Every December I look forward to two things in the book world: the flood of best of the year lists and planning my intentions for reading in the coming year. My reading life can tend to look very homogenous if left to my own devices, so I like to stretch a bit and choose books in various categories to make sure I’m finding new, interesting, exciting books to read. Last year several of my fellow NoveListas asked me to create challenges for them and it was so much fun, we decided to introduce the first-ever 2021 NoveList Reading Challenge.  

Below you’ll find all 24 categories we have selected. There are two tiers: the first twelve are for readers who are dipping their toes into the reading challenge world. For readers who thrive on challenges, we’ve added twelve more categories for those who just can’t get enough.  If you need a starting point, check out The Secret Language of Books, where you can dive into the way we describe books in NoveList. And if you want some help selecting books, we have lots of resources to get you started in your searching: 

Above all, the goal is to help you and the other readers in your library find books that will enhance and enrich your reading life, so if you only do a few categories, that’s fine, too! 

Reading Challenge Beginners  

  • Read an own voices memoir. (Tip: search for AP own voices AND GN autobiographies and memoirs to find titles) 
  • Read a novel with an unreliable narrator.  
  • Read a book described as being gritty, atmospheric, or having a strong sense of place.  
  • Read a historical novel that takes place anytime except during World War II.  
  • Read a romantic comedy by a BIPOC author.  
  • Read a book recommended by a NoveList staff member.  (Tip: Browse through our NoveList Staff Faves Recommended Reads list) 
  • Read a book recommended for fans of a TV show you like.  
  • Read a book that features a global pandemic.  
  • Read a book recommended by someone who works at your local library.  
  •  Read a book described as feel-good, heartwarming, or hopeful.  
  •  Read a graphic novel with minimally colored illustrations.  
  •  Listen to an audiobook featuring multiple narrators.  

Reading Challenge Afficionados

  •  Read a locked-room mystery.  
  •  Read an epistolary novel.  
  •  Read a short story collection written by a woman.  
  •  Read a speculative novel with the theme “Vengeance is mine.”  
  •  Read a novel by a trans author.  (Tip: Search AG transgender
  •  Read a book with an unconventional or nonlinear storyline.  
  •  Read a book selected as a best of 2020 title by NoveList staff.  
  •  Read a book that is an adaptation, retelling, or spin-off of a classic.  
  •  Read a nonfiction book about antiracism.  
  •  Read a book about celebrating identity. (Tip: Search TH celebrating identity
  •  Read a book starring a main character with a disability.  
  •  Read a book that has been or will be made into a movie.  

Here’s to a fulfilling, satisfying reading year in 2021. If you decide to participate or share with your library patrons, please let us know!  

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Download the NoveList 2021 Reading Challenge flyer here


Need help finding books for your 2021 Reading Challenge? Learn more about NoveList Plus. 

Halle Eisenman is a Content Development Manager at NoveList. She is currently reading Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Crosby and listening to The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix.