I started falling in love with the wonderful bookish site called Book Riot from the time I started listening to their podcasts. It was an inevitable thing that I found myself taking up the Read Harder challenge by them this year when I was planning my reading. I also mentioned it in my post on the 5 best reading challenges to help you take your reading to the next level in 2019. In that post, I’d promised a recommendations post, so here I am today with 24 books that you can add to your TBR that will count towards Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2019. I must warn you that I’ve unfortunately not read every book on the list because some of the prompts are way outside my comfort zone, so I will indicate those with an asterisk.
Prompt #1 – An epistolary novel or collection of letters
Recommendation: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon
This gem of a book is written as Twinkle’s letters to her favourite female filmmakers. It’s not only a warm and fuzzy YA contemporary romance but also goes in depth about issues like being a second generation immigrant, a teen of colour in high school and a female in the entertainment industry. This is the perfect read for Women’s History Month or during spring break.
Prompt #2 – An alternate history novel*
Recommendation: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
I haven’t read this book yet but it’s been on my TBR for a very long time as I’ve heard very high praise for the entire series. Caine explores a world in which the Great Library of Alexandria was never destroyed and knowledge becomes the currency of the modern world. It sounds fascinating and a book about books, knowledge and magic sound right up my alley.
Prompt #3 – A book by a woman and/or an author of colour that won a literary award in 2018
Recommendation: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This book was recently featured in my Spring 2019 Book Recommendations post and it’s such a good book that it was the clear winner in the ‘Best of the Best’ category of 2018 Goodreads Choice Awards. It focuses on a black teen who witnesses her unarmed best friend being shot down by a white police officer and her fight for justice. It is a timely novel and one that throws light on the racial politics of America while still retaining the charm and innocence of a young adult book.
Prompt #4 – A humour book
Recommendation: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
While I’ve read plenty of books that have a strong humour element, this is the only one I’ve read exclusively from the humour genre I believe. It was one of the first books to make me laugh out loud so hard that I had stitches in my side. It’s a travelogue chronicling the ridiculous adventures of three friends who travel through England leaving behind their stressful work lives and it’s equal parts funny and poignant.
Prompt #5 – A book by a journalist or about journalism
Recommendation: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Journalism isn’t my forte at all, so I looked up some famous authors who were also jouranlists and Neil Gaiman showed up in the results. I’ve read quite a few of his works and intend to complete them all soon but this book has always stood out to me. If you want to dip your toes into the vast world of Norse mythology, this is an excellent starting point.
Prompt #6 – A book by an author of colour set in or about space
Recommendation: A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna
When I picked up this book, I didn’t have very high expectations even though I was excited for it. But this turned out to be an unexpected gem all about space battles, lost and found family, friendships and budding romance. Based on the Hindu epic Mahabharata, it is one of the best #OwnVoices retellings I’ve ever read.
Prompt #7 -An #OwnVoices book set in Mexico or Central America*
Recommendation: Prime Meridian by Sivia Moreno-Garcia
I have heard very good things about this book from Book Riot’s SFF Yeah! podcast, so I added it to my TBR. It’s a novella about a woman whose life-long dream is to go to Mars. It combine sci-fi with contemporary elements and is set in the near-future.
Prompt #8 – An #ownvoices book set in Oceania*
Recommendation: A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews
Cait @ Paper Fury needs no introduction to the book blogging circle and this is her debut book that was on my TBR since it was announced. This is a heart-breaking story about a boy who is suffering under the abusive influence of his mother. True to Cait’s style, it features cake and is guaranteed to induce all the feels according to everyone who’s read it!
Prompt #9 – A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads
Recommendation: Faint Promise of Rain by Anjali Mitter Duva
This is a historical fiction book that I read as a part of Asian Lit Bingo last year and was suggested by Sara Letoruneau, one of my oldest and best blogging friends. Set in Rajasthan of the Rajputana era, it follows Adhira from her birth and the unexpected places her dance takes her. With universal themes of family, passion and love, this book was very special to me and deserves more readers to pick it up.
Prompt #10 – A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
Recommendation: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
I had to think really hard for this one as I don’t read a lot of translated works and I should work on that aspect for sure. This was a childhood favourite and is translated from German. While all of Cornelia Funke’s books are worth a read, this series is her best-known work. It has a unique premise where a few individuals have the power to read characters and objects from storybooks into reality but at the cost of putting something in.
Prompt #11 – A book of manga*
Recommendation: Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba and illustrated by Takeshi Obata
Again, I haven’t read this one but I’ve watched the anime adaptation and I really liked the storyline. It borrows creatures from Japanese mythology and places it in a modern setting. It has a mystery angle and surprising twists that keep the auidence engaged.
