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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #24: Repeat A Past Task

Howdy folks! We’re nearing the end of the Read Harder 2022 experience, but there’s one last task! Instead of making it easy for you with a single potential task, you have your choice from over a hundred (168, to be exact, give or take a few repeats) possible tasks from the Read Harder challenges from 2015 to 2021. The first go round was a little more general with tasks like “read a romance” or “read a book by a person whose gender is different from your own”, but eventually we started getting pretty particular about what you might be willing to do in order to challenge yourself as a reader.

The wonder about this particular task is that there are so many ways to take it: is this the book you reward yourself with after completing the first 23 tasks? Is this a comforting read, or are you ending the year with a bang? Are you thinking of reading in a familiar genre or do you want to pick up something you never would have thought to read before? Anything is possible with this particular task, because there are so many possible tasks to choose from. I’ve pulled together a small number of tasks (including links to the original recommendation lists if there were any) with a couple books to read in each one, but there’s a whole world out there for you!

Historical Romance By an Author of Color

cover of Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Night Song by Beverly Jenkins

Historical romance great Beverly Jenkins’s first book, Night Song, is the story of a Kansas schoolteacher and the Union officer she can’t resist. (This can also qualify as a classic of genre fiction, which I mention a little further down.)

A Caribbean Heiress in Paris by Adriana Herrera

Arriving in Paris from Santo Domingo to build her family’s rum business, Luz Alana doesn’t expect Evan Sinclair. And she certainly doesn’t expect the marriage of convenience he offers to help her and her business.

The Devil Comes Courting by Courtney Milan

When entrepreneur Grayson Hunter seeks the brilliant person that has been recommended to create the code that will take his telegraph business further into China, he’s surprised to discover that person is a woman. But they’re both more than willing to go with the flow. 

A Classic of Genre Fiction

cover of Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert

What better way to figure out what the heck is happening in the most recent theatrical adaptation than to read the source material? Young Paul Atreides and his family must move to the planet of Arrakis, where the spice is from. But there are people who aren’t happy about that. 

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This classic thriller novel centers a young sociopath who slowly insinuates his way into the life of a socialite. If you’ve never read a Patricia Highsmith novel, this is definitely a great place to start. 

A Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic Novel

cover of Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

Orleans by Sherri L. Smith

This exceptionally well written book follows Fen in a near-distant future in which the world as we know it no longer exists. Reminiscent of Parable of the Sower, this is the story of a girl seeking a better life in a place far from home, before it kills her. 

The Home I Find With You by Skye Kilaen

After a second civil war that has left the US broken and powerless, Van and his community work to keep alive and keep others out. When Clark arrives to stay with family, the two might have some chemistry; but trust is hard in a world where any outsider might be ready to kill you. 

A Book that Takes Place in Asia

cover of The Red Palace by June Hur

The Red Palace by June Hur

This historical mystery set in 18th century Joseon (Korea, for those of you who didn’t spend the whole pandemic downing K-Dramas) centers Hyeon, a palace nurse. After four women are murdered in the palace, Hyeon starts her own investigation to help prove the murderer wasn’t a beloved mentor. 

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Pride and Prejudice. In Pakistan. I’m not sure I need to say any more.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

LGBTQ romance novel

Cover of Meet Cute Club

Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon

Snooty bookseller Rex surprises Jordan at the romance book club he runs after an unfriendly encounter at the bookstore. He’s hesitant at first, but he might be coming around to this whole romance novel thing. Meta AF.

Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters

When staid accountant Cade and flighty artist Selena co-inherit a home and a sex toy shop, they have to figure out what to do about it…and each other.

A Humor Book

cover of Shit Actually by Lindy West

Shit, Actually by Lindy West

If you’re a fan of movies, or even just a fan of snark, you might enjoy this book. To some, this book might look like Lindy just recapping the plots of several films, but there’s more to it. Trust me. 

Please Don’t Sit On My Bed In Your Outside Clothes by Phoebe Robinson

While anything by Phoebe is laughworthy, this book is particularly fun and interesting, for any reader. A combination of essay, memoir, and advice, every chapter has moments of hilarity and depth. 

A Collection of Short Stories

cover image of The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

While each of the characters, styles, and themes of the stories in this collection are different, they all have one thing in common: excellence. There is not a skippable story in the bunch.

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Stories about first and second generation Cambodian Americans abound in this collection that is both hilarious and heartbreaking. 

The Awkward Black Man by Walter Mosley

Did you know Walter Mosley wrote short stories? And not a single one in this collection is a mystery novel, at least not in the same way the Easy Rawlins books are. But they are fascinating takes on so many different kinds of Black men and the people around them. 

A Book of Social Science

book cover the heartbeat of wounded knee by daavid treuer

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer

Writer and anthropologist Treuer digs into the modern history of Native peoples on the American continent, their relationship with settler colonialism, and how that has impacted Native and tribal life today.

Belly of the Beast by Da’Shaun Harrison

Do you have thoughts about desire, desirability, race, and anti-fatness? I can assure you, after you read this relatively short book, you’re gonna. 

A Non Superhero Comic that Debuted in the Last Three Years

cover of Cosmoknights

Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer

Space Gays Fight The Patriarchy. 

That’s it, that’s the tweet.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Titular new kid Jordan knows that his new school is going to offer him more academic opportunities than his old school near home, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss his neighborhood friends. 

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Not quite what you’re looking for, or just interested in seeing what else is out there? Visit the Read Harder Archives for all of the past tasks and recommendation lists.  And if you’re curious what I’ve been reading, you can check out my page on Book Riot proper, listen to the When In Romance podcast, or catch me on twitter (@jessisreading) or instagram (@jess_is_reading). 

