I am participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year (http://bookriot.com/2016/12/15/book-riots-2017-read-harder-challenge/), which encourages you to read more widely and out of your comfort zone. I have seen some great lists of books to fulfill the challenge, so I thought I would do my own since I will be doing research for my own books anyway. I am only including books that look interesting to me and I can tell are good quality based on reviews, inclusion in other lists, and the book description. There are 24 tasks in total, so I plan to make suggestions for four tasks each week.
I have been reading professional development books about librarianship lately, so I didn’t have time last week to put together a blog post. I might try to do one tomorrow, or just continue with tasks 9-12 next week.
Task #5: Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative
I was really happy about this challenge. I find books with an immigration narrative interesting, because it gives you new lenses to see the world through, but also because I am the child of immigrants, and I have experienced the feeling of being from two places, but also not really being from either place. I decided to read The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, because it is such a popular book, and I think it it is “required reading for life”. I am planning to listen to the audiobook, which was a 2004 Audie Award finalist. The Namesake is a multigenerational story about an Indian family who moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and tells the story of their American and Indian lives over 40 years. I am trying to only listen to good quality audiobooks, and I read that the narrator does American and Indian accents well.
Goodreads has a comprehensive, if a little long, list of Immigrant Experience Literature (https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/338.Immigrant_Experience_Literature). It may be interesting to read a story that relates to you or your family, or an immigrant story from a country you are interested in. Frankly, there are almost too many interesting options for this challenge!
Some other books I considered are middle grade and YA novels:
- Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai, a middle grade book written in verse about a girl’s journey during the Vietnam war.
- The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, a YA romance about Natasha, a Jamaican immigrant and Daniel, a Korean American.
- It Ain’t so Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas, a middle grade book about an Iranian girl, Zomorod, who moves from Iran to the US, ending up in Newport Beach in the late 1970s. It is semi-autobiographical, based on the author’s tween years, and covers information about the Iranian Revolution. It would be nice follow-up to Persepolis!
- American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
And adult books:
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, about a Nigerian woman’s immigration experience
- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah, about Beah’s past as a child soldier in Sierra Leone
Task #6: Read an all-ages comic
When I got to this task, I was immediately drawn to the all-ages comics I already know, the obvious ones that I have heard good things about: The Bone series by Jeff Smith, Raina Telgemeier’s comics, which also have the added bonus of being diverse (Smile, Drama, Sisters, Ghosts), Noelle Stevenson’s comics (Lumberjanes, Nimona), and of course the classic, Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, which I adored as a child.
Beyond these comics, it can be hard to figure out whether a comic is “all ages”. I take that to mean it can be enjoyed by people of all ages, as in they can get something out of it regardless of age and experience.
Some other, less well known comics I thought of are:
- Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP, a manga about a 12-year-old magical girl, which explores loss, childhood, and family, and has sensitive LGBT themes. It is a story that you can read and love as a child, and read and get someone completely new at other stages of your life.
- Yotsuba&! by Kiyohiko Azuma, a slice-of-life manga about a 5-year-old girls interactions with the people around her.
- Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami, a sweet story about a young family who adopt a mischievous kitten. This one really speaks to me because the parents are right at the same life stages as I am.
- Pokémon Adventures by Hidenori Kusaka
- Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Task #7: Read a book published between 1900 and 1950
This is another easy challenge like Task #2: Read a debut novel, because there is SO much to choose from. Goodreads has a comprehensive lists of popular books published between 1900 and 1950 (https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/1900-1950), so I think it is very easy to pick something. The same as the debut novel task, I think the way to approach this task is to read a book already on your TBR.
I decided to read The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald for several reasons. I read it in high school, but I didn’t really enjoy it then because I was reading it for school. I think given the emotional nature of the story, the 1920s jazz era setting, and what I know of Fitzgerald, I would love this book. I am fascinated by his and Zelda’s marriage, their troubles with drugs, alcohol, and depression, and their depiction as the quintessential roaring 20’s couple.