Prompt #12 – A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
Recommendation: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
This is a bit of a stretch but I’m going to extend the interpretation of this prompt into a book which has a POV of a monster. Bartimaeus is a powerful djinn who speaks in sarcasm, which often gets him into and sometimes out of trouble. This is an underrated fantasy series that blew me away with its world-building and magic system.
Prompt #13 – A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse*
Recommendation: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
I’ve read a few books with neurodiverse characters, but I used them up for other prompts, so I went with a famous choice. This is a mystery at its heart but also showcases the way in which an autistic character thinks. I plan to read it this month if time permits as is Classics ‘N’ Christie book club’s classic pick for March.
Prompt #14 – A cozy mystery
Recommendation: They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie is not only the queen of crime but her Miss Marple books also fall into the cosy mystery genre. This is the only one I remember reading and I’m currently making my way through her Poirot books in publication order. While I can’t recall details of the plot, the reveal did shock me as all Christie books do.
Prompt #15 – A book of mythology or folklore
Recommendation: A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman
This book made it to my favourite books of 2018 list and it’s the kind of book that I think everyone will enjoy. This is an anthology of diverse short stories that are retellings of Asian myths and folklore stories. It is published as a part of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative and features some of the best Asian authors in the industry.
Prompt #16 – An historical romance by an author of colour
Recommendation: The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
This is a recent favourite and while it has elements of romance, it is of the historical fantasy genre. I don’t read romance books and have never read anything historical of that nature, so this is the best I could come up with. This is a young adult book that deals with issues like colonialism, erasure of identity, abusive past and so on packaged in a high-stakes heist plot.
Prompt #17 – A business book
Recommendation: Productivity for Creative People by Mark McGuinness
I’d read this long back butI still apply some of the lessons on time management that I learnt from it in my corporate life. I plan to re-read it soon to manage my time as a full-time working professional with a creative hobby. This was the first non-fiction book that had actual useful tips that I could implement and I highly recommend it for creative professionals and hobbyists alike.
Prompt #18 – A novel by a trans or nonbinary author
Recommendation: Secondhand Origin Stories by Lee T. Blauersouth
I was fortunate enough to be a part of the blog tour for this book and it’s been a year since this little book was released. Set in the near-future, it follows the children of superheroes and their sturggles. It is effortlessly diverse in terms of sexuality, gender, race and mental health struggles, which was my favourite part.
Prompt #19 – A book of nonviolent true crime*
Recommendation: Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale Jr.
This one also counts a little because I’m recommending the book based on the popular movie adaptation. This is the autobiography of a con artist who committed a series of frauds in his teens before he was caught. I’ve heard that it’s told in an engaging way and I do plan to read it even though I’ve watched the film.
Prompt #20 – A book written in prison
Recommendation: The Gift of the Magi by O’ Henry
I’ve read a few of O’ Henry’s short stories as a part of my school syllabus and remember enjoying them. O’ Henry was actually jailed for a few years and sold short stories under this pseudonym during his imprisonment. I don’t know if this particular story was written from prison, but I hope it counts!
Prompt #21 – A comic by an LGBTQIA creator*
Recommendation: Bloom by Kevin Panetta and illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau
I included this in my anticipated contemporary books based on Kate’s recommendation. It’s an #OwnVoices gay summer romance with a wondeful element of baking. It is on my TBR and I hope I can get to it soon because in Kate’s review, she compared it to Yuri on Ice.
Prompt #22 – A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
Recommendation: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan
My love for Rick Riordan’s books is no secret and his Magnus Chase series really opened my eyes with respect to gender identity. This is the second book in the seriesfeaturing a genderfluid child of Loki, the Norse god of mischief. However, these middle grade books need to be read in the chronological order, so be sure to pick up Sword of Summer first.
Prompt #23 – A self-published book
Recommendation: The Martian by Andy Weir
This came as a surprise to me when I was trying to Google authors who made it big after self-publishing in the hopes that I’d have read at least one of them. This is a beloves sci-fi standalone that was available for 99 cents on Amazon before it was picked up by Crown Publishing. It follows the adventures and misadventures of a botanist who was left behind on Mars as he attempts to survive until help arrives from Earth against some really tough odds.
Prompt #24 – A collection of poetry published since 2014
Recommendation: Fierce Fairytales: Poems and Stories to Stir Your Soul by Nikita Gill
Poetry is another genre I don’t read often as it mostly goes over my head with all its symbolism. This collection focuses on retelling some famous fairytales with a modern twist that incorprates discussions about feminism, mental health and recovery from abuse. It aims to present outdated ideals and morals in a new light that is relevant to this day.
Are you taking part in this challenge? Did you take part in the previous editions? Which of these prompts will push you outside your reading comfort zome the most? Do you have any more recommendations? Let’s discuss in the comments section below.