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #23: Read a Book by a Disabled Author

Contributor Editor Kendra here to talk to you about all things disability lit! The 23rd prompt on the Read Harder challenge is to read a book by a disabled author. While not all disabled, chronically ill, Deaf, and neurodivergent authors write about disability specifically, they do often include a discussion of disability in their work.

As a disabled person, I rarely see that part of myself in the books that I read. So a few years ago, I decided to begin looking for books by disabled authors so I could finally see myself in books. What I discovered was a treasure trove of incredible literature. From historical fiction to poetry to memoirs, disabled people write it all.

In a previous newsletter, I mentioned Disability Visibility edited by Alice Wong and Growing Up Disabled in Australia edited by Carly Findlay. Both of these anthologies feature a range of disabled authors who often have full-length books of their own, so I highly recommend going and checking out those titles as well.

Okay, get your TBRs ready! I have an incredible selection of books to tell you about. So what are we waiting for? Onto the books!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

A graphic of the cover of A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley

A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley

In her memoir, Ariel Henley describes her experience of growing up with Crouzon Syndrome, a genetic condition that caused the bones in her head to fuse prematurely. Henley describes how the only other person that truly understood her experience was her twin sister who also has the condition. A Face for Picasso challenges ideas of beauty, which is based around a non-disabled default. I love Henley’s work and can’t wait to see what she writes next!

A graphic of the cover of The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown

The Pretty One: On Life, Pop Culture, Disability, and Other Reasons to Fall in Love with Me by Keah Brown

Keah Brown hashtag #DisabledAndCute went viral, ushering in a slew of posts by disabled folks raising awareness that disabled people can be sexy too. All too often, non-disabled people infantilize disabled people, especially those with visible disabilities. But Brown is here to remind you that ideas like that need to stop in their tracks. Her memoir, The Pretty One, covers her experience of growing as a queer Black woman with cerebral palsey and how she came to love her body.

A graphic of the cover of Golem Girl by Riva Lehrer

Golem Girl by Riva Lehrer

Born with spina bifida, Riva Lehrer grew up with a lot of internalized ableism. Doctors didn’t expect her to survive, but she did. She eventually comes across a group of artists who use their experiences as inspiration for their work. There, Leher learns to love her body, creating incredible art pieces in the process.

A graphic of the cover of Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

Haben: The Deafblind Woman Who Conquered Harvard Law by Haben Girma

Deafblind Harvard Law grad breaks all the stereotypes the world throws at her. The daughter of Eritrean immigrants, Girma started life learning to adapt to new situations, which proved a useful skill throughout her life. While studying at university, she invented a piece of tech that helps her communicate with the sighted and hearing people around her.

A graphic of the cover of White Magic by Elissa Washuta

White Magic by Elissa Washuta

Cowlitz author Elissa Washuta proves herself queen of the essay with White Magic. This collection of essays takes a look at a wide range of topics, including alcoholism, breakups, the occult, colonialism, and the Washuta’s love for the Oregon Trail computer game. Washuta lives with an autoimmune condition called Sjögren’s Syndrome and much of her writing discusses learning to care for one’s body in a nondisabled society.

A Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by MacKenzie Lee

A Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks by Mackenzie Lee

I’ve loved reading the Montague Siblings trilogy, but the latest book, A Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks might be my favorite. Adrian Montague had no idea that he had two older—very much disinherited—siblings, but once he learns they exist, he knows he MUST get to know them. Adrian has severe anxiety and OCD, but in the 1700s, they don’t have words for that, or at least nothing that Adrian finds helpful.

A graphic of the cover of Black Under by Ahsanti Anderson

Black Under by Ahsanti Anderson

Disabled queer Black author Ashanti Anderson won the Black River Chapbook Competition for Black Under. Her writing covers topics around her own identity, examining the intersections of her identity from every angle. She uses such precision in her poetry, and I found myself reading and rereading sections over and over again.

A graphic of the cover of The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers: And Other Gruesome Tales by Jen Campbell

The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers: And Other Gruesome Tales by Jen Campbell

In her latest book, Jen Campbell retells fairytales from around the world. From a sinister merman to a family of skeletons, these stories possess a delightfully creepy feel. With spooky illustrations from Adam de Souza, this collection of scary stories is the perfect pick for a dark and windy night.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Those are just a few of the amazing books by disabled authors that would be perfect for Read Harder prompt #23.

I hope you love these books as much as I did! That’s it for now, but we’ll be back with more recommendations for the 2022 Read Harder challenge. In the meantime, happy reading!

~ Kendra

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #22: Read a History About a Period You Know Little About

Hello, friends!

Today’s Read Harder task is “Read a History About a Period You Know Little About.” This assignment, which seemed straightforward to me when I took it, got more complicated when I sat down to come up with a list of qualifying books. After all, what about books that cover a period I know a fair amount about, but from a perspective I’m unfamiliar with? Or books that address a specific topic that I know very little about over a long period of history – or conversely, microhistories addressing a very narrow subject that I am again woefully unfamiliar with, but taking place during a period I thought I knew well?

In the end, I came up with a list of books whose summaries made me go “Huh. I didn’t know that!” And even though the “forgotten” parts of history are often obscured because they reflect very, very badly on the dominant (white, ablebodied) culture, meaning that most of these are likely to be hard reads, the fact that I struggled to cut this list down rather than build it up is indicative of one of my favorite aspects of history: there’s always more to learn.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Black and British

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

As a white American, I know at least the mainstream African American history that’s taught in schools, though the older I get, the more I realize how little I actually know. How much less, then, do I know about the history of Black people in England? This history dates back to Roman Britain, situating Black Britons as part of the history and culture of the nation rather than rare exceptions.

