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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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Disappearing Earth

A novel

By Julia Phillips
Narrated by: Ilyana Kadushin
Length: 11 hours 15 minutes

Disappearing Earth

“Julia Phillips is an author to watch. She beautifully transports us to a region of the world that I had never heard of and now can’t stop thinking about. The stories of the women there—their family dynamics, their hopes and fears, the economic and cultural divide of various communities—tell a moving story about this place in a moment in time, but ultimately about the universal struggle of women living with the expectations placed on them. A remarkable debut.”

Bookshop Santa Cruz image Casey Coonerty, Bookshop Santa Cruz
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Ruby

A Novel

By Cynthia Bond
Narrated by: Cynthia Bond
Length: 11 hours 28 minutes

A New York Times bestseller and Oprah Book Club 2.0 selection, the epic, unforgettable story of a man determined to protect the woman he loves from the town desperate to destroy her. This beautiful and devastating debut heralds the arrival of a major new voice in fiction.
 
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long... Read more »

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The Witches Are Coming

By Lindy West
Narrated by: Lindy West
Length: 6 hours 27 minutes

The Witches Are Coming

“ I struggle to write a review of Lindy West's work without resorting to simplistic three syllable sentences like "she's awesome," or, "she's the best." Maybe it's because she makes it look so very easy. She says everything I'm always thinking: about feminism, about politics, about our image-obsessed culture. And she does it with irrefutable logic, dazzling sentences, and an utterly fierce and funny sensibility. She's...(sigh) perfect.”

The Book Table image Rachel, The Book Table
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The Source of Self-Regard

Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

By Toni Morrison
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
Length: 16 hours 1 minutes

Arguably the most celebrated and revered writer of our time now gives us a new nonfiction collection—a rich gathering of her essays, speeches, and meditations on society, culture, and art, spanning four decades.

The Source of Self-Regard is brimming with all the elegance of mind and style, the literary prowess and moral compass that are Toni... Read more »

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Figuring

By Maria Popova
Narrated by: Natascha McElhone
Length: 21 hours 26 minutes

Figuring explores the complexities of love and the human search for truth and meaning through the interconnected lives of several historical figures across four centuries—beginning with the astronomer Johannes Kepler, who discovered the laws of planetary motion, and ending with the marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, who catalyzed the... Read more »

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On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

A Novel

By Ocean Vuong
Narrated by: Ocean Vuong
Length: 7 hours 18 minutes

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

“My words can't do justice to how beautiful the language is in this book. Listening to the author read it was so raw and engaging. This book was emotionally painful in a lot of parts but just touched me on so many levels. Definitely the best book that I've listened to (and read) so far this year.”

Tattered Cover image Suzie, Tattered Cover
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The Unpassing

A Novel

By Chia-Chia Lin
Narrated by: Feodor Chin
Length: 7 hours 53 minutes

**A Washington Post best audiobook of 2019**

"Told in the first person, the story is narrated by Feodor Chin, whose smooth, matter-of-fact voice perfectly suits Gavin’s descriptions of the family’s junky house; his ineffectual, mistake-prone father; his seething mother; and a persistent sense of not belonging." – Star Tribune

One of Esquire, The...

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Trust Exercise

A Novel

By Susan Choi
Narrated by: Adina Verson, Jennifer Lim & Suehyla El-Attar
Length: 9 hours 57 minutes

Trust Exercise

“Set inside the acting program of an elite high school, Choi’s novel seems to consider every major preoccupation of our moment — class, gender, sexuality, race, power, predation, authenticity, ‘genius’ — with language that’s both uproarious and frothing with vital rage. To describe the plot in any detail, though, would reveal too much of Trust Exercise’s inventive, audacious form. Best let this novel sink into your bones with as few spoilers as possible before its final scene seizes your heart. And it will seize your heart. Trust me.”

Literati Bookstore image Samuel Krowchenko, Literati Bookstore
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Miracle Creek

A Novel

By Angie Kim
Narrated by: Jennifer Lim
Length: 14 hours 4 minutes

Miracle Creek

Miracle Creek is a courtroom drama with impeccable pacing, an original plot, and stellar writing. It’s also a remarkably empathetic book, exploring the ripple effects of causality and the urgent need to do right by each other in big and small ways, recognizing that even the best of us will fail once in a while. It is a lovely reminder that even when doing the right thing feels like swimming upstream, we never know what harm may be prevented and what good might come from our actions. Agreat read that deserves broad success.”

Hudson Booksellers image Sara Hinckley, Hudson Booksellers
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Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)

By Min Jin Lee
Narrated by: Allison Hiroto
Length: 18 hours 15 minutes

Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist)

“A father's gentle nature, a mother's sacrifice, a daughter's trust, and a son's determination are the cornerstones of this grand, multilayered saga. Pachinko follows one family through an ever-changing cultural landscape, from 1910 Korea to 1989 Japan. As the bonds of family are put to the test in the harsh realities of their world, Sunja and those she holds dear manage to carve themselves a place to call home with hard work, self sacrifice, and a little kimchi. Through it all is a message about love, faith, and the deep-rooted bonds of family. Min Jin Lee gives us a phenomenal story about one family's struggle that resonates with us today. It will take hold of you and not let go!”

Jennifer Steele image Jennifer Steele, Boswell Book Company
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Where Reasons End

A Novel

By Yiyun Li
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 4 hours 4 minutes

A fearless writer confronts grief and transforms it into art, in a book of surprising beauty and love, "a masterpiece by a master” (Elizabeth McCracken, Vanity Fair).

"Li has converted the messy and devastating stuff of life into a remarkable work of art.”—The Wall Street Journal

WINNER OF THE PEN/JEAN STEIN AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE... Read more »

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Sabrina & Corina

Stories

By Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Narrated by: Various
Length: 7 hours 19 minutes

Latinas of Indigenous descent living in the American West take center stage in this haunting debut story collection—a powerful meditation on friendship, mothers and daughters, and the deep-rooted truths of our homelands. 

Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Indigenous Latina characters and the land they... Read more »

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Home Remedies

Stories

By Xuan Juliana Wang
Narrated by: Catherine Ho, Tim Chiou, Feodor Chin, James Chen, Lawrence Kao, Nancy Wu, David Shih, Cory Censoprano, Joel de la Fuente, Annie Q, Jennifer Lim & Elaine Kao
Length: 6 hours 34 minutes

A FINALIST FOR THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY YOUNG LIONS FICTION AWARD • SHORTLISTED FOR THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE FOR DEBUT SHORT STORY COLLECTION • WINNER OF THE CALIFORNIA BOOK AWARDS GOLD MEDAL IN FIRST FICTION • WINNER OF THE JOHN ZACHARIS FIRST BOOK AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE STORY PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR... Read more »

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The Memory Police

A Novel

By Yoko Ogawa
Narrated by: Traci Kato-Kiriyama
Length: 9 hours 8 minutes

The Memory Police

“On the island, things regularly disappear en masse. Boats. Roses. Birds. Calendars. The people of the island are expected to gather and destroy any remaining evidence of these disappearances, and with it, their memories. The narrator refers to "killing two creatures with one stone" long after the island's birds are disappeared--even the word itself is gone from her consciousness. But a small minority of people are still able to remember, and it is the job of the Memory Police to track those people down. The fragile, spare prose haunts you with many questions: Can humanity survive without memories? Without nostalgia? Without a material culture? This elegiac glimpse into the heart of authoritarianism will linger in your own memory for a long time to come.”

The Book Table image Rachel, The Book Table
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A Memory Called Empire

Teixcalaan: Book #1

By Arkady Martine
Narrated by: Amy Landon
Length: 15 hours 36 minutes

Winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Novel
A Locus, and Nebula Award nominee for 2019
A Best Book of 2019: Library Journal, Polygon, Den of Geek

An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
A Guardian Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book of 2019 and “Not the Booker Prize” Nominee
A Goodreads Biggest SFF Book of 2019 and Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee


"A Memory...

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The Fifth Season

The Broken Earth: Book #1

By N. K. Jemisin
Narrated by: Robin Miles
Length: 15 hours 27 minutes

The Fifth Season

“The Fifth Season is an amazing, dark, and gripping work that will hook you from the first sentence. I cannot express to you how much this book stunned me. Robin's narration is well paced and engaging. While I wish this was a book for everyone to listen to, it isn't; destruction, trauma, and rage follow the women and girls who tell their stories. This book is about the end of the world, that you actually don't want to stop reading.”

Once Upon A Time image Jessica, Once Upon A Time
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Six Wakes

By Mur Lafferty
Narrated by: Mur Lafferty
Length: 9 hours 43 minutes

In this Hugo nominated science fiction thriller by Mur Lafferty, a crew of clones awakens aboard a space ship to find they're being hunted-and any one of them could be the killer.

Maria Arena awakens in a cloning vat streaked with drying blood. She has no memory of how she died. This is new; before, when she had awakened as a new clone, her first... Read more »

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Exhalation

Stories

By Ted Chiang
Narrated by: Edoardo Ballerini, Dominic Hoffman, Amy Landon & Ted Chiang
Length: 11 hours 21 minutes

Exhalation

“WOW. My first experience with Ted Chiang absolutely blew me out of the water. Each story left me with wide eyes and a racing mind, running to my husband to read a passage so we could both be knocked over with wonder. Exhalation filled me with so many questions about our collective past, present, and future, I’ll be coming back to this book again and again trying to find the answers.”

Country Bookshelf image Kasey Kane, Country Bookshelf
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Small Country

A Novel

By Gaël Faye
Narrated by: Dominic Hoffman
Length: 6 hours 2 minutes

Already an international sensation and prize-winning bestseller in France, an evocative coming-of-age story of a young boy, a lost childhood and a shattered homeland.
 
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ALBERTINE PRIZE • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY ESQUIRE • LONGLISTED FOR THE ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL FOR EXCELLENCE IN FICTION • LONGLISTED FOR THE... Read more »

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White Teeth

A Novel

By Zadie Smith
Narrated by: Lenny Henry, Pippa Bennett-Warner, Ray Panthaki & Arya Sagar
Length: 18 hours 37 minutes

Zadie Smith’s dazzling debut caught critics grasping for comparisons and deciding on everyone from Charles Dickens to Salman Rushdie to John Irving and Martin Amis. But the truth is that Zadie Smith’s voice is remarkably, fluently, and altogether wonderfully her own.

At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie... Read more »

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