December 2018

Read Harder 2018 Challenge – My Finished List

This was my second year doing Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself again. Admittedly, I feel weird about gameifying my reading the same way I obsessively track my steps, my phone usage, and my sleep, but nevertheless I did push myself to read more widely this year and read quite a few books I’ve been loudly recommending that I might not have encountered otherwise. I think the benefits of that outweigh the uneasy sense that I’m on the path to sublimating myself into one semi-sentient to-do list of a consciousness.

This represents about half of my 2018 reading and about 18,000 words of writing. And I plan to do the 2019 challenge this year, so Mom, get ready to comment!

  1. A book published posthumously: The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
  2. A book of true crime: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance): Kindred by Octavia Butler
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person: My Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa): The Devourers by Indra Das
  6. A book about nature: Rain: A Natural and Cultural History by Cynthia Barnett
  7. A western: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  8. A comic written or drawn by a person of color: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature: The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color: An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  12. A celebrity memoir: Leonard by William Shatner / Vacationland by John Hodgman
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  14. A book of social science: American Fire: Love, Arson, and Life in a Vanishing Land by Monica Hesse
  15. A one-sitting book: Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author: The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image: Nick Cave: Mercy on Me by Reinhard Kleist
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation: The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin
  20. A book with a cover you hate: Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse – and I feel guilty about this!
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author: Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  22. An essay anthology: The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished): Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov

RHC 2018: Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2018 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read an assigned book you hated (or never finished).

I usually get my assigned reading done, and it’s rare for me to really hate a book. So the only thing that came to mind when I saw this task was a title that made my shoulders slump: Ada, or Ardor thoroughly bested me in college. I was in a Nabokov senior seminar at the time, so it’s not like I wasn’t entirely primed for some intense textual gamesmanship, but I stalled out no later than a third of the way through. In class, our professor asked how many of us had failed to finish the reading. The ten or so of us English major Carleton kids (a species that typically finishes its reading) glanced nervously at each other. I don’t know who raised their hand first, but we all sheepishly followed suit.

The professor shrugged amiably. “This wouldn’t be okay normally [it really wouldn’t have been okay normally. – ed.],” he said, “but I expect it with this one.”