Tag Archives: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

Six Books I’ve Read So Far for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge

21 Feb

There are 24 tasks in the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and as of this writing I have finished 6! I have written before about taking on past Read Harder Challenges, and haven’t finished one yet. For 2017 I read 13 of 24 books, the best I’ve done so far. My approach this year is to aggressively tackle the challenges early on as life happens, which can impede my reading. So far the cold winter has inspired me to stay indoors and read lots of books.

These are the six completed tasks and the corresponding books.

The Task: A children’s classic published before 1980.


Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

I chose Julie of the Wolves as one I can read with my nieces to discuss–I’m still waiting for their thoughts! The story is about a thirteen-year-old girl named Julie who is escaping an unstable home situation. Her goal is to travel from Alaska to San Francisco and live with her pen pal. In the frozen tundra she struggles to survive by observing wolves and eventually becoming part of the pack by mimicking their behaviors. I appreciated how deeply passionate Jean Craighead George was about this book: the story grew from a rejected proposal for a magazine article she wrote about wolves and the Alaskan tundra. 

The Task: A celebrity memoir.


Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

This task was pretty easy to accomplish as I lead the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books, and have read plenty of celebrity memoirs as part of the group and on my own time. I picked Year of Yes for the January 2018 discussion as the premise was how Shonda Rhimes, creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and Shondaland, changed after she committed to saying yes to opportunities that scared her, a good theme to start off a new year. The book was fun to read and has a positive message about making the most of our lives. 

The Task: A book of social science.


Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

The premise of Option B is how Sheryl Sandberg coped after her husband’s sudden death in 2015. Adam Grant provides solid research about grief and resilience that are masterfully woven into Sheryl’s story (this is why I consider Option B social science) and those of others who have faced tragedy. This book has incredibly sad moments–Sheryl’s retelling of finding her husband unconscious, and having to tell her children that their father died are heartbreaking–but is ultimately hopeful and encourages people to not retreat from life’s hard moments. From this book came the Option B organization.

The Task: A one-sitting book.


The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book by Don Miguel Ruiz

At first I was stymied by this task. But then I found The Four Agreements in my TBR (to-be-read) pile. This book clocks in at 138 pages, and I blew through it while at my dad’s bedside as he waited to go in for a recent surgery. Ruiz uses Toltec wisdom to frame the four agreements around which people should live their lives to be happy. This is a good book to buy and refer to when needed–in particular for the reminder that other people’s behavior is not about you.

The Task: A book of true crime.


Vulgar Favors: Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace, and the Largest Failed Manhunt in U.S. History by Maureen Orth

I planned to read Vulgar Favors, the source text for American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace, last summer but didn’t get around to it until January. While a lot isn’t known about Andrew Cunanan’s motives (he committed suicide before authorities could capture him) this heavily reported book includes stories from Andrew’s friends, as well as authorities from multiple jurisdictions that pursued him during his 1997 murder spree. What stands out in this book was how misunderstood gay communities were by police in the 1990s, which negatively impacted the investigation into Cunanan’s crimes.

The Task: A romance novel by or about a person of color.


Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

I considered describing Hate to Want You by using like 10 fire emoji–it’s that steamy. Author Alisha Rai and her heroine Livvy Kane are women of color, so this book doubly completes the task. The book blogs I read highly praised this title. In addition to the sexy stuff, this book has a compelling story about a long-running family feud. I am now obsessed with Rai’s work and will soon read the next book in the Forbidden Hearts series Wrong to Need You, which features Livvy’s twin brother Jackson and her sister-in-law Sadia. Note: If you prefer your romance novels chaste then this series is not for you.

I feel quite accomplished being one-fourth of the way through the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge. Hopefully I can maintain this momentum! I will update you when I finish another six books.

Are you following any reading challenges? Tell me in the comments!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

My 2017 Review in Books: Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Reading with Nieces Wrap-Up

5 Jan

It is now 2018, and I wanted to use my first post of the year to wrap up some of my 2017 reading.

I followed the 2017 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge last year (more about that here), and completed 13 out of the 24 tasks–a lot further than I’ve gotten in past challenges! It motivates me for the 2018 Read Harder Challenge, for which I have already read one book. I will discuss that in another blog post.

Two completed Read Harder Challenge tasks that I didn’t get around to writing up were:

  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
  • Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme of other than love

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue


Behold the Dreamers, Mbue’s debut novel and the pick of the Mile Square City Readers Book Club that I co-lead in September, is about Cameroonian immigrant Jende Jonga and his family living in New York City before the Great Recession of 2008. It was well received and generated an excellent discussion among the group, in particular about Jende’s wife Neni who was a pivotal character. This book will pull you in with the characters’ secrets and some surprises.

Pearl translated by Simon Armitage


Pearl is an allegorical poem about a man grieving the loss of his daughter that dates back to the fourteenth century. The original Middle English text is printed on one side of the page, and the modern English translation is printed on the facing page. I admit to reading the translated side as Middle English was too daunting. The poem was a beautiful depiction of loss and mourning. Click here for examples of Old English, Middle English, and Modern English to see the differences.

Another reading challenge I assigned to myself was to read books with my nieces. My two older nieces had formal summer reading assignments, which I wrote about here and here, that I followed. My youngest niece Samantha, now in fourth grade, at first pushed back when I asked her to pick a book to read together. Then one evening she called and told me she wanted to read The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.

Poppy Pendle was born on the floor of a bakery, which instilled in her a passion for baking. She is also a witch–her parents want to focus on developing her powers but she would much rather bake. This leads to a clash between Poppy and her parents, which causes her powers to go out of control.

The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe


Truth time: I didn’t get around to reading this book in the summer. After finishing the book in the fall I called Sam to get her thoughts. Turns out she didn’t finish the book! She told me that she “barely has time to do anything.” Oh, kids.

Even though Sam didn’t read much of the book, I see why she picked this title: recipes are included at the end! Sam loves baking. When we are together we bake. She is not as interested in cleaning up after baking, leaving the messes for me, but she is getting better in that area.

Maybe next summer Sam will have more time and we can read a book together. 🙂


By the way, this is Sam

I read lots of other things in 2017, but wanted to keep this post brief. I am active on Goodreads. Join me at either the Lady Memoir Book Club at Little City Books on January 17 and the Mile Square City Readers Book Club on January 23.

Happy Reading in 2018!

-Written by Kerry Weinstein, Reference Librarian

%d bloggers like this: