I’ll Be Reading Harder This Year

I am often asked how I manage to read so much, and I try to make some offhand comment about it, but the truth is I don’t really know. I guess it comes down to the fact that I love reading so much that I make time for it without even realizing.

But at the beginning of every year, I’m filled with dread. What if I don’t read enough? This is not a matter of what others will think; it is simply a matter that I’m afraid I won’t have a good reading-year. My second year of university was like that, in a way; then I did the Mixing It Up Challenge with Ellie the next year. It was nice.


BookRiot had their inaugural Read Harder Challenge last year, and although I’m not obsessed with challenges at all, it looked so much fun that I decided to do it this year!

Here are some thoughts on what I’ll be reading – and I would love some suggestions! (There is an awesome GoodReads group here, but I’ve highlighted in maroon the ones I really need help with!)

  1. A Horror Book

The Three by Sarah Lotz – she’s a South African author but this is internationally published. I own a physical copy of this book, and I’m trying to read more books that I already own, so I’m pretty set on this one.


  1. A Non-Fiction Book About Science

Sex in the Sea by Mara J. Hardt, which I’m reviewing for NetGalley!


I’m also considering Bad Science by Ben Goldacre, but can anyone vouch for its readability?

  1. A Collection of Essays

It’s between The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks (I don’t know if it qualifies as a collection of essays) and In Light of India by Octavio Paz.

  1. Read a Book Out Loud To Someone

I’d probably read it to my dad and/or my boyfriend. They both love audiobooks and I’ve had a lot of success reading to GeekBoy. It would have to be something short though. I’m thinking of something by Roald Dahl because neither of them have read any of his children’s books (shock, horror)! My dad recently read Boy: Tales of Childhood and loved it.


  1. A Middle Grade Book

I have a whole bunch of middle grade books that I’ve been meaning to read, it’s just a matter of deciding which one first… Black Beauty (although I vaguely remember reading this when I was younger), Peter Pan (see parentheses), The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (this book is thick, is it really MG?!).

  1. A Biography (not an autobiography or memoir)

I don’t have any ideas for this at the moment! I have a read a lot of medical biographies, and a lot of WWII narratives, so I’m looking for something different.

  1. A Dystopian or Post-Apocalyptic Novel

I’ll probably read The Army of the Lost by Lily Herne. A world where the government is in cahoots with zombies is definitely post-apocalyptic! Or Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

  1. A Book Originally Published in the Decade You Were Born (90s)

Wild Swans by Jung Cheng – a family friend who works at the local museum actually rescued this book from being pulped, he then read it and decided it was awesome. I’ve heard great things! The book is in a state, but readable.

  1. An Audiobook That Has Won an Audie Award

Options so far include The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I’ve got an Audible membership now, and my dad and I listen to together, so whatever I choose would hopefully be enjoyed by him, too.

  1. A book Over 500 Pages Long

I don’t have anything picked out for this right now, but I just finished reading All The Light We Cannot See (531 pages in my copy) and I’m busy reading Cress (550 pages in my copy), sooooo I think I’ll be fine?

  1. A Book Under 100 Pages

Erm… I’ll find one. I have a lot of those Penguin Little Black Classics so I’ll probably pick one of those.

  1. A Book By Or About A Person Who Identifies As Transgender

I’ve been approved on NetGalley for The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, so I’ll go with that.


  1. A Book Set in the Middle East

I’ve read a LOT of these; but I do sometimes feel they all have the same point of view and the same biases. So I’ll be looking for something unique. Suggestions?

  1. A Book by an Author from South East Asia

Either Fish Eats Lion or Selected Myanmar Short Stories. Both are short story collections I bought in Singapore in Myanmar respectively. There are a few other books I could consider but given that I want to read more books I already own, these are first in line.

  1. Historical Fiction Set Before 1900

I’ll read Skin by Ilka Tampke which is set in AD 43 – I win! 😉


  1. The First Book in a Series by a Person Of Colour

Legend by Marie Lu or An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir – whichever I manage to source first.

  1. A Non-Superhero Comic That Debuted In The Last Three Years

I don’t knoooooow! I would actually love to read Ms Marvel, although I haven’t seen it stocked anywhere in South Africa and international delivery has been arduous lately.


  1. A book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.

Aren’t a whole lot of books being adapted this year? I’ll have to pick one.

  1. A Non-Fiction Book About Feminism

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay – I already own a copy of this book thanks to Nahree, who was my Ninja Bookswap partner earlier this year!

  1. A Book About Religion (fiction or non-fiction)

I kind of burned myself out on Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury and Dee Henderson in high school, so some other suggestions, please. I don’t want anything that’s going to bash me in any direction, or patronise me, or make me feel shit. I think this one will be the hardest task for me this year.

  1. A Book About Politics (in your own country or another)

I’d actually like to read something general, not limited to a single country, but I don’t know what.

  1. A Food Memoir

I think the only one I’ve read was Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I’m seriously not big into food memoirs so here’s hoping I can find one that’s fantastic.

  1. A Play

Oh my. I’ve read “Master Harrold”… and the boys and Road to Mecca, both by Athol Fugard (the best!) and then loads of Shakespeare. I need suggestions!

