2019 Reading Challenges

This year I’m going to avoid signing up for any new challenges, but will continue with the ones I enjoyed most last year.

The TBR Pile Challenge, hosted by Roof Beam Reader, asks you to take 12 books, plus two alternates, that have been on your TBR list for over a year.  I often find some of my favorite reads through this challenge.  Last year I only read six books from the list, so I’m continuing five books onto my list this year.  I’m concentrating on books by diverse authors, and also books that I already own.  Hopefully some of these can also count towards other challenges.

  1. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  2. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
  3. Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
  4. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
  5. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons
  6. The Idiot by Elif Batuman
  7. Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin
  8. Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler
  9. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
  10. The Gowk Storm by Nancy Brysson Morrison
  11. How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
  12. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  13. Alternate: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  14. Alternate: The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge


The Read Harder Challenge, by Book Riot, is a list of 24 categories designed to push you to read different types of books.  I first did this challenge in 2018 and loved it.  Most of the categories were easy to complete but as the year went on, I really pushed myself to complete each one and read some great books as a result.  This year’s list looks a lot more difficult because of its specificity, but there’s a Goodreads discussion group for each item that provides a lot of helpful suggestions.  I haven’t figured out yet what I’ll read for each category, although hopefully some of my other challenge books will work towards this one.

  1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters
  2. An alternate history novel
  3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018
  4. A humor book
  5. A book by a journalist or about journalism
  6. A book by an AOC set in or about space (The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette de Bodard)
  7. An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
  8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
  9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads (The Gowk Storm)
  10. A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
  11. A book of manga
  12. A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
  13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse (The Kiss Quotient or Animals in Translation)
  14. A cozy mystery
  15. A book of mythology or folklore (Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik)
  16. An historical romance by an AOC (A Hope Divided by Alyssa Cole)
  17. A business book
  18. A novel by a trans or nonbinary author
  19. A book of nonviolent true crime
  20. A book written in prison
  21. A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
  22. A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
  23. A self-published book
  24. A collection of poetry published since 2014


In 2018 I read 22 books for the Doing Dewey Nonfiction Reading Challenge.  So this year I’ll be back!  My goal will be 25 books.  Some of the nonfiction I plan to read includes:

  • How Dare the Sun Rise by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
  • Duel with the Devil by Paul Collins
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge
  • Born Survivors by Wendy Holden
  • The Library Book by Susan Orleans
  • The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
  • Women and Power: A Manifesto by Mary Beard
  • Dopesick by Beth Macy
  • Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin
  • The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed
  • We Fed an Island by Jose Andres
  • Make Trouble by Cecile Richards
  • The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
  • Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot


I didn’t do so well with classics last year, but I’ll continue to work towards the Back to the Classics challenge by reading at least six books.  I know I want to read Les Miserables, and I also want to read books by Anthony Trollope and Evelyn Waugh.  I’d like to read more by Wharton and Eliot, and I’d like to read classic science fiction by Ursula LeGuin and Octavia Butler.  If I get that far, I’ll need some help coming up with the last few categories.  Suggestions?

  • 19th Century Classic: The Mill on the Floss
  • 20th Century Classic: Brideshead Revisited
  • Classic by a Woman Author: Left Hand of Darkness
  • Classic in Translation: Les Miserables
  • Classic Comic Novel: The Warden
  • Classic Tragic Novel: Anna Karenina
  • Very Long Classic: Bleak House
  • Classic Novella: The Gowk Storm
  • Classic From the Americas (includes the Caribbean).
  • Classic From Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia).
  • Classic From a Place You’ve Lived.
  • Classic Play.


I’m going to continue with the Feed Your Fiction Addition Book Blog Discussion Challenge, because it’s always good to write more book discussion posts.


And last, I’ll continue with the Reading All Around the World challenge, hosted by Howling Frog, where you choose at least 50 countries and read books set in those countries and written by people who live there.  This is a multi-year challenge I started in 2017.  My goal is to reach 50 countries by 2021, or 10 new countries a year (I added 12 this year).  I also like The Reader’s Room Read Around the World Challenge, where a random country is selected each month.

