Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #14: Read a Book with Under 500 Goodreads Ratings

Hello, readers! For the fourteenth challenge, we’re going to read a book with fewer than 500 ratings on Goodreads. That’s it! That’s the only guideline! For some people, that freedom is a joy. For others, it’s probably an instant anxiety: there are too many choices. I hear you, my spicy-brained friends, and I’ve got some ideas for you. 

For this one, I’m going to tell you how to find low ratings books on Goodreads. (Please note: this does not mean books with low star ratings, but books that have only been rated 500 times or less. They can have any average star rating!) Now, these instructions assume that you use Goodreads. There are some book recs below for anyone in other situations!

Let’s shop your Want to Read shelf. After all, you’ve already established that you want to read these books! Let’s see if you have one that will work. Here’s how to do that on a computer or your smartphone.

On your web browser, navigate to “My Books” (at the top left of the page) and then click on “Want to Read” under Bookshelves. Now you’re going to sort by the number of ratings. To do this, scroll to the bottom of the page, just below the last book listing. There are two drop-down menus; one determines how many books are shown per page — it defaults to 30, and you can increase this number if you want to. The other is the one we want: the default sorting option is “Date added,” and you want to change it to “Num ratings.” Once the change takes effect, your “Want to Read” shelf will be sorted by the number of ratings, but it will go from highest to lowest! Click the arrow at the top of the “Num ratings” column and it will switch to lowest to highest.

On the Goodreads mobile app, the process is slightly different. Tap the “My Books” tab at the bottom, then select “Want to Read.” At the top, you’ll see the way the books are sorted. I believe these also default to “Date Added.” Tap on that and select “Number of Ratings.” Then tap the word “Reverse” at the top right and you’re all set!

My books with the lowest number of ratings tend to be books that haven’t come out yet, books that just came out, books that were self-published and haven’t caught on, books from academic presses, older books that aren’t still big, and cookbooks. I’ve chosen a few books with under 500 ratings, shopping all of my shelves (because I’m sure I’ve read some books you haven’t read). I have omitted books that aren’t out yet, as well as very recent releases.


cover of Lovers Choice by Becky Birtha

Lovers’ Choice by Becky Birtha

This collection of 11 short stories for adults by children’s author Becky Birtha, originally published in 1987, explores Black lesbian girlhood and is beautifully written.

cover of The Parker Grey Show by Kristen Buckley

The Parker Grey Show by Kristen Buckley

In this “chick lit” from 2003, screenwriter Kristen Buckley gives us a twentysomething heroine just trying to make rent and pining for a TV doctor, who has to save her kidnapped best friend.

cover of vow of celibacy by erin judge

Vow of Celibacy by Erin Judge

Tired of her sexual conquests never turning into romance, Natalie takes a vow of celibacy and explores her recent relationships a lá High Fidelity


cover of The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott

The Moose That Roared by Keith Scott

You probably remember Rocky & Bullwinkle, the cartoon variety show from Jay Ward Productions. In this book, Keith Scott, who has voiced Bullwinkle since original actor Bill Scott (no relation) died, gives us the complete history of moose and squirrel.

cover of Black Love Matters by Jessica P. Pryde

Black Love Matters, edited by Jessica P Pryde

In this book of essays on Black love in the romance genre, Book Riot writer Pryde brings together contributors, including romance novelists Beverly Jenkins, Jasmine Guillory, Piper Huguley, and Kosoko Jackson, as well as academics Sarah Hannah Gomez and Carole V. Bell, among others.

cover of Vincent Price by Victoria Price

Vincent Price: A Daughter’s Biography by Victoria Price

In this biography, Price’s daughter traces his six-decade career as well as his personal life, including his love of cooking, his art curation, and his work with the Indian Arts and Crafts Board.

Children’s and YA

cover of A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Haworth

A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Haworth

When Hailee’s family wins the lottery, she is excited to finally be able to get the things she wants. No, needs. But her parents’ decisions about how to spend their newfound fortune don’t line up with her expectations, and suddenly she’s in a new (private) school and everything is different.

cover of Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater and Sophie Escabasse

Each book of the lower middle grade Derby Daredevils series focuses on a different team member. In this first installment, Kenzie dreams of playing roller derby, but she has to put together a team of at least five in order to even try out.

cover of Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding

Ink is Thicker Than Water by Amy Spalding 

In YA and romance author Amy Spalding’s second novel, 2013’s Ink is Thicker Than Water, Kellie feels out of place in her family, but a job at her stepdad’s tattoo parlor might help change that.


cover of Jerk from Jamaica by Helen Willinsky

Jerk: Barbecue from Jamaica by Helen Willinsky

This book is indispensable in my kitchen! The dry seasoning recipe alone is worth the price of the book, and there are dozens of other amazing recipes for meat, vegetables, and desserts.

cover of Cheryl Days Treasury of Southern Baking

Cheryl Day’s Treasury of Southern Baking by Cheryl Day

Rioter Susie Dumond told me about this book, and it’s now the one I turn to, even for recipes I already had a go-to version of. (Chocolate cake? Hers is richer. Cornbread? Perfection.)

cover of The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

The Palestinian Table by Reem Kassis

This is more than a cookbook; it’s a history of Palestine and a window into the food, which is, of course, the culture. I’ve only cooked one recipe from this book, but I’ve read it like I would read a memoir or anthology.

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Happy reading, from my shelves to yours!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #13: Read an Author Local to You

When I was younger, I always envisioned authors having a super glamorous life. I blame the movie She-Devil for this and Meryl Streep’s amazing portrayal of Mary Fisher.

Now that I’m older, I’m very well aware that they’re just like every body else. Some have day jobs in addition to writing which means that their days are filled with those tasks and they manage to sneak in writing when they can. Which is something I completely understand. Still, I admit that I get a giddy thrill whenever I find out about a local author. I can’t help it; it’s interesting to think that someone whose book I just finished also shops at the same local grocery store as me. 

That said, and as you likely already anticipated, this list may not be applicable to you unless you happen to also live in the Austin,TX area. So, a bit of research will need to be done to find options for you that fit this prompt. There are a few ways that this can be done, such as checking an author’s webpage or even looking to author blurb on the back of a book. Libraries are also a good source of this information, both from themed displays and the always help staff. And let’s not forget indie bookstores, especially the ones that will let authors sign their books when they come in and then proudly display them.

