Read Harder 2018: Help me finish this year’s challenge

So far I’ve read 13 out of the 24 Read Harder 2018 Challenge.  It’s my first time doing this challenge and I’m really enjoying it.  But it’s the categories I haven’t read so far that are the real challenge. What I’d really like is to get YOUR suggestions about books that fall into these categories.  Read Harder has helpful suggestions at this link, if you want to see their ideas.  I’ve noted some of the books I’m thinking about.

Here’s what I’ve read:

  • A book of true crime: Killers of the Flower Moon
  • A classic of genre fiction: A Wrinkle in Time
  • A book set in one of the five BRICs countries: Girls Burn Brighter
  • A book about nature: My Family and Other Animals
  • A comic written/illustrated by a person of color: Ms. Marvel
  • A book of colonial or post-colonial literature: Pachinko
  • A romance novel by a person of color: The Luckiest Lady in London
  • A children’s classic published before 1980: A Wrinkle in Time
  • A celebrity memoir: Love, Loss, and What We Ate
  • An Oprah Book Club selection: An American Marriage
  • A one-sitting book: All Systems Red
  • The first book in a new-to-you YA series: Paper Girls, Vol. 1; Labyrinth Lost
  • Sci Fi novel w female protagonist by female author: Future Home of the Living God; Crosstalk

Here’s what’s left.

  1. A book published posthumously. I read Confederacy of Dunces a long time ago (though it would be a nice re-read).  What else?  There’s a book called When Breath Becomes Air, written by a neurosurgeon who dies of cancer.  Morbid, yes, but a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and sounds inspiring.
  2. A comic written and illustrated by the same person. If I ever finish Persepolis, that will count.  But I’m struggling with it a bit.  Another idea is Stitches, a memoir by children’s illustrator David Small.
  3. A western. Book Riot says River of Teeth counts, but… call it my Arizona upbringing, but I’m not sure a book that takes place in Louisiana can fairly be called a western.
  4. A book of social science. For some reason I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this one. Read Harder describes this as a book that “sheds light on one fascinating aspect of us humans and our puzzling, amazing, infuriating interactions with each other and the world around us.” Have I read anything that falls into this category?  Tell Me More is about communication but it’s really more anecdotal than anything else.  One Small Step Can Change Your Life could work, since it gets at the psychology of motivation and change, but that’s not really social science either.  The one I think works is Awkward: The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome.
  5. A book of genre fiction in translation. I’m thinking about My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. Can that be called genre fiction? What if I call it (a category I despise) women’s fiction? The books of Han Kang are also translated, and also not genre fiction.
  6. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image. I’m thinking Marchby John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. I’m also intrigued by Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which would meet #2 as well – and it has recipes!
  7. A book with a cover you hate. Looking at books I’ve read this year, there are covers that do nothing for me but not really covers I hate. So far the cover I like least this year is for an otherwise excellent book, Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires.
  8. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ author. I’m really interested in The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey. I also really liked The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, and she’s got two other books in the series.
  9. An essay anthology. My idea here: Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance and Revolution in Trump’s America, edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding.
  10. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: My idea for this one is Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon. It’s gotten mixed reviews but has also won or been nominated for lots of awards.
  11. An assigned book you hated or never finished. The book that immediately comes to mind is the dreaded Jane Eyre (which I know many of you love).  I want to give it another chance one of these days, but Jane Eyre seems like a lot of effort for a book I didn’t like! Let me know if you have any suggestions. As an English major, I also struggled with (and often didn’t finish) the works of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.

That’s 11 books in six months, if I want to complete the challenge.  And maybe I can count #3 as one I’ve already done, and #7 could be a book I’ve read already.

If you’re doing the challenge, which ones are you struggling with?

  28 comments for “Read Harder 2018: Help me finish this year’s challenge

  1. June 18, 2018 at 6:54 am

    I love the idea of this challenge – your picks sound brilliant. What about something by May Sarton for no. 10?

    • June 18, 2018 at 11:58 am

      I know very little about May Sarton, I’ll look her up. Thanks for the suggestion!

