Saturday, December 04, 2021
Indie publisher Reading challenge

2019 Reading Intentions and Building Challenge TBRs

Happy 2019 everyone!

I’ve never been much for New Years resolutions because who knows where the year will take me? I will probably need to adapt/modify my goals to some circumstance I don’t foresee, and anyway time is a construct and a calendar change means nothing and all that.

But this year, I do want to be a bit more intentional with how I read. I always read what the mainstream would call “diverse” books and authors, meaning everyone and anyone who isn’t a straight, cis white man. Actually I don’t remember the last time I read a book whose author fits that description, except for this one book about endurance in athletics that honestly wasn’t that great.

But anyway, I like the idea of using a reading challenge — of which there are countless to be found on the bookternet — to push me to read a genre, author, or time period I wouldn’t naturally gravitate toward. At least for a few titles.

I read a lot of contemporary books, mostly that have come out in the last 2-3 years, and a lot of new releases. I also don’t read a lot of books in translation, nor much poetry, thriller/mystery, romance, YA, or myth retellings. I’m not saying I want to saturate my reading with any one of these genres (I still don’t think I’ll ever love YA, romance, or thrillers the way I do literary fiction and creative nonfiction), but sometimes it’s good to read uncomfortably in genre as well as content.

So! I’m here to round up the challenges I’m planning to participate in for 2019. There are 5 of them:

small press 2019 tbr book stack
some small press books to read!
  1. #2BooksUnder50Reviews challenge by Reggie Reads

Reggie is a bookstagrammer who started this challenge to highlight backlist books (published in 2017 or earlier) with fewer than 50 reviews on Goodreads, in order to create a virtual library of underrated or overlooked books. I’m so about this! Here are the ones I’m planning to read that fit the bill:


  1. Lukten av trykksverte’s 2019 Diversity Reads Challenge

This is a nice one because there’s nothing strict about it. Basically, you read as many books as you can/want to that are written by and about:

People of colour/non-caucasian characters/authors

Native Americans and other indigenous people


Gender fluid/transgender people


Religious minorities

Mental illnesses

Neurodiversity (like ADD and autism)

Feminist themes/issues

Physical/mental disabilities

So, I don’t have a separate TBR for this challenge, but will just upload the reviews I write that fit the criteria to the challenge page on their site.


  1. The Unread Shelf project

Whitney very gently encourages herself and others to read as many books as possible from their own shelves. Some people do a book-buying ban; I’m a realistic person and I know myself so I’m not going to do that, but I am going to follow along with the monthly themes and overall try to read more books off my shelves than I buy.

Summer of Dead Birds Alie Liebegott book photography
One of the titles from Feminist Press I’m most excited about
  1. IndieChallenge from Ninja Book Box: basically reading as many books as possible from small publishers. Some I know I’ll read from so far:

There’s a bingo card to go along with this but I’m not going to make a TBR based off of it right now. However, I did make a TBR for…

Reading Women TBR book stack 2019 1

  1. The Reading Women Challenge

I’ve been a listener of the Reading Women podcast for over a year, and Kendra Winchester is responsible for alerting me to so many of the books I end up reading or interested to read. Kendra and Autumn create a new challenge every year, and this year I’m going in on it.

You can find the prompts on their website here and the Goodreads group here.

Below is my list of books to fulfill each of the 26 prompts; some of them have multiple possibilities. I hope to read all of them, but I’ll at least read one from every prompt. (Many of these also satisfy some or all of the other challenges).

  1. A mystery or thriller written by a woman of color: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  2. A book about a woman with mental illness: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, Florence in Ecstasy by Jessie Chaffee
  3. A book by an author from Nigeria or New Zealand: Happiness, Like Water by Chinelo Okparanta (this one also counts for the Lambda Literary Award prompt)
  4. A book about or set in Appalachia: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg — this also helps me chip away at the lesbian literary canon
  5. A children’s book: I’m cheating and making this YA, because I don’t really want to read a children’s book and I picked up A Heart in a Body in the World by local Seattle writer Deb Caletti at a Read Local book fair I went to in December. Also, it’s about running, so.
  6. A multigenerational family saga: Native Country of the Heart by Cherríe Moraga, Everything Under by Daisy Johnson, The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See. I was sent Native Country and Island of Sea Women by the publishers (I’ve actually already finished Native Country), and my sister gave me Everything Under for Christmas.
  7. A book featuring a woman in science: In Search of the Canary Tree by Lauren E. Oakes. This one landed on my radar ℅ Olive from A Book Olive and sounds fantastic.
  8. A play: For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange. This is a “choreopoem” but it was performed on stage and was made into a movie. The author passed away in 2018 so it feels particularly appropriate to finally get this read.
  9. A novella: Passing by Nella Larsen. Also been meaning to get to this for a while, and Robin Miles reads the audiobook, so yes please.
  10. A book about a woman athlete: Marathon Woman by Katherine Switzer, because it’s on my shelf and she’s awesome.
  11. A book featuring a religion other than your own: Mother of All Pigs by Malu Halasa. Got this one from the publisher (Unnamed Press) at PDX Bookfest; they sold me on it pretty well.
  12. A Lambda Literary Award winner: Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson (gotta get through all Winterson, I love her so much)
  13. A myth retelling: Weight by Jeanette Winterson (see previous); Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith
  14. A translated book published before 1945: This was the hardest for me to find, but I think I’ll go with Selected Poems by Gabriela Mistral, because I’d never heard of her and want to up my poetry game too.
  15. A book written by a South Asian author: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (major hype in 2018 and I have a copy); The Body Myth by Rheea Mukherjee (sent to me by the publisher)
  16. A book by an Indigenous woman: I have quite a few of these on my shelf to read. Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson, Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling (out of print), Daughters of Copper Woman by Anne Cameron.
  17. A book from the 2018 Reading Women Shortlist: Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
  18. A romance or love story: Willa & Hesper by Amy Feltman. It’s a lesbian love story, of course. Also I’m already more than halfway through the digital galley and am unexpectedly gripped by it.
  19. A book about nature: Thru-Hiking Will Break Your Heart by Carrot Quinn. It’s like a queer Wild, I’m pretty sure, and the cover is so endearing. I also have a copy.
  20. A historical fiction book: The Air You Breathe by Frances De Pontes Peebles (highly recommended by Jaclyn at Six Minutes for Me); The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (so much hype and Russell from Ink and Paper Blog raves endlessly about it); Something Like Breathing by Angela Readman (ARC sent to me by the publisher).
  21. A book you bought or borrowed in 2019: Long Division by Kiese Laymon. Heavy was one of my top reads of 2018, and yes I did buy a copy of this on January 1 when my local bookstore was having a 20% off sale. (Also I realize Kiese Laymon is not a woman but he’s an honorary woman in my opinion. That said I’ll probably just change this when I inevitably pick up a book by a woman 😉 )
  22. A book you picked up because of the cover: Insomnia by Marina Benjamin. IT’S SO PRETTY. Also by indie publisher Catapult.
  23. Any book from a series: Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. It’s time I returned to some Butler.
  24. A young adult book by a woman of color: Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson. Probably the only YA author I unconditionally love. (Though I hear she’s got 2 adult books in the works which has me extra excited).

Bonus prompts:

  1. A book by Jesmyn Ward: I’ve only got one left that I haven’t read: The Fire This Time.
  2. A book by Jhumpa Lahiri: Haven’t read anything by her since Unaccustomed Earth wrecked me in college. I’m going to go with either The Clothing of Books or In Other Words.

Native Country of the Heart Cherrie Moraga book photography

So long, I know! But I know I can read all this and more.

The ‘more’ part comes with a couple of things I want to do with this blog this year:

  1. Do a series of posts highlighting independent publishers. I think I’ll structure the posts by individual press, and highlight 2-3 books they’ve put out that I read. Probably Graywolf, Microcosm, Dzanc, Feminist Press, Tin House and Catapult (if I can get to all of them).
  2. Themed months: Black History Month and Pride Month for sure. I might do Memoir March like I did last year.
  3. Posts highlighting short story collections.
  4. At least 4 poetry reviews.
  5. I’m thinking of doing some writing on lit mags; I subscribe to 3 (The Believer, Tin House and Like the Wind which is more of a running magazine but it’s very literary). I almost never really read through them but I know they’re full of amazing things so making blog posts about them seems like a decent way to motivate myself to spend more time with them.
  6. Of course, lots of reviews of new releases.
  7. And finally, a post or two highlighting works in translation.


Those are my intentions/goals/aspirations/hopes for 2019 reading and blogging. Do you have reading goals for the year? Are you taking part in any reading challenges? Let me know! Happy new year friends!

Sarah Neilson
<p>Reading mainly own voices books, usually in the genres of memoir, literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry. I love reading and hope you'll find some great reviews here!</p>

9 thoughts on “2019 Reading Intentions and Building Challenge TBRs

  1. Happy New Year, Sarah! I’m so glad I found your blog. I love reading just as much as you do. I can’t wait to read your reviews, and get ideas for new authors and titles.

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