In doing that research you may be surprised to find how close one of your favorite authors may be to you. Which isn’t to say to go look for their actual physical addresses, because that would be very Annie Wilkes, something I do not recommend.

For this list, I included authors that live in a city close enough that I could drive there and back in one day. Enjoy!

cover image: woman in victorian red dress running away towards a doorway

A Studying Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas

Genres: Adult Romance, YA, Romance, Fantasy, Mystery

Best Known for: Lady Sherlock series, which A Study in Scarlet Women is the first of. In this book, we’re introduced to Charlotte Holmes who takes up sleuthing to clear her father’s and sister’s names after they’re accused or murder. The series follows her and the other mysteries she solves.

Tall, Dark, Deadly cover

Tall, Dark, & Deadly by Kharma Kelley

Genre: Paranormal Romance.
Fun Fact: Community Founder of the Inclusive Romance Project

When Chloe’s former vampiric gang draws her unwillingly into a plot to open up a mysterious box, she is caught between her old life and her new one. Further complicating this is her handsome boss Ethan and the mutual attraction they are unable to ignore.

cover image for More Than You'll Ever Know

More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez

Genre: General Fiction

This gripping novel is told in alternating time lines. In 2017, true-crime writer Cassie finds herself drawn into the story of Lore, a woman who, in 1985, had two different lives, husbands, and families. She managed to keep these lives separate until her secret is discovered and one husband is arrested for murdering the other.

cover image for The Devil Takes You Home

The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias

Genre: Barrio Noir
Fun Fact: Accredited with the creation of the aforementioned genre

After a tragedy changes the trajectory of his life, reluctant hitman Mario agrees to one final job to hijack a cartel’s cash shipment. This job could leave him dead or with $200,000 dollars, but he isn’t in a position to turn it down. As he and his two other partners go on their journey, their motives and hidden secrets become apparent, ensuring that none of them will return the same.

The Spite House cover

The Spite House by Johnny Compton (February 2023)

Genre: Horror

Eric and his two daughters are on the run from their former life. Not being able to give references makes it hard to find a job, so when Eric hears about a caretaking position for the allegedly haunted, he sees it as the perfect opportunity to make some money; that is if the paranormal activity doesn’t drive him and his family mad.

stargazers cover

Star Gazers by L.P. Hernandez

Genre: Horror

Fun Fact: This book was the first novella released in Cemetery Gate’s My Dark Library series.

When a forum post about someone’s neighbor staring at stars all night is made, it’s quickly dismissed as bad fanfiction. Then the nocturnal activity begins to spread worldwide leaving the “stargazers” changed the next day. When it affects Henry’s city, the war veteran must use all his skills to save his family from this new and unknown danger.

Cover of The Ghost Tracks by Celso Hurtado

The Ghost Tracks by Celso Hurtado

Genre: Horror

Fun fact: Takes place near San Antonio’s famed haunted train tracks.

Erasmo lives with his beloved grandmother who he just found out has cancer. In a desperate attempt to help pay for her medical expenses, he sets up a paranormal investigation business and quickly finds out there is more to his home town than meets the eye.

Hell Hath No Sorrow like a Woman Haunted cover

Hell Hath No Sorrow like a Woman Haunted by R.J. Joseph

Genres: Romance, Horror

Fun Fact: Co-host of the Genre Blackademia podcast

This collection of short stories all feature Black women and their brushes with the supernatural. Sometimes they’re the victims. Sometimes they’re the monsters. And oftentimes, they’re both.

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As with all my other lists, this is by no means comprehensive because there are a lot more local authors, both indie and traditionally published, in my area. But that just goes to prove that once you start trying to find out which authors live in your area, you will be overwhelmed with what you find. And, even if you can’t use this list for this specific task, I hope that it helps to fulfill others. Good luck on knocking this year’s Read Harder Challenge out and, as always, happy reading and stay hydrated!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #12: Read a Nonfiction Book About BIPOC and/or Queer History.

Today, we’re highlighting task number 12, which is to read a nonfiction book about BIPOC and/or queer history. This is a big topic and I wish I could give you a hundred books to try, but alas, there are not that many here for you. If you keep scrolling, though, there are a few links at the end to help you find others that might be of interest!

There are a lot of nonfiction books nowadays that focus on contemporary social justice, and in the past few years, especially, those have been heavily the focus when it comes to books by BIPOC and queer authors about BIPOC and queer people and concerns. But while we have to talk about contemporary issues, there’s so much history that we just don’t know, because nobody took the time to research it, or if they had, it was decided it wasn’t worth teaching. Thankfully, we’ve been able to discover the histories of more people, places, and movements than ever before, and there are countless options for this particular category. 

So, in honor of that “and/or” in the task description, here are eight books that focus on the history of BIPOC members of the queer community. 

cover of Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity

Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity by C. Riley Snorton 

This detailed history digs into the history of transness in the African American community by highlighting some of the Black trans folks who lived between the mid nineteenth century and the present day. It compares the exposure to the names of prominent and tragic white trans people to that of Black trans people living at the same time, and digs into the correlation between anti-Blackness and anti-transness. 

cover of Q&A

Q&A: Voices from Queer Asian North America edited by Martin F. Manalansan IV, Alice Y. Hom, Kale Bantigue Fajardo

This is not a true history book, but does contain several perspectives on the history of queer Asians in the Americas through analysis, personal essay, poetry, and more. Its predecessor, Q&A: Queer in Asian America, was published by Hom and a different colleague, and was published in 1998.

And the Category Is cover

And the Category Is…: Inside New York’s Vogue, House, and Ballroom Community by Ricky Tucker

This volume highlights the past and present of Ballroom culture, recently made famous by shows like Pose and Legendary. Using elements of oral history and archival study, Tucker discusses the connection between queer Black culture and the shifts and swings in house music and culture over several decades. 

