As I said in my challenge post, I am once again doing the fabulous Book Riot Read Harder challenge! Book Riot is my favorite bigtime book blog — they’re always inclusive, they talk about all kinds of book genres, their posts are fun to read, and they sell stuff I actually want to buy. Their challenge has been great fun the past two years, and this year looks like it will be again. The super specific prompts from last year were good for reading books I might not otherwise, but I’m glad to see the prompts are a wee bit more general this year. Last year they were so specific that I couldn’t manage a “Queering the Book Riot Challenge” post, but this year I think I can do it! As usual, my own picks for the challenge will be drawn from my TBR, but I know a lot of people — especially Book Riot readers — want to diversify their reading, so I wanted to offer some queer suggestions. My friend Robin at Write On Sisters will have a list of Latinx and Spanish-language selections up soon as well, so pick and choose between us both!
- A book published posthumously – Maurice by E.M. Forster comes to mind, and has some beautiful writing. I’m sure there are other “don’t publish this until I’m dead” classics too.
- A book of true crime – Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt is one that I might read myself and it has a drag queen as a central character, but I’m told the character can be problematic. I don’t want to read about queer murder victims though, or sensationalized queer criminals, so the options are limited.
- A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance) – Swordspoint anyone? It’s one of the early queer fantasy novels and it’s amaaaaaziiiiing!
- A comic written and illustrated by the same person – Queer comics have a long and honorable history, so you have a lot to choose from here like Dykes to Watch Out For, Fun Home, or Blue is the Warmest Color. I’ll be reading O Human Star volume 2 because the first one was great.
- A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa) – The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson is a YA scifi set in Brazil. It’s intense.
- A book about nature – Plenty of options here if you want to count “origins of sexuality” type books as being “about nature.” Between XX and XY or Gay, Straight, and the Reason Why come to mind.
- A western – I guess Brokeback Mountain probably counts even though they’re shepherds, but that’s a depressing book. There are a lot of western m/m romances, but I just read a killer review of Disturbing the Peace by Dale Chase — erotic short stories, but praised for their realism and settings.
- A comic written or illustrated by a person of color – Any yaoi will work for this and there are some great ones — I love Fake, review here, or for a one-volume Skyscrapers of Oz, or Ooku for something a little more dense. But there are also plenty of American comics and newer stuff like Bingo Love.
- A book of colonial or postcolonial literature – Perhaps recent award-winner Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn? Set in Jamaica.
- A romance novel by or about a person of color – I’ll be reading either Coin Tricks by Willow Scarlett or Beta Test by Annabeth Albert!
- A children’s classic published before 1980 – This one is very much a challenge as written, but you can find some children’s classics with queer themes or resonance for queer kids, like the Wizard of Oz series (book 3 in particular).
- A celebrity memoir – I enjoyed Neil Patrick Harris’s Choose Your Own Autobiography, but really pick any queer celebrity and they probably have a book.
- An Oprah Book Club selection – Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides has an intersex protagonist, and I’ll be reading The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers and I’m told it has some kind of queer relevance. Those are the only two I recognized just reading the list, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t others.
- A book of social science – I’m trying not to recommend a dense history book — maybe Homophobia: A History by Byrne Fone? It’s big and it’s got history in the name but I read it and loved it long before I got into academia.
- A one-sitting book – Any picture book!
- The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series – I recommend Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire for dark YA, or The Manny Files by Christian Burch for light MG.
- A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author – Search something like “lesbian scifi” and you’ve got recommendations for days, but two on my list are Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi and Adaptation by Malindo Lo!
- A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image – See #4. More books: Hypothetical Lizard by Alan Moore (review), Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic (review), The Authority by Warren Ellis (review – it belongs to DC now but it didn’t back then), a+e 4ever by I. Merey, How Loathsome by Ted Naifeh, Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore…
- A book of genre fiction in translation – Um, the manga from #8? I had a terrible time trying to find something, so feel free to leave recommendations. Someone suggested Palm Trees in the Snow by Luz Gabas, but I haven’t actually been able to find it in translation, just in Spanish.
- A book with a cover you hate – I hate the cover of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue — if it’s such a good historical fiction novel why does it look like someone designed the cover, in MS paint, to look like a quirky contemporary? — but it’s gotten such good reviews it’ll probably be my pick for this challenge
- A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author – I’ll be reading Wish You Were Here, the first cat mystery by Rita Mae Brown! I also love Posted to Death by Dean A. James — it’s the first in a series of cozy mysteries about a gay vampire novelist and it’s a delight. (I am inferring that the author is LGBTQ+, but full disclosure, I don’t know for sure.)
- An essay anthology – I’ve been meaning to read Bi Any Other Name. If you’re religious there are also a number of anthologies about religious people sharing their experiences, or if you’re into academia there are similar ones for people in different fields.
- A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 – I did some googling on this one… If you want to stretch it to biographies, which include female protagonists who are over the age of 60 for some portion of the biography, I can recommend Charity and Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America by Rachel Hope Cleves, and I’ve been meaning to read The Ladies Of Llangollen by Elizabeth Mavor. There’s also The Lives of Older Lesbians: Sexuality, Identity & the Life Course by Jay Taverner. I didn’t see any fiction I could recommend from experience, but the novel that kept catching my eye was Survived by Her Longtime Companion
by Chris Paynter.
- An assigned book you hated (or never finished) – I’m sure there are plenty of dull classics with that one queer-coded character in them, but I’d rather read something good that’s openly queer. Your choice for this challenge will vary, obviously, but if you can’t think of anything outright then why not try some queer pulp instead of the exclusionary canon? Or apply “assigned book” to a book club selection you never finished? There are options.
What are you reading for the challenge? Got any more suggestions? Leave them in the comments!