Home / RPL Blog / Read Harder, Smaller, in 2018

Read Harder, Smaller, in 2018


Book Riot has challenged us once again to Read Harder with a list of reading challenges for 2018. You can find neat recommendations all over, such as here and here. And of course, here. Welcome to the Richmond Public Library very long list of recommendations to tackle Book Riot’s admirable annual challenge post.

I want to combine the Read Harder challenge with the RPL Blog Challenge issued last week: Read Smaller by reading books from small and independent presses. You can check off number one right away with a book that I could not put down, published in 2016 by the Green Writers Press, a Vermont press devoted to “giving voice to writers and artists who will make the world a better place.” We of course are firm believers in the ability of books to make the world a better place. (Books for a Better World kicks off on February 13th with Margaret Edds, author of We Face the Dawn, at the Hull Street Library)

Here are the list of challenges with recs from us, and as always, there’s a lot of crossover potential with many of the categories, all small press books indicated with * :

  1. A book published posthumously: Broken Wing by David Budbill* is one tender, captivating, beautiful book. Budbill passed away before the book went to press but it was published according to his wishes with whimsical illustrations by Vermont-based artist Donald Saaf. I dare you to read it and not feel like the world can be made better by books. Also check out Whatever happened to Interracial Love by Kathleen Collins*, and Amiable with Big Teeth by Claude McKay.
  2. A book of true crime: American Fire by Monica Hesse, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, CrimeSong by Richard H. Underwood*, Dark Highway by Ann DAngelo*, The Mastermind by David Unger*
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance): (sci-fi) Roadside Picnic by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky*, (romance) How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terri McMillan, (mystery) Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
  4. A comic written and illustrated by the same person: Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet*, Everything is Flammable by Gabrielle Bell*,  Adulthood is a Myth by Sarah Andersen
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa): K. by Bernardo Kucinski*, What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons, The Impostor by Damon Galgut*, Children of the Arbat by Anatoli Rybakov, Pushkin Hills by Sergei Dovlatov*, Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga, Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien, Running through Beijing By Xu Zechen*, The Borrowed by Chan Ho-Kei*
  6. A book about nature: The History of Bees by Maja Lunde, H is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald*, The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono*, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan*
  7. A western: Huck Out West by Robert Coover, The Roundhouse by Louise Erdrich, The Revenant by Michael Punke, Haints Stay by Colin Winnette*, In the Distance by Hernan Diaz*, The Long-Shining Waters by Danielle Sosin*
  8. A comic written or illustrated by a person of color: The Black Panther series is written by Roxanne Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates, among other terrific witers, Strange Fruit, Volume I: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill*, I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina*,  Blue Hand Mojo: Hard Times Road by John Jennings*, Nelson Beats The Odds by Ronnie Sidney II*
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, The Stranger by Albert Camus AND The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud* (they really must be read together.), The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color: Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel, The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (especially appropriate for today), The Twits by Roald Dahl (my absolute childhood favorite)
  12. A celebrity memoir: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection: Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  14. A book of social science: Chokehold by Paul Butler*, Lower Ed by Tressie Cottom*, I Can’t Breathe by Matt Taibbi, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander*
  15. A one-sitting book: Grief is the Thing With Feathers by Max Porter*, The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison, Exposure by Katy Resch George*, The End We Start From by Megan Hunter*
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Leigh Bardugo has taken on Wonder Woman’s story–Warbringer is the first title–that should be well worth a read! Also Cinder by Marissa Meyer, and Changers Book One: Drew by Allison Glock-Cooper*
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Kindred by Octavia Butler, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon* (one of my favorite books of 2017!), The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (another 2017 favorite)
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: Princeless by Jeremy Whitley*, Underwater Welder by Jess Lemire*,  My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris*
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation: The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio De Maria (Italian, horror)*, Atlantic Hotel by Brazilian novelist, João Gilberto Noll*, and head over to Two Lines Press from the Center for the Art of Translation to browse the rest of their exciting works in translation. From Europa Editions’ (never met one I didn’t like) World Noir selections: I Will Have Vengeance by Maurizio de Giovanni (Italian crime fiction)*
  20. A book with a cover you hate: Very personal matter of taste and I honestly can’t picture a cover I hate at the moment but if I see one, I will make a point to read it. You can do the same.
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, Delhi Noir (India) Edited by Hirsh Sawhney*, Black Orchid Blues by Persia Walker*
  22. An essay anthology: Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace, Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit*, Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories by Gabrielle Union
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery*, The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt, Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished): I hate The Scarlet Letter. There, I said it. This challenge is also quite personal and I’m not sure if I can bring myself to re-read that one. Life is too short, Book Riot, I’m sorry. Perhaps I will spend a moment examining what it is that makes me quit a book early or reject it outright, or to toss it across the room after I’ve finished reading it under extreme duress.

In the mood for more challenges? We would like to echo Jason Reynolds’ challenge to read more poetry this year! Start with his novel written in verse, Long Way Down.

(Remember: If we don’t have it, just ask. Librarians have mysterious ways.)