The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America by Andrés Reséndez

This book makes the case that Indian slavery – technically illegal but openly practiced for centuries – was one of the major causes of Native American genocide and one with which we still have not reckoned. Again, I know mainstream (white) American history pretty well. I don’t know about this.

Empress Dowager Cixi

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

That subtitle! How could I not want to read it? I know very little about Chinese history in general, so there are centuries to dive into here, but Empress Dowager Cixi lived from 1835-1908 (and ruled China from 1861 on), so that’s the period we’re looking at for this one.

The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt by Audrey Clare Farley

The case this book revolves around – the sterilization of a “promiscuous” socialite by her mother in order to control millions of dollars of her inheritance – took place in 1934, and I’ll admit I’m a 1930s history buff – but I know far less about disability history and reproductive rights than I’d like to, and stories like Britney Spears’s only serve to illuminate how sadly relevant this sort of thing still remains.

Churchill's Secret War

Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India During World War II by Madhusree Mukerjee

You can’t mention that you like history without having a million World War II books chucked your way – but India is almost never mentioned. This book examines the period between 1940 and 1944 and the devastation Churchill’s decisions wreaked on the subcontinent.

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

I love urban history, especially that of my native New York, but books on the topic tend to focus on the 19th century and earlier, and rarely address disturbing aspects like the way American governments at every level codified segregation in our cities throughout most of the 20th century.

The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

This history of the migration of almost six million Black southerners to other parts of the country over the years 1915-1970 has been on my TBR for ages, and having now read Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste has just moved it higher up on the list.

Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich

The thing about historical events that happen when you’re a child is: you’re too little to understand them, but they’re too recent for you to learn about them in school. So it was for me with the end of the Soviet Union when I was seven. All I’ve ever gotten is a vague sense that America and capitalism are just so gosh-darn superior; I have a feeling it’s a little bit more nuanced than that.

And that’s my list of possible reads! Yours will look different, obviously, given the personal nature of this task, but here’s hoping we all learn something new from it.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Happy reading!

Jessica

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #21: Queer Retellings

It’s time for another Read Harder task! This time, we’re talking about queer retellings of almost any kind—classics of the canon, fairy tales, myths and legends, we could go on. Retellings, in this list, count as anything that either uses a previous work as a jumping off point, or that uses the original source material to tell a brand new version of the same story. 

I love retellings. Give me a Jane Austen story set in the Caribbean, or Pygmalion set in a fantasy world with Chinese influences. Tell me the same love story I’ve heard before, but with a twist, or give a classical hero the depth he deserves. Pastiche is something I live for and dwell in—to the point where I spent more than half of my life reading more fanfiction than actual books, some years. And queer retellings? *chef’s kiss* They are the best of the best. This list is a good place to start in order to complete this task, but there are…a not insignificant amount of others you might want to dive into. (Some years ago it would have been like pulling teeth, but now, they’re starting to appear a little more frequently.)

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Cover of Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Retelling of: The Legend of King Arthur

After her mother’s death, Bree enrolls in a pre-college residential program at UNC to get away from the memories and the pain. Witnessing a strange magical event her first night there leads her down a path towards a secret society claiming to be the descendents of King Arthur’s knights, and a young mage who calls himself Merlin. And apparently, there’s a war coming. Great.

cover of Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Verona Comics by Jennifer Dugan

Retelling of: Romeo and Juliet

When Jubilee and Ridley meet at a comic convention prom, their connection is instant. But Jubilee’s family business is an indie comic shop and Ridley’s family owns one of the biggest comics chain in the country. With their parents in an ongoing feud, the two can’t help but keep their relationship a secret.

cover of Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity

Dithered Hearts by Chace Verity

Retelling of: Cinderella

Cyn is a farmer who would do anything to gain ownership of her farm back from her step parents—or to at least get away from them. When a chance to attend the Prince’s ball presents itself in the form of a literal fairy godfather, Cyn uses the opportunity to get a plan rolling…but it’s not the one anyone would have expected.

A Blade So Black cover image

A Blade So Black by LL McKinney

Retelling of: Alice in Wonderland

Atlanta teen Alice is a warrior. Having trained to fight the Nightmares in the magical realm of Wonderland, she is one of the few barriers to keeping the regular world safe. When her mentor is poisoned, she has to travel farther into Wonderland than she’s ever been in order to save his life…but she also has to keep herself alive.

cover of briarley by aster glenn gray

Briarley by Aster Glenn Gray

Retelling of: Beauty and The Beast

When a country parson finds himself trapped on a large estate by a grumpy dragon-man type being, he’s not sure what he might find easier: getting out, or helping the dragon-man to free himself from his curse.

