Need a few pointers of where to start finding what books to read for the Read Harder, Popsugar 2015 or Study. Read. Write’s 60 Books Challenges?
Let me help you!
The titles compiled below are meant to help you get started on the challenges to give you an idea where to look and which books to consider. For each category, there are hundreds of options in every language though I stuck to English for my list.
If you know any other examples that simply SHOULD be included, please let me know in the comments. Please note that depending on your location and language, the titles, availability and whether the books are banned or not may differ from this list.
Authors who published their first books under the age of 25 include:
Jonathan Safran Foer was 25 (Everything is Illuminated),
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was 25 (Purple Hibiscus),
Norman Mailer was 25 (The Naked and the Dead),
Michael Chabon was 25 (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh),
Bret Easton Ellis was 21 (Less Than Zero),
Zadie Smith was 25 (White Teeth),
Françoise Sagan was 19 (Bonjour tristesse),
Mary Shelley was 21 (Frankenstein),
Christopher Paolini was 19 (Eragon),
S.E. Hinton was 19 (The Outsiders).
For further suggestions, check out my Goodreads Shelf for Authors Under 25.
Books by authors who were 65 or older when they were published
Frank McCourt was 66 (Angela’s Ashes),
James Salter was 87 (All That Is),
Herman Wouk was 97 – he’s turning 100 in 2015! (The Lawgiver),
Toni Morrison was 81 (Home),
Doris Lessing was 89 (Alfred & Emily),
Tom Wolfe was 81 (Back to Blood)
Books with antonyms in the title
Antonyms are opposites, so any title that has opposites in it qualifies. Some examples include:
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy,
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by Joe Millard,
The Rise & Fall of Great Powers by Tom Rachman,
Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman,
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain,
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Above/Below by Stephanie Campisi
Books published before 1850
Anything by Shakespeare would qualify, for example. So would the following:
The Iliad by Homer (Ancient Greece)
The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (1841)
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe (1810)
Paradise Lost by John Milton (1667)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (1820)
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer (published 1478)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)
Published by indie presses
Have a look at the catalogues and new releases by these independent publishers to get you started:
Coffee House Press
Wild Wolf Publishing
Books by or about someone identifying as LGBTQ
While this is not an exhaustive list, Wikipedia’s List of LGBT characters in literature does provide a long list of books that have someone identifying as LGBTQ as their main character.
Finding authors who identify as LGBTQ can be trickier, as one’s sexuality might not have been publicised much. However, famous LGBTQ authors include:
Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray),
Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s),
Mark Gatiss (The Vesuvius Club),
Virginia Woolf (A Room of One’s Own),
E.M. Forster (Maurice),
Alice Walker (The Colour Purple),
Stephen Fry (The Hippopotamus).
Ranker put together a list of over 300 authors and some of their works.
National Book Award Winners
Have a look at the official list of National Book Award winners in the fiction category. If that’s not enough for you, check out these Fiction Finalists from 1953-2007.
Man Booker Prize Winners
Man Booker Prize compiled a PDF of Winner and Finalists between 1969 -2013. Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North won in 2014.
Pulitzer Prize Winners
Check out the Pulitzer Prize winners and finalists in the categories Fiction, Novel, Drama, Poetry and General Nonfiction.
Retellings of classic stories
Going Bovine by Libba Bray (retelling of Don Quixote)
The Espressologist by Kristina Springer (retelling of Emma)
On Beauty by Zadie Smith (retelling of Howard’s End)
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman (retelling of Paradise Lost)
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (retelling of Pride & Prejudice)
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (retelling of The Jungle Book)
Need more ideas? BuzzFeed put together a nice list, as did Tales Told Tall.
Books published the year you were born
Wikipedia’s list of Years in Literature should help you find a book from the year you were born. Simply follow “(YEAR) in Literature” links to open up a new page listing the main titles published that year and what else happened in the literary world.
The Guardian compiled a list of 64 Must-Read nonfiction books. The stand-out one is Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, but the list also includes:
Anne Frank’s Diary,
Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything,
Charles Darwin’s On the Origins of Species,
A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
Debut books of popular authors
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
Carrie by Stephen King
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Need more? Here’s a List of 50 Debut Novels that made quite an impact. Flavorwire made a list as well.
Books continue to be banned for various reasons and they differ from country to country. Institutions such as schools, individual states and governments can ban books. These books are often included on the lists:
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Here’s a long list of banned books and the reasons why they ended up on the list.
Books based on or turned into a TV show
Déjà Dead by Kathy Reich (her books are the basis for Bones),
The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
The Legend of King Arthur and His Knights by Sir James Knowles
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
Sex and the City by Candace Bushnell
There are also many books and graphic novels accompanying teen TV shows. Chances are your favourite shows are based on books as well!
Books by NaNoWriMo winners
The official NaNoWriMo website aims to keep a list of all published NaNoWriMo novels and participants. The novels that achieved mainstream success include:
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen,
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern,
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Entrechats by Cecile Duquenne
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Hint: The NaNo-List is also a good reference for Indie Presses as it includes publishers as well!
Authors with your initials or first name
(Ok, ok, if you have an uncommon first name, you can use an author with your surname as well…)
Wikipedia’s List of Author Names should give you a good starting point. It’s sorted alphabetically by surname.
5 thoughts on “Help! Books to read for Reading Challenges”
Wonderful list! I’m not doing the challenge but I will be looking for some of these books to read for my own challenge.
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I’m doing a bunch of different reading challenges, so this is awesome! Thanks for putting it together.
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You’re very welcome! Have fun exploring and getting to know all those books! 🙂