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The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 caught my eye this year as it features suggestions from two of my favorite authors/people, Sarah MacLean and Roxane Gay.
I enjoy a good New Year’s Resolution, as long as it’s remotely achievable. I have self-awareness. I know I ain’t gonna learn how to rock climb or take up Mandarin in the next 365 days. I know I ain’t gonna remember everyone’s birthday or add more fiber in my diet.
The Read Harder Challenge seems doable. I like buying books. I like to read some of the books I buy. I like to take direction. I like lists.
The point of the challenge?
“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. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. 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 out. That’s what this is – a perspective shift – but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.”
We have all been in a book rut; we all gravitate to books that resemble books we have enjoyed in the past. Books are a comfort, so why get out from under the blanket of our favorite genres? Because, as I said in my review of Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, we need to listen better. We need to hear other voices. This challenge feels like a good place to start.
Here is the start of my own Read Harder list.
My friend Crystal King has her debut novel coming in spring, Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient Rome. I got to see this book when it was a baby, and I’m so proud that Crystal’s passion project about the man who inspired the world’s oldest cookbook finally gets into my hands. This book is going to be rich and decadent, and I can’t wait.
I read one book over and over again. It’s the one book that taught us an orange is a great Christmas present and that you can make a kickball out of pig’s bladder. And that book is Little House in the Big Woods.
Drew Magary is one of the funniest voices out there. He’s the guy who gives us the Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma catalog. He’s the guy who gives us Funbag on Deadspin every Tuesday. He’s the guy who told us that Donald Trump was get his ass handed to him on Election Day. So he’s funny but he sucks at prognosticating.
I don’t typically enjoy fantasy, so I figure I should read something by an author I trust. Don’t fuck this up, Drew.
This suggestion comes from MacLean. This book might be the one I’m most comfortable with. Y’all know you can’t spell YUMMF without MMF. I’m happy to take suggestions from Katy Grace or maybe I will finally get around to reading Captive Prince, rec’ed by Beth Thorne more times than I can count.
Very few people write about tennis as well as David Foster Wallace*. My mom gave me String Theory for Christmas, a collection of Wallace’s essays about the grandest game in all of sport. His essay “Roger Federer As Religious Experience” (which first appeared in the NY Times in 2006) is poetry, much like Federer’s inside out forehand.
*If you like tennis writing, check out Jon Werthiem’s Strokes of Genius about the 2008 Wimbledon final with Rafa and Roger.
I picked up My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass last year, after reading Colum McCallum’s TransAtlantic which featured Douglass as a character. Considering the politics of the day, My Bondage and My Freedom seems a fitting read in 2017.