A few days ago, I asked about starting up reading challenges, with a particular goal in mind. Many of our questions are about the same authors, the same stories, the same genres, the same cultures. This isn't anyone's fault - it's just the way we were raised to read. We tend to pick out books that are "literary" or widely-recognized within our own cultures and our own personal reading scopes. But in reality, this restriction is harshly limiting on cultural and literary exposure.
You can read more about the reasoning behind topic challenges at that meta post. Here's what it boils down to: as first steps toward alleviating the breadth problem of Literature.SE, we're going to start reading challenges, similar to topic challenges on other sites (e.g. Pets, Gardening, Worldbuilding, and Sustainable Living).
Our reading challenges are typically going to last one month, unless a particular suggestion specifies otherwise, which they're certainly free to do. While this is much longer than other Stack sites typically do, this should allow us to read and approach a topic at a casual pace, while not too harshly limiting the number of topics we'll get to explore.
Guidelines for Voting On a Reading Challenge
Voting on these challenges is pretty simple, but make sure you do it with care and thought.
If the post fulfills the spirit of the reading challenge, and does indeed offer exposure to culture or thought that many people might not otherwise see, we'd suggest voting up.
If the post does not fulfill the spirit of the reading challenge, and does not offer exposure to new culture or thought, then we'd suggest voting down. And maybe leave a comment about why you're not sure it's a helpful challenge suggestion, because it's possible someone just misunderstood the purpose behind this.
Guidelines for Suggesting a Reading Challenge
Your challenge suggestion can be... honestly, whatever you'd like it to be. Please do make challenges that fall outside of what users of the site might predominantly already read. That's sort of why we're doing this. (It's also worth bearing in mind that these challenges are less a tool of study, and more a tool of intersectional exposure.)
In practice we expect to see mostly three categories: specific books, authors, and genres. The following aren't hard and fast rules, but are worth considering.
- When you create a book challenge, please consider doing the following:
- Ensure that the book(s) is/are reasonably available. Books from other cultures are a priori harder to obtain in English-speaking countries, so there's a good bit of slack here. But make sure that it's still possible to obtain a copy of it at all.
- Books are usually translated by native speakers of the target language in order to ensure that the translation is idiomatically correct, uses the correct nuances of the target language, etc. In some cases, it may be advantageous that the translator of the book is from the country of origin of that book; this can help preserve the meaning of a translated text, but isn't a requirement.
- Describe the sort of prior knowledge you think would be helpful have before/during reading the book.
- Please be mindful of the difficulty some texts pose. If a text would be valuable to study, but has a knowledge and time barrier that makes the book unreasonably difficult to delve into for someone outside of it, it may not be a good fit for a reading challenge.
- Please remember that the minimum age for the site is 13, and a percentage of our users are young, so please, within reason, attempt to suggest books that are not too graphic, or contain inordinate amounts of strong language. This doesn't mean that the book can't have language, but please keep this in mind.
- When you create an author challenge, please consider doing the following:
- Briefly describe what about the author motivated you to suggest them here. This doesn't have to be long, but it's helpful to have some more context so that people get a better sense for why you'd suggest it here.
- List around 2-4 of the books by the author that you think are particularly important or relevant, and maybe if it's not immediately clear, how they tie into your motivation for the author.
- If an author doesn't have very many published books, their works may be more suited for a book challenge.
- When you create a genre challenge, please consider doing the following:
- Highlight a reasonable number (3-5ish) of recommended authors who have written works in that genre.
- Highlight one or two of each author's books, as per the above advice. This might seem like a lot of work, but your answer is going to serve as a starting point for people to discover what they want to read in this genre.
Additionally, if you think your topic challenge is suited for a time period different than one month, you're welcome to indicate this in your answer. One month is sort of the assumed default; one week challenges might be an easier sell, longer than one month might make it a fairly hard sell. It's all up to you, though.
Some time after the previous topic challenge ends, someone in the community, anyone, can make the next one. The new topic challenge should be asked in its own question. If the answer offers useful information about that topic, that content should be copied over, too.
We'll also keep a running list of topic challenges here:
(answers below for used topic challenges have been deleted, you'll need 2k rep to view them)