Tag Archives: Resolve to Read

Resolve to Read: Romance Novels By Or About a Person of Color

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge
Category: Romance Novels By Or About a Person of Color

We’ve talked a lot in the past about how we love romance novels here at the Free-For-All, and also about how we’re really ready to see more diversity in the genre at large.   So this week’s challenge is one very near and dear to our hearts.  There have been a number of sensation romances published in the past few years that feature People of Color–but that shouldn’t distract us from the classic romance novels that have stood the test of time and readers’ devotion.  What makes these books so great is that they are not only willing to confront issues of racial identity, but also to question issues of body image, sexual identity, class, and gender norms, making these romances as ground-breaking and thought-provoking as they are heart-racing.

So let’s take a look at some of the terrific titles that you can select to fulfill your resolution–and perhaps even discover a few new authors whose work you can savor for months and years to come!

An Extraordinary UnionNo list of romances featuring People of Color would be in any way complete or comprehensive without Alyssa Cole’s sensational novel of Civil War espionage and passion–and the first of what is sure to be an unmissable series.  Elle Burns is a former slave with a passion for justice and an eidetic memory. Trading in her life of freedom in Massachusetts, she returns to the indignity of slavery in the South–to spy for the Union Army. Malcolm McCall is a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service. Subterfuge is his calling, but he’s facing his deadliest mission yet–risking his life to infiltrate a Rebel enclave in Virginia. Two undercover agents who share a common cause–and an undeniable attraction–Malcolm and Elle join forces when they discover a plot that could turn the tide of the war in the Confederacy’s favor.  This is a book that confronts the horrors of slavery in America, but still holds fast to the belief that love will not only conquer all, but can redeem us, as well.

BreathlessBeverly Jenkins is among the royalty of the romance genre, and all of her books, frankly, are wonderful.  She creates wonderful, vivid, and beautifully empathetic characters, and places them in (generally speaking) historically accurate situations that allow her to reflect on issues of identity, power, and freedom in really creative ways.  In this book, Portia Carmichael is the manager of one of the finest hotels in Arizona Territory.  She has respect and stability—qualities sorely missing from her harsh childhood. She refuses to jeopardize all that by keeping company with the wrong man–but the arrival of an old family friend may have her thinking she’s found someone right.  Kent Randolph has learned his share of hard lessons. After drifting through the West, he’s learned the value of a place to settle down, and in Portia’s arms he’s found that and more. But convincing her to trust him with her heart, not just her passion, will be the greatest challenge he’s known—and one he intends to win…You quite seriously cannot go wrong with Beverly Jenkins work, so make sure to check out her many others books as you make your way through this resolution!

A Bollywood AffairSonali Dev’s romances have it all–interesting characters, real issues, beautiful settings–but they also deal with issues facing women in India, from conforming to stereotypes and ‘proper behavior’ to the difficulty of balancing tradition with progress.  But there is also the deep bonds with family, the sensational food, and the meaningful tradition, all of which combine to make Dev’s books so enchanting.  In this story, Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in twenty years–not since she was promised to him at the age of four. Yet marriage has allowed Mili a freedom rarely given to girls in her village. She was even allowed her to leave India and study in America for eight months, all to make her the perfect modern wife. Which is exactly what Mili longs to be–if her husband would just come and claim her. Bollywood’s favorite director, Samir Rathod, has come to Michigan to secure a divorce for his older brother. Persuading a naïve village girl to sign the papers should be easy for someone with Samir’s tabloid-famous charm. But Mili is neither a fool nor a gold-digger. Open-hearted yet complex, she’s trying to reconcile her independence with cherished traditions. And before he can stop himself, Samir is immersed in Mili’s life–cooking her dal and rotis, escorting her to her roommate’s elaborate Indian wedding, and wondering where his loyalties and happiness lie.  This book is Dev’s first, but each of the four she has published to date are winners, so keep your eye out for this author!

