Here’s the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2018! 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. It’s always great to see the new suggestions, and I’m still working on finding the perfect titles.

(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.

  • Read a book with a female protagonist over 60 years old.

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax: Dorothy Gilman.

Mrs. Pollifax is described as a sixty-something widow.

There’s something very comforting about an ordinary protagonist doing extraordinary things. Mrs. Pollifax, a widow in her mid-sixties, is no Chosen One–though, of course, she has some outstanding qualities that help her through the book. Generally charming and enjoyable to read about, in a quirky sort of way, Mrs. Pollifax keeps the grim moments from being too dark. This isn’t an edgy thriller, though it isn’t an entirely fluffy read, either.

The premise that Mrs. Pollifax could be a spy, and some of the events within the story are implausible, but wonderfully so, in the way a book invites you in on the joke. Don’t take it too seriously, Dorothy Gilman’s message hovers between the lines. The result is a mix of disaster and humor.

I set the book down feeling a bit happy, and that’s one of the best recommendations I can give a book.

  • Read a book with a cover you hate.

The Mexican Flyboy; Alfredo Vea.

Hate is a strong word, but this cover is ugly. The fact that it makes sense once you’ve read the book doesn’t redeem it to me.

CW: Every kind of violence people can do to each other is referenced in this book.

The Mexican Flyboy is a weird book to rate–and difficult to describe. It’s about a time traveler lifting people who suffered cruel, unnecessary deaths from that death, to live the rest of their lives together in a paradise in Florida. (But they also still die, and remember dying. History is unchanged.)

Are these rescues really happening? Difficult to say, as this magical realism doesn’t explain at all. There are a lot of hints that could go either way. It’s magic or delusion, you decide. Who hasn’t wished they could right some tragedy of their past, though? Or dreamed they could save a person they never met, but whose suffering hurt their soul?

With a slow start, and plenty of jumps around in the timeline, and a variety of POVs, this isn’t an easy book to understand. But it’s unique, and rather hopeful, despite all the suffering it contains, because it rejects that pain entirely.

  • Read an essay anthology.

The Best American Essays of the Century: Joyce Carol Oates.

The description reads, in part, that this is a “political, spiritual, and intensely personal record of America’s tumultuous modern age, as experienced by our foremost critics, commentators, activists, and artists.”

Many of these essays have heavy themes, and several are very similar–racism, violence… basically, the many ways people can be cruel, especially to people who can’t fight back. And, as the description reads, they are often intensely personal experiences, so there’s a big punch of emotion within the essays.

I would have liked it better if I could have spaced out the reading more, but as it is, the essays felt important, but like an anchor dragging my mood down.


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.

3 responses »

  1. FranL says:

    This is awesome, I’m going to try it. I think reading outside of your comfort zone is a great idea because you never know what you’ll love. The Mexican Flyboy’s cover is pretty awful though! Sounds like a strange book too.

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