Thursday, December 31, 2015

Miss JJ Tackles the "Read Harder" Challenge

A friend of mine has been blogging throughout the year about the Book Riot's 2015 Read Harder Challenge. I found the challenge intriguing (although I maintain that its name could use something more accurate, as it is a challenge about reading more broadly, not necessarily "harder," whatever that vague nomenclature means), so I've been checking in throughout the year to see how I'm doing on it meeting all its criteria.

That being said, I also have to admit I didn't go too far out of my way much to pick up books that fit into 24 categories laid out by Book Riot, somewhat defeating the purpose of the challenge. Still, I'm glad to find that my usual reading habits - fueled by personal and automatic recommendations, various review sources, advanced reader copies, and book club choices - actually make for a pretty well-rounded reading experience.

As you can see, out of the 24, I was able to tackle 23 - nearly all, which I'm chalking up as a win, even if some titles were a bit of a stretch. I ended up using some picture books to fill a couple of categories but, hey, don't knock children's literature if you want to be friends with me! :)  Of those tasks that I didn't get to this year or stretched to meet, I have read those types of works in the past, so I feel okay about not hitting those marks in 2015 specifically.

Below is a list of the 24 categories from Book Riot's challenge, followed by the books (with links to my personal reviews) I read this year that fit into that particular category. Throughout the year, I ended up reading more than one book from certain categories; however, if a book fit into more than one category, I kept it within just the "best fit" category. So an audiobook by an author from Africa went under the latter category (which would otherwise be empty) rather than going in the former category that already had a few contributions.

My hope with this post is that you might find some books of interest to you and/or find some titles from any of these 24 tasks that you weren't able to complete - or did complete and are now hungry for more books from the same category! But please note that I'm not necessarily recommending all of these books whole-heartedly; in fact, some were very bad reads in my opinion. So buyer beware - read the reviews before you make a decision on a title that catches your fancy.

1) A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
2) A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
(These first two tasks were the most difficult because books don't generally list an author's age at the time of the writing. It's possible I read more books that fit these categories but was unaware of it. In some cases, it's very difficult to learn the age of an author at all unless they are very famous author ... which usually doesn't happen under the age of 25!)

3) A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)
4) A book published by an indie press
(Like with #1 and #2, this was a rather difficult one because it's not really something I'm consciously aware of when picking a book. It's possible I read other books that fit this category during the year, but I didn't quite realize it at the time.)

5) A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
6) A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
(NOT reading a book written by a man would be the greater challenge. There were many others that fit this category, but I didn't feel inclined to list them all. I chose these two because with the time period they were written in, 1940 and 1929, respectively, they are more male centric than others simply written by a man. Suffice to say, this task "challenge" was met several times over. And over again. Many of those books are listed here elsewhere.)
7) A book that takes place in Asia
(Note: None of these take place fully in Asia, but they do have numerous scenes set in Japan and Malaysia amongst the three of them.)
8) A book by an author from Africa
9) A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
10) A microhistory
11) A YA novel
12) A sci-fi novel
13) A romance novel
14) A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
15) A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
  • Emma by Alexander McCall Smith (modernization of Emma by Jane Austen)
  • Jack Maggs by Peter Carey (parallel novel to Great Expectations by Charles Dickens) *
16) An audiobook
17) A collection of poetry
18) A book that someone else has recommended to you
19) A book that was originally published in another language
20) A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
21) A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)
22) A book published before 1850
(Okay, yeah, you got me - This was a re-read. But it's been around a decade since I read it last, plus this time I went with an audio version rather than a printed copy. So, kind of like new?)

23) A book published this year
24) A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)

* These were books that I started this year but did not finish by the end of it. Hence why there is no link to a review. [This post was updated February 2016 to add a linked review for Jack Maggs. And again ... finally ... in July 2016 to add a linked review for Salt: A World History.]

As the year comes to a close tonight, I'm glad that I worked on this challenge during 2015 and am looking forward to trying out the 2016 challenge! Happy new year and new reading to all. :)