I decided if it worked for two it would work for three! I would have preferred a separate book for each challenge, as I had done for the previous 2 years. But there’s no real or ‘proper’ way to do the Read Harder challenge and it’s still completed and that’s all that really matters!
Does the Read Harder challenge encourage me to read harder? Yes, I think it does. I picked up a western, maybe not one of the classics of the genre but it was something new for me. I finally read The Poisonwood Bible, I think it was one of the very first books I marked to read when I joined Goodreads. Looking up books for the challenge helps me find new things that I’m interested in reading too. However I do think it stifles me a bit, I can find a lot of books already on my TBR that fit into categories but sometimes there isn’t a book and I need to hype myself up to read something I hadn’t heard of before. I find that having to plan in these books to read brings down the spontaneity of just being able to pick at random what I want to read next. That being said, I plan on doing the 2019 Read Harder Challenge and have already started my lists. Let’s up it doesn’t all come to a rush next October/November to get it all finished!