Challenge Accepted: Read Harder 2017

Staff Picks

Challenge Accepted: Read Harder 2017

Challenge #1: Books About Sports

A new year means new year resolutions and challenges. One reading challenge that I love to do is Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder challenge. Instead of having people focus on a specific number of books, Read Harder challenges people to read different genres or authors that they may overlook. This year, there are 24 prompts for readers, and a complete list may be found here on the Book Riot Goodreads page. Today, I'll address the first challenge, to read a book about sports.

Apollo’s Angels by Jennifer Homans

Ballet is not generally considered a sport, but hear me out: it is. You try doing complicated routines that require you to leap, squat, lift, and put your body weight on one leg (or toe, if it’s pointe) all while keeping in time with music. Ballet, like many sports, requires a combination of timing, grace, strength, discipline, technique, and practice. Jennifer Homans captures the uniqueness of ballet in its history of art and social consciousness. With an almost 400 year history, Homans will make a skeptic into a fan.

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer has developed a reputation for insightful investigative non-fiction, and his first book is not an exception, though it is much more personal. Krakauer was on Mt. Everest when one of the worst disasters in mountain climbing history - the May 1996 disaster - occurred. Into Thin Air is not a typical sports memoir: you will get the sense of being trapped on the summit with Krakauer and his fellow climbers. You get the sense of how much training and preparation needs to go into a successful trip, and what can happen when people with enough funds ignore that preparation. (Hint: Death.)

On Boxing by Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates’s six essays that make up On Boxing would be compelling to any reader - even if they have no interest in the sport - because Oates seems to be on the fence about boxing herself. The very things that compel some people to love boxing are the exact things that others find repellent about it. It is in this contradictory nature of the sport that Oates draws her inspiration, and at the very least will leave you something to talk about.

The Golem’s Mighty Swing by Joe Sturm

Joe Sturm shows an overlooked portion of baseball history in a quick 100-page graphic novel based on the first Jewish baseball team that is both entertaining and enjoyable. While the Stars of David may not be a real baseball team, their challenges would be true of any small struggling team: subpar equipment, long bus rides, and a very small fanbase. However, as a Jewish team (with an African-American player), the Stars of David also had to deal with the consistent threat of violence, as most towns in America were not receptive to having any Jews in their town, even if only for a prearranged baseball game. Joe Sturm does an excellent job of making the players on the Stars of David so real that you’ll be looking for their biographies after you’ve finished reading it.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Another sports memoir, Murakami captures the appeal of distance running brilliantly. Running is a sport that does not require competition (though I can’t be the only one who is silently racing others out on the trail) and allows complete self-focus and self-reflection. Murakami’s descriptions of running along the Charles River in Boston or training for ultra-marathons along trails in Japan puts you in the place of a running, out there on the road and focused on your breathing. A very short read, Murakami will make almost anyone want to put on a pair of sneakers and go for a jog.

Did you read something else for this challenge? Share it with us on Twitter by using #readharderdcpl!