Read Harder Challenge Update

Guys… I am so behind on my Read Harder challenge. It’s not my fault though. It’s Toni Morrison’s. Last year I picked up a copy of Morrison’s oeuvre Beloved at a used bookstore. I started reading it and felt a little lost in the language. I didn’t dislike it but I got the sense that I wasn’t really getting it. So I did some research on Morrison and found out that being confused is often just part of the reading experience. Some recommended starting with her earlier novels before moving on to Beloved which is what I have been doing.

I got The Bluest Eye from the library and read it slowly. I enjoyed it and it seemed like a great introduction to Morrison. Then I picked up Sula and devoured it in two days. I loved it. I feel ready to read Beloved now but noticed that Paradise is currently available on OverDrive so we’ll see.

My detour into Toni Morrison has been wonderful and I’m so glad that I’ve finally added this seminal author to my bookshelf. But technically the Morrison books that I’ve read don’t fulfill any of the requirements of the Read Harder challenge I’m participating in. (As a reminder, the Read Harder challenge was conceived of by BookRiot and includes 25 categories of books to read this year to expand the diversity of your personal reading.)

Obviously the only solution is to give Toni Morrison her own category. After all, the point of the challenge is to explore new reading horizons, not confine them. Which is why I’ve added a “misc” section to my personal Read Harder Challenge. African-American literature and authors of colour are a dearth in my personal reading. I’m excited to change that. So as you’ll see below, I’m pretty behind in my reading challenge but I’ve been reading such great stuff that I don’t really care.

2015 READ HARDER CHALLENGE

4/25 books read

[ In progress] A collection of short stories
Stone Mattress – Margaret Atwood
→ For some reason, short stories aren’t my jam. I love the idea of them in theory but in practice I often feel underwhelmed. If anyone can change my mind about this, it’s got to be the formidable Margaret Atwood. I’m about half-way through Stone Mattress and so far I like.

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
Gilead – Marilynne Robinson
January 26, 2015
This one is kind of sneaking in here because it won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize so it’s just barely from the last decade. Oh well, still counts!
Review: 3/5 stars. A lovely book, gorgeous writing. I think maybe my expectations were a bit too high as I wasn’t wow-ed the way I thought I would be. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood? I will probably still read the next book though – Lila – as I’m probably most interested in her perspective.

An audiobook
Yes Please – Amy Poehler
April 2, 2015
I listen to a decent number of audiobooks in a year since discovering their awesomeness while working long shifts lugging books at the University of Denver library. So there are a number of books that I could select to fulfill this category but I chose this one because it’s a particular favourite type of audiobook. It’s a funny autobiography of a performer. I love behind-the-scenes looks into films and TV shows and I love comedy and I LOVE Amy Poehler. Choosing Yes Please for this category was a no-brainer.
Review: 4/5 stars. Further proof that Amy Poehler is the greatest. I highly recommend her audiobook. It’s full of great anecdotes about her early life, her improv days, and, of course, her time at SNL and Parks and Recreation. It was sharp, insightful,honest, and very funny. If you love Amy Poehler, you’ll love this book.

A book that someone else has recommended to you
Swamplandia – Karen Russell
→ Although I get plenty of book recommendations online, from friends, from my Mom, I chose this book to fulfill this category because it’s a book that I was previously aware of but it did not appeal to me. I only read it on the strength of a close friend who insisted that I would like it. She was right.
February 20, 2015
Review: 4/5 stars. Dark, weird, feverish, gorgeously written, heartbreaking. It’s going to take me awhile to recover from this one. Really glad I have been introduced to Karen Russell. I will definitely be checking out her short stories.

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
The Complete Maus – Art Spiegelman
January 27, 2015
Review: 5/5 stars. This is the fist graphic novel I’ve ever read and let me tell you, if other graphic novels are even half as good as this one, I’ve clearly been missing out. I can’t imagine telling this story through any other medium. It was excellent. I finished it in one sitting which is unusual for me as I’m a slow reader. The fact that it was a graphic novel was probably part of the reason why I read it so quickly but it was also impossible to put down. I read way past my bedtime. Very moving for many reasons the obvious being the fact that it was about the Holocaust (and yet it was told in such a matter-of-fact style that somehow worked so well) but also because it recounted the ordinary, even mundane, story of a tough father-son relationship that felt so familiar and yet so sad. I’m obviously gushing but it was just so brilliant.

Misc reading in the spirit of the challenge

The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
March 26, 2015
Beautiful writing, really devastating story. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read Toni Morrison. Giant mistake that I’m correcting now.

Sula – Toni Morrison
April 4, 2015
Loved it. Gorgeous writing that really makes you think. Toni Morrison is phenomenal. I loved this character study of women.

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