Reclaiming Two Spirits cover

Reclaiming Two-Spirits: Sexuality, Spiritual Renewal & Sovereignty in Native America by Gregory D. Smithers

This is the book that “decolonizes the history of gender and sexuality in Native North America.” Delving into the precolonial history of how gender and sexuality were expressed in various Indigenous groups, Smithers explores the meaning of holding onto the traditions that were all but erased by settler colonialism, genocide, and erasure. 

new cover of Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals by Saidiya Hartman

Black women were doing a lot at the beginning of the twentieth century. “Free love, common-law and transient marriages, serial partners, cohabitation outside of wedlock, queer relations, and single motherhood were among the sweeping changes that altered the character of everyday life and challenged traditional Victorian beliefs about courtship, love, and marriage.“ Hartman looks into a group of Black women at the turn of the century and how they effected a whole century’s worth of change through their own desires for a better way to live.

Cover of Borderlands/La Frontera: the new Mestiza, fifth edition

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa

First published in 1987, this combination of essays and poetry delves into life on the Mexican border, both in the past and in Anzaldúa’s present. She examines history and the future, and queer life in straight spaces, in language that will breathe the same full life into stories for centuries to come.

Queer Brown Voices cover

Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism edited by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez, Salvador Vidal-Ortiz

This collection of oral histories gathers nearly-lost knowledge of days past. Using oral history and personal essays, 14 queer activists highlight the work done in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, by themselves and their (often lost) peers. 

cover of Black. Queer. Southern. Women.

Black. Queer. Southern. Women.: An Oral History by E. Patrick Johnson

This oral history collection looks at the past and present of “racialized sexual minorities” in the American South, through their own words. E. Patrick Johnson has a whole catalog of books exploring the lives past and present of Black queer folks, so this one might just be a jumping off point if you’re interested in a deep dive into Queer Black Studies. 

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There were about 30 other books about either BIPOC or queer history on this list before, including several from the [insert group] History of the United States series, so you know there are plenty books in this category to read. You just have to find the one that speaks to you!

And if you really need more, here are some links to check out:

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023: Task #11: Read a Cookbook Cover to Cover

Today’s Read Harder task is “Read a cookbook cover to cover.” Which works out great for me, because I only read cookbooks cover to cover. I know they’re designed for dipping in and out of to find recipes that look appealing, and of course when I’m looking for a specific recipe in a cookbook I’ve already read, I go straight to the page I need. But the first time I pick up a new-to-me cookbook, it’s introduction to index, all the way. I like to see the story the writer is telling, the way they move through different meals of the day or different categories of ingredients. (I also used to try to read Choose Your Own Adventure books cover to cover as a kid, and I never put albums on shuffle. I like things orderly!)

I’ve chosen ten recent and new cookbooks that look like they have interesting stories to tell, as well as fun new dishes and techniques to add to my repertoire.

Smitten Kitchen Keepers by Deb Perelman

Smitten Kitchen: Keepers by Deb Perelman

I’ve been reading the Smitten Kitchen blog since blogs were, you know, a thing, so the parasocial attachment is real. She’s still the first place I go when I don’t know what to cook, so I’m excited to add a whole new batch of recipes to that well — especially that pound cake she keeps talking about.

Koshersoul cover

Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew by Michael W. Twitty

I’ve only heard good things about this book, which explores Black and Jewish cuisine and the intersection between them — but also how food and culture shape each other, and the inventive cooking that arises out of migration and diaspora.

The Woks of Life cover

The Woks of Life: Recipes to Know and Love from a Chinese American Family: A Cookbook by Bill, Judy, Sarah, and Kaitlin Leung

Another blog book! This one is by the Leung family, who are behind the popular blog of the same title. Chinese food is a go-to comfort food for me, so anything that can help me get more of it in my life is a plus.

Rise & Run cover

Rise and Run: Recipes, Rituals and Runs to Fuel Your Day: A Cookbook by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky

NYC marathon champion Shalane Flanagan and nutrition coach Elise Kopecky’s previous book, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow. is one of my favorite cookbooks to reference, so I need to add their latest collaboration to my collection. As a runner, I love their emphasis on flavor and enjoyment instead of counting calories or excising “bad” foods.

On the Curry Trail cover

On the Curry Trail: Chasing the Flavor That Seduced the World by Raghavan Iyer

I know just enough about curry to know that it’s an extremely broad term that my occasional forays into cooking butter chicken have barely scraped the surface of. This cookbook about “the diaspora of curry” — from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, and the Americas — sounds enlightening and fascinating.

Africana cover

Africana: More than 100 Recipes and Flavors Inspired by a Rich Continent by Lerato Umah-Shaylor

Speaking of cuisines I know very little about, African cuisine is too often overlooked and ignored in the Western world. Africana has over 100 recipes from all over the African continent, which obviously encompasses a massive range of cultures and flavors, and I’m excited to try as many of them as possible.

The Core of an Onion cover

The Core of an Onion: Peerling the Rarest Common Food — Featuring More Than 100 Recipies by Mark Kurlansky

Okay, this isn’t exactly a cookbook, but it does include 25 recipes, and also I loved Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, on the history of the oyster industry in New York City, and more importantly, I absolutely love onions. Bring on the alliums!

First Generation cover

First Generation: Recipes from My Taiwanese-American Home by Frankie Gaw

This is another cookbook I keep hearing good things about and another cookbook that arose out of a popular blog — Little Fat Boy — but the main reason I bumped it up on my TBR is because it has the most beautiful dumplings on the cover, and I could eat dumplings every day of my life and never get sick of them.

Cooking at Home cover

Cooking at Home: Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Recipes (And Love My Microwave): A Cookbook by David Chang and Priya Krishna

Okay, this one is cheating a little bit, because I already own it, but I’m including it because it’s designed to be read straight through. What’s included in this book are less recipes and more techniques for how to make lots of basic staples that you can portion out, freeze, reheat, and repurpose to get a wide array of meals on the table quickly. Also, the back and forth notes between Chang and Krishna are charming.

I'll Bring the Cake cover

I’ll Bring The Cake: Recipes for Every Season and Every Occasion by Mandy Merriman

And of course, we have to end with dessert! In the battle between cake and pie, I am always and forever Team Cake. This book gives you a little bit of a shortcut by starting with box mixes, which, let’s face it, are sometimes the tastiest option. And it’s publishing just in time for my birthday! You know, just in case anyone feels like throwing me a party.

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…Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving now. I’m gonna go cook something.

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder 2023 Task #10: Read a Book You Know Nothing About Based Solely On the Cover.

