Blaga and Sam embark on a literary journey. In accordance with Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challengethey will each read 24 books in the next 48 weeks, reviewing each book along the way.

They will complete the same challenge in consecutive weeks, but the order of the challenges is otherwise flexible. Expect updates weekly, mostly on Friday.

About Blaga and Sam:

Blaga: I have always loved books – I live and breathe the narratives they contain, the worlds they present, and the characters that live within them. I am not absolutely certain whether I can really fit myself within several categories or motifs, but I tend to love fairy tales and books inspired by them; historical novels; biographies, especially ones of musical composers and writers; immigrant narratives; sometimes stories heavy in political intrigue. But really, above all, I would say that I love a good story – one written in a way that, even if I am unfamiliar with the setting or culture (be it real or fictional) I could find common ground with it in some way.

In 2016 I read only a handful of books for pleasure. I justified this development by telling myself that I was too tired to read. There was truth to that, of course, but I also eventually realized that tiredness was not the problem. People around me –  friends  and fellow classmates – made time to read, no matter how busy or tired they were.

I finished the fall semester of 2016 determined to make more time to read. If I pushed myself to read instead of watching television or movies during my down time, I thought, I would be able to relax just as much if not more. ‘Worst’ case scenario, a book can put me quickly to sleep, best case scenario, it could also keep me up late into the night, excited to find out what happens next. I did not have any particular plan in mind. I was browsing the lists of “best books” of 2016, trying to find something interesting to read, when I ran into Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I had never done a reading challenge before, but the idea appealed to me immediately.  Okay, but how do I stick to it and not give up within the first week? 2017 does not look any less busy than 2016 – more so, actually!

The ‘aha!’ moment came when Sam expressed interest in the challenge. What better way to keep yourself going, I thought, than having to be accountable to someone else? And, even better, accountable to a wider audience of people? And so, this project came to be! The project will truly be a challenge, and on many levels – not only the reading itself, but the fact that it will force me to step out of my comfort zone, and think creatively of ways in which to combine my own interests to the prompts. I genuinely look forward to navigating through some 24 books and reflecting upon them in the year to come.

Favorite book: The Iliad


Sam: When Blaga came to me with the idea of this blog, my immediate response was a fearless “Yes!” Now, granted, over the following few days, the part of my brain in charge of worrying about things gained some ground (“You’re going to forget to read a book one of those weeks!”), but my immediate reaction remains more characteristic of my attitude toward reading. As a writer, I should be reading lots of books anyway, right? As a writer, I should be thinking about the books I’ve read, right? So really, this blog consists only of things that I need to be doing anyway.

My overwhelming preoccupation as a reader and writer is the fantastic and impossible. Spells and spirits, time travel and space travel, cloning and curses, and so on. I see the use of fantastic elements like these as a metaphor for the strangeness that hides in plain sight in our own world. I will make an effort to include the fantastic and surreal a great deal on my list to satisfy my own taste.

Not that I will limit myself to only fantasy or science fiction. That’s not an option, especially not with the Read Harder Challenge, where the goal is to shake up our reading habits. Taking my cue from the challenge, I will not only discover works from underrepresented demographics, like women and people of color, but also in new genres and traditions of literature that I don’t already know about. It’s sure to be exciting!

I’m planning to grade each book I read on an A to F scale with pluses and minuses as needed.

A = Remarkable book, oozing with style. Has something special to say and the eloquence to say it well. I will give a book an “A” if it’s going to stick with me for a very long time.

B = Good book. Carefully written and thoughtfully planned. I will give a book a “B” if I had a great time reading it and I can’t think of any major problems, but it still doesn’t reach the lofty standards of “A”

C = Decent Book. I will give a book a “C” if its strengths fail to overshadow its weaknesses. A category mostly for books that have a great deal of unreached potential. Hypothetically, this would be the most common grade if I just read random books.

D = Bad Book. Poorly thought out, or poorly put together, or just unpleasant to read. I’ll give a book a “D” if I didn’t enjoy it at all. Maybe there’s an interesting idea or two buried in it somewhere. Then again, maybe not. Either way, it fails as a complete work.

F = Garbage Book for Babies. Just really, really, really bad. Startlingly bad. Bad in fresh and unexpected ways. I’ll give a book an “F” if it’s memorably awful and a true monument to bad writing.

I think that wraps things up. I’m looking forward to 48 more weeks!

Favorite book: Breakfast of Champions