Saturday, January 2, 2021

Reading Challenges

photo by Randall Edwards

The aim of reading challenges is either to discover new authors and genres, or to spur you into reading more (classics, intimidating tomes, translated works, more books in general, whatever), all while having fun by making a game out of it. I enjoyed playing the book bingo that Ann and Michael, of the now-defunct Books on the Nightstand podcast, promoted in 2015 and 2016. (Click here to see my book bingo posts.)

Over time, I've come to realize that I read widely enough without such challenges. What I've been doing instead is to check back on my year of reading, using Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge as a gauge. As described on their website, "Read Harder has 24 tasks designed to help you break out of your reading bubble and expand your worldview through books." I didn't look at the 2020 challenge categories until the end of December, then I checked if I'd read something in all of the categories. How well do you think I did?


1. Read a YA nonfiction book  

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi. This was one of my top books of 2020.

2. Read a retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of colour           

Library of Legends by Janie Chang, which combines historical fiction with Chinese mythology, plus 9 other books in this category.

3. Read a mystery where the victim is not a woman  

All the Devils Are Here by Louise Penny

4. Read a graphic memoir           

Good Talk by Mira Jacob (one of my top books of 2020) plus 9 others

5. Read a book about a natural disaster     

The End of Everything by Katie Mack (all the different ways that our planet Earth might come to an end -- you can't get more disastrous than that!) plus 3 others

6. Read a play by an author of colour and/or queer author

If I really stretch this category, perhaps I could count Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu.

7. Read a historical fiction novel not set in world war two                                     

A popular genre for me. My favourite out of 35 in this category is Hamnet and Judith by Maggie O'Farrell

8. Read an audiobook of poetry      

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo, which is one of my top books of 2020 (I listened to this audiobook four times), plus 4 others

9. Read the LAST book in a series         

Most notable out of 8 is the long-awaited final book about the Logan family, All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred Taylor

10. Read a book that takes place in a rural setting                 

Two that stand out in a crowd of 16 are both set in my home province of Alberta: Mad Cow by Alexis Kienlen and Watershed by Doreen Vanderstoop.

11. Read a debut novel by a queer author         

I've read at least 8 that I know are debuts and it's hard to pick which of those to mention. All I Ask by Eva Croker; Vanishing Monuments by John Elizabeth Stintzi; Nitisanak by Lindsay Nixon; Real Life by Brandon Taylor; and Butter Honey Pig Bread by Francesca Ekwuyasi

12. Read a memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your own       

Angry Queer Somali Boy by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali plus 6 others

13. Read a food book about a cuisine you've never tried before  

Meal by Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho (about insect cuisine).

14. Read a romance starring a single parent  

Song of the Sea by Jenn Alexander. Romance isn't my usual genre, but thanks to my lesbian book club, I have one in this category; book clubs are another way to stretch one's reading.

15. Read a book about climate change     

Out of 4, Hope Jahren's The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go from Here is the most memorable.

16. Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, published by a woman  

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel. (Breasts and Eggs and Ridgerunner were both about 50 pages too short to count in this category.)

17. Read a sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages)   

Two gems: The Black God's Drums by P Djeli Clark and This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

18. Read a picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community          

I Will See You Again by Lisa Boivin, one of my top books of the year, (and which also counts in category #24), plus 8 others. Picture books, people! They are great.

19. Read a book by or about a refugee    

How to Pronounce Knife by Souvankham Thammavongsa, the Giller prize winner, plus 2 others.

20. Read a middle grade book that doesn't take place in the US or the UK        

The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf (set in Malaysia), plus 6 others (set in Canada, Ivory Coast, Japan, Singapore, Mongolia and India).

21. Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non)  

Disfigured: On Fairy Tales, Disability and Making Space by Amanda Leduc, which I highly recommend.

22. Read a horror novel published by an indie press  

Another category that's not my usual genre. Fortunately, as part of my Shadow Giller project, I read You Will Love What You Have Killed by Kevin Lambert, translated by Donald Winkler. It was published by Biblioasis (and the original French title was published by Heliotrope).

23. Read an edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical)  

I live with a writer, so we have a lot of these around the house. I read several issues of New Quarterly plus part of a back issue of Room.

24. Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author                      

My top read of 2020, Noopiming by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, plus 20 others.

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23 out of 24. Yay! I feel confident that I'm doing well in choosing books that expand my worldview. Note to self: read more plays!


Friday, January 1, 2021

A Book Chat to Ring in 2021


youtu.be/19ZZ_v8BHQM

My dear friend Shawn in Tokyo organized a Zoom chat to talk about bookish things. The scheduling alone was a feat, with four of us in different time zones in Asia, North America and Europe. We spoke about our nerdy end-of-year and New Year traditions... or lack thereof. It was deeply pleasurable. You are invited to listen and watch via the link above.

Shawn's Book Maniac booktube channel is here.