Such a Pretty Face: The blurb for Gabrielle Goldsby’s lesbian romance may sound like it’s a tale of revenge-bods and vengeance, but, in truth, it really couldn’t be any further away.  It’s a story about learning to love yourself, and to find people who can see the best in you no matter what–and that is a message we all need to hear from time to time.  Mia Sanchez is a Mexican American financial adviser who has recently bought a new house with her partner of four years. She is stunned when her Brenda tells her she has accepted a 5-month job in Fiji, and that she’ll be using the time to  “think about their future together.” Mia hadn’t thought words could be more painful until Brenda followed up hers with, “You’ve really let yourself go over the last few years.”   Hurt and along, Mia finds a little comfort is staring at Ryan, the stunning blonde construction worker at Mia’s work.  Ryan has her own issues with physical beauty, in the form of a scar on her face, but neither the scar nor Mia’s weight seem to be a problem when they finally start talking.  This is a funny, insightful, and wonderfully honest book about the power of real love to see past the superficial, and to transform that holds up even on the second or third reading!


We’ll be back next week with another Resolve to Read post, but until then, feel free to stop by the Library and let us help you discover your new favorite book of 2018!

Resolve to Read: The Pura Belpré Award

2018 is a year for expanding our reading horizons, and we here at the Free for All are thrilled to be bringing you suggestions and discussions based on two different reading challenges.  This week, we’re looking at Scholastic’s Reading Resolution Challenge.  It’s a challenge geared towards younger readers, but since when should that stop anyone?  The suggestions on this list hold appeal for readers of all ages (I read to my cat on a regular basis, for example).

This post features the challenge to read a Pura Belpré Award-winning book.  The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996, and is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library (hooray for Librarians!).  It is presented annually, as the award’s website explains, to a Latino/Latina writer andLatino/Latina illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

As huge fans of #WeNeedDiverse Books, and as a Library community that revels in sharing all the cultural and personal differences that make our community such a rich one, exploring the books in this award was a real treat.  There are some stunning illustrations and moving stories to be found among the winners of the Pura Belpré Award, and we are thrilled to feature some of them here!

2017 Author Award Winner: 

Juana & Lucas, written and illustrated by Juana Medina: A spunky young girl from Colombia loves playing with her canine best friend and resists boring school activities, especially learning English, until her family tells her that a special trip is planned to an English-speaking place.  According to the award presenters, Medina “presents with breezy humor the day-to-day reflections and experiences universal to childhood—school, family and friendships—through the eyes of the invincible Juana, growing up in Bogotá with her beloved dog, Lucas. This charmingly designed book for young readers portrays the advantages—and challenges—of learning a second language.

2017 Illsutrator Award Winner: 

Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, illustrated by Raúl Gonzalez, written by Cathy Camper: Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria are living the dream–they are the proud owners of their very own garage. But when their beloved cat, Genie, goes missing, they must embark on a wild road trip through a mysterious corn maze, into the center of the earth, and down to the realm of Mictlantecuhtli. Mic’s the Aztec god of the Underworld, but even worse: he’s a catnapper! Now it’s three clever compadres against one angry, all-powerful god. How will the Lowriders ever save their cat–or themselves?  According to the award committee, “The ballpoint pen art creates a fantastical borderlands odyssey, packed with subversively playful cultural references that affirm a vibrant Chicanx cultura.”

2016 Author Award Winner: 

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, by Margarita Engle: In her memoir for young people, Margarita Engle, who was the first Latina woman to receive a Newbery Honor, tells of growing up as a child of two cultures during the Cold War. Her heart was in Cuba, her mother’s tropical island country–but most of the time she lived in Los Angeles, lonely in the noisy city and dreaming of the summers fly through the enchanted air to her beloved island. When the hostility between Cuba and the United States erupted at the Bay of Pigs Invasion, Engle’s worlds collided in the worst way possible. Would she ever get to visit her beautiful island again?  The awards committee noted that “Engle’s memoir of living in two cultures and the inability to cross the sky to visit family will resonate with youth facing similar circumstances.”

2017 Illustrator Award Winner: 

Drum dream girl : how one girl’s courage changed music: Illustrations by Rafael López; Poem by Margarita Engle: This lyrical tale follows a young Cuban girl in the 1930s as she strives to become a drummer, despite being continually reminded that only boys play the drums, and that there’s never been a female drummer in Cuba. Includes note about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl in 1930s Cuba, who became a world-renowned drummer, and Anacaona, the all-girl dance band she formed with her sisters.  The awards committee said that “Rafael López’s masterful art brings to life the drumbeats in Margarita Engle’s story. His dreamy illustrations transport us to Millo’s tropical island,”

For a full list of Pura Belpré Award winning books, check out the full list at the American Library Association’s website!