Peter Darling updated cover

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Retelling of: Peter Pan

When Peter comes back to Neverland after a decade away, his old home has moved on without him. Sure, Captain Hook has missed his old rival, but the Lost Boys don’t seem to need him. When war breaks out between the two bloodthirsty Neverland groups, the relationship between the two changes into something completely different.

cover of Ash by Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

Retelling of: Cinderella

Ash, left at the mercy of her stepmother after her father’s death, has little joy or comfort in the world. She meets a dark fairy, Sidhean, who could offer her everything her heart desires. But what of Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, who she learns from and comes to love, first as a friend and then maybe something else?

cover of thrall by roan parrish and avon gale

Thrall by Roan Parrish and Avon Gale

Retelling of: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

When Lucy’s brother Harker goes missing, she and her partner—in life and in true crime podcasting—go on a mission to find him. With the help of their social media assistant and Harker’s professor, they go deeper and deeper into the app Harker was investigating, Thrall. And Arthur and Professor Van Helsing go deeper into something different.

cover of Drag Me Up by RM Virtues

Drag Me Up by R. M. Virtues

Retelling of: Greek Mythology

Hades is one of the most feared people in Khaos Falls, almost to the point of being a myth. The only thing that could possibly bring him down is the vision he sees hanging from silk at a Cirque performance, who he can’t resist, and who should be with anyone except him.

cover of Nottingham by Anna Burke

Nottingham: The True Story of Robyn Hood by Anna Burke

Retelling of: Robin Hood

On the run after a hunting accident, Robyn seeks shelter in the Sherwood Forest. But when the Sheriff of Nottingham levies a tax on the good people of the area, she takes matters into her own hands…with the help of some great women and the Sheriff’s delightful daughter, Marian. 

cover of Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Retelling of: Cinderella

Two hundred years after Cinderella married her prince, local girls are expected to attend the Annual Ball to be selected as wives. But Sophia would rather marry her best friend, Erin. When a chance encounter with Cinderella’s final descendent leaves her on the path to smashing the patriarchy, anything can happen. 

cover of The Princess Deception by Nell Stark

The Princess Deception by Nell Stark

Retelling of: Twelfth Night by Shakespeare 

When her twin brother Sebsatian, Crown Prince of Belgium, overdoses right before the royals are getting ready to bid for the FIFA World Cup, Viola decides the best way forward is to impersonate him (for some reason). Missy Duke, a reporter covering the Belgium bid, realizes very quickly that Sebastian is actually Viola, but goes along with it. Also, what are those sparks?

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Retelling of: Snow-White, Rose-Red, and Swan Lake

In this retelling of the story of Snow White and Rose Red, McLemore weaves a haunting tale of two sisters who are also rivals. Thanks to a curse, sometime in their future, one will remain human while the other is turned into a swan. When the curse draws two local boys into the fray, who knows what will happen.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Looking for more queer retellings? Find more here, here, and here. And if you’re curious what I’ve been reading, you can check out my page on Book Riot proper, listen to the When In Romance podcast, or catch me on twitter (@jessisreading) or instagram (@jess_is_reading).

Happy reading!

—Jess

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #20: Read an Award-Winning Book From the Year You Were Born

With this challenge, we are throwing it back with a challenge that might require a little bit of research on your part. This is a real open-ended challenge that should ensure that you’ll be able to find the right book for you because it can be any award! In any genre! Just as long as it’s from the year you’re born!

Because this isn’t a one-size-fits-all challenge and my options from 1992 won’t be the same as yours, I’m going to highlight a list of awards for you to check out so you can hopefully find the best book pick for you! Just a quick note about diversity: Depending on how far back you have to reach, it might be harder to find books by authors of color. I hate that for us! I’ve highlighted a couple when I could find them below, but just know that might be a challenge and not the kind of challenge that we like, as we much prefer the more diverse awards lists of this century.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

The National Book Awards

The National Book Awards are the United States’ biggest book award of the year, and they date back to 1950 when there were three categories: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry. Over the years, the NBA Foundation has added categories for Young People’s Literature and Translated Literature, which are awarded today, and have even offered awards in retired categories such as Arts and Letters, History and Biography, and Science, Philosophy, and Religion. Some past winners include Herzog by Saul Bellow (1965) and All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (1992).

Lambda Literary Awards, aka the Lammys

If you’d like to pick up a queer novel and you were born after 1988, then you can peruse the Lambda Literary awards page to discover award-winners in gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender representation and in a variety of genres. I love these wards because they’ve worked hard to be an inclusive as possible in recent years. Just be warned that once you start throwing it back to the 90’s, the representation gets broken down by just gay and lesbian. Look how far we’ve come! These awards also get the award for easiest past winners directory to browse!

Newbery Awards

Here’s an award that’s celebrating 100 years in 2022! The Newbery is awarded each year to a children’s book that is a distinguished contribution to American children’s literature, and it was named after a British bookseller from the 18th century. I bet some of your childhood favorites are award winners here, like Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (1986) and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1979).

The Pulitzer Prize

Dating back to 1917, the Pulitzer Prize was established to incentivize the best in journalism and arts and letters. Named after Joseph Pulitzer, the renowned journalist who left money in his will to make this award happen, the Pulitzer has expanded in categories as media has developed. But you can always find great fiction, nonfiction, drama, and more for this prize, although not every genre will be represented in every year. Beloved by Toni Morrison took home the prize in 1988, and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller won in 1949.

The Booker Prize

Known over the years as both the Man Booker and Booker Prize for Fiction, this honor was first awarded in 1969 and it was first awarded to the best novel in English published in the U.K. or Ireland and the British Commonwealth. In 2014, eligibility expanded to include any novel published in English. Past winners include The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje (1992) and Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (1981).

The Hugo Award

The Hugo Awards have been presented annual since 1955, and they honor the best in science fiction. It’s one of the few awards where readers can nominate books for consideration and vote on winners (for better or worse), and since the Hugo Award doesn’t have established guidelines to differentiate between fantasy and sci-fi, we often see a blend of both in finalists and winners. Past winners include Coraline by Neil Gaiman (2003) and The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (1975).

