Read Harder Challenge

Cover of Bone GapI realised last week that I signed up for some reading challenges at the start of this year. Cue panic! I’ve completely bombed on the Reading the World Challenge, unless we’re going for continents rather than countries, but with some creativity I’ve managed to fit books I read this year into most of the Read Harder Challenge (previous categories completed are at my original post):

  • A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25 – Nimona, Noelle Stevenson
  • A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65 – The New Moon with the Old, Dodie Smith
  • A book published by an indie press – Redemption in Indigo, Karen Lord
  • A book that takes place in Asia – Bearkeeper’s Daughter, Gillian Bradshaw (Turkey counts, right?)
  • Cover of SwindledA book by an author from Africa – Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanta (the audiobook has a fantastic narrator)
  • A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture – Dogside Story, Patricia Grace
  • A microhistory – Swindled, Bee Wilson (fascinating and horrifying in equal measure)
  • A romance novel – The One Plus One, Jojo Moyes (because my kind of romance story involves single parents and road trips and farting dogs)
  • A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade – Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
  • A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.) – Bone Gap, Laura Ruby
  • An audiobook – Freedom Maze, Delia Sherman (highly recommended!)
  • A collection of poetry –
  • Cover of Under the Udala TreesA book that was originally published in another language – The Arab of the Future, Riad Sattouf (so depressing)
  • A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure – I’d have to go with Things I Wish I’d Known, because for some reason I like reading horror stories about poop and babies
  • A book published before 1850 – The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
  • A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”) – Bears in the Backyard, Edward Ricciuti (I’m really reaching here, but the survival techniques might be useful if I ever get attacked by a cougar?)

As you can see I’ve failed to complete four of them. I did start three (still reading Wolf Hall!) but unfortunately they might have to count for next year’s challenge. Yes, that’s right, I’ve optimistically signed up for the Read Harder Challenge 2016 already. Maybe I’ll tick them all off this time!

How did you all get on with your reading challenges this year? Are you planning to sign up for another for 2016?

Reading the World

Cover of Reading the WorldAfter complaining about the hardships of attempting Read Harder 2015, I’ve come across an author who has shamed me into taking on another challenge.

In 2012 Ann Morgan decided to read one book from each of the world’s 196 independent countries, documenting her adventures on her blog and in her newly published book, Reading the World. While I don’t have the tenacity or the budget to do the same, it has prompted me to be more active in my search for diverse authors.

Cover of The Rabbit Back Literature SocietyI’ve already found a few on the Baileys Women’s Prize longlist for 2015 – Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan), Xiaolu Guo and P. P. Wong (China/Britain), and I’ve been struggling valiantly through The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Finland). (Isn’t that a fantastic surname?) Here are a few more I’ve optimistically placed on my holds list, descriptions mostly yoinked from the library catalogue:

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu (China): Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth.

Cover of Kabu-KabuKabu-Kabu, Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria): Kabu kabu – unregistered illegal Nigerian taxis – generally get you where you need to go. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu-Kabu, however, takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations you didn’t know you needed.

The Guest Cat, Takashi Hiraide (Japan): A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living.

Cover of Listen, SlowlyHold Tight, Don’t Let Go, Laura Rose Wagner (set in Haiti): In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Nadine goes to live with her father in Miami while her cousin Magdalie, raised as her sister, remains behind in a refugee camp, dreaming of joining Nadine but wondering if she must accept that her life and future are in Port-au-Prince.

Listen, Slowly, Thanhha Lai (Vietnam): Assisting her grandmother’s investigation of her grandfather’s fate during the Vietnam War, Mai struggles to adapt to an unfamiliar culture while redefining her sense of family.

Cover of Black Dove, White RavenBlack Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein (set in Ethiopia): Em, Teo and Em’s mother move to Ethiopia to honour Teo’s dead mother’s wish for them to grow up in a country free of racial conflict. For a while things go well — Em’s mother flies planes for a flying doctor service, and Em and Teo grow up happily on a coffee farm. Unfortunately this is the 1930s, and Mussolini’s army is eyeing up Ethiopia’s fertile land. With ties on both sides of the conflict, Em and Teo are drawn in against their will. Is their ability to pilot planes an asset or a liability? I don’t know yet, because I’m only halfway through!

Anything else I should add to my to-read list? Any fantastic authors who aren’t British or American? Let me know now while my motivation is still high! I’ll follow up on how I’m going in a month.

The Read Harder Challenge

Book cover of the paying guestsI always begin the year with great intentions of completing a million reading challenges, and inevitably my enthusiasm tapers off after the first few months. (I love how Robyn manages to make one book count for many categories. I might have to steal that trick later in the year.) This time I’ve decided to attempt the Read Harder Challenge 2015 because it looks fun and might make me read a bit wider, which is one of my more attainable New Year resolutions (she says optimistically).

So far I seem to be doing pretty well just from reading books I wanted to read anyway, but looking ahead I can see some difficulties. Can anyone recommend an entertaining self-help book? Or a published author under the age of 25?

Book cover of the strange libraryHere’s what I’ve managed to tick off:

Is anyone else doing a reading challenge?