Here’s what I’ve already read.  Only countries not on this list will count, and a majority of the book has to be set there.

  1. Argentina: Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht
  2. Bulgaria: The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
  3. Canada: The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill
  4. Chile: In the Distance with You by Carla Guelfenbein
  5. China: What We Were Promised by Lucy Tan
  6. Colombia: The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
  7. France: The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  8. Ghana: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  9. Greece: My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
  10. Haiti: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  11. India: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao
  12. Iran: The Last Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan
  13. Ireland: The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  14. Jamaica: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
  15. Japan: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  16. Nigeria: Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
  17. Poland: We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
  18. Russia: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
  19. Serbia: Miss Ex-Yugoslavia by Sofija Stefanovic
  20. Scotland: The Long Drop by Denise Mina
  21. South Africa: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  22. Uganda: The Atlas of Forgotten Places by Jenny D. Williams
  23. United Kingdom: Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  24. Vietnam: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen


Those are my challenges for the year! Will you be participating in any of these?  And which challenges are you looking forward to?

  15 comments for “2019 Reading Challenges

  1. January 7, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Co-incidentally I have also shared different book recommendations for reading challenges. I do appreciate these challenges as they help us to read more diverse range of authors. I didn’t know about some of the challenges that you have shared. Thank you

  2. January 7, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    I have Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter in the TBR too. Look forward to hearing what you think of it.

  3. January 7, 2019 at 8:48 pm

    Gosh, lots of interesting challenges there! I love your round the world one – I’m doing a similar one, to read books from 80 countries, and am hoping to finish it this year – it’s been great fun and a brilliant way to make me read more widely. Enjoy all your challenges! 😀

  4. January 7, 2019 at 11:48 pm

    good luck with these challenges, I have been lowkey doing a reading around the world one but haven’t really done anything with it for like 7 months oops. Happy reading!

  5. January 8, 2019 at 12:48 am

    Best of luck on your challenges!
    I’m doing TBR Pile one too because I need to, but I gave up on Book Riot challenge this year to minimize things for myself.

    I listened to an interview of Beth Macy on how she went about researching and writing Dopesick and that made me want to read it. I hope to do so soon. I’m on hold for the audiobook at my library. If you’re interested, the interview was on longform.org which features interviews of journalists.

    • January 11, 2019 at 8:38 am

      Thanks for sharing the interview, I’ll check that out. Read Harder looks really difficult this year, so I’ll see how it goes. I always get a lot out of the TBR challenge.

  6. January 8, 2019 at 4:54 pm

    I’m doing something similar this year – ie, finishing existing challenges rather than start anything new. Or at least that’s the plan. I reserve the right to change my mind LOL. I have a world of literature reading challenge I set myself which is to read novels by authors from 50 different countries. Impossible to find anything in English in some countries unfortunately

    • January 11, 2019 at 8:38 am

      Good luck with your world reading! I haven’t been too rigid about reading books where the author comes from that country, or I would have many fewer books on my list — sometimes the author’s parents were from there or they spent a lot of time there. But I try to make sure the author has some real connection to the country they are writing about!

      • January 11, 2019 at 7:41 pm

        I dont tend to be too rigid either – if they were born elsewhere but have decided to make a specific country their home, then they count…..

      • February 2, 2019 at 8:51 am

        You might find this list helpful: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/01/19/books/new-books-international.html. These aren’t out yet but I’m getting good author ideas and will watch out for these titles.

      • February 3, 2019 at 5:01 am

        This is a rich source indeed though one that is rather too tempting. Lots of them are from countries I’ve not yet visited on my virtual tour so bless you for letting me know about this

  7. January 9, 2019 at 11:12 am

    So glad you’ll be continuing with the Discussion Challenge!

    • January 11, 2019 at 8:36 am

      Thanks Nicole, I always enjoy that challenge.

  8. January 13, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    You have some great challenges here! I loved Les Miserables and The Warden is a wonderful book. Septimus Harding from it is one of my favourite characters in fiction. I hope you have many successful challenges!

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