Resolve to Read: Colonial or Postcolonial Literature

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A Work of Colonial or Postcolonial Literature

A British cartoon showing imperial officers sitting atop a throne of biscuit boxes, forcing native African to bow before them–an image that largely sums up the history of imperialism in Africa

First off, what precisely does “colonial literature” or “postcolonial literature” mean?  Book Riot tackled this question in their post on the subject, but I think we could get a little more nuanced in our discussion.  Typically, “colonial literature” refers to a work written during a period of time when one country was actively participating in the colonization or imperialistic exploitation of another geographic area.  For the record, colonization means that the imperial power sent its people to live in a different place (such as the British sending British people to live in South Africa or parts of what is now the United States), but there are many sites that experienced colonialism even if they were not formal colonies.  These include places like Puerto Rico, which is governed by the United States but not granted statehood, or Nigeria, which was largely ruled without British inhabitants, but was instead a site of palm oil extraction and cash-cropping.  Colonial literature is traditionally written by the colonizers–that is, the Europeans or Americans who held the power and engaged in the practice of colonizing or exploiting another geographic area.

To use an example: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a stunning, disturbing piece of Colonial Literature, because  it A) Takes place within a site of empire (Africa) B) Discusses the practices of imperialism (in this case, both the economic and the social aspects) and C) Does not discuss a world without empire.  Conrad isn’t making an argument that everyone would be better off without empire.  He is critiquing the process and commenting on its results, but his world is one where empires exist, without question.

It is in their definition of “Postcolonial Literature” that I really want to complicate things.  Typically, Postcolonial Literature is literature written after the period of direct colonization or imperialism ends, typically by a member of the colonized people.  That is, after a country has been declared independent by their imperial rulers–for example, Uganda was declared independent of Britain in 1962, while Algeria was declared independent of France in the same year.   But that doesn’t mean that any book written in Uganda or Algeria after 1962 (or any other site of empire) is a work of post-colonial literature.  Because, in fact, “postcolonial” refers not only to a moment in history, but to a way of thinking.  Postcolonial thinking is able to understand the abusive power relationship between the colonizer and the colonized and harm it does to both peoples within a historic context.

There are two big problems with the phrase “post-colonial”.  The first is that it implies to many that the “colonial” period ended.  While this may be true in practice, many sites around the world are still grappling with the trauma, the structural inequalities, the cultural ruptures, and social stigmas that colonialism and imperialism imposed on them.  The second problem with “post-colonial” is that is that it insists on a “colonial period.”  This phrase, first, subtly reinforcing that harmful power relationship by invoking it constantly.  A number of books written by authors from countries that were once colonies or sites of empire get labeled as “post-colonial” when they have nothing to do with the imperial relationship.  They get that label based on their country’s and people’s history.  For example, R. K. Narayan‘s novels set in South India deal very little at all with issues of empire or imperialism, yet are often put forward as “postcolonial works.”  And that is a unjust as the imperial project itself.  Second, a number of books that are considered “postcolonial” in their arguments and insight, were written during the actual period of empire, like Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.  So we need to be careful with our use of the term “post-colonial” and make sure it applies to works that specifically address the problems and effects of imperialism.  These problems can be structural, political, personal, economic, cultural, or social.  But just because a book was written in India doesn’t make it a work of post-colonial literature.

As all these words might imply, fulfilling this part of the Book Riot challenge might not be easy, but it’s an incredibly impactful and eye-opening one.  The complex  issues of imperialism a very much still a part of our world and our lives, and literature allows us to access these issues in a deeply personal and meaningful way.  And, on top of that, there are some darned good books in these categories to be read!  So let’s get started…here are just a few recommendations to get you started on your exploration of colonial and post-colonial literature!

 Half a Yellow Sun : Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s multiple-award-winning book is set in Nigeria years after independence, and deals with the conflict and violence that resulted from years of British interference in Nigeria, the struggle that many of the colonized people in Nigeria endured trying to relate to each other, and the way education systems in colonized sites isolate, differentiate, and, yet, offer the potential for colonized people to escape the hardship of their lives.  It’s a difficult, beautiful, intelligent, and eye-opening book that makes really big, political issues both understandably and movingly human.

