Some recommendations for Read Harder 2020

I haven’t made much progress yet on this year’s Read Harder Challenge, but I’ve read quite a few books in other years that meet the categories. If you’re new to Read Harder, Book Riot makes suggestions for each category, and there’s a discussion group on Goodreads that’s really helpful. I thought I’d post some recommendations, in case they spark an interest in anyone else who’s doing the challenge.  I didn’t include every category, and these are just a few ideas — for most of these categories I could think of more recommendations if you want them.  

Read a YA nonfiction book: How Dare the Sun Rise — also a great fit for the category “a book by or about a refugee”.

Read a retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of color: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is based on Mayan mythology.  Also, Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie is a retelling of Antigone.

Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman: I loved After Atlas, a science fiction mystery.

Read a graphic memoir: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi or Relish by Lucy Knisley.  I’ll be reading George Takei’s They Called Us Enemy.

Read a book about a natural disaster: I loved The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough (though it’s technically a man-made disaster because it was the breakdown of a dam), or for a fictionalized version, read In Sunlight, in a Beautiful Garden.

Read a play by an author of color and/or queer author: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII: there’s plenty to choose from here, but a few great books that aren’t the usual historical novel: The Weight of Ink, The Dovekeepers, Homegoing

Read a book that takes place in a rural setting: I highly recommend Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, or DopesickThe Things She’s Seen also works for this category, as well as for the book by an indigenous author.

Read a debut novel by a queer author: An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, or On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before: Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer is about a specific Iraqi dish and a beautiful novel.

Read a book about climate change: Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.

Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  The later Harry Potter books also fall in this category, as does The Secret History and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Read a sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages): I recommend the novellas by Martha Wells (beginning with All Systems Red).  I read one of The Expanse novellas by James S. A. Corey, The Churn.

Read a book by or about a refugee: How Dare the Sun Rise

Read a middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK: Heidi, or Number the Stars.

Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non): There are quite a few good books about people on the spectrum, although many don’t consider that a disability.  One recommendation is The World’s Strongest Librarian, a memoir about a librarian/bodybuilder with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author: I loved The Things She’s Seen.  Also anything by Louise Erdrich.

Any recommendations in these categories?  If you’re doing the challenge, what have you read so far?



  6 comments for “Some recommendations for Read Harder 2020

  1. January 18, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    Untamed State is a great read 👍

    • January 25, 2020 at 11:17 am

      I agree! Such a powerful book, it still haunts me.

  2. January 20, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    You have quite the list there! Interestingly, I just got a copy of Relish myself. I love foodie books, but didn’t remember it was a graphic book until it arrived. It’s one of those books that has been on my list for years and I finally got a copy.

    I love the Diana Gabaldon books, especially the first 4-5 and I’ve read them all more than once. Hope you enjoy it if you chose it. For the record, I disliked The Secret History intensely, and never did finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

    I loved Homegoing and got a copy for my daughter for Xmas.

    Flight Behavior is an amazing book–one of my favorite Kingsolver novels.

    I’ve been meaning to read The Dovekeepers for years.

    Good luck with the challenge, and happy reading.

    • January 25, 2020 at 11:16 am

      I hope you enjoy Relish! The illustrations are great. Sorry to hear you didn’t like The Secret History. It’s one of my favorites, but I see it as a love it or hate it kind of book, and I haven’t really liked any of Tartt’s other books. Agree about Flight Behavior! Have you read any of her early books? I love Animal Dreams but most people haven’t read it.

  3. January 25, 2020 at 6:07 am

    Isn’t that new book, “American Dirt” about a refugee?

    • January 25, 2020 at 11:14 am

      It’s about immigrants, but I don’t know if it’s about refugees specifically — at any rate I was just suggesting books I’ve read and recommend. There are certainly many others! I just finished Go, Went, Gone, an excellent book about African refugees in Germany.

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