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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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Jade City

The Green Bone Saga: Book #1

By Fonda Lee
Narrated by: Andrew Kishino
Length: 19 hours 6 minutes

Jade City

“A slow burn with frequent bursts of action. For fans of mafia dramas and martial arts action. The Green Bone culture & mythology are unique & captivating. This book and its characters got better and better as the story progressed. Lee writes like a watchmaker, and this book ticks away like a finely-tuned machine.”

Left Bank Books image Elon, Left Bank Books
Audiobook details

Walking on the Ceiling

A Novel

By Aysegül Savas
Narrated by: Mozhan Marno
Length: 3 hours 47 minutes

"[Savaş] writes with both sensuality and coolness, as if determined to find a rational explanation for the irrationality of existence..." -- The New York Times

"I fell in love with this book." -- Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation

A mesmerizing novel set in Paris and a changing Istanbul, about a young Turkish woman grappling with her past and...
Read more »

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Gods of Jade and Shadow

By Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Narrated by: Yetta Gottesman
Length: 11 hours 3 minutes

Gods of Jade and Shadow

“When she accidentally frees the Mayan god of death from imprisonment, Casiopea Tun, armed only with her wits and her dreams of the future, is forced to leave her tiny village in southern Mexico and join an otherworldly battle of life and death alongside treacherous gods, hungry ghosts, and quick-talking demons. Journeying from the southern jungles to the glitz and grime of Jazz Age Mexico City, and finally up to the gates of the Underworld itself, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a stunning adventure full of enchanting characters, magical locales, and clever surprises that you’ll never see coming. A must-read for any fantasy fan!”

Just One More Page Books image Rebecca Speas, Just One More Page Books
Audiobook details

The Cutting Season

A Novel

By Attica Locke
Narrated by: Quincy Tyler Bernstine
Length: 12 hours 11 minutes

“The Cutting Season is a rare murder mystery with heft, a historical novel that thrills, a page-turner that makes you think. Attica Locke is a dazzling writer with a conscience.”
—Dolen Perkins-Valdez, New York Times bestselling author of Wench

Attica Locke’s breathtaking debut novel, Black Water Rising, won resounding acclaim from major...

Read more »

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There There

A novel

By Tommy Orange
Narrated by: Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Alma Cuervo & Kyla Garcia
Length: 7 hours 59 minutes

There There

“A stunning debut novel by an original voice. Twelve characters of Native American descent, interrelated by birth or chance, struggle with the competing forces of cultural history and modern urban existence. Their stories build separately before colliding powerfully in the book’s final pages at The Big Oakland Powwow. I was riveted.”

Parnassus Books image Keltie, Parnassus Books
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My Sister, the Serial Killer

A Novel

By Oyinkan Braithwaite
Narrated by: Adepero Oduye
Length: 4 hours 14 minutes

My Sister, the Serial Killer

My Sister, the Serial Killer is one of the best books to come along in quite a while — fast, funny, and completely engrossing. Oyinkan Braithwaite offers up a tale of Nigerian sisters Ayoola, a beautiful and sociopathic serial killer who destroys boyfriends, aware that all they ever want her for is her appearance, and Korede, a nurse whose average looks leave her continually passed up in preference for Ayoola. Still, taciturn and devoted Korede works hard to cover up her charming sister’s crimes. What will happen when they both fall for the same guy? At once a page-turner and a perversely righteous tale about the emptiness of physical beauty and the superficiality of being charmed by it, My Sister, the Serial Killer is entertaining, provoking, and utterly fascinating!”

Bookbug image Sarah Sorensen, Bookbug
Audiobook details

My Mother's House

A novel

By Francesca Momplaisir
Narrated by: Karen Chilton, Janina Edwards & Dion Graham
Length: 10 hours 23 minutes

One of the Best Books of the Year: Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, Vulture

“Impossible to stop reading.” —Vulture

When Lucien flees Haiti with his wife, Marie-Ange, and their three children to New York City’s South Ozone Park, he does so hoping for reinvention, wealth, and comfort. He buys a run-down house in a quickly changing community, and begins life... Read more »

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Forty Acres

A Thriller

By Dwayne Alexander Smith
Narrated by: Andre Blake
Length: 12 hours 37 minutes

“A thriller in a class by itselfbrilliant and scary!” Terry McMillan

Read the page-turning, provocative thriller that will forever change the way you think about slavery and its legacy in today’s America.

Martin Grey, a smart, talented black lawyer working out of a storefront in Queens, becomes friendly with a group of some of the most... Read more »

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Fruit of the Drunken Tree

A Novel

By Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Narrated by: Marisol Ramirez, Almarie Guerra & Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Length: 12 hours 25 minutes

Fruit of the Drunken Tree

Fruit of the Drunken Tree made me cry at the airport. I was impressed by the small kingdom of women Contreras builds, with violence always threatening to creep in, all seen through the eyes of Chula, the youngest daughter. Contreras made her perspective believably cloistered while masterfully writing all the people around Chula in ways that made them feel real. Also masterful was the way Contreras used Petrona’s narrative throughout and the restraint she showed in dipping into her thoughts; she always left me wanting more. What Contreras chooses not to write has as big an effect as what she does. This novel is a dynamic exploration of what is known and, sometimes willfully, what is left unknown.”

Literati Bookstore image Lillian Li, Literati Bookstore
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Conjure Women

A Novel

By Afia Atakora
Narrated by: Adenrele Ojo
Length: 13 hours 58 minutes

A mother and daughter with a shared talent for healing—and for the conjuring of curses—are at the heart of this dazzling first novel
 
WINNER OF THE SOCIETY OF AMERICAN HISTORIANS PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times • NPR • ParadeBook Riot PopMatters

“Lush, irresistible . . . It took me into the hearts of...
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Hamnet

By Maggie O'Farrell
Narrated by: Ell Potter
Length: 12 hours 42 minutes

Hamnet

“Fans of A. S. Byatt, Penelope Fitzgerald, or Barbara Gowdy... are probably really tired of retellings of Shakespeare's life. Why read another? Because it so breathtakingly captures emotion. Because the opening sequence is one of the best expositions and descriptions of Shakespeare's Stratford you'll ever hear. Because the reimagining of Shakespeare's wife as a half-wild greenwitch sounds absurd, but in fact is compelling and captivating. Because it is not a charming puzzle box of references to multiple plays: it's the history of Shakespeare's depth of feeling, renewed in a story every strong and imaginative woman will find core-shaking and inspiring.”

The Haunted Bookshop image Nialle, The Haunted Bookshop
Audiobook details

The Book of V.

A Novel

By Anna Solomon
Narrated by: Dara Rosenberg, Eva Kaminsky & Gabra Zackman
Length: 9 hours 8 minutes

The Book of V.

“Astounding! In the talented hands of Anna Solomon, the lives of three women in different eras come to life with equal vibrancy. A compelling look at the roles of women through time (ancient Persia, 1970s D.C., and Brooklyn in 2016), as well as what it means to have and use power and to feel safe in a relationship. So much material here for discussion. I cannot wait to put this into the hands of our readers!”

Where the Sidewalk Ends image Caitlin Doggart, Where the Sidewalk Ends
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Díaz
Narrated by: Jonathan Davis
Length: 15 hours 58 minutes

Oscar is a sweet but disastrously overweight ghetto nerd who—from the New Jersey home he shares with his old world mother and rebellious sister—dreams of becoming the Dominican J.R.R. Tolkien and, most of all, finding love. But Oscar may never get what he wants. Blame the fukú—a curse that has haunted Oscar’s family for generations, following... Read more »

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In the Time of the Butterflies

By Julia Alvarez
Narrated by: Noemi De La Puente, Alma Cuervo, Blanca Camacho & Melanie Martinez
Length: 13 hours 23 minutes

It is November 25, 1960, and the bodies of three beautiful, convent-educated sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. El Caribe, the official newspaper, reports their deaths as an accident. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain... Read more »

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I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

By Erika L. Sánchez
Narrated by: Kyla Garcia
Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

National Book Award Finalist!
Instant New York Times Bestseller!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
meets Jane the Virgin in this poignant but often laugh-out-loud funny contemporary YA about losing a sister and finding yourself amid the pressures, expectations, and stereotypes of growing up in a Mexican-American home. 

 
Perfect... Read more »

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Lost Children Archive

A novel

By Valeria Luiselli
Narrated by: Valeria Luiselli, Kivlighan de Montebello, William DeMeritt & Maia Enrigue Luiselli
Length: 11 hours 16 minutes

Lost Children Archive

“This is unlike any other book I've read lately. All four characters are so vivid in my mind that it feels like we were all in the Volvo together and maybe my cardboard box was in among theirs.”

The King's English Bookshop image Anne Holman, The King's English Bookshop
Audiobook details

Hunger

A Memoir of (My) Body

By Roxane Gay
Narrated by: Roxane Gay
Length: 5 hours 57 minutes

Hunger

“Man oh man. Roxane Gay never fails to disappoint, even if she might disagree. This is a powerful, raw memoir, narrated by the author. Her truth is so relatable, and even when it’s not, Gay’s writing is empathetic. This audiobook was so engrossing, I actively looked for excuses to step away from what I was doing and listen to it. I highly recommend listening to or reading this book—for EVERYONE. This will challenge how you look at fat people, and women especially, and if you’re like me, how you look at yourself. Do yourself a favor and read this book.”

Belmont Books image Tildy, Belmont Books
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Good Talk

A Memoir in Conversations

By Mira Jacob
Narrated by: Mira Jacob, Kivlighan de Montebello & Full Cast
Length: 2 hours 46 minutes

A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.

“By turns hilarious and heart-rending, it’s exactly the book America needs at this moment.”—Celeste Ng

How brown is too brown?

Can Indians be racist?
What does... Read more »

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Fairest

A Memoir

By Meredith Talusan
Narrated by: Meredith Talusan
Length: 8 hours 46 minutes

Finalist for the 2021 Lambda Literary Award for Transgender Nonfiction
 
"Talusan sails past the conventions of trans and immigrant memoirs." --The New York Times Book Review

"A ball of light hurled into the dark undertow of migration and survival." --Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

A singular, beautifully written...
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Inland

A Novel

By Téa Obreht 
Narrated by: Anna Chlumsky, Edoardo Ballerini & Euan Morton
Length: 13 hours 7 minutes

Inland

“Man, I could live my whole life inside this novel and be perfectly happy. Téa Obreht is the real thing. Inland has the stern gorgeousness of Blood Meridian, the cinematic perfection of Station Eleven, the fantasia-like atmosphere of Cloud Atlas, and the deep-heartedness of The Winter Soldier. This is the sort of novel that makes people want to get up and soldier on. I really loved this book.”

Flyleaf Books image Erica Eisdorfer, Flyleaf Books
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