Admit you: you’ve judged a book by its cover. We’ve all done it. Most of us will still read a book even if the cover isn’t pleasing to our brain, if it’s been highly recommended or the synopsis hooks us. But having a cover that sinks its hooks into our eyeballs and yells “WELL DON’T I LOOK INTERESTING” certainly helps. You know the ones. And now you’re going to get a chance to read one of them as a task for the 2023 Read Harder Challenge: read a book you know nothing about based solely on the cover.

Getting the design right for a cover must be a difficult job! You have to convey a mood for the book, as well as give an idea of what’s inside, or even straight-up include something from the book itself. It’s especially hard when the title gives nothing away. A book called “Adventures at the Magical Raccoon Café” gives a designer a lot to work with, as opposed to a book called something like “Grand Love” or “Big Time.” Then you really need the artwork to catch the eye, because the title certainly won’t.

This is going to be an easy task for you because there are so many books with gorgeous, eye-catching covers being released every week! Below, you’ll find 10 I chose for myself based on what made my brain sit up and go “OOOOO” when it saw them. These are all upcoming 2023 releases, so maybe you’ll also find books to add to your TBR! Have fun with this challenge, and happy reading!

cover of Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy; illustration of a stained glass window image of a nun smoking a cigarette, done in reds and purples

Scorched Grace by Margot Douaihy

This one stood out to me immediately, because the nun is smoking. As someone who knows nothing about nuns, I don’t even know if nuns smoke cigarettes? But something about this cover made me think that they don’t. And that made me think this nun must be a badass. (Spoiler: I have read this book since I chose it for this list, and the nun in question is indeed a badass.)

cover of Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez; image of red hand with long pointed yellow-painted fingernails that are on fire

Our Share of Night by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell

What is this book saying? Is it about a monster with claws? A manicure gone horribly wrong? Nail polish is flammable, after all. None of the words in the title give away anything that is conveyed in the illustration. But something about it has me transfixed. Maybe because it’s so cool how the nail color matches the font.

cover of Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns; illustration of South Asian person looking in car rear view mirror with a pine tree air freshener hanging from the mirror on fire

Your Driver Is Waiting by Priya Guns

Here’s another fun illustration that captivated me. Something about the look the person in the illustration is giving, combined with the pine tree air freshener on fire, tells me this is a car ride I don’t want to take. So maybe it’s about a murderous ride share driver? The most ominous thing might be the upside-down smiley face.

cover of Sucker by Daniel Hornsby; image of the title with a tiny bit of blood on the bottom of the letter L

Sucker by Daniel Hornsby

I am a sucker (pun intended) for vampire novels, and at first glance, this title combined with that bit of blood has me thinking this might be one. It also has that sorta 1970s, early 1980s font, so perhaps it’s historical? The bloody ‘K’ could also just mean there’s murder, or it kind of looks like a thorn? But I’m guessing vampires.

cover of The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw; illustration of a plague doctor and a long-haired skeleton holding a skull over a pile of skulls

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

I don’t know what is happening here but also I need it as a tattoo right away. I am fairly certain the figure on the left is a plague doctor, so perhaps the long-haired creature on the right is Death? And its adding another skull to its pile of dead people it has collected? The style reminds me of the dwelling of Gung the Magnificent from The Amazing Screw-On Head, my favorite 22 minutes of television, which is probably why it appeals to me.

cover of Maeve Fly by CJ Leede; illustration of rows and rows of pointed teeth surrounding a person licking a giant eyeball

Maeve Fly by CJ Leede

Here’s one that really illustrates the point that taste is subjective. Because some of you might look at this and think, “Gross, no thank you.” But I look at it and think, “GIVE IT TO ME NOW.” Even though I don’t know what it’s about, I love the strange and unusual. (I myself am, et cetera, et cetera.) I’m going to guess it isn’t a Victorian-era romance or a children’s book. The title is a play on “mayfly” but does it actually have anything to do with insects? Will someone really lick a giant eyeball? Inquiring minds want to know!

cover of The Shadow Sister by Lily Meade; illustration of a young Black woman's face surrounded by blue flowers and a butterfly

The Shadow Sister by Lily Meade

This one I want to read just because the cover is beautiful. It doesn’t really tell me anything about the book, aside for the tag line at the top: “She came back. Is it a miracle…or a curse?” Did the character come back from the dead? College? Cleveland? Do butterflies and flowers really have anything to do with the story, or are they just pretty? I’m okay with the latter, because it got me to notice the cover.

cover of The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter; illustration of face and shoulder of a woman with a body made out of various fruits

The Thick and the Lean by Chana Porter 

This one already has my vote for my favorite cover of 2023. What does it even mean??? I’m guessing the person in the book isn’t actually made from fruit, but perhaps they’re a chef? Could it be a horror novel? Maybe someone is turned into food, like Alice becomes cake in that old Tom Petty video. I’m getting a bit of sinister vibes from it, too, or perhaps just weird vibes. Whatever it is, it’s GORGEOUS.

cover of She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran; illustration of an Asian woman with flowers growing out of the corners of her mouth and a tear running down her cheek

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

Here’s another one that made me say “WOW” when I saw it. This young woman has flowers in her mouth — they appear to be growing out of her mouth, indicated by the vines in her skin? I don’t think she is happy about it, because she’s crying. Or maybe she loves having flower lip accessories and she’s crying about something else. I must know!

cover of Gone to the Wolves by John Wray; scratchy, heavy metal font

Gone to the Wolves by John Wray

And this last one does all its talking just with its font. This one appealed to me because it looks like something I was doodling on my notebook in high school while I should have been paying attention in class. It’s very heavy metal, and in fact, I did look at the synopsis for this one after the cover jumped out at me. And it is about heavy metal, so A+ job, cover designer!

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For more exciting new books you might want to read, awesome covers or not, check out our weekly New Books newsletter, or subscribe to All the Books! on your podcast player or choice!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

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Read Harder #9: Read an Independently Published Book By a BIPOC Author

Our Read Harder task today is to read an independently published book by a BIPOC author. If you’ve never read an indie book before, you might have some qualms about them: that they’re not well written, or about things that nobody cares about. What you might not have considered is the white supremacy at the center of traditional publishing: publishers who tell authors from historically and systemically excluded groups things like “we don’t need your book, we already have a Black author;” “nobody’s interested in reading that story;” “now’s not the right time.” They say these things to people who already have fewer advantages than white authors in general. And so, some people turn to self-publishing. 

