2021 Read Harder Challenge

Read Harder Challenge header

If you’re looking to expand your reading horizons, try Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. 2021 marks the 7th year Book Riot has encouraged book lovers to read outside their comfort zone. Below are the tasks with suggestions from our collection. This list is for topics 1-12; 13-24 will be added soon.

To learn more, find additional suggestions, and save an editable PDF of the challenges, visit Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2021 page. All links below go to the library catalog. 

1. Read a book you’ve been intimidated to read.

This task is more personal than most, but the format, length, and subject matter can all make a book seem intimidating. A few suggestions include...

Book covers for titles listed below

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

2. Read a non-fiction book about anti-racism

Book covers for titles listed below

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism and Feminist Accountability by Kristen Hogan
This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly About Racism in America by George Yancy

3. Read a non-European novel in translation

Book covers for titles listed below

The Last Lover by Canxue
The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Death is Hard Work by Khalid Khalifah
Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin
The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

4. Read an LGBTQ+ History Book

Book covers for titles listed below

Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker
Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights by Ann Bausum
A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski
David Bowie Made Me Gay: 100 Years of LGBT Music by Darryl W. Bullock
Queer Heroes: Meet 52 LGBTQ Heroes from Past & Present by Arabelle Sicardi

5. Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author

Book covers for titles listed below

House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday
Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
A Girl Called Echo Vol. 1: Pemmican Wars by Katherena Vermette
The Andromeda Evolution by Daniel H. Wilson
Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An Indigenous LGBT Sci-Fi Anthology

6. Read a fanfic

Book covers for titles listed below

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman (H.P. Lovecraft/ Sherlock Holmes fanfiction)
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Twilight fanfiction)
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (Harry Potter fanfiction)
Redshirts by John Scalzi (Star Trek fanfiction)
After by Anna Todd (One Direction fanfiction)

7. Read a fat-positive romance

Book covers for titles listed below

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
I’ll be the One by Lyla Lee
One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

8. Read a romance by a trans or nonbinary author

Book covers for titles listed below

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Anyone but You by Chelsea M. Cameron
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
Next Year, For Sure by Zoe Leigh Peterson
Cemetery Boys by Aidan Thomas

9.  Read a middle-grade mystery

Book covers for titles listed below

Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Goldie Vance by Hope Larson
A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
The Blackthorn Key Kevin Sands

10. Read a SFF [Science Fiction / Fantasy] anthology edited by a person of color

Book covers for titles listed below

Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color
Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements
This Place: 150 Years Retold
A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Fantasy Anthology

11. Read a food memoir by an author of color

Book covers for titles listed below

Indian-ish: Recipes and Antics from a Modern American Family by Priya Krishna
From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home by Tembi Locke
Notes from a Young, Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson
The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty

12. Read a work of investigative nonfiction by an author of color

Book covers for titles listed below

How Does it Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America by Moustafa Bayoumi
The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent into the Darkness by Alfredo Corchado
Those Who Wander: America’s Lost Street Kids by Vivian Ho       
Black Women, Black Love: America’s War on African American Marriage by Dianne M. Stewart

13. Read a book with a cover you don’t like

Book covers for the titles below

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
The Roommate by Rosie Danan
The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South by Chip Jones
The End of the Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by VE Schwab

14. Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada

Book covers for titles listed below

The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (Malaysia)
City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson (Kenya)
The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali by Sabina Kahn (Bangladesh)
Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu (China)
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Sudan)

15. Read a memoir by a Latinx author

Book covers for titles below

The Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco
Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
In the Country We Love by Diana Guerrero
The Closer by Mariano Rivera
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

16. Read an own voices book about disability

Book covers for titles below

Imperfect: An Improbable Life by Jim Abbott
Borderline: The Arcadia Project by Mishell Baker
Show Me a Sign by Ann LeZotte
Aspergirls: Empowering Females with Asperger Syndrome by Rudy Simone
Sitting Pretty: The View from my Ordinary Resilient Disabled Body by Rebekah Taussig

17. Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain

Book covers for titles listed below

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds
Jackpot: All Bets Are Off by Nic Stone
When You Were Everything by Ashley Woodfolk

18. Read a book by/about a non-Western world leader

Book covers for titles listed below

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang
The Woman Who Would Be King by Kara Cooney
Madame President: The Extraordinary Journey of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf by Helene Cooper
The Great Successor: The Divinely Perfect Destiny of Brilliant Comrade Kim Jong Un by Anna Fifield
Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love, and Courage by Richard Stengel

19. Read a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist

Book covers for titles listed below

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora
The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco
This Light Between Us: A Novel of World War II by Andrew Fukuda
Rebel by Beverly Jenkins
Pulp by Robin Talley

20. Read a book of nature poems

Book covers for titles listed below

A Coyote Taught Me Poetry by Jessica Lyn Elkins
Earth Keeper: Reflections on the American Land by N. Scott Momaday
A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver
Bright Wings: an Illustrated Anthology of Poems about Birds
National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry

21. Read a children’s book that centers a disabled character by not their disability

Book covers for titles listed below

Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best
Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari
Dad and Me in the Morning by Pat Lakin
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson

22. Read a book set in the Midwest

Book covers for the titles listed below

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Stealing Buddha’s Dinner by Bich Mihn Nguyen
The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal

23. Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness

Book covers for titles listed below

Let me Not Be Mad by A.K. Benjamin
Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Dear Friend, From My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li
Irritable Hearts: a PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland
Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me by Charlemagne Tha God

24. Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die

Book covers for titles listed below

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar