Summer Reading Challenge – Month #1 Update

July 2, 2024

We’re about one month into our 2024 Summer Reading Challenge, so we thought it might be nice to give you an update on where we are (and some encouragement if you’re struggling!)

(And hey, if you haven’t signed up yet, there’s still plenty of time to knock it out of the park. Head over here to grab all the free stuff and start reading – and if you want some extra community fun, our Patreon is totally the place to be!)


Okay, because I am SUPER motivated by little rewards and tracking, I’ve been keeping track on my phone with little emoji stickers! Here’s my current standing –

Pretty! (Just let me have this 😛)

So far I have completed these challenges:

“Read a Mystery” – I read The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen, and I totally loved it. It’s definitely a meta-Gothic novel (i.e. a Gothic novel that is also a commentary on the Gothic novel itself), but it’s also just a really good mystery that kept me guessing and flipping pages wildly to get to the answers. I highly recommend this one (and frankly it made me want to read more mysteries again!)

“Read a Book With a Purple Cover” AND “Read a Book That Makes You Laugh Out Loud” – I’m counting Do I Feel Better Yet?: Questionable Attempts at Self-Care and Existing in General by Madeleine Trebenski for both of these! It has a very nice, soft purple cover, and it’s also pretty hilarious (though I admit that some of my laughing was out of horrified self-recognition!) The book is filled with short essays on things people try as forms of “self-care,” as in “well, have you tried X?” (fill in the X with whatever thing people are recommending now for all that ails you – yoga, sleep, cleanses, face creams, etc, etc, etc.) Some of my favorite bits were her entire essay about how drinking more water will heal absolutely anything wrong with you (I am notoriously bad at water consumption, but have been trying REALLY hard to be better this year), her thoughts on how buying overlapping antique Persian rugs might make you the “mysterious yet scholarly” Gothic heroine of your dreams (omg, I have had this exact thought), and pretty much anytime any kind of supernatural being (sea witches, space monsters, evil wood nymphs, sentient roombas taking over the world) is involved in the joke (obviously.) A small caveat though – I was a little frustrated with a few of the essays that just seemed a bit “done” to me. Her one on being annoyed at the perfection of her yoga teacher, for example, was almost exactly the same joke as the “I’m So Good At Yoga” song from the TV show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (which the author even admitted she was inspired by!)? But overall I still enjoyed it and found it super funny, so I was willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt. I figure none of this riffing against the self-care industry is all that original when it comes down to it, but that one really bugged me for being glaringly similar.

(Side Note: You can read some of Madeleine Trebenski’s essays on McSweeney’s, where I’d actually read a few of them before! If you want one that’s in the book that I absolutely love, definitely try “I’m Your Outdoor Dream Girl, And Not An Evil Wood Nymph Who Wants To Steal Your Soul”.)

“Read a Creature Feature” – Our last book club pick, The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison, involves many, many creatures!! I guess it would also count for mystery, but, as mentioned, I had another one for that category already (plus I’d like to only count a single book twice at most if I can! No promises on this though….) I had a few little issues with this one, as mentioned in book club, but overall I really enjoyed it and would totally read more books set in this Sherlock Holmes-esque world if Addison wanted to write them!

Next Up –  I’m looking forward to reading All in Among the Briars edited by Julia Rios as our next book club pick (for a good cause and also likely countable for the “Read a Feminist Fairy Tale” category, as I know a lot the pieces included fit that description nicely!) That said, I’m also very excited for Kalynn Bayron’s new Snow White retelling, Sleep Like Death, which just came out a few days ago, and I’m also planning to read Death in the Spires by K.J. Charles for the “Read a Book a Friend Picks Out For You” challenge, as Sara’s been wanting me to read that one for ages!


Since January, I’ve been tracking my reading for the first time ever, so I actually know exactly what I’ve been reading for once! I read a truly ridiculous amount, and it’s been really satisfying having a record instead of blanking when I try to remember back past the last 2 or 3 books. Also, I’d like it to be known that I’m very angry that, no matter how much I read, I will never be able to read all the books. Disappointing. 

Read a Tolkien-Esque Book” – While Brittany and I were teaching our Fellowship course last month, I re-read Tolkien’s The Hobbit for the first time in about 16 years, and it’s just so enchanting. I’d forgotten how very tonally different it is from The Lord of the Rings trilogy and even how differently some of the characters are portrayed. It’s pretty much just a delightful romp without wildly high stakes, and none of the characters struck me as especially heroic, even Gandalf. In fact, I remembered vividly how horrified I’d been when I read The Hobbit as a child and read how unbelievably rude Gandalf and the dwarves are to Bilbo when they take over his house at the beginning! It has a lot of charm, moves at a pretty good clip, and was a fun, nostalgic read. I also completed this challenge by reading Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth edited by Catherine McIlwaine, which I cannot recommend highly enough for the Tolkien nerds among us. It was a monumental piece of work undertaken by the Tolkien archivist at Oxford, among other scholars, and it really is a treasure trove, with beautiful illustrations and photography.

“Read a Mystery” – I have apparently been on a mystery kick, because most of what I’ve been reading this month goes here. Two of my favorite books of the year (and my only two re-reads so far this year, both in the last month) are Death in the Spires by K.J. Charles and The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison, and they are both exquisite. Death in the Spires is basically everything that I personally want in a good mystery (or, you know, any book.) It’s set in Oxford, where I spent a year in undergrad, has wonderful twists and turns, and I absolutely adore the characters (except when I HATE them). It’s very Dark Academia and shares some things in common with R. F. Kuang’s Babel but is significantly more hopeful. The Angel of the Crows is basically Sherlock Holmes but where our protagonists are supernatural, and also gender. Katherine Addison/ Sarah Monette is at the top of her game with this one, and I think this book should get WAY more love because it’s doing a lot of quietly brilliant work. I also read another excellent gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes-related mystery called A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas, and it was fresh, feminist, and a complete delight.

“Read a Book a Friend Picks for You” – So, Jared and I have been profoundly obsessed with Contrapoint’s latest video on Twilight, which is about the novels and films but also about the history of romance as a genre, gender, desire, power, and A LOT more. The completely predictable outcome of this? Jared suggested that the next book we read together should be Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer, and which is literally just Twilight but about Beau Swan (average human boy) and Edythe Cullen (smokin’ hot vampire superhero.) Y’all, it is a TRIP. All of the characters are gender swapped, not just the protagonists, and I have to say it vastly improves the story because all the subtle assumptions about gender that the story is built on are reversed. It’s genuinely been a really fun read.

“Read a Book Set Where You Live” – For this one, I decided to finally read The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling, which is set in a fictional town in the Georgia mountains. (I live in Atlanta and spend a fair bit of time in the north Georgia mountains!) This one was cute, and there were a lot of things I liked about it (especially the protagonist’s spicy, sweary cousin) but I found some of the lack of urgency around the curse a bit frustrating. If you’re looking for a beach read with a supernatural, autumnal twist, this might really be your cup of tea.

“Read a Creature Feature” – Most of the books I’ve listed so far! The Hobbit (dragons!), The Angel of the Crows (angels, vampires, hellhounds, and MORE), Life and Death (vampires), The Ex Hex (witches). What can I say, I like it when the creatures are featured.

Next Up – I’m really looking forward to The Salt Grows Heavy, a novella by Cassandra Khaw, and I just picked up a copy of Real Self-Care by Pooja Lakshmin, M.D. I also have a backlog of K.J. Charles that I now want to read, because Death in the Spires is so in my head!

Again, there’s still tons of time to join us for this reading challenge, so click here and commit to reading some truly awesome stuff this summer! What have you been reading so far?

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