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2021 Bookish Reading Challenge

We scoured list upon list of the best books from the last several years (and some more classic titles, too) to create a super-rad reading challenge for our Book Nerd Community. Of course, we’re always on the quest for diverse books, so you can be sure this list is chock full of writing by authors of color, LGBTQ authors, authors from various places around the world… We’re looking to take you slightly out out of your comfort zone and into something truly spectacular. The rules are simple: To earn the title of Bookish Book Nerd, read 12 books from our curated list, each from a different category. That’s it. Easy Peasy. Sound too easy? We see you. That' s why we upped the ante a bit and created the Book Nerd to the Max Power category. That's 24 books from 22 different categories in 2021. Rad, right?!?

Playlist Tags: Bookish Atlanta topic: best of diverse

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Braving the Wilderness

The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

By Brené Brown
Narrated by: Brené Brown
Length: 4 hours 11 minutes

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A timely and important book that challenges everything we think we know about cultivating true belonging in our communities, organizations, and culture, from the #1 bestselling author of Rising Strong, Daring Greatly, and The Gifts of Imperfection

Look for Brené Brown’s new podcast, Dare to Lead, as well as her...
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Quit Like a Woman

The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol

By Holly Whitaker
Narrated by: Holly Whitaker
Length: 10 hours 7 minutes

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The founder of the first female-focused recovery program offers a groundbreaking look at alcohol and a radical new path to sobriety.

“You don’t know how much you need this book, or maybe you do. Either way, it will save your life.”—Melissa Hartwig Urban, Whole30 co-founder and CEO

We live in a world obsessed with... Read more »

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See No Stranger

A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love

By Valarie Kaur
Narrated by: Valarie Kaur
Length: 13 hours 14 minutes

An urgent manifesto and a dramatic memoir of awakening, this is the story of revolutionary love.

Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize • “In a world stricken with fear and turmoil, Valarie Kaur shows us how to summon our deepest wisdom.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love
 
How do we love in a time of rage? How do we fix a broken... Read more »

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Wintering

The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

By Katherine May
Narrated by: Rebecca Lee
Length: 6 hours 53 minutes

If you enjoyed Vesper Flights, then you’ll love Wintering.

“This was the perfect listen at the right time. Memoir, mythology, and meditations on an ever ignored fact that we must change our lifestyle in order to adapt to this sometimes brutal season. I will definitely come back to this one many times.”

The Yankee Bookshop image Nichole, The Yankee Bookshop
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Big Magic

Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert
Narrated by: Elizabeth Gilbert
Length: 5 hours 5 minutes

The instant #1 NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller

"A must read for anyone hoping to live a creative life... I dare you not to be inspired to be brave, to be free, and to be curious.” —PopSugar

From the worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love and City of Girls: the path to the vibrant, fulfilling life you’ve dreamed of
.
 
Readers of all ages and walks... Read more »

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Real Change

Mindfulness to Heal Ourselves and the World

By Sharon Salzberg
Narrated by: Sharon Salzberg
Length: 7 hours 45 minutes

This program is read by the author.

From one of most prominent figures in the field of meditation comes a guidebook for how to use mindfulness to build our inner strength, find balance, and help create a better world.

In today’s fractured world, we’re constantly flooded with breaking news that causes anger, grief, and pain. People are feeling more...

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Their Eyes Were Watching God - Abridged

By Zora Neale Hurston
Narrated by: Ruby Dee
Length: TBA

“A deeply soulful novel that comprehends love and cruelty, and separates the big people from the small of heart, without ever losing sympathy for those unfortunates who don’t know how to live properly.” —Zadie Smith

One of the most important and enduring books of the twentieth century, Their Eyes Were Watching God brings to life a Southern love...

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The Almost Sisters

A Novel

By Joshilyn Jackson
Narrated by: Joshilyn Jackson
Length: 12 hours 39 minutes

The Almost Sisters

“Leia Birch is pretty much a rock star in the comic world, but her personal life has taken over the drama of her heroines, Violet and Violence. Leia is pregnant with a biracial child after too much tequila and a one-night stand at Comic-Con, her sister's perfect marriage is imploding, and it appears her sweet, proper Southern grandmother has been hiding all kinds of improper things, including advancing dementia. As always, Jackson is witty and charming, and her characters are so wonderfully drawn, it's hard to believe you don't actually know these people. The Almost Sisters is a hopeful book about our ability to preserve the dignity of one another while still helping them grow and change.”

CoffeeTree Books image Susan Thomas, CoffeeTree Books
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Swamplandia!

By Karen Russell
Narrated by: Arielle Sitrick & David Ackroyd
Length: 13 hours 6 minutes

From the celebrated twenty-nine-year-old author of the everywhere-heralded short-story collection St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (“How I wish these were my own words, instead of the breakneck demon writer Karen Russell’s . . . Run for your life. This girl is on fire”—Los Angeles Times Book Review) comes a blazingly original debut... Read more »

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America Is Not the Heart

A Novel

By Elaine Castillo
Narrated by: Donnabella Mortel
Length: 16 hours 24 minutes

Named one of the best books of 2018 by NPR, Real Simple, Lit Hub, The Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Post, Kirkus Reviews, and The New York Public Library 

"A saga rich with origin myths, national and personal . . . Castillo is part of a younger generation of American writers instilling literature with a layered sense of...
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Cantoras

A novel

By Carolina De Robertis
Narrated by: Carolina De Robertis
Length: 13 hours 37 minutes

"Cantoras is a stunning lullaby to revolution—and each woman in this novel sings it with a deep ferocity. Again and again, I was lifted, then gently set down again—either through tears, rage, or laughter. Days later, I am still inside this song of a story." —Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award–winning author

From the highly acclaimed,...
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Under the Udala Trees

By Chinelo Okparanta
Narrated by: Robin Miles
Length: 11 hours 18 minutes

Inspired by Nigeria's folktales and war, Under the Udala Trees is a deeply searching, powerful debut about the dangers of living and loving openly.Ijeoma comes of age as her nation does; born before independence, she is eleven when civil war breaks out in the young republic of Nigeria. Sent away to safety, she meets another displaced child, and... Read more »

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Silver Sparrow

By Tayari Jones
Narrated by: Rosalyn Coleman-Williams & Heather Alicia Simms
Length: 10 hours 22 minutes

With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret...

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Black Leopard, Red Wolf

The Dark Star Trilogy: Book #1

By Marlon James
Narrated by: Dion Graham
Length: 23 hours 59 minutes

Black Leopard, Red Wolf

“Marlon James’ Black Leopard, Red Wolf is a shot across the bow of fantasy literature: bold, fresh, and filled with brutal wonder and endless imagination. James’tale set in a fantastical ancient Africa follows a hunter known only as Tracker as he trails the scent of a lost boy, meeting a shape-shifting leopard along the way. At turns hallucinatory, dreamlike, and nightmarish, Black Leopard, Red Wolf’s world envelops the reader in its stink, grime, sweat, and blood. Never has a magical world felt quite so otherworldly and yet frighteningly tactile at the same time. This is literary fantasy as you’ve never encountered it before and a truly original tale of love, loss, power, and identity.”

Bookmarks image Caleb Masters, Bookmarks
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Uprooted

By Naomi Novik
Narrated by: Julia Emelin
Length: 17 hours 43 minutes

Uprooted

“Every ten years, a girl is chosen from the valley to live with the wizard in the tower, the Dragon. The villagers don't like it, but the Dragon is the only defense between them and the dangerous, vindictive forest on the edge of the valley, where every year, more and more people disappear, never to be heard from again. Or worse, returned to them, but an empty, violent version of the person who went into the forest. Agnieska knows this year, that girl will be her best friend, Kasia, because Kasia is perfect. But then it's...not. Agnieska is chosen and brought to the tower, only to discover that she, too, has a strange power. But all the while, the forest creeps steadily forward, consuming in its path. A riveting modern fairytale with loving female friendships, an ancient secret, and lots of magic. You'll love it!”

Oblong Books image Lafe, Oblong Books
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Pet

By Akwaeke Emezi
Narrated by: Christopher Myers
Length: 5 hours 32 minutes

National Book Award Finalist

Stonewall Book Award Winner

"[A] beautiful, genre-expanding debut...Pet is a nesting doll of creative possibilities." (The New York Times)

The award-winning, genre-defying novel by the New York Times best-selling author of The Death of Vivek Oji that explores themes of identity and justice and asks: How do you share the... Read more »

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Brown Album

Essays on Exile and Identity

By Porochista Khakpour
Narrated by: Porochista Khakpour
Length: 6 hours 12 minutes

*A Vintage Original*
From the much-acclaimed novelist and essayist, a beautifully rendered, poignant collection of personal essays, chronicling immigrant and Iranian-American life in our contemporary moment.


Novelist Porochista Khakpour's family moved to Los Angeles after fleeing the Iranian Revolution, giving up their successes only to be greeted... Read more »

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The White Tiger

A Novel

By Aravind Adiga
Narrated by: John Lee
Length: 8 hours 6 minutes

No saris. No scents. No spices. No music. No lyricism. No illusions.

This is India now.

Balram Halwai is a complicated man. Servant. Philosopher. Entrepreneur. Murderer. Over the course of seven nights, by the scattered light of a preposterous chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in... Read more »

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Amberlough

Book 1 in the Amberlough Dossier
Amberlough Dossier: Book #1

By Lara Elena Donnelly
Narrated by: Mary Robinette Kowal
Length: 11 hours 26 minutes

"[Narrator Mary Robinette Kowal] delivers a stellar performance, imbuing each character, even the minor ones, with a fully realized personality...Kowal's background in theater allows her to maximize the emotional impact of each pivotal event." — AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award Winner

From author Lara Elena Donnelly, comes a debut spy thriller,...

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Children of Blood and Bone

Legacy of Orisha: Book #1

By Tomi Adeyemi
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
Length: 17 hours 44 minutes

Children of Blood and Bone

“Children of Blood & Bone, is a story told in a world where magic no longer exists. Years ago, this was not the case. Once, magic and the Gods were celebrated. Now, Diviners (those with Maji blood, but no magic) are treated poorly, and all the Maji have been killed. One of those including our main protagonist, Zélie’s, mother. Determined to find a way to bring back magic, Zélie, along with her brother Tzain, and Orïsha’s only princess, Amari (gone rogue), set out on a quest against all odds. Told from Zélie, Amari and Amari’s brother and crown prince, Inan’s viewpoints, Tomi Adeyemi weaves together a tale so beautifully and tragically relevant, it will leave you craving for answers and more.”

Vroman's Bookstore image Jen, Vroman's Bookstore
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