The Bram Stoker Awards

If you’re a horror fan born after 1987, then check out the Bram Stoker Awards, named after the author of Dracula. Presented by the Horror Writers Association, this prize honors a superior achievement in the horror genre for novels, short fiction, collections, and nonfiction. These days, the award also honors graphic novels and young adult novels, among others. Past winners include Mary Shelley by Muriel Spark (1987) and The Green Mile by Stephen King (1997).

The Edgar Awards

Presented by the Mystery Writers of America, this award honors the best mysteries in a variety of formats, from novels to short fiction to young adult and juvenile fiction, as well as movies, dramas, and radio programs and TV episodes throughout the years. Named after Edgar Allan Poe, it was established in 1946. past winners include The Spy Why Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre (1965) and The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton (1969).

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

I hope you have fun exploring the myriad of awards and book options! Good luck picking out your challenge book!

Happy reading!
Tirzah Price

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder Task #19: Read a Horror Novel by a BIPOC Author

Alright. I’m just going to come out and say it. Horror is the best genre out there. Good horror is thought-provoking, emotional, propulsive, and unforgettable. And I just can’t get enough of it. It was hard to narrow it down when it came to choosing which books to share with you for this challenge. But these are some of my personal favorite horror novels for this Read Harder 2022 Challenge: Read a Horror Novel by a BIPOC Author.

What was the first horror novel you read? For me, it was Stephen King’s It. For a lot of readers, King was probably one of their first introductions to the world of horror fiction. And that’s great and all, but there’s so much more horror fiction out there, and so many incredible horror books from BIPOC authors. Here are eight horror books that do all the good things that horror books should—they’re thought-provoking, emotional, propulsive, and unforgettable. Even if you’re a person who normally shies away from horror stories, I promise these are worth the risk of being a little scared.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

the only good indians

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Speaking of unforgettable reads, Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians is one that I’ll never be able to get out of my mind, and one I can’t stop recommending to people, which is why it’s #1 on a list that’s otherwise in no particular order. When four Blackfoot Indian men go hunting, they end up doing something that will haunt them forever. Quite literally. Now there’s a supernatural entity that’s hunting them, hellbent on revenge.

White Smoke cover image

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

If you love YA horror, please do yourself a favor and read White Smoke. When teenager Marigold moves with her family from California to the Midwestern city of Cedarville, everyone thinks it’s a chance for them to start over. But in horror language, we know what moving to a new house for a chance to start over means. It means the house is haunted, right? As soon as Marigold and her family move in, things seem off. The neighborhood is practically deserted, and they keep hearing weird sounds (and smelling weird smells) throughout the house. Is it just Marigold’s mind playing tricks on her, or does the house really want them out?

cover of Sorrowland

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Sorrowland is horror meets sci-fi meets Afrofuturism meets wilderness survival tale. Vern is seven months pregnant when she escapes from the strict religious compound where she was raised. Now she finds herself alone in the wilderness, caring for her twin children, unable to trust anything in the world around her. But the religious compound she fled from isn’t willing to let her go that easily. And she feels herself going through unsettling changes.

Cover of The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson

The Year of the Witching is a dark fantasy/horror novel set in the puritanic lands of Bethel where Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy because she is proof of her mother’s tryst with an outsider of another race. But her mother was hiding even more secrets than Immanuelle could have imagined, and something is calling her out to the woods surrounding Bethel.

cover of empire of the wild by cherie dimaline

Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Empire of Wild is inspired by the traditional Métis story of the Rogarou, a legendary werewolf-like creature. Joan’s husband Victor has been missing for over a year, but Joan refused to give up hope and keeps searching for him. Then one day in a Walmart parking lot, there he is. At first she’s relieved to see him, but he insists he is not her husband and that he does not recognize her at all. He says he is the Reverend Wolff and that he only wants to bring people to Jesus. But of course, it turns out that’s not his only mission.

white is for witching by helen oyeyemi

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Looking for more haunted house-y type stories? Okay, you’ve got it. Here’s White is for Witching, a story about the Silver family, who moves to a mysterious house on the cliffs near Dover in the hopes of starting up a bed-and-breakfast. The matriarch of the family has gone missing, and the daughter, Miranda, feels the spirits within the strange house and the women who haunt the walls. And they are quickly pulling her in.

cover of fledgling by octavia butler

Fledgling by Octavia Butler

What would a horror novel list be without at least one vampire story? Although I guess calling Fledgling a vampire story is oversimplifying things… by a lot. Shori is 53 years old, but on the outside, she looks like a young girl. When we first meet her, she has no memory of who she is and she’s exhausted and hungry. But when she’s picked up by a man named Wright, together the two begin to uncover the secrets of her past and a world of vampire-like creatures that are unlike anything you’ve ever read about before.

Beloved Book Cover

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Beloved is the most haunting ghost story you will ever read. This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the story of Sethe, who was born into slavery but escaped to Ohio. Still, eighteen years later, living with her daughter Amy, Sethe still does not feel free. She’s haunted by the memories of her past and the horrifying things she had to endure to find freedom. Then a teenaged girl who calls herself Beloved shows up at her doorstep, and all of Sethe’s horrors of the past come to meet her in her present.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

And those are my recommendations! Want even more? Here are 20 horror books by authors of color. I’m so excited to read some good horror with everyone this year. Good luck with the Read Harder challenge!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #18: Read A “Best ___ Writing of the Year” Book for a Topic and Year of Your Choice

“Best Of” collections are a fascinating thing. It’s an age-old discussion: what does it mean to be the best? Who gets to decide? Best at what aspects of writing? I have gotten in fights about this, and also have strong feelings about all “best” judgements being subjective, which makes me either the best (see what I did there) or the worst person to be writing this. But here we are! And I have a big love for “Best Of” collections, even as I have big feelings about what those words even mean.