For the sake of this list, I am only including books that are individually published by the authors themselves. Some people consider smaller boutique presses independent, and therefore might consider their books technically independently published, but these authors don’t have the support of a staff to have their books edited, completed, covered, and marketed. These are all people who had sole discretion over the production of their books (and sometimes hired out assistance with editing, formatting, and cover design).  

Note: you’ll notice that most of these are romance novels. Well folks, with a few exceptions, the indie publishing world outside of the romance borders is quite a white place. Also, romance is where the majority of digital indie publishing currently lives.

cover of that time I got drunk and saved a demon by kimberly lemming

That Time I Got Drunk and Saved a Demon by Kimberly Lemming

If the title makes you think this is a silly story, you are absolutely right! But it isn’t just silly; it’s fun and heartfelt and scary and sexy, too! Cin (short for Cinnamon) is a spice farmer (lol) who — you guessed it — gets drunk and accidentally rescues a hungry demon from the centuries-long curse. And then he recruits her to help him slay the witch who cursed him. Road trip!

cover of Drag Me Up by RM Virtues

Drag Me Up by RM Virtues

If you want your story to run a little darker, here’s the first in a new series setting the machinations of the Greek gods in a modern underworld. We start with Hades and Persephone — the man who runs the darkest corners of Khaos Falls and the aerial dancer who sets his world on fire. 

cover of Mail Order Opt Out

Mail Order Opt Out by Yvette de Oro

If you’re looking for a fun romp across the plains, look no further. When Lorena shows up to help out at a ranch hosting more than its usual number of guests, the last thing she expects is that the ranch owner’s grandmother has set up a scheme for several young women to show up in their own private season of The Bachelor.

cover of heartbeat braves

Heartbeat Braves by Pamela Sanderson

The first book in a series of romances set at the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center, Heartbeat Braves sees two feuding employees with fiery chemistry forced to work together to help ensure the Center’s future. There aren’t many Native/Indigenous/First Nations romance authors, and Pamela Sanderson’s skillful writing of both relationships and Indigenous social issues are a lot to strive towards matching. 

cover of a summer for scandal by lydia san andres

A Summer for Scandal by Lydia San Andres

Did someone say a loose retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the Caribbean at the turn of the twentieth century? Involving a fierce meet-dislike between a woman who secretly writes a serial and the man who publicly tears them apart (but might also secretly love them)? 

cover of When Tara Met Farah

When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi

Food vlogger Tara just wants her parents to be proud of her, but their skills in STEM and her failing math grade do not mesh. When she discovers that she’ll be sharing space with Farah, one of her mother’s new grad students, she isn’t very pleased. But they strike a quid-pro-quo bargain and end up spending a lot of time together in the meantime. 

cover of la boriquena

La Boriqueña by Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez

How about a comic book? La Boriqueña is the story of Marisol, a Boricua college student who travels to Puerto Rico for a study abroad program. While she’s on the island, one thing leads to another, and she ends up getting superpowers. 

cover of White Whiskey Bargain by Jodie Slaughter

White Whiskey Bargain by Jodie Slaughter

Bootlegging in the hills of Appalachia and a marriage of convenience between warring families. What more could a person ask for? Well…honesty, communication, searing hot sexytimes, and some violent warfare might make it the best thing ever?

New co er of Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

Tikka Chance on Me by Suleikha Snyder

This novella is a delightful little story about a woman named Pinky and the biker who comes into her family’s restaurant. They have instant, intense chemistry, but there are secrets afoot, and he’s not exactly the safest guy to be around. 

cover of behind these doors by jude lucens

Behind These Doors by Jude Lucens

If you want a completely different change of pace, check out this Edwardian story of love and society. Aubrey Fanshawe is in a…special kind of relationship with his best friends, Lord and Lady Hernedale. But when he meets journalist Lucien Saxby, he becomes the living embodiment of that Bugs Bunny heart-eyes meme. 

cover of hiding in the smoke

Hiding in the Smoke by Ofelia Martinez

Bar owner Sofia lives by one rule: she’ll go home with anyone she wants, as long as they know she’s not in it for the long haul. One night, and one night only. When she tells this to rock star Bren, he’s fine with it. Until morning, when he realizes she was…serious about that. He wants more, and will do anything to prove to her that he’s worth it. 

cover of All I've Wanted All I've Needed

All I’ve Wanted All I’ve Needed by AE Valdez

You would think Harlow would be happy; she’s the girlfriend of a famous baseball star and has everything anyone could want in life. But that’s just it. It seems like her role is just that of the girlfriend to the famous baseball star. So she sets off on her own path of self discovery. 

cover of Little Fire

Little Fire by Hollee Mands

This first book in a fantasy series features a grumpy archmage with a hidden heart of gold and the woman relying on him to survive when they both end up trapped in the Shadow Realm. There are wars to fight and secrets to uncover, but their need for each other might overshadow all the rest. 

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If you’re looking for more, I can’t help but recommend the entire oeuvre of some of my favorite authors, including Katrina Jackson, Christina C. Jones, Nicole Falls, Jackie Lau, Courtney Milan, Alexandria House, Chencia C. Higgins, Robin Covington, Rebekah Weatherspoon, Carla de Guzman (and the entirety of #RomanceClass), and Kennedy Ryan. Happy reading!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #8: Read a Graphic Novel/Comic/Manga if You Haven’t Before; Or Read One That is a Different Genre Than You Normally Read.

Today’s Read Harder task is number eight: Read a graphic novel/comic/manga if you haven’t before; or read one in a different genre than you usually read. The comics medium covers a broad array of types and topics, and obviously I can’t cover them all in this brief newsletter. So instead, I’ve pulled together a smattering across various types, genres, and nations of origin.

Within the comics medium, you can find almost any kind of story. You can pick up a Marvel or DC comic and read about familiar superheroes and their associates, or you can pick up something from a niche publisher and read about…literally anything else. Romance? Yep. Detective stories? Of course. Fantasy? Oh yeah. Science fiction? Definitely. Memoir? You got it. Comedy? Absolutely. Anything you want in a story, you can find it in a comic book.