Some other books I considered are:
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, which I own and have been meaning to read for about ten years.
- Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot series – I know I will love these classic mysteries when I finally get to them. I have only read one of her books, and it was wonderful.
- Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own and To the Lighthouse.
Task #8: Read a travel memoir
This was another tough task for me. I don’t read travel memoirs, and I don’t have a strong knowledge of the subject. After doing some research, I found out that there really is no boundary for travel writing: “Travel books focus on places and people through stories that trace a journey. These books combine aspects of memoir, with its personal and inward approach, and cultural adventure titles, with an outward focus on landscape and history.” (from Novelist) It’s an interesting genre, because there can be such a range in style, tone, and location.
I ended up picking a travel memoir that I already have at home, to try to fill my other goal of reading books that I own. My mother gave me Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer, because she read it and thought it was fascinating. It tells the story of a journalist-mountaineer who climbs Mount Everest.
I picked this book because I own it, but I wanted to do some research of other travel memoirs for this blog post. I wasn’t expecting to find so many interesting books!
Some other well known travel memoirs that look interesting and I would like to read one day are:
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed – Wild is a travel book and memoir about the author’s experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail after some tough times in her life (divorce and death of her mother). It’s a story about her personal life, her growth along the way, but there is some great description of nature.
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson – This is a funny, but insightful story of his travels along The Appalachian Trail. Seem like it would be a great read!
Stephen Fry in America: Fifty States and the Man Who Set Out to See Them All by Stephen Fry – Stephen Fry is one of my favourite people, so when I remembered he had written a travel book, I had to include it in this list! This book is a companion to a BBC tv series – it would be fun to watch the series and then leaf through the book. It is an account of his adventure visiting the 50 US states in a London cab. It’s funny, and I’m guessing it’s told in a way that you can just hear Stephen Fry speaking, like his other books.
In my research for this task, I found that a lot of popular travel/adventure writing is written by men, so I wanted to highlight some female authors. The blog Girl vs Globe has a list of “20 Inspiring female travel memoirs” (http://girlvsglobe.com/2015/09/20-inspiring-female-travel-memoirs.html). I found this list really helpful.
In Other Words by Jhumpa Lahiri – All of Jhumpa Lahiri’s books seem to fit one Read Harder Challenge or another! I am going to read (or rather, listen) to Interpreter of Maladies for the women’s short story collection challenge. In Other Words is a series of journal entries about Lahiri moving to Rome, where she learns Italian. This is a unique travel memoir because it looks really intricately at language – both speaking and writing. It is supposed to be honest and moving, and a book of self-reflection about language and writing.
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout – A heart wrenching true story of a Canadian woman’s 15-month captivity by Somali jihadists. Originally from Alberta, Canada, a love of National Geographic made her want to travel, and she eventually leaves for Africa and the Middle East, where she was captured after only a few days in Somalia. She is separated from her friend, chained, beaten, starved, and raped. While this is horrific, the book explores how Lindhout makes something from her suffering.
Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney – This is a memoir of the author’s travels down the Egyptian Nile, despite locals disapproving a woman traveling alone. I find the Nile endlessly fascinating because of its geography and history!
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino – Written by an expat in Paris, this book is part memoir, part love letter to this street in Paris located between the Ninth and 18th arrondissements. I love books about Paris!
What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman – Newman is a TV comedy writer on shows like That ’70s Show, and this humorous book chronicles her travels around the world. It gets into her wild past, which Kirkus described as entertaining but overdone. I like that this is the story of a single 30-something who is off adventuring, not that there is anything wrong with getting married and having kids.
Some other books I considered are:
- Holy Cow: an Indian adventure by Sarah Macdonald
- Rowing to latitude: journeys along the Arctic’s edge by Jill A. Fredston
- On the Ice: An Intimate Portrait of Life at McMurdo Station, Antarctica by Gretchen Legler
- My Paris Dream: An Education in Style, Slang, and Seduction in the Great City on the Seine by Kate Betts
Next week I’ll be looking at tasks 9-12!