Despite being a millennial, I’m personally not inclined to navigate new social media platforms. In truth I’ve slowly been withdrawing from sharing personal things on any platform aside from the occasional health update and have chosen to share my love for books and literature. Last year, among the bookish community, came The StoryGraph. A social media platform similar to Goodreads where readers can track their reading. Unlike Goodreads, through The StoryGraph you can see analysis and data breakdown from your reading experience such as graphs that determine the genre, pace, page count, and format. The StoryGraph also offers multiple reading challenges, and options to accurately rate your readings. These are things my little literary heart responds to. This relatively new platform also markets itself to being fully featured Amazon free experience while Goodreads a competitor site is owned by the American multinational company. Now in full transparency, I have continued to use my Goodreads account and plan on for the foreseeable future.
Now as I mentioned above, The StoryGraph offers multiple reading challenges aside from the once-a-year reading challenge that Goodreads offers. And like most bookish nerds have decided to take part in The Genre Challenge, which began on January 1, 2022, and will end on December 31, 2022. Sorting through the prompts and reading recommendations was an absolute blast; however, I did notice that many of the books presented in each category were inaccurately placed not fitting the perimeters of said prompt. In total there are only ten books to complete this challenge and to up the pressure on myself I wanted each choice to be books that I already own. The question is will I succeed in that portion of the challenge, or will I be hitting the bookstores?
📖 Prompt One: Read a romance novel written by a Black author.
Book: Open Water – Written by Caleb Azumah Nelson – Published February 4, 2021
Summary: Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
A book also placed on this list, that I’ve already read and loved is, The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. If you’re looking for a remarkably beautiful yet gut wrenching read this is the book for you.
📖 Prompt Two: An essay collection by a new-to-you author.
Book: The White Album – Written by: Joan Didion – Published: In 1979
Summary: First published in 1979, The White Album records indelibly the upheavals and aftermaths of the 1960s. Examining key events, figures, and trends of the era–including Charles Manson, the Black Panthers, and the shopping mall–through the lens of her own spiritual confusion, Joan Didion helped to define mass culture as we now understand it. Written with a commanding sureness of tone and linguistic precision, The White Album is a central text of American reportage and a classic of American autobiography.
📖 Prompt Three: A classic written by an author of colour.
Book: Giovanni’s Room – Written by: James Baldwin – Published: In 1956
Summary: David, a young American in 1950s Paris, is waiting for his fiancée to return from vacation in Spain. But when he meets Giovanni, a handsome Italian barman, the two men are drawn into an intense affair. After three months David’s fiancée returns and, denying his true nature, he rejects Giovanni for a ‘safe’ future as a married man. His decision eventually brings tragedy.
Filled with passion, regret and longing, this story of a fated love triangle has become a landmark of gay writing. James Baldwin caused outrage as a black author writing about white homosexuals, yet for him the issues of race, sexuality and personal freedom were eternally intertwined.
📖 Prompt Four: A memoir or autobiography by a trans/non-binary author
Book: All Boys Aren’t Blue – Written by: George M. Johnson – Published: In 2020
Summary: In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
📖 Prompt Five: A play published after 1980.
Book/Play: Speed the Plow – Written by: David Mamet – Published: In 1988
Description: A satirical dissection of the American movie business.
📖 Prompt Six: A non-fiction book about nature.
Book: Wild – Written by Cheryl Strayed – Published: March 20, 2012
Summary: At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.
Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
📖 Prompt Seven: A cozy mystery novel.
Book: Death in Her Hand – Written by: Ottessa Moshfegh – Published June 23, 2020
A novel of haunting metaphysical suspense about an elderly widow whose life is upturned when she finds a cryptic note on a walk in the woods that ultimately makes her question everything about her new home.
📖 Prompt Eight: A true crime novel written by a woman.
Book: Know My Name – Written by: Chanel Miller – Published: September 24, 2019
Universally acclaimed, rapturously reviewed, and an instant New York Times bestseller, Chanel Miller’s breathtaking memoir “gives readers the privilege of knowing her not just as Emily Doe, but as Chanel Miller the writer, the artist, the survivor, the fighter.” (The Wrap). Her story of trauma and transcendence illuminates a culture biased to protect perpetrators, indicting a criminal justice system designed to fail the most vulnerable, and, ultimately, shining with the courage required to move through suffering and live a full and beautiful life.
Know My Name will forever transform the way we think about sexual assault, challenging our beliefs about what is acceptable and speaking truth to the tumultuous reality of healing. Entwining pain, resilience, and humor, this memoir will stand as a modern classic.
📖 Prompt Nine: A contemporary or literary fiction novel by an Indigenous author.
Book: The Only Good Indians – Written by: Stephen Graham Jones – Published: July 14, 2020
From New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a novel that is equal parts psychological horror and cutting social commentary on identity politics and the American Indian experience. Fans of Jordan Peele and Tommy Orange will love this story as it follows the lives of four American Indian men and their families, all haunted by a disturbing, deadly event that took place in their youth. Years later, they find themselves tracked by an entity bent on revenge, totally helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
📖 Prompt Ten: A book about politics outside of your home country.
Book: Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and memory in Northern Ireland – Written by: Patrick Radden Keefe – Published: February 26, 2019
In December 1972, Jean McConville, a thirty-eight-year-old mother of ten, was dragged from her Belfast home by masked intruders, her children clinging to her legs. They never saw her again. Her abduction was one of the most notorious episodes of the vicious conflict known as The Troubles. Everyone in the neighborhood knew the I.R.A. was responsible. But in a climate of fear and paranoia, no one would speak of it. In 2003, five years after an accord brought an uneasy peace to Northern Ireland, a set of human bones was discovered on a beach. McConville’s children knew it was their mother when they were told a blue safety pin was attached to the dress–with so many kids, she had always kept it handy for diapers or ripped clothes.
Patrick Radden Keefe’s mesmerizing book on the bitter conflict in Northern Ireland and its aftermath uses the McConville case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war, a war whose consequences have never been reckoned with. The brutal violence seared not only people like the McConville children, but also I.R.A. members embittered by a peace that fell far short of the goal of a united Ireland and left them wondering whether the killings they committed were not justified acts of war, but simple murders.
From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army, to Gerry Adams, who negotiated the peace but betrayed his hardcore comrades by denying his I.R.A. past–Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.
In conclusion compiling this list, I realized that multiple books could fill the requirements for multiple prompts. However, I have been wanting to read this selection of books and this challenge is merely a fun exercise in doing so. In total I have six out of the ten books on this list, which means I’ll be going book shopping soon. Oh shucks! My question to you, will you also be partaking in this reading adventure? And if so, which books are you planning to select? Let me know!
Prompt and story summaries gathered from The StoryGraph.