The 2024 Carterhaugh School Summer Reading Challenge Begins TODAY!!

June 1, 2024

It’s that time, y’all.

Welcome to the 2024 Carterhaugh School Summer Reading Challenge! We absolutely loved running this challenge last summer, so we’ve decided to bring it back.

Let us READ like the champions we are. 

All are welcome to participate, and it’s totally free. 


Should you be delighted by 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. 

(For instance, consider joining our book club! Thematically appropriate AND helps us keep the fairy lights on!) 

More on the Patron bonuses below. But first, THE CHALLENGE.

Like last year, we have 15 challenge categories for you all to conquer. 

Note: This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to read 15 different books (though of course you can if you want to!) If you read a graphic novel with a purple color that’s about a werewolf, then well done, crafty friend, you have checked off three categories in one fell swoop, and we salute you. 

We’ve mostly kept the categories pretty broad so that you can choose books that speak to you. And if you’re one of those people who prefers 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 this year are…

  • Read a Tolkien-Esque Book 
    • In other words, read a book by JRR Tolkien OR a book that was heavily influenced by the legacy of The Lord of the Rings. You might have noticed us screaming about the LOTR-themed course we’re teaching in June (click here to sign up and join the revelry!), so we are up to our eyeballs in Tolkien. There are many different ways to complete this challenge. You can read a book by Tolkien (The Hobbit, the trilogy, The Silmarillion, etc.) OR a book about Tolkien’s writing (there are MANY) OR a book that’s indebted in some way to Tolkien (most American and British fantasy novels published in the last 40+ years). Be as expansive about this as you like! 
    • Our recommendations: We’re currently reading Tolkien: Maker of Middle-Earth edited by Catherine McIlwaine, which is the gorgeous art book for the museum exhibition of the same name. If you don’t want to read straight-up Tolkien, might we recommend Bitter Medicine by Mia Tsai, which has a really wonderful and international magical system (with magic calligraphy!) and a half-elf.
  • Read a Novella
  • Read a Mystery
    • There’s nothing like a really good mystery. Go classic with Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers! Or read something contemporary that sounds intriguing. Knock out this category ridiculously quickly with one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories! If there’s a mystery central to the plot, go for it.
    • Our recommendations: Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (classic, often cited as the first feminist detective novel) and Death in the Spires by K.J. Charles (contemporary, very Dark Academia).
  • Read a book by an author that you’ve always meant to read but haven’t gotten around to yet
    • We all have these, right? Like ten people have told you to read this one author, and you keep meaning to, but you just don’t get around to it, and then three years have passed? Until last month, ours was Becky Chambers, and then we finally read her novella A Psalm for the Wild-Built, and it was VERY SATISFYING. 
    • Our recommendations: Obviously, we cannot guess exactly who these authors are for you, but here are some ideas, just in case: Anne Brontë, N.K Jemisin, James Joyce, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Anna-Marie McLemore, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Lord Dunsany.
  • Read a Feminist Fairy-Tale Retelling
  • Read a Book by an Actual Folklorist
  • Read a Book with a Purple Cover
  • Read a Graphic Novel 
    • They’re so cool! Like reading a picture book for grownups. And it’s really fascinating to see how a story is conveyed in images, in addition to words – how things like color and shape and visual style are used to communicate action, emotion, and characterization. They can be incredibly sophisticated and beautiful, weird and irreverent, heavy and impactful – just about everything a book written in words can do. 
    • Our recommendations: The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang, Nimona by  ND Stevenson, and The Sandman (vol. 1) by Neil Gaiman.
  • Read a Book that Makes You Laugh Out Loud
    • Or try to, anyway! It’s hard to know for sure before you actually read a book if it’s going to be exactly your cup of tea/ sense of humor. But if you deliberately set out to give it a shot, then it counts for this category. You can also re-read a book that you thought was hilarious in the past for this one. Laughing is good for us, says the science. It’s summer. Let’s try to seek out some giggles and joy.
    • Our recommendations: This is perhaps the most enormously subjective category on here. We know everyone’s sense of humor is different, and something that makes us cackle isn’t necessarily going to work for you. (Hell, sometimes something that makes one of us lose it has zero effect on the other! Not often though.) That being said, here are some books that we personally think are hilarious: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan, Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, and A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik.
  • Read the Book Behind a Movie You Love
  • Read a Banned or Challenged Book
    • There are so many of them. Too many of them. It’s very annoying, we are not here for it, and we will answer exactly zero emails explaining why actually all these books should be banned in Florida schools or whatever, just FYI. LET’S READ EM. 
    • Our recommendations: Here’s a list from the American Library Association of the most frequently challenged books last year for you to peruse. Might we recommend in particular a book by Toni Morrison? We also love Carry On by Rainbow Rowell (which we incidentally think is laugh-out-loud hilarious, if you want to check off that category, too. AND it has a purple cover. Just saying.)
  • Read a Creature Feature
  • Read a Book Set Where You Live
    • Get as local as you can. If you can find one set, even partially, in your city/ town, amazing! If not, go for your state (or international equivalent.) Don’t worry about perfection but get as close as you can. We know this will be much easier for people who live in major cities – we see you, New York City and London dwellers! But give it your best shot – you might be surprised what you’ll find!
    • Our recommendations: Alas, we really can’t give useful recommendations for this one since you do not all reside in Atlanta or the DC-ish area, but Sara is going to read Geekerella by Ashley Poston, which is apparently set at a con in Atlanta (or possibly re-read Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.) Most of the books set in Northern Virginia are CIA/spy novels, naturally, so Brittany is still poking around, but she’s certain she’ll find something excellent (maybe a FANTASY CIA novel??)
  • Read a Poetry Collection
  • Read a Book a Friend Picks for You
    • This is NOT a repeat of reading your best friend’s favorite book from last year, but a chance to ask a trusted friend to curate a pick for you. In other words, it’s not about your friend’s favorite but a book they think will really speak to YOU. We (Sara and Brittany) don’t actually always love the same books – Brittany is ALL ABOUT THE VIBES (her words) and Sara loves weird humor and character-driven plots. But occasionally, one of us will come across a book and think “ok, this is PERFECT for Brittany” or vice versa. And it’s like being handed a really thoughtful present! So ask a friend who gets you to pick out a book they think you’ll love and see what happens!
    • Our recommendations: Ask a savvy friend. See what they find for you 🙂

As always, we’re looking forward to expanding our already ridiculous 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 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, a challenge bookmark PDF, AND a beautiful (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 revived our challenge 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!

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