The 2023 Carterhaugh School Summer Reading Challenge Has Begun!!

June 1, 2023

It’s HERE!

Welcome to the 2023 Carterhaugh School Summer Reading Challenge! This is the first time we’ve ever done anything quite like this, but we’re super excited about it and can’t wait to READ. 

All are welcome to participate, and it’s totally free. If, however, you want access to some seriously sweet resources and bonuses (or you just think Carterhaugh is cool and want to support our work), join our Patreon at any level. More on that below. But first, THE CHALLENGE.

We have 15 challenge categories for you all, but note that that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to read 15 different books (though of course you can if you want to!) If you read a blue book under 100 pages that challenges you, then well done, crafty friend, you have checked off three categories in one fell swoop, and we salute you. 

We’ve kept the categories pretty broad so that you can choose books that speak to you. And if you’re one of those people who just wants to be given a list or a place to start, we’ve also included specific recommendations from us so that you’re never stumped!

Without further ado, the challenge categories are…

  • Finish a Book You Started and Liked, but Somehow Keep Drifting Away From and Never Finishing
    • We know you know exactly what we mean. Maybe the book had a slowish start, or you were reading 5 things at once and one got buried and never excavated. Pick something that you genuinely are curious and excited about but got distracted from (not something that you feel like you should read or didn’t like!)
    • Our recommendations/ confessions: Sara’s version of this is Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which she has started twice. Brittany’s going to tackle (again) The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry, which she’s pretty sure she’s going to LOVE but has not been able to get into yet.
  • Read a Feminist Fairy-Tale Retelling
    • We’ve tried to avoid requiring any particular author or genre for this challenge so that you can explore and pick stuff that you are excited about, but fairy tales are our bread and butter, and if you’re hanging out around Carterhaugh, we suspect that you’re not adverse to reading an awesome fairy tale, especially one with a feminist twist.
    • Our recommendations: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron and The Girls of the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine
  • Find and Read an Intriguing Piece from an Online Literary Magazine
    • We almost never see this on reading challenges! There’s so much amazing, groundbreaking short fiction published in online journals. Plus, you know, emphasis on short, so you can knock this one out ridiculously quickly and get some challenge momentum going! Check out Fairy Tale Magazine, Uncanny, or Strange Horizons.
    • Our recommendations: “The Lily and the Horn” by Catherynne Valente in Fantasy Magazine and “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El–Mohtar in Uncanny
  • Read a Book Mentioned on the Carterhaugh Blog
    • We have recommended about 50 billion books on our blog over the years, from collections to academic books to novels. What from our backlog strikes your fancy? What made you think “oh, I totally want to read that!” that you never got around to? Now is your moment!
    • Our recommendations: find Gothic reads here, work by some of our favorite trans writers here, our “beach” reads from last year here.
  • Read a Book by an Academic Authority on a Folkloric(ish) Subject
  • Read a Book with a Blue Cover
  • Read a Book in Translation 
  • Re-read a Favorite Childhood Book
  • Read a Book Under 100 Pages
    • So many people act like a book has to be hundreds and hundreds of pages long to be really good, and that’s just not true. Some of the most amazing books we’ve ever read have been under 100 pages – novellas, poetry collections, experimental picture books… there’s a lot to explore here!
    • Our recommendations: We’re planning to grab Red by Chase Berggrun (a 76-page erasure poem created from Bram Stoker’s Dracula!) and Haruki Murakami’s The Strange Library (96 pages and, with a title like that, how can you go wrong?)
  • Puzzle Through a Book That Challenges You
    • We’re not asking you to read something that seems like sheer torture here, we promise. In fact, we want you to interpret this challenge any way you want to – would reading in a genre totally outside your usual wheelhouse challenge you? Do that! Would reading a book over 500 pages challenge you? Do that! How about jumping into a book about a new-to-you historical topic? That works too! Pick a book that you know will make you feel a bit like “whew” when it’s done, but that you’ll also feel really proud to have finished.
    • Our recommendations: Terri Cole’s Boundary Boss: The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen, and (Finally) Live Free is definitely a challenging read that asks you to confront the limiting perspectives that make you, well, not treat yourself as kindly as you should be treated. We also recommend What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: A Life with Chronic Illness – Lessons from a Body in Revolt by Tessa Miller for an incredibly powerful and honest look at chronic illness and Bleak House by Charles Dickens if you’re looking for a classic, curiously rewarding tome (yes, it’s about how ridiculous and awful the legal system is… but what if we told you it’s ALSO a “Sleeping Beauty” retelling, at least partially??)
  • Read a Creature Feature
  • Finally Read a Book you Pretend to Have Read but Haven’t Actually Read (Yet)
    • Everybody does it, but make good on your little fib this summer by actually reading a book you tell everyone you’ve read when you secretly haven’t. Yes, even if you’ve never actually TOLD anyone you’ve read it, they’ve just assumed and you’ve kept quiet about it. Still counts. Maybe something assigned in high school or college that you never quite got to? Maybe that BIG AND IMPORTANT book it seems like everyone’s read but you? Maybe that book that just looks so good and perfect for you that you’re terrified it’s going to actually be disappointing?
    • Our recommendations: Oh, man, we guess we have to admit stuff now, don’t we? Fine. Brittany’s not sure anyone’s ever directly ASKED her if she’s read this, but it’s pretty safe to assume most people think she has, and she hasn’t. An absolute classic of speculative fiction grounded in folklore and gender theory, Brittany has nonetheless never read Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. The shame is real, but she aims to correct this huge oversight this summer! Sara’s dirty literary secret is that, even though she knows Charlotte and Emily’s books painfully well, she’s never read Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. *hides under the sofa* *crawls out from under the sofa to read the book*
  • Read a Book You Own but Have Never Read
    • You know that book you were SO excited to read when you first purchased it, but then completely forgot about? Maybe you set aside when you got home from the book store, only for it to wind up on an out-of-the-way shelf, or in a pile on the floor that hasn’t moved since last summer? Yep, that one. Read it!!
    • Our recommendations: Brittany has been wanting to read Roses and Rot by Kat Howard for SO long and somehow it still hasn’t happened, so that’s the one she’s got in her sights. Sara is going to read Tales from the Hinterland by Melissa Albert
  • Read Your Best Friend’s Favorite Book
    • For this one we’re asking you to read a book your best friend loves. Already read your best friend’s fav? Ask them to suggest another one for you, or think back on old conversations about be like “ohhhh, I should do THAT one!”
    • Our recommendations: Brittany’s already read Sara’s favorite books of all time (Sunshine by Robin McKinley and Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir) but she hasn’t read A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik yet, despite much pleading, so she’s totally going to read that one. Sara’s read most of Brittany’s favorites too, obviously, but she’s going to give Thornyhold by Mary Stewart a try.
  • Read a Book You’re Embarrassed to Read in Public