  2. June 18, 2018 at 7:01 am

    For 10, try Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To the Sun, by Sarah Ladipo Manyika – the protag is about 80, super-cosmopolitan and it’s less patronising (in my opinion) than Three Things About Elsie. For 5, there’s a good crime novel in translation from Japanese, called Six Four, by Hideo Yokohama. And I read David Small’s Stitches, years ago, and really enjoyed it!

    • June 18, 2018 at 11:41 am

      Thanks for the recommendations! It seems there are very few books with main characters over 60, which I guess is the whole point of this exercise. I know you had mixed feelings about Elsie, so I appreciate the suggestion.

  3. T.
    June 18, 2018 at 7:05 am

    personally didn’t struggle too much with the comic category since comic for me is just mangas (lol perks of growing up asian). for the assigned books, i have enjoyed most of my texts so far it’s just out of schoolwork, i always have difficulty getting an in-depth understanding of russian writers particularly. don’t know why really…

    • June 18, 2018 at 11:45 am

      I had trouble with the Russian writers as well, although I found War and Peace surprisingly readable (long, but readable). So maybe it’s just Dostoevsky I have trouble with.

      • T.
        June 18, 2018 at 10:04 pm

        oh definitely, one of my favourite reads! i guess it’s just me since i normally i assume writers have bigger intentions in their books than the meanings that are visible and seems obvious to us.

  4. June 18, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Okay, let’s see. Posthumous books – Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell is a wonderful, somewhat overlooked Victorian novel (though it’s getting more attention now). She left it nearly finished on her death, with the ending sketched out.

    Both Stitches and Persepolis are worth reading. If you’re stalled with Persepolis, Stitches is a quicker read and is amazing. El Deafo is another possibility if you want something not quite so harrowing.

    I would not call My Brilliant Friend a genre novel. I hate genres anyway, but I think “women’s novel” should not be one (and even so, MBF is just plain literary fiction, not “women’s fiction”). Looking back just at books I’ve reviewed on the blog, I can highly recommend Krabat and the Sorcerer’s Mill, a classic fantasy by Ottfried Preussler (translated from German).

    A book you hate – In high school and college some of the books I personally hated included Tristram Shandy, Clarissa, Lord of the Flies, Heart of Darkness, To the Lighthouse … I want to try some of them again at some point, but I’m not sure I’ll react differently. I reread Lighthouse last year and still did not like it.

    Good luck with the challenge! You’re doing great!

    • June 18, 2018 at 11:48 am

      Great suggestions, thank you! I totally agree that there shouldn’t be categories like “women’s fiction”. Maybe I’ll just call this category fiction in translation, since categorizing by genre is always a little suspect.

      I had trouble with Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness, too. I like the idea of rereading To the Lighthouse.

  5. Susie | Novel Visits
    June 18, 2018 at 9:00 am

    For s western I’d recommend News of the World by Paulette Jiles or The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollack. Both were wonderful and I don’t usually go for westerns! For a book in translation, I just read In the Distance With You by Carla Guelfenbein and liked it very much.

    • June 18, 2018 at 11:50 am

      News of the World is fantastic, but I’ll check out The Heavenly Table and In the Distance With You. Thanks for the suggestions!

  6. June 18, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Okay, some suggestions –

    A comic written and illustrated by the same person. I am never sure where the line is between comic and graphic novel, but Radioactive: A Tale of Love and Fallout, by Lauren Redniss, is a wonderful retelling of Marie and Pierre Curie’s lives. Also, at the risk of being obvious, MAUS, by Art Spiegelman (though that is very tough subject matter, I still flew through it).

    A western. My favourite western is Lonesome Dove (set on the route from Texas to Montana), but I am not from the US so I don’t know if this would count as a western to you? I loved it, anyway. I’m also about to read The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe, but if Arizona doesn’t count I’m guessing Canada definitely doesn’t!

    A book of social science. I really loved All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister, which probably (?) counts as social science.

    A translated work of genre fiction. I liked The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun Mi-Hwang, translated from Korean. It’s really a fable, but I think it could probably count as fantasy as well.

    A comic not published by Marvel, DC, or Image. I like Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton, which was published by Drawn and Quarterly.

