If you're looking to spice things up with a reading challenge for 2016, you've got plenty to choose from. The cat is already out of the bag on Book Riot's Read Harder 2016, and PopSugar has waded into the fray as well. To add to these great reading dares, I am pleased to announce the first ever #BustleReads Challenge. I've listed all the details below, so there's just one thing I have to ask: What are you going to read in 2016?
The #BustleReads Challenge for 2016 has 20 items, and I've provided at least one suggestion for each. Please share your own ideas with your friends and family — and on social media with the #BustleReads hashtag — because although I'd love you to say that you found your new favorite book thanks to my recommendations, this challenge is all about diversity. Sure, it would be fantastic if everyone read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, but in the interest of true diversity, I want to see people reading other African writers, such as Nnedi Okorafor, Helen Oyeyemi, Bessie Head, and Buchi Emecheta.
In the same vein, I encourage you to use the #BustleReads Challenge for 2016 to expand your list of read books. Many of the items listed in this challenge appear on other task lists for the upcoming year. So while you could read only one book by a trans* writer, or by an African writer, or which is set in the Middle East, it may be more fulfilling to not allow yourself to double up. Why? Because you'll read more books by more writers. Going back to my original example, it's great to be familiar with Adichie, but it's better to know a wide range of writers from the African continent.
Still, the rules are pretty loosey-goosey. If you want to double up on some of the items — and, say, choose one book to count for items 14 through 16 — that's totally cool, so long as it keeps you reading. The same goes for "counting" books on this and any other reading challenges you do.
Here are the 20 tasks on the #BustleReads Challenge for 2016.
1. Read A Book Written By A Woman Under 25
This may seem like a pretty limited category, but there are plenty of great titles to choose from. Consider Helen Oyeyemi's The Icarus Girl, for starters. Other possibilities include Carson McCuller's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, and Zadie Smith's White Teeth.
2. Read A Book About Non-Western History
For those of you who are wondering, non-Western history means anything concerning African, Asian, South American, and indigenous cultures. I've suggested Janice P. Nimura's microhistory Daughters of the Samurai, but this is a very broad category, and there are plenty of fantastic books out there. You might also consider Michael Axworthy's Revolutionary Iran or S.C. Gwynne's Empire of the Summer Moon.
3. Read A Book Of Essays
I sort of fell in love with essay collections over the last few years. The great thing about this category is that it always has new and interesting books coming out. Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay is a great place to start. Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad about My Neck is a personal favorite of mine, as is Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl.
4. Read A Book About An Indigenous Culture
There are indigenous peoples all over the world, on every continent except Antarctica. On the fiction front, Richard van Camp's The Lesser Blessed, Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, and Doris Pilkington's Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence are great choices.
5. Read A Book Before You See The Movie
If you're planning to see Whiskey Tango Foxtrot — because Tina Fey, amirite? — you should really read the source material first: Kim Barker's Taliban Shuffle. Other upcoming adaptations you could brush up on: The BFG, The Little Prince, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
6. Read A YA Book By An Author Of Color
There is a whole bunch of YA written by and about people of color. Unfortunately, it often gets whitewashed, as characters of color are replaced by white people on book covers. Ugh. Read more YA by writers of color — like Edwidge Danticat, whose novel Untwine is the fantastic story of a pair of multi-talented first-generation American twins — and call out whitewashing on YA covers. Seriously.
7. Read A Book Set In The Middle East
Literature of the Middle East is glorious, and much of it has deep roots in poetic tradition. Unfortunately, aside from Khaled Hosseini and Reza Aslan, most Middle Eastern writers go largely ignored in the U.S. Rabih Alameddine's An Unnecessary Woman was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist in 2014. You might also consider Elif Şafak's The Bastard of Istanbul or Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran.
8. Read A Book About Women In War
We're finally starting to see more books about women in wartime, which is great. If you're interested in women during World War II, consider Ravensbrück by Sarah Helm, or Lady Death by Steve Valiant. Other options include Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe and They Fought Like Demons by DeAnne Blanton and Laura M. Cook.
