This year’s Read Harder was excellent – none of the books I read rated below three stars for me. Not even the German poetry! I did hit a bit of a reading rut in June, so sadly I did not reach my original goal of finishing before July. But I did finish this challenge IN July, I’m just bad about keeping up with posting, despite my sister’s frequent random “blog post?” texts. Not even her oldest child authority can overcome the inertia of my laziness, muahaha.
Anyway. Here are the highlights from the second half of Read Harder this year:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I’ll admit I used the new TV show as an excuse to finally read this, but boy howdy is it terrifyingly relevant, even and especially today. The story felt timeless and way too possible, making it easy to imagine how smoothly our society could shift in such a direction. It was totally compelling, and the tension was consistent and constant. This is definitely a book I plan to revisit.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – This book is beautiful and heart-wrenching. I don’t know how many times I teared up throughout the story, and I full-on cried at the ending. Yaa Gyasi knows how to WRITE. Her imagery, her tone, her flow, her ability to plumb the depths of emotion and characterization without weighing down the narrative – I marveled at it all. This book deserves to be read and read again. I listened to the audio version, and the narrator absolutely did the text justice.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee – Another gorgeous book, all quiet subtlety and simplicity. But underneath that, an edge so hard and sharp you don’t notice the cut until you see the blood. This epic family saga moves through four generations of struggle and change, gently lulling you with a steady narrative until it sucker punches you in the gut with little warning or ceremony. And then the story just moves on. Rinse and repeat.
1) Book about sports – The Fair Fight, Anna Freeman
2) Debut novel – IQ, Joe Ide
3) Book about books – How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much, Samantha Ellis
4) Set in Central/South America by local author – Things We Lost in the Fire, Mariana Enriquez
5) By an immigrant/central immigration narrative – Shanghai Girls, Lisa See
6) All-ages comic – Lumberjanes, Vol. 5: Band Together, Shannon Watters
7) Published 1900-1950 – Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
8) Travel memoir – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed
9) Book you’ve read before – Armada, Ernest Cline
10) Set within 100 miles of your location – The Red Queen Dies, Frankie Y. Bailey
11) Set more than 5000 miles from your location – Pachinko, Min Jin Lee
12) Fantasy novel – Three Dark Crowns, Kendare Blake
13) Nonfiction about technology – Tetris: the Games People Play, Box Brown
14) Book about war – The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan
15) LGBTQ+ YA or middle grade novel – George, Alex Gino
16) Banned or frequently challenged – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
17) Classic by author of color – Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin
18) Superhero comic with female lead – Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal, G. Willow Wilson
19) Character of color goes on a spiritual journey – Shadowshaper, Daniel Jose Older
20) LGBTQ+ romance novel – If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo
21) Published by a micropress – We Are Legion (We Are Bob), Dennis E. Taylor
22) Collection of stories by a woman – Where Am I Now?, Mara Wilson
23) Collection of poetry in translation, not about love – Duino Elegies, Rainer Maria Rilke
24) POV characters all people of color – Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi