Do you want to read outside your comfort zone in 2020? Take Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge—a list of 24 categories of books that you may not have read before. To keep you motivated, we’ll feature one of the categories each week in the e-newsletter along with suggestions from our collection and beyond. We’re going to feature the categories in order of how they appear on the list, but feel free to tackle the them in any order you like! For the full list from Book Riot, click here.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery
Inland by Tea Obrecht
In the lawless, drought-ridden lands of the Arizona Territory in 1893, two extraordinary lives collide. Nora is an unflinching frontierswoman, alone in a house abandoned by the men in her life–her husband, who has gone in search of water for the parched household, and her two older sons, who have gone in search of their father after his return is delayed. Nora is biding her time with her youngest son, a boy with a bad eye who is convinced that a mysterious beast is stalking the land around their home, and a seventeen year old maid named Josie, her husband’s cousin who communes with spirits. Lurie is the son of a dead dockworker, a former outlaw, and a man haunted by ghosts–he sees lost souls who want something from him, and he finds reprieve from their longing in an unexpected relationship that inspires an epic journey across the West. The way in which Nora and Lurie’s stories intertwine is the surprise and suspense of this brilliant novel. Mythical, lyrical, and sweeping in scope, Inland showcases all of Tea Obreht’s talents as a writer, as she subverts and reimagines the classical American genre of the Western, making it entirely–and unforgettably–her own.
News of the world by Paulette Jiles
In the aftermath of the Civil War, an aging itinerant news reader agrees to transport a young captive of the Kiowa back to her people in this exquisitely rendered, morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction from the author of Enemy Women that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust. In the wake of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings from newspapers to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence. In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows. Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land. Arriving in San Antonio, the reunion is neither happy nor welcome. The captain must hand Johanna over to an aunt and uncle she does not remember–strangers who regard her as an unwanted burden. A respectable man, Captain Kidd is faced with a terrible choice: abandon the girl to her fate or become–in the eyes of the law–a kidnapper himself
The Last Tudor by Philippa Gregory
The latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory features one of the most famous girls in history, Lady Jane Grey, and her two sisters, each of whom dared to defy her queen. Seventeen-year-old Jane Grey was queen of England for nine days. Her father and his allies crowned her instead of the dead king’s half-sister Mary Tudor, who quickly mustered an army, claimed her throne, and locked Jane in the Tower of London. When Jane refused to betray her Protestant faith, Mary sent her to the executioner’s block, where Jane transformed her father’s greedy power-grab into tragic martyrdom. “Learn you to die,” was the advice Jane wrote to her younger sister Katherine, who has no intention of dying. She intends to enjoy her beauty and her youth and fall in love. But she is heir to the insecure and infertile Queen Mary and then to her sister Queen Elizabeth, who will never allow Katherine to marry and produce a Tudor son. When Katherine’s pregnancy betrays her secret marriage she faces imprisonment in the Tower, only yards from her sister’s scaffold. “Farewell, my sister,” writes Katherine to the youngest Grey sister, Mary. A beautiful dwarf, disregarded by the court, Mary keeps family secrets, especially her own, while avoiding Elizabeth’s suspicious glare. After seeing her sisters defy the queen, Mary is acutely aware of her own danger, but determined to command her own life. What will happen when the last Tudor defies her ruthless and unforgiving cousin Queen Elizabeth?
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
A tale inspired by the tragic first-century massacre of hundreds of Jewish people at Masada presents the stories of a hated daughter, a baker’s wife, a girl disguised as a warrior, and a medicine woman who keep doves and secrets while Roman soldiers draw near.
Paris by Edward Rutherford
Presents a multigenerational saga detailing the history of Paris, from its founding under the Romans to the hotbed of cultural activity during the 1920s and 1930s.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
A modern masterpiece from one of Italy’s most acclaimed authors, My Brilliant Friend is a rich, intense, and generous-hearted story about two friends, Elena and Lila. Ferrante’s inimitable style lends itself perfectly to a meticulous portrait of these two women that is also the story of a nation and a touching meditation on the nature of friendship. The story begins in the 1950s, in a poor but vibrant neighborhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else. As they grow, as their paths repeatedly diverge and converge, Elena and Lila remain best friends whose respective destinies are reflected and refracted in the other. They are likewise the embodiments of a nation undergoing momentous change. Through the lives of these two women, Ferrante tells the story of a neighborhood, a city, and a country as it is transformed in ways that, in turn, also transform the relationship between her protagonists, the unforgettable Elena and Lila. Ferrante is the author of three previous works of critically acclaimed fiction: The Days of Abandonment, Troubling Love , and The Lost Daughter . With this novel, the first in a trilogy, she proves herself to be one of Italy’s great storytellers. She has given her readers a masterfully plotted page-turner, abundant and generous in its narrative details and characterizations, that is also a stylish work of literary fiction destined to delight her many fans and win new readers to her fiction.
Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
In early 1900s Korea, Sunja is the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family. Her unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them all. Deserted by her lover, Sunja is saved when a young tubercular minister offers to marry and bring her to Japan. Caught in the indifferent arc of history, through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, Sunja’s family members are bound together by deep roots as they face enduring questions of faith, family, and identity
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted. Their first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell clash in Henry VIII’s turbulent court.