Hi, MSM readers. Happy last day of school!

For today’s Shelf Care–the final one until September–I’m going to do something a little different. Instead of recommending two specific books, I’m sharing a Summer 2020 Reading Challenge. The goal is to expand your reading horizons and choose books you might not normally read.


Challenge #1: Read a book written by a woman.

As a librarian, the question most people ask when they first meet me is: “Who are your favorite authors?” Of course I ask them the same, and I’ve noticed a trend in their answers; most readers, regardless of their gender, list male authors (with the occasional naming of popular/classic writers like J.K. Rowling or Jane Austen). That’s fine and dandy, but there are so many underrated women writers across all genres who deserve much more recognition! This summer, I challenge you to seek out a woman’s work to read. It can be in your favorite genre, or in a genre you’ve never read before.

Here are a few of my favorite female authors:

  • Naomi Novik (historical fantasy and folk tales)
  • Kara Thomas (horror)
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (contemporary and historical fiction)
  • Libba Bray (satire and dark fantasy)
  • Tahereh Mafi (speculative fiction)
  • Catherynne M. Valente (fairy tales and folk tales, science fiction, space opera)

Challenge #2: Read a book of poetry or short fiction.

When we think of “books” we typically think of fiction or nonfiction in the most traditional sense: 200-400 pages of regular paragraphs, divided into chapters. Some readers prefer this straightforward format, but there are other formats out there that are great if you’re looking for something short and sweet but still packed full of meaningful art. So for the second book you read this summer, I challenge you to find a book of short stories or poems. You can get a lot out of a traditional novel, but there’s so much to be found in shorter formats as well.

Some recommendations:

  • Life On Mars by former American poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith
  • Black Enough: Stories of Being Black and Young in America, edited by Ibi Zoboi
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
  • Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp
  • The MSM Reflections literary magazine!

Challenge #3: Read a graphic novel.

A lot of people dismiss graphic novels (a.k.a. comic books) as “silly” or “for little kids,” but they are quickly becoming a popular format for storytelling across all age groups. From biography to fantasy, there’s a graphic novel out there for everyone. For book three this summer, try finding a graphic novel you’d like!

Here are my personal recommendations:

  • Castle Waiting by Linda Medley (my absolute favorite story ever!)
  • American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
  • Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
  • In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
  • Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Challenge #4: Read a book translated from another language.

Fantastic stories are being told all over the world, and thanks to hardworking translators, readers can enjoy these stories in our native language.

  • Sailor Moon, Volume 1 by Naoko Takeuchi
  • Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin
  • The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi
  • The Book Jumper by Mechtilde Glaser
  • Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

Challenge #5: Reread a favorite book.

Okay, I know I said the point of this challenge is to expand your bookish horizons. But there’s something so comforting about returning to a story you love. I’m sure all you readers have books that are close to your hearts. This has been a rollercoaster of a school year. Congratulations for making it to the end! Before preparing for the next one, take care of yourself by finding comfort in the familiar.

There you have it. I hope you have a wonderful summer full of reading and sunshine. See you next year!

Ms. Lee Ann Kostempski, Library Media Specialist

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