Oh, and we’re looking forward to expanding our TBR piles too… so be sure to tell us all about the books you pick!

As we said up top, this challenge is 100% FREE to take part in – you can post about it in the FB discussion group, on Instagram, wherever you like (and invite your friends!) If you’d like, you can post this “I’m joining” image on social media (oh, and remember to tag us if you do!)

If you want the FULL experience though, hop on over to our Patreon and join at any tier level (yep, even the $1/month tier) to get access to a bunch of BONUS stuff including behind the scenes posts, a pinned thread for challenge discussion/encouragement/book recs, AND a lovely (100% fillable!) PDF challenge workbook including a checklist, a tracker with space for notes, and more. Click here to join the challenge insiders club!

We also made t-shirts, because, well, of course we did. You can grab yours in a bunch of different colors in our Zazzle store by clicking here. You can also, as always, transfer the design to anything else your heart desires… fancy a sweatshirt, or a sticker, or, hey, a Carterhaugh reading challenge belt buckle? You can make that happen!

We hope you consider joining us for our reading challenge… and we can’t wait to hear all about the AWESOME books you discover! 

Disclosure: We are affiliates of and may earn a commission if you click through any of our book links and make a purchase. Thank you for supporting independent bookshops!


  1. Spikeabell

    I love this! Reads like the impossible tasks given in a fairy tale or challenging ingredients for a spell. While I don’t like to stint myself on reading, I quite like the idea of combining 3 challenges in one book, it sounds like the tricksy sort of advice given by an animal helper or wise person.

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