    And in terms of a female protagonist over the age of 60, can I suggest Miss Marple? She is very definitely over the age of 60! The Body in the Library is a personal favourite Marple.

    Good luck with the rest of the challenge 🙂

    • June 18, 2018 at 9:04 am

      Argh, I mean if Louisiana doesn’t count. I wish I could edit comments!

  7. June 18, 2018 at 11:54 am

    Wow, lots of great suggestions here, thank you! I love Lonesome Dove, which definitely counts as Western to me. McMurtry has written a lot of great books set in the West. I love a good mystery, thanks for suggesting a specific Miss Marple title (I’m sure there are many).

  8. June 18, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    I can help with two categories
    For A book of social science – try The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell which is about why certain ideas or forms of behaviour spread so extensively they become a noticeable phenomenon. The first example he talks about is why Hush Puppy shoes suddenly became trendy. But he also talks about crime on the subway. Easy to read but also makes you think.

    Book with protagonist over 60 – if you don’t like the idea of three things about Elsie try Elizabeth is Missing – here’s my review to give you a sense of what its about.

    Good luck – I’m in awe of the progress you’ve already made

    • June 18, 2018 at 5:39 pm

      Thanks, these sound like great suggestions! I’ve heard good things about Elizabeth is Missing.

  9. June 18, 2018 at 10:45 pm

    I can recommend “When Breath Becomes Air.” It is heart-wrenching, but really beautiful.

    For social science, how about “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” by James Pennebaker. I’m halfway done with it and as a word person, really enjoying it. I also enjoyed “Capture: A Theory of the Mind” by David A. Kessler and “My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind” by Scott Stossel.

    Good luck!

    • June 19, 2018 at 11:22 pm

      The Secret Life of Pronouns sounds interesting! I love thinking about words and language. Thanks for the recommendations!

  10. June 19, 2018 at 6:52 am

    I’m doing Read Harder too! I’m going for The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank as my book published posthumously and for a Western I’m probably going to continue with the Stephen King Dark Tower series (although this night be stretching the definition a bit).

    For a book with a female over 60 I was going to read Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters but then I found The Lido by Libby Page which is a lovely book. I’m struggling to find an essay anthology – I’ve already read Nasty Women! I’m also struggling with an assigned book I hated or never finished – I studied Business and Sociology at University so all of my assigned texts were textbooks about accountancy! And I can’t remember what I was assigned in school!

    • June 19, 2018 at 11:27 pm

      Diary of a Young Girl is such an important book to read, that’s a nice choice. I like the Dark Tower series too. I haven’t heard of The Lido, I’ll check it out! I don’t have any other essay ideas, as that’s not a genre I would typically read. Good luck with the challenge!

      • June 20, 2018 at 6:14 am

        I agree 😊. I reviewed the Lido a few weeks ago if that helps. Yeah I’m really struggling for an essay anthology! Good luck too! X

  11. June 19, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    For a western, I can’t recommend The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout highly enough.

    • June 19, 2018 at 11:28 pm

      Thanks Debbie, for the suggestion. I’m not familiar with The Homesman but it’s gone on my list!

  12. June 23, 2018 at 11:03 am

    Comics written/drawn by same person: MAUS is indeed excellent and a classic. I would also put forward a somewhat unknown title, Last Things by Marissa Moss. https://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2017/05/last-things.html

    A Western: how about True Grit? My mom gave me a copy recently and said that even I would enjoy it…

    • June 23, 2018 at 11:18 am

      Thanks for the recommendations! Last Things looks pretty amazing. It’s interesting how graphic novels cover some of the toughest subjects. It’s a whole new genre for me.

  13. June 23, 2018 at 9:04 pm

    For a social science read, I second the recommendation of All the Single Ladies! I also really enjoyed It’s Complicated, about teen use of social media. It’s academic in its rigor, but approachable to read.

    For books with a female protagonist over sixty, I’d suggest Elizabeth is Missing. It’s a fun thriller about a woman with dementia who is convinced her friend is missing, but no one will believe her.

    It seems like you’re making great progress! I hope you find good books for all your remaining categories 🙂

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