For this task, start with a little strategic planning: what do you hope to get out of reading one of these? Do you want to read amazing examples of writing from a genre you already love? Or perhaps you’d like to give a genre you’ve never read a try — collections are a great way to dip your toes in and test the water. Perhaps you have a particular reading goal you’d like to further, like reading more internationally. Maybe you want to get some perspective on how a given genre has changed. Or maybe, like me, you just want to see what’s considered “the best” so you can fight about it. All of these are valid, my friends! 

Whatever your answer, I’ve collected various series here for your perusal, with some suggestions as to particular years worth your consideration.

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

The Best American Series, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Possibly the best-known of the category, this series has been in publication since 1915 (!). It’s grown to cover a wide variety of topics; currently, you can get collections dedicated to Short Stories, Mystery and Suspense, Essays, Food Writing, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Science and Nature Writing, and Travel. Each year has a regular editor and a guest editor, and as you’ll see once you start looking, those guest editors are typically highly-regarded authors in their own right.

cover of Best American Travel Writing 2021

Discontinued categories include: Nonrequired Reading; Comics; Sports Writing; Spiritual Writing; Infographics; and Recipes. I don’t know why they stopped or if they’ll ever come back, but since this task lets you select your year, don’t let that stop you!

If you think I’m not eyeballing Best American Travel Writing 2021 edited by Padma Lakshmi and Jason Wilson, you’re very wrong. If sci-fi and fantasy are more your bag, N.K. Jemisin edited the 2018 edition alongside series editor John Joseph Adams, and it was glorious. And if you want to go a touch further back and get visual, Roz Chast of New Yorker fame guest-edited The Best American Comics of 2016.

International “Best Of” Series

cover of Best European Fiction of 2010

The Best European Fiction series from Dalkey Archive Press ran from 2010 to 2019, with a few different editors, and it was my first exposure to a “Best” series outside of Best American. This is a good one if you’re looking to broaden your literary horizons; some of the stories in question hadn’t been translated into English before their inclusion. The first one I encountered was 2010’s, which also happened to be its inaugural year. Editor Aleksandar Hemon assembled stories originally written in Gaelic, French, Dutch, and more, from many different countries, and for someone relatively new to translated literature it was an eye-opener. 

I just recently became aware of The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror; a look through the 2015 edition’s table of contents reveals stories from Garth Nix, DK Mok, and Angela Slatter, all of whom I’m a fan of, plus a whole host of other writers that I’m itching to learn more about. 

Also new to me and newer to the world, with its first collection published in 2019, is Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy. Volume 3 was published this year, edited by Marie Hodgkinson, and I did not recognize a single name on the table of contents. This is a glorious moment, my friends! 22 new writers to explore, plus two more volumes after! 

Despite a lot of poking around, I was unable to find other regional series, but I’m betting they’re out there or in process, and I cannot wait for them. It’s also notable that the ones I did find skew towards the SF/F genres; confirmation bias, since that’s my most beloved wheelhouse? Or are SF/F editors just more motivated? Who can say…

The Best Erotica

cover of Best Women's Erotica Vol 4

You didn’t think I’d leave my fellow romance/erotica readers hanging, did you? There are series for that too! Cleis Press has a few different iterations, including Best Women’s Erotica, Best Lesbian Erotica, and Best Bondage Erotica. We actually have a Book Rioter in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 4 (2018), edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel! Patricia Elzie’s story, “Breathe,” takes kink in a silly-sweet new direction. This collection also includes Alyssa Cole’s “Essential Qualities,” which is a must-read for fans of her book The A.I. Who Loved Me.

Then there’s sex-educator Susie Bright’s Best American Erotica series, which is predominantly on audio and goes back to the 90s (!). If ever there was a moment to find out how a genre has changed over the past 30 years, it’s now.

The Year’s Best, Potpourri

cover of Transcendent: Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction

Various publishers put out other “Year’s Best” collections, from Night Shade’s Best Horror with Ellen Datlow, to Lethe Press’s Wilde Stories: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, and Year’s Best Weird Fiction from Undertow Publications. Da Capo’s got their own Best Music Writing series! Search for “Year’s Best” in your library’s catalog and you’ll find a bonanza of options.

An exciting new-to-me find was the Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction series, edited largely by Bogi Takács. There are four years available currently, 2016-2019, and it’s another “many of these authors are new to me” situation — my favorite.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Whatever route you decide to take, may your journey into the Best Of landscape be full of surprises, and full of excellent stories!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #17: Read a Memoir Written by Someone Who is Trans or Nonbinary

While there’s never a bad time to read a memoir by a trans or nonbinary writer, this year feels like a particularily good time to elevate these stories. As book challenges in schools and libraries continue, many which specifically target books by LGBTQIA+ authors, it’s even more important to read and share stories by people from across the gender spectrum.

