Accepting the Read Harder Challenge

I’m always up for a challenge. I like to push myself to see if I can do something new, maybe even hard. The process of persevering and having a purpose, a goal, is motivating to me (not to mention I have a huge competitive streak, even if my only competition is myself). So when I heard about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge for 2016, I was immediately on board. The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is designed to help readers explore new genres, authors and ideas – to help expand your reading horizons. The challenge is essentially 24 reading prompts – prompts like: read a food memoir, read a book set in the Middle East, and read a book of historical fiction set before 1900. 

I am now just three months into the challenge and I have already accomplished 10 of these fun and challenging reading prompts. Here are a few of the titles I’ve discovered through this challenge:

The Devil in Jerusalem: A Novel by Naomi Ragen was my choice for read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction). Set in Israel, this novel based on a true events examines the life of a religious young Jewish woman who, in her quest for greater enlightenment, delves into the Talmud, the Kabbalah and other forbidden texts. After much anguish, tribulation and abuse mostly aimed at her children, she finds herself at the center of a Hassidic cult. The Devil in Jerusalem is an eye-opening examination of how cult leaders can prey, manipulate and distort. This was an excellent read, but reader beware: it is not for the faint of heart.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel allowed me to check off the box for a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel. Station Eleven, a 2014 National Book Award Finalist and a New York Times bestseller, follows a wandering troupe of musicians and actors as they carefully navigate their way through a world destroyed by the Georgia flu, from which only 1 percent of the population manages to escape. Flowing back and forth through the years, this poignant novel is a fresh take on the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it genre, free of zombies, genetically modified humans and super oppressive totalitarian governments.

Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery by Eric Metaxas fulfilled the requirement for read a biography (not a memoir or autobiography). While I am in awe of William Wilberforce, his life story and all that he stood for, I maybe just as much in awe with the writing style of Eric Metaxas. Metaxas breathes life into his subjects and makes history come alive. Another exceptional biography by Eric Metaxas is Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

My 4-year-old cousin, Hannah, was delighted when I read Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins outloud to her – which fulfilled the challenge to read a book out loud to someone. Mother Bruce is a humorous children’s picture book about a grumpy solitary bear whose planned breakfast of eggs hatch before he can cook them. These adorable little goslings now think surly Bruce is their mother and hilarity ensues.

Click here to view the list and start the Read Harder Challenge.