9. Read a Graphic Novel Written by a Woman
I've talked a lot about graphic memoirs by Alison Bechdel and Allie Brosh, and their books are 100-percent valid for this item. If you're looking for something a little different, though, consider Emily Carroll's horror collection Through the Woods or Noelle Stevenson's Nimona.
10. Read A Book About An Immigrant Or Refugee To The U.S.
There is so much great immigrant fiction out there. One of my personal favorites is Julie Otsuka's The Buddha in the Attic, a short novel about Japanese picture brides. Avi's City of Orphans, Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, and Cristina Henriquez's The Book of Unknown Americans also come highly recommended.
11. Read A Children's Book Aloud
Reading to kids is super important. If you don't have children of your own, consider volunteering at a local school or library in order to complete this part of the Challenge. As far as picture books go, literally anything by Shirley Hughes is fantastic. Ditto Jan Thomas, Lillian Hoban, Tomie dePaola, and Mo Willems.
12. Reread Your Favorite Book From Your Childhood
I have a very special relationship with Jean Van Leeuwen's Emma Bean. It's the picture book that basically defined my childhood, OK? Whatever that book was for you, you should find it and reread it.
13. Read A Memoir By Someone Who Identifies As LGBTQIA
Back when SCOTUS handed down its ruling on marriage equality, I curated a list of 30 LGBTQIA memoirs to celebrate. Redefining Realness by Janet Mock is there, along with 29 other great books for you to choose from.
14. Read A Work Of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction Written By A Woman
Post-apocalyptic books by women are different from those penned by men. If you've already read Nnedi Okorafor's Who Fears Death, check out this list of six other novels that would make great options for this task.
15. Read A Feminist Sci-Fi Novel
Feminist sci-fi is its own genre, believe it or not, and Octavia Butler is one of its biggest names. Kindred centers on a young California woman who finds herself flung about between the modern day and the antebellum South. Other recommendations for this item include Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood and The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin.
16. Read The First Book In A Series You've Never Read
So, obviously, everyone's choice will be different here, but allow me to recommend some series you may have overlooked until now. The Dragonriders of Pern, Anne McCaffrey's epic adventure, begins with Dragonflight. If you lean to sci-fi more than fantasy, check out Octavia Butler's The Parable of the Sower, the first novel in her Earthseed duology. Finally, those who love historical fiction should check out Hilary Mantel's Thomas Cromwell trilogy, which begins with Wolf Hall.
17. Read A Book Set In Africa, By An Author From Africa
You've probably already heard of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and that's great. If you've already read, like, everything by her, check out something from one of these writers instead: Chinua Achebe, Mariama Bâ, or Yasmina Khadra. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, so please share your recommendations with everyone on social media.
18. Read A Translated Book
Foreign literature is too often overlooked in the English-speaking world, but there's so much of it out there! You're probably already familiar with big names like Haruki Murakami and Elena Ferrante, but what about Herte Müller, Orhan Pamuk, Francoise Sagan, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Clarice Lispector, Ma Jian, or Tove Jansson? I'm just scratching the surface here!
19. Read A Contemporary Collection Of Poetry
For some reason, not many people read poetry — myself among them. But Claudia Rankine's Citizen is the poetry book you should bump to the top of your to-read list. It clocks in at only 169 pages, and you can listen to the audio book in under two hours. Other interesting poets to pick up: Natasha Trethewy, Cathy Park Hong, and Tracy K. Smith.
20. Read A Book By A Modernist Woman Writer
God bless the modernists. Back when everyone was trying to write the Great American Novel, women writers founded salons and other creative spaces. H.D.'s autobiographical novel Asphodel explores her experiences as an American expat in pre-war Europe. Other possibilities here include Djuna Barnes' Nightwood, Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness.
Image: Dawn Foster/Bustle