There are many (many!) potential books to choose for this particular challenge topic. This list covers a range of familiar and unfamiliar titles that discuss gender from many different perspectives. It also includes some that have been frequent targets in book challenges across the country. Once you’ve read and loved a title, be sure to share it!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

book cover all boys aren't blue by george m. johnson

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

This work of young adult nonfiction is a series of personal essays about growing up as Black and queer, and the complexity of those intersecting identities. In interviews, Johnson has said they wrote the book as a way to help other teens see themselves in stories in a way they didn’t as a kid. They write about their relationship with their grandmother, early sexual relationships, joining a fraternity in college, and more.

book cover fairest by meredith talusan

Fairest: A Memoir by Meredith Talusan

Meredith Talusan was born with albinism in a rural village in the Philippines. Raised by a grandmother, Talusan eventually came to the United States on an academic scholarship to Harvard – providing a strong education, but also a complicated relationship with race, class, and sexuality. After college, Talusan transitioned and came out as a woman and continued on a career as an artist and activist. This memoir explores love, identity, gender, and more.

book cover real queer america by samantha allen

Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen

A decade ago, Samantha Allen was a Mormon missionary. At the time of writing this book, she was a reporter for the Daily Beast and married to a woman. In it, Allen heads out on a cross-country trip to experience “something gay every day” in places where queer communities full of people opting to stay where they’re from instead of fleeing to potentially friendlier territory. I love the way Allen is able to tell stories about people from all walks of life, emphasizing tales of chosen families trying to make the world a better place.

book cover unicorn by amrou al kadhi

Unicorn: The Memoir of a Muslim Drag Queen by Amrou Al-Kadhi

There’s just so much to be excited about in this memoir about growing from “a god-fearing Muslim boy enraptured with their mother to a vocal, queer drag queen estranged from their family.” In the book, they write about how a teenage obsession with marine biology helped illuminate their nonbinary gender identity, discovering the power of drag in college, learning to understand Islam with a queer lens, and finding a way back to family with this new perspective.

book cover I'm afraid of men by vivek shraya

I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya

In this book, trans artist Vivek Shraya explores “how masculinity was imposed on her as a boy and continues to haunt her as a girl.” As a child, Shaya had to learn to perform masculinity to survive, while as an adult she must push in other ways to be recognized as feminine. Shraya explores what the cumulative effect of that misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia has been on her, and offers ways that we can cherish and celebrate what makes us different.

Gender Queer cover

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe

This autobiographical comic is about Maia Kobabe’s journey of self-identity and an attempt to explain what it means to be nonbinary and asexual. Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, writes about early crushes, coming out, connecting with friends, and more. The result is a book that is both a guide to gender identity and a personal story about what it means to be a nonbinary person.

book cover tomorrow will be different by sarah mcbride

Tomorrow Will Be Different: Love, Loss, and the Fight for Trans Equality by Sarah McBride

In 2016, Sarah McBride became the first transgender person to speak at the Democratic National Convention, a giant leap on her journey as a transgender activist. In this memoir, Sarah shares how she came out to her family, friends, and community and how that led to her political activism. The memoir is also a love story about Sarah’s relationship with her first husband, Andy, who passed away from cancer in 2014 shortly after they were married. This is a good book for people newer to reading about the issues transgender people face and who want to understand those discussions better.

book cover something that may shock and discredit you by daniel lavery

Something That May Shock and Discredit You by Daniel M. Lavery

More essays! This final book on the list is a collection of witty essays about gender and identity through the lens of pop culture, with everything from The Addams Family to Captain Kirk to Lord Byron. It’s also a book that talks about what it is like to transition genders and the complexities of family can bring to that experience. If you loved The Toast, grab this one.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

If you’re looking for more ideas, check out these posts on Book Riot featuring other trans and nonbinary authors. They’re not exclusively memoirs, but will give you some other authors to consider:

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #16: Read A Book Recommended By a Friend With Different Reading Tastes

I am a firm believer that there is nothing more simultaneously exciting and stressful than receiving a book recommendation from someone whose reading tastes don’t exactly line up with your own. If this is someone you care about, then of course you don’t want to disappoint them by hating their recommendation (or worse, not reading this book at all). But part of being a reader is also the thrill of the discovery, and who knows…this recommended book that you’d otherwise never discover on your own could be your new favorite thing. Or a gateway to a new reading obsession. Or…at least be a really enjoyable way to pass a weekend!

The Read Harder challenge is all about stretching yourself, and I personally love it when someone convinces me to read a book not on my radar and I enjoy it. It makes me want to believe in fate, and I get overwhelmed thinking about all the amazing books out in the world that I just don’t know about yet! It’s enough to bring on a small existential crisis!

At the same time, if you’re thinking, This challenge is all well and good, but my friends and I read the same stuff, or, My friends don’t even read, then don’t panic! I’ve got a few ideas to help you approach this challenge. And please remember, no one is policing your picks! Do your best to fulfill the spirit of the challenge, whatever that means for you!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Just Ask a Friend For Recs

First off, the idea that someone has different reading tastes from you can mean a lot of different things, from you liking completely different genres, or liking the same genres, but different things within genre. That’s totally fine and it counts! For example, I read widely in YA and I enjoy fantasy, but I admit I’m super picky about my YA fantasy reads. I could ask a friend, who reads a lot of YA fantasy, for a recommendation on what book I should pick up next. Because she reads way more in this particular subset than I do, I would count this as a challenge fulfilled. But if I wanted to go wayyyy out on a limb, I might ask my dad, who loves John Grisham books, to recommend his favorite Grisham novel to me. Which leads me to…

Ask Anyone In Your Life to Recommend a Favorite Book

As much as book nerds hate the question, “So what’s your favorite book?” I think that what people’s favorite books are say a lot about them! You can ask your friends, family members, even coworkers what their favorite book is…and then pick what sounds most interesting to you! One thing an acquaintance did once that I think is really cool is ask everyone in their life to gift them with a copy of their favorite book for an upcoming birthday. This acquaintance said the copy could be new or used, but they promised to make an honest effort at reading whateve they received. They ended up with a pile of books they might not otherwise have tried, and many gifts even included a note about why the gifter picked the book they did and the book’s significance, making for a really personal point of connection.

