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An Almanac For The 21st Century

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Time For Another Read Harder Challenge Update!

Time For Another Read Harder Challenge Update!

In February I wrote a post on how things are going with my quest to tackle Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge. A few more months have passed and I've made a bit more progress. I haven't been sticking to any kind of schedule with my reading, but I somehow managed to make it halfway through the list at the halfway point of the year. Some books I read in the past few months I didn't even realize fit the requirements of the challenge, and some I'm still wondering about. But more on that in a bit. Let's get to the books!

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1. Read a book about sports: The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman AKA The Oatmeal

Of all the individual challenges, I found number one to be one of the most daunting. Sports? I am so not a sports person that when I first typed it I wrote sprots. That is completely true - my hands don't even know how to type the word. I realized I could easily read a more "me" sports book, like one about mountain climbing or sailing around the world as opposed to, say, a book about boxers from the 1950s (this is literally what comes to my mind when you say "book about sports." I don't know why.) So I planned to read Into Thin Air or Touching the Void and somehow I ended up reading a comic book about running. Quite a departure. I mean, not one person comes close to death in The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances! I really enjoyed this book. It was quick, entertaining, and weirdly relatable (I'm also a lazy bones that contradictorily loves a good exercise high).

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5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I read Nicola Yoon's first novel, Everything, Everything, and despite thinking the book was just okay, I really liked her writing style. I had heard that her second novel, The Sun is Also a Star was better (from those that were dissatisfied by Everything, Everything) and I was eager to read it. (I'd love to tell you all about my issues with Everything, Everything, but I would spoil literally the entire book. So I will remain mum. But please know that I have OPINIONS.) The Sun is Also a Star takes place over the course of one day. In that day Daniel, a Korean American kid is headed to a college interview that will determine his future - a future chosen for him by his immigrant parents. For Natasha, it's the last day she gets to spend in the United States before she and her family are deported back to Jamaica. Her family's undocumented status was discovered after her father got a DUI, and Natasha is determined to use her last day to try and find a way to keep her family in the only place she really feels is home. Natasha and Daniel keep running into each other, and impact each other's lives forever.

I loved this book. The story flips between Natasha and Daniel's perspectives, and then intermixed between them there are bits of historical context and glimpses into their parents' lives. I also liked that the book didn't have a nice, wrapped up in a pretty bow happy ending, but did make sure to satisfy the reader in the end.

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8. Read a travel memoir: Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube by Blair Braverman

I was unfamiliar with Blair Braverman before picking her memoir to read as part of the challenge. Now I completely love her (she has a great twitter. Lots of dog pics, a top requirement for me). Braverman's memoir is a nonlinear tale about her lifelong desire to go north. Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube chronicles Braverman's journey from exchange programs in Norway, learning to drive sled dogs, moving to Alaska to give sled dog tours, and moving back to Norway. Her story is one of loss, abuse, fear, and pushing through it all to prove that above all she is brave and strong. My own early 20s were tumultuous and I did my fair share of failing and conquering (more on that someday!), so this book was occasionally painfully relatable. All to often as I was reading I'd sigh out loud, "GIRL, ME TOO." As someone who has little to nothing to gab about with friends when we talk about our college years or 20s, I dream of climbing in a pile of dogs with Blair Braverman and swapping war stories.

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11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I didn't set out to read Crazy Rich Asians as a Read Harder book. I just read it because it had been on my to-be-read list for a long time and I had a lull in my library holds and I needed a book to read. It was weeks after I finished and I was talking to my mom about books and the challenge and how I was confused as to whether another book fit (more on that in a bit) that I realized that Crazy Rich Asians is totally set over 5000 miles from my location. This novel is so fun, and I'm very, very excited for the upcoming film adaptation. I'm a huge fan of Constance Wu and I think she's a great casting choice. I've been following the casting as more and more names have been released and with every announcement I get more and more excited. I think Crazy Rich Asians is going to join the ranks of Bridget Jones's Diary: A film/novel you turn to again and again when you want to escape and feel good.

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19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey: Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock

This was another book that languished in my to-be-read pile and I read without considering it a Read Harder book. It was only later that I realized Janet Mock's memoir is all about a spiritual journey (at least I think so? Please don't ask me to come up with a clear definition of what a spiritual journey is). The prompt for this challenge does say "character," so I'm not sure if a nonfiction work was what was intended here, but I've seen a lot of people online choosing memoirs for this category so at least I have some fellow cheaters, if that's what we are. I've wanted to read Redefining Realness for years, but knowing a little about Janet Mock I thought her memoir would be really heavy and depressing, and I was never in a place where I felt like I wanted to open myself up to a lot of dark emotions. I knew that as a teenager in Hawaii Mock did sex work to earn money so she could travel to Thailand and get gender confirmation surgery - that to me sounded just full of opportunities for danger, terror, and strife. Janet Mock's story is one of struggle, but over all the way her memoir is framed is one of perseverance and strength. Sure, I was always worried while she was on the street working, but most of all the story is about how she had a group of women around her who guided her and protected her - and it was these women who helped her find out about getting surgery in Thailand. This is also a love story. Janet Mock is married to a cishet man, Aaron, and a large part of the book is about how they met and how their love story evolved. If you follow Janet Mock on instagram (you should!) you know Aaron is a total dreamboat of a husband (and not just because he's crazy good looking) and reading about Aaron and Janet's love story will make your heart grow three sizes too big.

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20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

I recently raved about The Paying Guests, so instead of re-raving I'll just direct you to that post. This is the book that I'm not entirely sure counts as an LGBTQ+ romance novel, mainly because it doesn't quite fit what I think of when I think "romance novel." The two women involved in the central romance spend most of the book totally stressed out because they're involved in covering up a murder. Is that romantic? Eh, I don't know. I did discover Sarah Waters though the New York Public Library's Read Harder suggestion page, and they suggested a Waters novel about World War II that sounds just as bleak, so perhaps the idea is to find romance where you can? I haven't committed to The Paying Guests as my #20 challenge book (i.e. I haven't written it down in my journal yet). If I decide to go full romance novel I now know about Radclyffe thanks to the fab documentary Love Between the Covers (which I told you about here. Watch it. You'll love it.). My library has quite a few Radclyffe titles and added some to my wish list that look promising (The synopsis for Safe Harbor particularly pulled me in. I may read it just for funsies).

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