Nervous Conditions:  Tsitsi Dangarembga’s novel about two cousins growing up in Zimbabwe highlights the bizarre disparity between people depending on their relationship to imperial power, as well as the implicit misogyny inherent in imperial spaces.  In post-colonial Rhodesia (the name of the nation now known as Zimbabwe), Tambu, whose family is reeling from the death of her brother, is invited to her uncle house to attend school with her cousin, Nyasha.  The opportunity is a life-changing one, but, as Tambu will discover, is a dangerous one–especially for Nyasha, whose experience within the colonial school system is one of the most heartbreaking depictions of imperialism I can remember reading.

Passage to India: E.M. Forster’s novel is one that was, for years, considered a very early work of postcolonial fiction because it discusses the Indian independence movement, but recently, a number of readers and scholars have argued that Forester’s inability to escape his own European viewpoint makes it much more a colonial novel (which shows just how tricky this category can be!).  The story focuses on around four characters: Dr. Aziz, his British friend Mr. Cyril Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Miss Adela Quested, and the alleged assault of Miss Quested by Dr. Aziz.  Dr. Aziz’s trial brings the racial tensions in India to a boil, and leaves all the characters forever changed.  This is a challenging book that, as mentioned, is still a hot topic of literary discussion today, making it all the more worth the read.

The Man Who Would Be King: Rudyard Kipling was an imperial supporter throughout his life, even if his support was a bit ambiguous and laced with criticism in some places.  Though Kim is probably his best known work of colonial fiction, this story really drives the hubris and absurdities of imperialism home in a story that is still exciting and unsettling to this day.  Told by an unnamed narrator (Kipling himself for all intents and purposes), the story focuses on two British adventurers,  Daniel Dravot and Peachey Carnehan, who decide that India isn’t big enough for them, and set off to cheat and wheedle their way into becoming Kings of a remote area of Afghanistan (at that point a British protectorate).  Two years later, the narrator encounters Carnehan again, alone, and burdened not only with an incredible story, but with the crown that Dravot once wore on his head.  There is nothing very heroic at all about the two protagonists of this story, so don’t expect a heroic narrative here.  But it is emblematic, first of the kind of violence and arrogance that imperialism could inspire, and second of the kind of audacious, grand-narrative style fiction that was popular back home in England, that both made people frightened of natives while dreaming of conquering their land.

On Book Shaming…

One thing you won’t find in the Library.

I realize that my social media feeds probably look very different than most people’s, dear readers.  I subscribe to a lot of book review sites, book lover’s sites, library sites, reader’s advisory sites…to be brief, there’s a lot of book talk going on.  Today, when I logged in, two links were posted back-to-back that got me thinking.

The first was a page that presented a list of books that an “educated, literate” person “would never admit to reading”.   This list, bizarrely, ran the gamut from the Twilight Saga to The Protocols of Zion (a terrifying work of anti-Semitism that was celebrated by the American Nazi Party), from John Grisham’s earlier works to the Scarsdale Diet Manual (a fad diet from the 1970’s that contributed more to heart disease than it did to weight loss).

That a list would run such an enormous gamut without comment or critique was in itself…odd to me.  A lot of the books there were ones I had read in history and literature classes in college (The Valley of the Dolls was on more than one syllabus, actually).  There were a lot of books written by wom

en, or written for a primarily female audience (romance novels, etc).  A lot of them were just old.  And there’s nothing wrong with reading old books.  They may be a little anachronistic, but…so is The Fall of the House of Usher.  But I haven’t heard anyone try and use that against it.

The second link was to a list of “Great Books” that the author had lied about reading (they had told people they had read these books even though they didn’t).  And you know what?  I hadn’t read any of those books, either!

And it got me to thinking…why on earth do we attach so much shame and emotion baggage to the books we’ve read, or the books we haven’t read?  Maybe it speaks to the cultural power of books (or, at least some books) that we feel like we aren’t ‘whole’ people without having experienced it?  But I never finished War and Peace, and I’m still here.  I’ve also read Anna Karenina in the original Russian, and am no better off, either.

Never finished it.

And why are we embarrassed to admit that we have read something?  I ask this as someone who routinely advocates the Choose Your Own Adventure novels for grown-ups, so clearly, this is a genuine question on my part.  I can understand being disappointed by a book.  There have been plenty of times where I am bummed that I spent so much time on a book that wasn’t worth it.  There are times I am embarrassed that I didn’t finish a book on time.  But the implications with these lists is that our self worth is (or should be) attached to our literary choices in a way that is pretty damaging to our psyche…

These kind of lists make me worry.  I worry because there are people out there who don’t read because they don’t know what is “cool” or “right” to read.  Or they don’t read because they don’t have anyone to discuss books with them, or feed their interests.  I worry that people don’t read because other people have made fun of their reading choices.

So let me be very clear here:

At the Library, you can read whatever you want.  And no one has the right to make you feel badly about what you read, or what you don’t read.  Not even you yourself.

If it interests you, if you want to learn something, if you want to try something new, or if you want to re-discover something you loved, we are here for you, and are more than happy to help you find them. And if you don’t like it, if you didn’t learn anything stunning, if you still want to try something new, or go back to something familiar, that’s is absolutely, 100% ok.  But if you never try, or if you spend your time worrying about someone judging you for what you’re reading (or not reading), or, even worse, judging yourself, then you are never, ever, going to get something meaningful out of the book.

So let’s put all these lists about what we “should” read, or what we “shouldn’t” read, and, instead, focus on reading more: Reading outside our boundaries.  Reading to learn.  Reading to live.  Reading to make connections.  Reading to grow.  And not feeling bad about any of it.

Resolve to Read 2017

First of all, dear readers and beloved patrons–Happy New Year!  We here at the Library hope that 2017 is a year full of joy, adventure, learning, wonder, and fulfillment for you and those you love.


Like Lady Pole, I am not a big one for New Year’s Resolutions.  There is enough weight, enough hope, fear, and desire attached to this time of the year, and I don’t think it’s fair to hang any more baggage of my own on there.  More than that, I know that none of us will be the same person in February or June or November of 2017 that we are today, so trying to change that person just seems a little unfair.

So what I like to do, instead, is to help my future self feel more prepared, and stronger.  I like to make a plan to learn new things, to try out a new skill, to take in some new art….and, of course, to read.

twitterprofile400x400gWhich is why the Library is the perfect place to kick off a New Year.  We have books on “how to do” any topic you can imagine, from knitting to robot building, from small-spot gardening, to the rules of canasta, to help you develop your skills, or learn new ones in the coming year.  We also have a sizable collection of The Great Courses on CD–classes on everything from the History of the First World War to How the Brain Works.  For those who prefer visual learning, check out the crazy amounts of videos available on-demand via Hoopla, including exercise, yoga, and meditation.

You can also check out our Creativity Lab, which is constantly offering classes and opportunities; check out Kelley’s sensational blog posts to learn more about all the wonderful things you can do in the Creativity Lab, and just how vital and fulfilling making things can be.  Keep your eye on our calendar of events, as well.  We offer classes and programs throughout the year on a really quite shocking number of events, from Book Groups to yoga, from How to Use Facebook to Poetry Readings, from Intro to Microsoft Word to Coding.  And all of it is free.

For those who enjoy settling into the New Year with a good book (or two…or a tower…), we have got you covered, as well.  We’re going to be talking about Blanket Fort Reading Lists very soon, but as a way to kick-start your New Year’s Reading, there are a wealth of “Resolve to Read” challenges out there on the Internet with which the Library is more than ready and willing to help.  A few are listed below for your perusal.  Feel free to come in some time and chart your own reading course for the year, and your future self, as well.  We’ll be here to help you every step of the way!

Resolve to Read 2017 (click the title of the challenge for full details and information):

BookRiot: Read Harder


BookRiot has been hosting a Reading Challenge for 3 years now, and 2017 looks to be their biggest year yet, with author suggestions, a Goodreads reading group, and oodles of recommendations across their site.  The premise is fairly simple–there are 24 challenges (which means approximately 2 books a month)–that each help you broaden your horizons.  One challenge, for example, is to read a fantasy book.  Another is to read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.   This challenge is great because it not only encourages you to browse shelves that you never have before, but it also encourages you to try out a different perspective on the world, and to interact through reading with people you might not meet in everyday life.  And there is no better way to shape your future self than by giving that self all the opportunities possible to see what a big, creative, diverse world we inhabit.

Bustle: 10 Resolutions for a More Feminist 2017

download-1I think it’s fair to say that 2016 was not a great year for equality, tolerance, respect, or inclusion.  But rather than yell about it on Facebook, or yell at the TV, or…yell in general, I think it’s time we tried to make things better.  And books are a sensational way to do that.  Literature can touch people in a way that Facebook can’t.  They can speak to a person’s psyche in a way that awkward dinner conversations will never be able to do.  And they can give you the courage to change the world–or, at least, your world.   That is why Bustle‘s reading challenge is so neat–it ties reading into history, the present, and the future, offering concrete steps to exploring feminism, women’s writing, and women’s place in literature, in small, bite-sized chunks.

Girl XOXO: The Master List of 2017 Reading Challenges

2017readingchallengesOk, I was going to draw from this list to populate mine here, but there are too many good ones, and too much fun to be had looking through them. If you are looking for a reading challenge by genre, you’ll find it here.  If you are looking for a reading challenge by social cause, religion, subject, or author, you’ll find it here.  If you’re challenging yourself to read a specific number of chapters or pages or books, you’ll find ways to count that here.  So go to this list, and peruse all the potential reading challenges the new year holds–and we’ll be here to help you make it a reality!

Happy New Year!

Saturdays @ the South: Multi-tasking with your Reading Resolutions

Yup, more Calvin and Hobbes, because couldn’t fit all the New Year-related strips in last week’s post.

Last week, I introduced several guided reading challenge possibilities for those of you who wanted to make a resolution to read in 2016. Our wonderful primary blog contributor Arabella also introduced the concept of Hermitage Week. Personally, my reading hermitage runs the entire month of January, instead of just one week, thus my blanket fort is perpetually erected and ready for snow days or any other lengthy reading time. This means that I try to have a book list at the ready for my Hermitage Week (Month) needs. It also is a great time to get a solid lead on tackling those reading resolutions.

With that in mind, I’m breaking down the most intense of the challenges, BookRiot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge, with an infographic of three possible selections for each of 23 out of the 24 categories.* Hopefully this list provides not only some fuel for the reading challenge fire, but also a list of “hunker down and just read” possibilities as well. One thing I hope you notice is that many of the books suggested here can apply to several categories. For example, one of the “Read a book over 500 pages long” suggestions will also cover the “Read a horror book” category. A couple of the “Read a book out loud to someone else” books also covers “Read a book under 100 pages.” One of the “Read a food memoir” books also covers the “Read a collection of essays” category, and so on. BookRiot gives kudos to those resourceful multi-taskers who use the same book for multiple categories, so don’t feel compelled to read a different book for each category. This will allow you the space to accomplish your reading goal but still enjoy your reading and leave yourself time to read other books that are unrelated to a challenge. Remember when I recommended resolving to be kind to yourself? This is a great way to put that into practice!

See, Calvin already knows how to be kind to himself, though it’s not necessarily a path I’d recommend…

To help you further, I’ve put together a “Resolving to Read” Pinterest board that has links to all the books shown in the infographic below. They are all available through the Peabody Library (a majority are available directly through the South Branch) and/or Overdrive, so all you have to do is click on the cover in Pinterest and you’ll be taken to the book in our catalog. If none of the books mentioned here suit your fancy, feel free to stop into the library and discuss additional possibilities. We are always ready to talk book recommendations with our great patrons! And if that’s not enough, the New York Public Library has also compiled a list of suggestions, most of which are different from the ones I’ve suggested, so you’ll have plenty to choose.

Hopefully, even if you don’t take up a reading challenge, you’ll still find something worthwhile to read on this list sometime this year or in the future. Plus, these books will make great company during your reading hermitage, however many you decide to tackle or however long your hermitage is. Above all, dear readers, reading is meant to be savored and enjoyed. There’s still a day left to the “official” Hermitage Week, so feel free to hang out in your book fort (or armchair, bed, couch, floor, bean bag chair, etc.) and linger over some particularly engrossing passages. Till next week, I’ll be in my fort…

*The notable exception here is “Read a book originally published in the decade you were born.” Our patron base is as varied as our reading tastes and I don’t presume to guess the age of anyone reading this blog or tackling a book challenge. Should you require some help tracking down a book from the decade you were born, feel free to stop in and ask! We’re always happy to help! Alternately, you can check out Goodread’s list of best books by decades.

Saturdays @ the South: On Resolving to Read

I miss Calvin & Hobbes… so much.

With the bulk of the holidays over and the ball getting ready to drop on another year gone by, thoughts inevitably turn towards resolutions. I tend to believe that the resolutions made accompanied by champagne on the 31st (or when you’re drunk from sleepiness as you fight to stay awake until midnight) tend not to be the ones that last. So with a little time left in the year, it might be time to start thinking about what you’d like to accomplish in 2016, if of course, you’re even into that sort of thing. For us bookish people, we tend to make reading resolutions.

I’ve made a couple of reading resolutions for 2016. The first, is to acquaint myself with YA fiction. This is a vast section of books with which I’m completely unfamiliar and I’d like to rectify it for two reasons: 1) as a librarian, I want to be able to recommend books to all of our great patrons, including those patrons interested in YA titles; 2) there is an enormous array of YA books in all genres and I’m certain that there are great books I know I’ll love just waiting to be discovered. I don’t want to deprive myself of a new and exciting reading experience. I’m also going to give a “Clean your Reader” challenge, inspired by Entomology of a Bookworm, a try. So many books on my Kindle get a little neglected when up against the physical books on my personal shelves and the library’s shelves. It’s time to give those books their fair shake! (Full disclosure: I’m probably going to borrow a few library books from Overdrive as part of the challenge, because part of the fun of a challenge is keeping things interesting.) Lastly, I resolve to let myself read for pleasure, which means if either of the first two challenges aren’t working for me I reserve the right to stop and read something else. Life’s too short not to enjoy reading!

Bill Watterson is so wise.


For those of you who might be considering a resolution that involves reading in some form, there are plenty of options. For some, the resolution might be to pick up the habit of reading again. For others, it may be resolving to push the boundaries of what they typically read. For example, someone who consistently reads non-fiction might challenge themselves to read a story or someone who only reads hard-copy books might resolve to read an e-book or an audiobook. Fortunately, if you want to resolve to read but you’re having trouble coming up with a specific resolution that might be achievable for you, there are plenty of different places to turn. With that in mind, instead of recommending specific books this week, I’m going to offer you some ready-made challenges that you can adapt to your needs or just use as inspiration for your own personal reading resolutions:


Goodreads Reading Challenge

This is the simplest of the challenges and the easiest to personalize. Enter how many books you want to read, mark them as read on the site as you go through the year and Goodreads will track your progress and let you know if you’re on target, ahead or behind in your goal. The caveat to this challenge is you must be a member of Goodreads. While Goodreads is free to use and I find it a great way to track book lists and see what my friends are reading, the site is owned by Amazon. I’m not here to render any opinion on Amazon, but this may be an issue for some, so I want to be upfront about who owns the site. The 2016 Reading Challenge hasn’t been activated on the site yet, but you can peruse what people did for the 2015 challenge, including the many groups that gathered on the site to chat about challenges, book ideas and offer support.

Five Great Books

Not a challenge per se, Public Radio International put together a list of “five great books you should think about reading in 2016.” So if you’re having trouble thinking about reading possibilities in the new year, you can use this list as it’s own challenge. I’m a fan of any list that includes a history of libraries and have already put a couple of these books on my to-read list for next year.

2016 Reading Challenge

PopSugar has put together their reading challenge for 2016. Rather than a specific set of titles or a set number of books to read, they’ve compiled a list of general book descriptions and you find the titles that best fit into those categories. A challenge like this is a great way to get out of your comfort zone a little but still hone in on books you think you’ll enjoy. They even have it in a printable format so you can post the list somewhere that will remind you to do it and track your progress.

#ReadHarder Challenge

For a more intense reading list, there is the ultimate book challenge put out by Book Riot: the Read Harder Challenge. This is similar to PopSugar’s list but designed to push reading boundaries and get people who love books to read out of their comfort zone, to expose themselves to viewpoints they might not have considered, but often still end up enjoying. Book Riot also offers a printable and tons of social media support including a group on Goodreads, a Twitter hashtag (#ReadHarder) and even an in-person book group (if, perchance, you’re reading our humble little blog in the NYC area…)

To keep things balanced, here’s a thoughtful counterpoint on not doing reading challenges, though, it its own way, this article can be construed as a challenge in and of itself.

As you think about what you will make of the coming year, dear readers, remember that everyone’s resolutions are different and personal. What works for others may not work for you so if nothing else, resolve to be kind to yourself. Should you choose to participate in an existing challenge or make up a challenge of your own, please know that here at the library, we’re always ready and willing to offer you suggestions to help you with your reading goals, no matter the time of year.


Happy New Year!