And the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is here again! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder, and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. 🙂

(Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

book riot

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out.”

  • Read a non-fiction book about technology.

Elon Musk; Ashlee Vance.

This is a non-fiction book–a biography–about the work of Elon Musk, focusing on Tesla and Space X (and the technology behind the electric cars and rockets.)

This is the story of ambition and determination–it covers Elon Musk’s parents, childhood, education, marriages, but mostly focuses on what he created, starting with his first companies and focusing in great detail on Space X and Tesla. He’s painted as a difficult man, and there’s plenty of examples–a harsh taskmaster, capable of pushing his people to exhaustion. An indifferent spouse, spending little attention due to an overwhelming work schedule. Combined with poor people skills, and an inability to know when to quit, he was ousted from his first two ventures, though PayPal still netted him the profit to start his dreams of an electric car and a more efficient space transportation system.

He dreams big, this man, though I found little in this book to make me at all relate to or like him. I suspect for all but the most devoted, he’s terrible to be around. And the fact that he nearly drove everything to ruin shows that he isn’t always all that bright, I.Q. aside. But striving–keeping on trying in the face of adversity–is an admirable trait, and somehow he pulled everything from the brink. He made good on his promises, he’s changing the world. And that is something.

The biographer doesn’t pull back from showing Musk in an unflattering light, but neither does the book feel like an attack. It’s an attempt to capture a complicated man, and an interesting read for people fond of Musk’s achievements, technology, space flight, or renewable energy.

  • Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.

The Things They Carried; Tim O’Brien.

This book has been banned or challenged in several states for sex, profanity, and violence.

A partly true story, built on the foundation of real war experiences. O’Brien discusses the truth of war stories at one point–saying they are both all true, and never true, as he tries to get at a deeper meaning behind conflict. It is, as its banning/challenges suggest, often profane and violent. It tells the stories of young men fighting and losing their friends and dying, and that tends to bring up the blackest sort of gallows humor, which is often unkind. But it does have something to say about the struggle of living that life–of carrying those burdens, physical and emotional.

The things the soldiers carried were heavy, and they didn’t all get to put those weights down after they came home from war. And that, for sure, is worth some thought. Recommended for people who are alright with profanity and violence, and interested in a personal focus on war.


About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

2 responses »

  1. abookishbelle says:

    I actually read the short story of The Things They Carried for my creative writing class and loved it! It was very powerful and a raw insight into the minds of soldiers at war. The author is a great guy we watched an interview he did in class and it was really cool to see how him talk about his experiences in war and writing the story! I hope you enjoy it and I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts!!

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