For the most part, if you’re reading western comics, it’s easiest to find trade paperbacks in a bookstore or online, but you can also take this time to wander into a comics shop and explore what stories are currently being released in issues. Both traditional bookstores and comics shops are also great places to check out what’s happening in the manga world, and to really test your own feelings about how long a manga series you want to read. (It’s really something, seeing all nine hundred thousand issues of One Piece on the shelf.)

If you’re a digital reader, you can also check out Comixology, which is now owned by Amazon and as such is a little more streamlined with Amazon’s site. You might be able to try first issues for free, or things that are exclusively available. If you’re interested in more options, it’s definitely the place to be. 

Like I said at the top, it’s hard to recommend something in every category in this brief amount of space, but here are some recommendations of comics and manga — some the first in a series, some standalone — that will draw in even the most reluctant of comics readers. 

cover The Way of the Househusband

The Way of the Househusband by Kousuke Oono 

If you have never picked up manga in your life, this might be the one to turn you into a manga fanatic. Told in vignettes, this series follows the escapades of a former crime boss who has become a house husband. And the only thing The Immortal Dragon loves more than a good deal at the grocer is his wife. 

cover of Black

Black by Kwanza Osajyefo et al

What if we lived in a world where only Black people had superpowers? 

That’s it. That’s the tweet.

(I’ll mention there’s also the follow-up Black [AF]: America’s Sweetheart, which I liked even better.)

Book cover of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings

With the new series out from FX, now is as good a time as any to explore yet another imagining of Octavia E. Butler’s horrifying, heartbreaking, incredible story of a woman lost between two time periods. 

Harley Quinn Eat Bang Kill Tour cover

Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat Bang Kill Tour Volume 1 by Tee Franklin et al

And then when you’re done with that, because you’re going to need a heckuva pick up, read this giant ball of cotton candy masquerading as a book about villains. Sure, it’s good to know what’s going on in Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, but it’s almost more fun to have absolutely no idea what’s going on beyond the pages of the book. 

This Place: 150 Years Retold cover

This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm

This collection of comics highlights the history of what is now called Canada, but in stories that invoke magic and science fiction. All of the creators are Indigenous.

cover of I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up

I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko Kodama

This is very much what it says on the tin! An adorable, single-volume story about two women who already live together and just…go ahead and get married. It’s sweet and fun, and also there might be a little bit of nudity. 

cover of In Love and Pajamas

In Love and Pajamas by Catana Chetwynd

Chetwynd has published a few volumes collecting her one- and two-page comics, but this one is probably my favorite. Usually in three or four black and white panels, she highlights an element of her life in funny or poignant ways. 

cover of Patience and Esther

Patience & Esther by SM Searle

How often do we get to read comics about lesbian Edwardian maids? (Well, technically, I think Esther is an assistant housekeeper or some such.) This sweet story follows two domestic workers through the evolution of the industrial period and their own understanding of themselves, each other, and the world. I’ll give another heads up for nudity in this one. 

cover of La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo

La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo by Henry Barajas

In this slim volume, Barajas writes himself into the comic highlighting the story of his great-grandfather, who spearheaded the development of an Arizona Indigenous organization and helped pave the way for federal recognition of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe. 

Everything is OK cover

Everything is OK by Debbie Tung

Debbie Tung is a graphic memoirist who knows exactly how to punch you in the chest with her art, and Everything is OK is yet another example of this. Detailing her own experiences with depression and anxiety, Tung pulls the reader in with her simple art style and emotional journey.

cover of SLAM! Vol 1

SLAM! By Pamela Ribon

I didn’t think a graphic novel about roller derby would make me cry, but leave it to Pamela Ribon (whose graphic novel My Boyfriend is a Bear ALSO made me cry). But the thing is this story is more than about roller derby; it’s about friendship and platonic love and finding joy in something. I bet you’ll cry, too. 

Cover of America, Vol 1

America Volume 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez by Gabby Rivera

You’ll notice there aren’t many superhero comics on here, and that’s in part because there are just so many, and you can always pick one up and see what you think. But since I included a DC Comics one, I thought I should at least offer one Marvel recommendation. America Chavez had a small role in the most recent Dr. Strange movie, but hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.

goldie vance

Goldie Vance Vol 1 by Hope Larson et al

Finally, if you’re interested in solving a mystery or two, Goldie Vance is your girl. She lives in a hotel in the 1950s, and gets into all kinds of trouble.

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If you’re looking for more options, our comics content is pretty top notch! Subscribe to our comics newsletter, The Stack, to get more comics recs than you could ever be able to keep up with.

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 #7: Listen To an Audiobook Performed By a POC of a Book Written By an AOC

One of the great things about the Read Harder Challenge is that it encourages us to not only stretch outside of our comfort zones with content, but also format! While task #7 might feel really specific — listen to an audiobook performed by a person of color of a book written by an author of color — it’s really important because unfortunately, many books by authors of color are still being performed by white narrators in their audiobook editions.

Audiobooks are their own art form, and bringing a story to an audio format comes with a whole slew of considerations. Not only is the ability to read well, sound engaging, and speak with great inflection and emotion important, but there are also considerations like pronunciation, accents, and an understanding of how people sound when conversing that tends to be glossed over or not considered when narrators don’t share the same cultural backgrounds as the protagonist of the story. Just as we would expect a Southern book to have a narrator with a good Southern accent, narrators ought to be able to pronounce Mexican names or Yiddish words correctly. And unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

Listening to audiobooks written by authors of color, performed by narrators of color, shows publishing that readers want and deserve accuracy in the performance, and that narrators of color deserve a place in this industry! Here are some great audiobooks to get you started in your exploration, for all ages and genres.

Whiteout audio cover

Whiteout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Angie Thomas, Nic Stone, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon, narrated by a full cast

This YA novel is written by a powerhouse group of Black authors, and the narrators are also Black and include Shayna Small, Bahni Turpin, Korey Jackson, and more! The book is a series of interconnected stories about a surprise snowstorm in Atlanta days before Christmas, and the lengths a friend group will go to to help one of their own pull off the most epic apology ever in an effort to win back her girlfriend!

Sure I'll Be Your Black Friend audio cover

Sure, I’ll Be Your Black Friend by Ben Phillippe, narrated by James Fouhey

In Ben Phillippe’s hilarious and heartrending memoir, he tells the story of how he emigrated from Haiti to Canada as a young kid, grew up with a single mom, and then moved to New York City for college, Texas for grad school, and figured out how to make his own way as a Black Haitian-Canadian living in the U.S. James Fouhey (who also narrates Philippe’s YA novels) tells these stories with great comedic timing and heart.

Bride test audio cover

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, narrated by Emily Woo Seller

Esme is a mixed race young woman from Vietnam who is offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to America to marry a Vietnamese American man, but when she arrives, she discovers that the situation isn’t exactly what she thought. Her future husband, Khai, isn’t interested in marriage, and he doesn’t think he is capable of love. But as Esme falls for him, perhaps he can be persuaded. This heartwarming romance is narrated by Emily Woo Zeller, a powerhouse audiobook narrator who has an extensive backlist.

Island Queen audio

Island Queen by Vanessa Riley, narrated by Adjoa Andoh

Vanessa Riley tells the true life story of Dorothy Kirwan Thomas in this novel, a woman born into slavery who went on to become one of the richest people in South America. This epic story is narrated by the incredible Adjoa Andoh, a talented actress known for many stage and television roles, including Lady Danbury on Bridgerton.

Quiet in Her Bones audio

Quiet in Her Bones by Nailini Singh, narrated by Raj Varma

Ten years ago, Aarav’s mother disappeared. Everyone assumed she simply ran off with a million in cash, but when her body is discovered not very far from Aarav’s childhood home, the cold case becomes an active murder investigation. This New Zealand-set mystery is narrated by actor Raj Varma.

The Parker Inheritance audio cover

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, narrated by Cherisse Boothe

Candice is spending a summer in grandmother’s hometown, where it’s bound to be a boring few weeks cleaning out her grandmother’s house. But when she uncovers a notebook with a mysterious scavenger hunt meant to write a historical injustice, Candice is sent on a life-changing journey. Cherise Boothe narrated this great audiobook, which is reminiscent of The Westing Game.

Mexican Gothic audiobook cover

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, narrated by Frankie Corzo

Noemí has been summoned to her cousin’s country estate when she falls ill with a mysterious illness. But once she arrives, Noemí realizes that something is very wrong here, and she’s unable to leave without her cousin. Frankie Corzo narrates this chilling gothic novel.

Knockout audio cover

The Knockout by Sajni Patel, narrated by Soneela Nankani

A teen girl hoping to quality for the Muay Thai Nationals and the first Olympic team is at the center of this YA novel about chasing your dreams, smashing stereotypes, and finding your place within your communities. Soneela Nankani narrates this novel, and she has a deep backlist of audio titles she’s lent her talents to as well.

Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free!Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!

If you want to look for others outside of this list, we recommend searching the catalog of wherever you get your audiobooks by narrator — here’s a list of great audiobooks narrated by Black women to get you started!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #6: Finish a Book You’ve DNFed

To DNF or not to DNF, that is the question. I have never been any good at putting a book down when I don’t like it. It has only happened a handful of times in my reading life. I am so envious of people who start a book and then kick it to the curb when it isn’t working for them! After all, not every book is for every person so if you’re not enjoying it, you should read something else because life is short! (I really need to start practicing what I preach, lol.)

HOWEVER. There can be different reasons people stopped reading a book. Maybe you hated it, but maybe it just wasn’t what your brain needed at that time. Maybe the book was very serious and you needed something light and fluffy. Maybe you started it and then set it down to read a book you had been dying to read, and never got back to it. Books can also land differently when we’re at different ages, different places in our lives. What might not have interested you ten years ago might mean a lot to you know.

I’m talking about books that just didn’t hold your attention, not books you actively hated. The task of finishing a book you DNF (did not finish) was not designed to torture you, we promise. But it might be fun to see if your first instincts are correct, or if maybe you end up enjoying a book that you initially found boring. I am going to do it with one of the books I never finished. I’ll tell you about it below, along with several other books, one that I recommended to a friend (that they didn’t finish), and several more books popularly listed as ‘DNF’ on Goodreads. Are you surprised to see any of these on the list? How many have you also DNFed? Maybe it’s time to give them another try. And hey, if you hate them, you’ll still have completed a 2023 Read Harder task and confirmed that your instincts were correct!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi 

It stands to reason that the more popular a book is, the more people will be reading it and therefore, a larger number of people will also put it down. This was THE YA book to read a few years ago. It’s the start to a West African-inspired fantasy trilogy that is also going to be a movie series.

cover of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte; painting of two small figures standing on the moors

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Here it is, my own personal DNF that I am going to attempt to finish for the Read Harder Challenge. This book is a classic and so many, many people love it, but I thought it was ridiculously boring when I first picked it up. These characters are so moody and I hated them, which is why I eventually said, “NO MOOR.” (Pun intended.) On the whole, I am in favor of reading classics, because many are quite good. It’s been almost 30 years since I tried this one; maybe my middle-aged brain will enjoy it this time around.

cover of These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong; illustration of a dagger and a gold dragon on the hilt and roses

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Here’s another of the most popular YA series of the last few years. It’s an imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai. It has rival gangs instead of rival families, but also has a river monster. The two groups must put their differences aside if they want to defeat the unknown terror that is killing them off.

cover of Dune by Frank Herbert; illustration of a desert wasteland and a setting orange sun

Dune by Frank Herbert

I can see why this one is abandoned frequently. I did not find it to be an easy read at all. I only read it a couple of years ago in preparation for the release of the new adaptation, and I found it a bit boring and quite convoluted. But the worldbuilding is really quite fascinating, and intergalactic space travel and politics is always fun.

cover of The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois; orange with a painting of a yellow tree

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers

So this one is a novel I love that I recommended to my friend, who read 100 pages and abandoned it. I’m not hurt at all. (*sob*) No, really, I understand. It is over 800 pages long. But it’s an incredible work of historical fiction, if you’re up for the challenge. And you don’t have to take my word for it: Among it’s many awards and accolades, it was an Oprah book club pick, a National Book Award finalist, and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle for Fiction.

cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern; illustration of a black and white circus tent, with two silver silhouettes of people

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This is one of the biggest debut novel success stories. In over a decade since its release, The Night Circus has sold over three million copies worldwide. It’s the story of a magical circus and two young magicians raised to be competitors. Fantasy isn’t a genre for everyone, but if you didn’t finish this one, maybe pick it back up for this task!

cover of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue; black with gold font

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

I was surprised to see this top the Goodreads list of books marked ‘DNF’ because I loved it so much! It’s the story of a woman centuries ago who makes a deal with the Devil to get out of her current situation. He honors that request, but because he’s the Devil, he also has to pull some trickery: she is made immortal, but no one in the world ever remembers her.

cover of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara; black and white photo of a close up of a man with his eyes closed

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

And this National Book Award finalist is another book many people set aside without finishing, and I completely understand why. It’s a novel of four friends and their lives and loves in New York City. But it’s also a heck of a lot of detailed trauma, surrounding one of the friends. The compelling writing is what kept me reading this one.