Reading someone’s favorite book or even just a memorable or influential book is a great way of deepening relationships and getting to know the person better. However, it is sometimes fraught, because the better you know the person, the higher the stakes if you don’t like the book. If that happens, chalk it up to experience (and a challenge checked off the list) and check out our guide to talking about the books your friends love, but you hated.

Try a New-to-You Genre

You can use this challenge as an opportunity to try a new-to-you genre by either asking someone in your life who reads a lot in an area you’re not familiar with for a recommendation, or by visiting your local library and chatting with a librarian. You can be as broad or as focused as you want by stipulating that you want to try historical romance, or science fiction in general, or try reading one of the many Civil War history books your dad has on his shelf. Librarians in particular are an excellent resource in this area, because they’re trained in reader advisory and they might be able to help you find a book in a new-to-you genre that still has elements of other books you enjoy reading, to ensure the process us still enjoyable! And if that doesn’t work, check out Book Riot for a myriad of posts on different genres, or our whole stable of podcasts on everything from YA, mysteries, SFF, and more! We will happily be your friends for the purposes of this challenge!

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Just remember: Have fun, and don’t overthink it!

Happy reading!
Tirzah Price

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2022

Read Harder Task #15: Read a New-to-You Literary Magazine (Print or Digital)

I am drawn to literary magazines for the range of writing styles they typically showcase. As a poet, I tend to move toward the prosaic, writing that interrogates, is sometimes playful, and that often blurs rigid genre lines. While I like to think that I read widely across the literary landscape, when it comes to magazines, as I take an inventory of what is stacked on my nightstand right now, most of what I currently subscribe to are publications where I have either submitted or been published (and thus received the requisite annual subscription).

So basically, much of what I read is in the style of how I write. At the moment, this stack includes the latest issues of the better known Ploughshares, a journal published by Emerson College, and American Poets Magazine, of which I am a member, alongside smaller publications, such as Ruminate Magazine, a beautiful contemplative magazine where one of my first poems found a home, and Fourteen Hills, the West Coast centered literary magazine out of San Francisco State University.

All that to say this challenge task is perfect for me! I’ve started out the list with some of the more popular literary magazines (which, admittedly, I consider new-to-me) and have also included other publications that have been on my radar. Enjoy!

Make sure to get your own Read Harder Book Journal from Book Riot to track your reading for the year!

Zyzzyva magazine cover

Zyzzyva

A longtime San Francisco-based journal with over 35 years in publishing that prides itself on focusing on West Coast poets, writers, and artists. I appreciate their editorial mission which includes “risk-taking and egalitarianism […] focus on inclusivity and excellence.” Notable contributors include Kaveh Akbar, Tommy Orange, Amy Tan, Rebecca Solnit, Adrienne Rich, Ursula K. LeGuin, and others.

Issue of Granta Magazine cover

Granta

One of the more “seasoned” literary magazines, Granta was founded in 1889 by students at Cambridge University and was named after the river that runs through the town. In its early days, the magazine published works by writers such as A.A. Milne, Michael Frayn, Stevie Smith, Ted Hughes, and Sylvia Plath. Its latest issue (at writing, Fall 2021) features a focus on travel writing.

Threepenny Review cover

The Threepenny Review

Don’t let its outdated webpage deter you; The Threepenny Review, based out of Berkeley, is according to Louise Glück, “as lively and original a literary magazine as exists in this country.” It is a quarterly magazine that, in its Fall 2021 issue, featured contributors such as Wendell Berry and Sharon Olds, among others.

Glimmer Train book cover

Glimmer Train

Best known as a short-story print journal, Portland-based Glimmer Train ended its nearly 30-year run in December 2019. But that doesn’t mean you can’t access its well-respected collection of curated stories. Archived issues can be found at the Library of Congress and select libraries. Definitely worth tracking down for literary buffs!

Prairie Schooner journal cover

Prairie Schooner

This journal has been publishing stories, poems, essays, and reviews since 1926, as part of the University of Nebraska Press and the Creative Writing Program of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln English Department. In addition to their print issues, Prairie Schooner has also started a new online series working with “interesting, innovative online literary entities from around the world that seek to create dynamic fusions in literature and art.”

Art by Catriona Secker (2021)

Southeast Review

Founded in 1979, the Southeast Review is a literary magazine managed by graduate students of the English department at Florida State University. They publish literary fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, book reviews, interviews, and art in their biannual print issues, as well as online. In the past, contributors have included *some of my favorites* Carl Phillips, Danez Smith, D.A. Powell, Denise Duhamel, and more.

Northwest Review cover

Northwest Review

Okay, I didn’t purposefully arrange the list by ordination (from southeast to northwest haha!), but I did want to mention this literary magazine, as they are, like me, also based in the PNW (Northwest Review is published by the University of Oregon). While I have been following their work for some time, admittedly, I have not had a chance to dive into the issues since their new inception in Fall 2020. I look forward to reading more in 2022!

Lantern Review cover

Lantern Review

As a writer who also identifies as Asian, I am drawn to work by writers across the diaspora, as it includes such a wide range of writing (style/genre, life experience, perspective, etc). An online magazine that publishes 1-3 “micro issues” per season, Lantern Review showcases poetry and art specifically written by Asian Americans… I’m eager to see what’s in store this coming year.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

If you’re looking for more literary magazine suggestions, check out the Read Harder task for 2020: Read An Edition of a Literary Magazine (Digital or Physical). Or this comprehensive list of 2021’s 20 Must-Read Online Literary Journals!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2022 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.