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2020 Read Harder Challenge - 24 Categories

Completed October 2020

First and foremost, I look at challenges as a gateway to new reading paths, a way to nudge me in a new direction with my reading. It's not a competition and if I don't finish, I don't care; but, I'm going to give it a shot! Are you inspired to join me?


Started by Book Riot a few years ago, the book website challenges readers with 24 categories to "Read Harder", to read outside your normal genres and look for that sometimes overlooked author or tiny wedge of sub-genre. As with most reading challenges, the categories are open to interpretation, but to help readers out, their website, as well as the #ReadHarder group on Goodreads, is there to help find books in some of the more obscure categories. I rely on those readers and comments a lot.


Here's where I'll track my efforts to complete the challenge in 2020. I'll be double dipping some of the books that will also fit categories in other challenges. I started by taking the lists and perusing my own bookshelves to see what I already own that will fit the challenge. Then, as I search the forums for ideas, I watch for books I know are already on my TBR list. Finally, I fill in with books totally new-to-me. Completed books will be in bold with a cover image and links to the reviews.  (AOC, author of color) 


1 - YA nonfiction:

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women by Lisa Charleyboy

an anthology of essays, poetry and art by indigenous women

mycroft holmes

2 - retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an AOC:

Mycroft Holmes #1  by Kareem Abdul Jabbar  (TBR)

reimagining of Sherlock Holmes with addition of older brother whose best friend is black


3 - mystery where the victim is not a woman:

Beautiful Mystery (The) by Louise Penny  

set in a monastery in remote Canada, this cozy mystery has all the elements of a locked-room mystery with the addition of some great reflections on the power of music


4 - a graphic memoir:

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei

a graphic novel memoir about Takei's time in a Japanese internment camp

tilted world

5 - about a natural disaster:

Tilted World (The) by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly 

a story of bootleggers, revenuers, and an orphaned baby, all set against the backdrop of the horrific flooding of the Mississippi River in 1927

M Butterfly

6 - play by an AOC or queer author:

M. Butterfly by David Henry Hwang (AOC)

a retelling of Madame Butterfly with some gender bending involved; good commentary on social stereotypes of Asian women


7 - historical fiction not set in WWII

A Murderous Relation #5 by Deanna Raybourn

the newest Victoria Speedwell historical fiction mystery set in Victorian London 

8 - audio book of poetry:

Not going to do this one.

giver of stars

10 - takes place in a rural setting:

Giver of Stars (The) by Jojo Moyes  

historical fiction about the horsewomen librarians of Kentucky

i wish you all the best

11 - debut novel by a queer author:

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

the story of a teen boy who comes out to his parents as non-binary and they force him to leave; the story of his journey to find himself and fit in at his new school

meeting faith

12 - memoir by someone from a religious tradition different from mine:

Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun by Faith Adiele

eye-opening memoir of a woman searching for meaning and contentment and ordains as a Buddhist nun to help find herself

notes from a young black chef

13 - about a cuisine I've not tried before:

Notes From a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi

a memoir describing the rough background he overcomes to achieve his dream, recipes follow each chapter


14 - romance starring a single parent:

Bride Test (The) by Helen Hoang

A Korean single mom is asked to come to America and meet a man who needs a wife and she agrees so that she can provide a better life for her daughter. The man is autistic and not interested in marriage. Misunderstandings, making up, jealousy - the usual dramas.

fifth season

15 - about climate change

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison 

this was recommended as a book about climate change but I didn't see it till about half way through; the seasons reference massive changes the earth goes through due to man's abuse of the planet

doomsday book

16 - over 500 pages, written by a woman, published after 1950:

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis  

part sci-fi, part historical fiction as a young woman time travels to 1300s England and ends up in the middle of the bubonic plague


17 - sci-fi / fantasy novella (under 120pg)

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor 

a sci fi trilogy about a young tribal woman on Earth who travels to a distant planet for college and discovers her personal power - she's a harmonizer


18 - a picture bk with the main human character from a marginalized community:

Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie

children's book about a Native American little boy who wants his own name (not a 'junior')

19 - by or about a refugee:

Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini

childen's book written as a letter from a dad to his son as they are about to embark on a dangerous escape from Syria

a long walk to water

20 - middle grade book that doesn't take place in the US or UK:

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

a simple but impactful book about war and hardship and lack of water in Sudan.


21 - book where the main character has a disability (fiction or non):

Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto   

memoir of a blind man's journey in learning to live with his handicap and come to terms with this limitations but explore his opportunities


22 - horror book published by an indie press:

Ghostland by Duncan Ralston (Shadow Works Publishing)

an amusement park opens that promises that you can see ghosts, but while "guests are dying to get in, the ghosts will kill to get out".

23 - an edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical):

Words Without Borders  digital copy, articles, short stories (

absolutely true diary

24 - any genre by a Native, First Nation, or Indigenous author:

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (The) by Sherman Alexie   

a quick story to read in a day but will stay with you far longer as it tackles some serious issues but with a light-ish touch

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