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For more exciting new books you might want to read, awesome covers or not, check out our weekly New Books newsletter, or subscribe to All the Books! on your podcast player or choice!

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.

Read Harder

Read Harder 2023 Task #5: Read a Completed Webcomic

Hey there Read Harder friends! I’m Rachel, comic and SFF lover. Usually I’m traipsing into your inbox to talk historical fiction in Book Riot’s Past Tense newsletter, but today I’m here to talk completed webcomics. Whether you’re a seasoned comic veteran who knows their Marvel from their Image or a newbie just looking to expand their reading horizons, webcomics are a great place to explore new stories from up-and-coming (and sometimes even established) creators.

My first ever foray into webcomics came in the form of ND Stevenson’s Nimona, a hit webcomic about a shapeshifting antihero and an evil mad scientist who’s not particularly evil or mad when it comes right down to it. Nimona showed me just how incredible a webcomic could be, and how the unique format (in that case, the community and comments) can enhance the reading experience in a way that other forms will never be able to full replicate. More recently, I’ve gotten hooked on series like Cosmonknights and Marvel Meow Infinity on Marvel Unlimited, but whatever the comic or platform, webcomics will always have a special place in my heart.

Today, we’re not just talking any webcomics, we’re talking completed webcomics. Because readers know all too well the heartbreak of finishing a book only to discover the sequel doesn’t come out for years or discovering a beloved new fanfic only to realize it’s incomplete. Yes, there’s something magical about being able to follow along with a story as it’s being written, but sometimes it’s nice to know you won’t have to wait to find out what happens next. You won’t have to worry about that with these titles, because all nine are completed works that you can read in their entirety.

So what are you waiting for? This is one task you can check off your Read Harder list in a day or maybe two. Dive on in, there’s no excuse!

Circuits and Veins Webcomic Cover

Circuits and Veins by Jem Yoshioka

In this story about falling for the girl next door, the girl next door isn’t so much a girl as an android (cue Janet “not a girl” reference). Androids have won their independence, but what is it like to date one? Buckle in and find out in this cute, queer sci-fi webcomic.

Digger Webcomic Cover

Digger by Ursula Vernon

The author of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking and Nettle and Bone (under the pen name T. Kingfisher) pens a tale of a no-nonsense wombat who finds herself stuck on the wrong end of a one way tunnel straight to a nonsensical land. Along with the help of a shadow being, a hyena, a talking god statue, and an oracle slug, she must figure out some way to return home. Sadly this one is no longer available to read for free online, but you can still get the first volume or the entire omnibus in print.

Mooncakes Comic Cover

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

What happens when a Hard of Hearing witch is reunited with her former best friend turned werewolf only to discover that some terrible demon is stalking them? Mooncakes, that’s what! This sweet, magical romance follows two best friends navigating a whole lot of supernatural shenanigans and they burgeoning feelings for one and other. You can read the first issue online for free.

Check Please Webcomic Cover

Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu

Beloved webcomic — and one of my personal favorites — Check Please follows an ice-skater turned hockey player trying to win over his new teammates at Samwell University one baked good at a time. Bitty is a baker, hockey player, and part-time vlogger who will absolutely win over your heart with his Southern charm and never-ending positivity. Even if you know nothing about hockey (like me) you’ll absolutely love this webcomic.

Earth in a Pocket Webcomic Cover

Earth in a Pocket by Helen Greetham

Anthropologist Halisi Mwangi longs to bring the past to other planets, but when her spaceship malfunctions, suddenly her carefully packed shuttle of antiquities is destroyed, and she’s stranded on an alien planet with only the contents of her pockets to teach the aliens of this world about Earth. It’s a sci-fi adventure story like no other!

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness cover

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Kabi Nagata

This autobiographical manga has become an internet sensation over the last few years, but did you know it was originally published on the art website Pixiv? That’s right, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness was a webcomic before it was the hit coming of age (and coming out) manga it is today.

Fangs Webcomic Cover

Fangs by Sarah Anderson

I’m a big fan of Sarah Anderson’s comics on Instagram, so you better believe I was falling all over myself to read her new webcomic turned graphic novel about a vampire and a werewolf falling in love. Is their love story complicated? Oh, yes, wonderfully so. And this slice-of-life supernatural romance is full of macabre jokes and monstrous fondness that will leave you longing for more.

Always Human Webcomic Cover

Always Human by Ari North

Originally published on the popular webcomic app WebToon, Always Human explores a near future where augmented reality allows humans to present themselves with all sorts of body modifications without ever going under the knife. But not everyone can enjoy this future. Some, like Austen, live with a syndrome that doesn’t allow them to utilize these mods. It’s a story of tech, love, and what it means to be human.

Stand Still, Stay Silent Webcomic

Stand Still, Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg

This Nordic-inspired post apocalyptic webcomic features four volumes of intricate worldbuilding full of trolls, beasts, and giants. It is a story of horror, monsters, magic, and Norse mythology that follows a group of explorers setting out on a research mission to explore the forgotten world. But even more than that, it is a story of friendship and coming together even in the toughest of times.

Want to read books from this newsletter? You can, for free!Get three free audiobooks with a trial to Claim your 3 free audiobooks now!

Got a hankering for even more webcomics now? Good news, we love webcomics here at Book Riot! Here are a few more recommendations to check out:

9 Slice-of-Life Webcomics

11 Books That Started as Webcomics

10 of the Best Fantasy Webcomics

12 Queer Webcomics You Can Read for Free

Click here for the full Read Harder 2023 task list, and for previous recommendations, click here.