About eighteen months ago, I came across the Book Riot podcasts and website. It hadn’t really occurred to me to listen to podcasts, with the exception of one a friend was recording about knitting, until I saw a list of bookish ones on a craft blog, and on listening to Book Riot’s main podcast and All the Books I was hooked.
Discovering Book Riot and listening to/reading their content has really changed my reading life in a number of ways, but especially in terms of the diversity of what I read now. Before I was reading almost exclusively. Which was fine – I loved YA, and was happy reading, and still do – but now I’m reading from all kinds of genres, and literary fiction, and audio books, and non-fiction, and really EVERYTHING. I am also much more aware of the voices my reading is exposing me to – I now think about whether authors and characters are women, or POC, or diverse in all kinds of ways.
This is partly because of the variety of books discussed and recommended all over the site and the podcasts (awesome!) but the variety in my reading really leveled up last year when I participated in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. While I didn’t quite meet all of the challenges last year (I missed reading a play, and maybe one other), I was really happy with how the challenge had moved me out of my comfort zone and so signing up this year was a total no-brainer.
As of today (27 April), I think I’ve read books against about 10 of the 24 challenges (I would check, but I’d have to get up and I’m trapped under a cat 😂). I’m trying to focus on books by Australian authors, or telling Australian stories, this year, since so much of what I read tends to come from the US. I’m also really interested in retellings of fairytales, myths, and classics, so several of the books I’m choosing are coming from there too.
Some of the challenges (you can see the list here ) are going to be pretty simple (a fantasy book, something you’ve read before, something set far away from where you live), whereas there are some in still struggling to come up with ideas for – a travel book, the one about South America, and a classic by a WOC are the ones that stick out as trickiest for me right now.
The Read Harder Challenge has also been a great opportunity for me to socialize around books more. some of my colleagues had heard me talk about the challenge last year and were keen to give it a try – enough people were interested that we’ve started a book club where we meet for lunch once a month and, rather than all reading the same book, discuss how we’re doing with the challenge, what we’ve read, which tasks we’re finding most difficult, and recommend books to each other for the tasks. Last month we had 15 people!
So that’s my reading challenge for the year. I love that it encourages diversity without being so strict that I feel like it’s ‘ homework’ reading.