  1. A Book With A Main Character That Has A Mental Illness

Impulse by Ellen Hopkins, as I already own it.


  1. Great idea. I have also just read “all the light we cannot see”. I loved it. Happy reading. X

    1. barefootmegz says:

      I found it quite interesting actually, because it was so subtle and soft but it really took my breath away too.

  2. A couple of suggestions:

    20. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. I loved her Year of Wonders about the plague and I usually don’t like historical fiction. This one is about a haggadah, the book Jews use at the Passover seder. The story spans the 15C to the present and includes events in the history of several religions. I learned a ton and was very entertained. Some people thought it was similar to but not as good as DaVinci Code which I refused to read. Come on people, Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize winner. 22. Food memoirs are my true love. Sadly, there are not enough but I would recommend Marcus Samuelson’s Yes, Chef at the top of the list. He was born in Ethiopia, adopted by a Swedish couple and is now hugely successful in the US, including on the Food Network. He is brilliant and works very, very hard so his path is fascinating, including coming to grips with issues about his African family. Another is Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones and Butter, a chef’s highly unusual and gritty journey to enormous success but definitely on her own unconventional terms. Have a fabulous year of reading! Can’t wait to hear all about it.  Ask me about sailing around the world with Semester at Sea! http://semesteratsea.org

    WordPress.com | barefootmegz posted: “I am often asked how I manage to read so much, and I try to make some offhand comment about it, but the truth is I don’t really know. I guess it comes down to the fact that I love reading so much that I make time for it without even realizing.But at the” | |

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Thanks a lot Marjorie! These suggestions look so great, I’m going to have a hard time choosing! People of the Book sounds especially awesome because I don’t think I’ve ever read anything similar.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I’m enjoying your choices, Megz!

    Here are some suggestions to round out your reading.

    3. Sacks stories are essays and worth reading. You may enjoy Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer or Wild Comfort by Kathleen Dean Moore.

    5. Secret Garden was a favorite as a kid, but Huck Finn’s language captured my heart as an adult.

    6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, if you haven’t read it yet.

    11. The art of stillness : adventures in going nowhere / Pico Iyer ; photography by Eydis Einarsdóttir.

    13. Between Worlds Paperback by Marilyn R. Gardner

    Your bookish friend, Stephanie

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Thank you for your suggestions, Stephanie! I think I’ll go with Sacks, then.
      I have actually read Henrietta Lacks – it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!

      1. Stephanie says:

        22. Forked: A New Standard for American Dining by Saru Jayaraman

        Saru Jayaraman’s forthcoming book on restaurant workers will explore the hidden side of labor in the food industry—from line cooks to waitstaff. Jayaraman is the author of Behind the Kitchen Door and the co-founder of Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC United).

        Happy reading, Megz!

  4. Hope says:

    22. The man who ate everything by Jeffrey steingarten

    1. barefootmegz says:

      I’ve never heard of that – adding it to my list of options, thank you!! I find most food memoirs I’ve seen are by chefs, so one by a food critic sounds different!

  5. Lwazi says:

    I love your list of categories, it’s very broad and inter-sectional so to say, A book set in the Middle East book I’ve read is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleed Hossieni.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      I loved A Thousand Splendid Suns! Have you read The Kite Runner, by the same author? It’s also quite incredible, though visceral.

      1. Lwazi says:

        Heard about it, planing on reading. I find his writing heavy, but I suppose it was fitting. I’m reading something ‘light’ for a while. Will get to read it. BTW I loved Mariam Phalime’s book, recommended it to ALL SA med students currently in China.

      2. barefootmegz says:

        Oh yes, his books are heavy! Kite Runner I found to be particularly emotionally taxing – but beautiful. I’m so glad you loved Postmortem. I wish it were compulsory reading for all South African med students. It’s so GENUINE!

  6. Tessa says:

    Station Eleven is wonderful! I read it not too long ago and absolutely loved it. This is a great list! I also love The Secret Garden. If I had to choose for that one, I might go with The Shadow Children series (including Among the Hidden) by Haddix. For a book set in the Middle East, I’m reading Reading Lolita in Tehran which has been an interesting look at the parallels between great literary works (Nabokov, Austen, James, etc) and life for the women in Iran during the reign of the Islamic Republic in the 90s. It’s a memoir written by a university professor who has a book club with 7 of her former students. I like it so far.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      You know, I’ve always been intrigued by Reading Lolita in Tehran. I’ve just always been worried by such widely loved books, I guess! I had a bad experience with Three Cups of Tea and for some reason I always think that Reading Lolita in Tehran sounds similar. That’s not a fair generalisation, of course. If I can source the book, I may give it a try after all. Thank you!

  7. Zed says:

    Hi! I’m new here.
    I used to be a really big reader, and then when I started Medicine, I slowly started reading less and less. I’m feeling more inspired to read more though. Even non fiction, which I never thought I’d be in to.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Hi Zed! When I started Medicine I also read very little, and only started picking it up again in my second year. Although I had to budget time for it, reading actually played a huge part in maintaining normalcy for me during the grueling years of studying. Good luck!

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