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Winter Reading Challenge Activity Suggestions

Just over 2 weeks of our Winter Reading Challenge remain, which is plenty of time to finish off your activities in order to claim your prize. It’s not even too late to register if you haven’t done so yet! See Kirstin’s blog post here to learn how to sign up.

For adult and teen readers, two of the activities are “Diverse books: read a book by a diverse author” and “Jet setter: read a book set in a different country”. If you’re having trouble coming up with a title for either of those, below are some newer additions to our collection that fit the bill. There is certainly overlap between these two activities and you’ll see some of these titles could easily fit under either header.

Jet setter: Read a book set in a different country


  • The Empress by Laura Martinez-Belli: (Mexico) It's 1863. Napoleon III has installed a foreign monarch in Mexico to squash the current regime. Maximilian von Habsburg of Austria accepts the emperor's crown. But it is his wife, the brilliant and ambitious Princess Charlotte, who throws herself passionately into the role. Known to the people as Empress Carlota, she rules deftly from behind the scenes while her husband contents himself with philandering and decorating the palace. But Carlota bears a guilty secret. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she's thrown herself into a reckless affair. Desire has blinded Carlota to its consequences, for it has left her vulnerable. As Carlota grows increasingly, maddeningly defenseless, both her own fate and that of the empire are at stake.
  • A Castaway in Cornwall by Julie Klassen: (United Kingdom) Laura Callaway feels like a castaway in North Cornwall, always viewed as an outsider even as she yearns to belong. When a man is washed ashore after a wreck, Laura acts quickly to protect him from a local smuggler determined to destroy him. As Laura and a neighbor care for the survivor, they discover he has curious wounds and, although he speaks in careful, educated English, his accent seems odd. Other clues wash ashore, and Laura soon realizes he is not who he seems to be. With danger pursuing them from every side, and an unexpected attraction growing between them, will Laura ever find the answers she seeks?
  • The Faberge Secret by Charles Belfoure: (Russia) St Petersburg, 1903. Prince Dimitri Markhov counts himself lucky to be a close friend of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, cocooned by the glittering wealth of the Imperial court. But when Dimitri is confronted by the death and destruction wrought by a pogrom, he is taken aback. Dimitri soon meets Doctor Katya Golitsyn, who is determined to help end Russian oppression. The two embark on an unlikely affair and Katya exposes Dimitri to the horrors of the Tsar's regime and the persecution of the Jewish people, and he grows determined to make a stand . . . whatever the cost.
  • The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata by Jim Apostal: (Philippines) A faux memoir by one Raymundo Mata, a half-blind bookworm and revolutionary, tracing his childhood, his education in Manila, his love affairs, and his discovery of writer and fellow revolutionary, Jose Rizal. In telling the contested and fragmentary story of Mata, Apostol finds new ways to depict the violence of the Spanish colonial era, and to reimagine the nation's great writer, Jose Rizal, who was executed by the Spanish for his revolutionary activities, and is considered by many to be the father of Philippine independence. 
  • The Mermaid from Jeju by Sumi Hahn: (South Korea) In the aftermath of World War II, Goh Junja is a girl just coming into her own. Her mother dies and she sends her younger siblings to live with their estranged father. Junja remains grief-stricken and haunted but the world moves on without her. The political climate is perilous. Still reeling from Japan's forced withdrawal from the peninsula, Korea is forced to accommodate the rapid establishment of US troops. Junja's canny grandmother, who lived through the Japanese invasion that led to Korea's occupation understands the signs of danger all too well.


  • Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel: (Argentina) In 1976, Tomás Orilla is a medical student in Buenos Aires, where he has moved in hopes of reuniting with Isabel, a childhood crush. But Isabel dives ever deeper into the ranks of the insurgency fighting an increasingly oppressive regime. Years later, a summons back arrives for Tomás, now living as Thomas Shore in New York. It isn't a homecoming that awaits him, however, so much as an odyssey into the past, an encounter with the ghosts that lurk there, and a reckoning with the fatal gap between who he has become and who he once aspired to be.
  • Snowdrift by Helene Tursten: (Sweden) Detective Inspector Embla Nyström receives a phone call that sends her reeling. It's been fourteen years since her best friend disappeared from a nightclub in Gothenburg, but Embla recognizes her voice before the call abruptly disconnects. Embla is thrilled to learn Lollo is still alive, but before she can dive into the case, she gets another phone call. A man has been found shot dead in a guest house in rural Sweden. The dead man is Milo Stavic, a well-known gang member and one of the last people seen with Lollo. Further mysteries pile up, leaving Embla hoping the truth will bring her closer to finally finding Lollo.
  • Our Italian Summer by Jennifer Probst: (Italy) When Francesca’s teenage daughter Allegra is arrested for drug possession, Francesca gives in to her mother's wish that they take a summer vacation to trace their family roots in Italy. Allegra wants to make her grandmother Sophia happy, but she hates the idea of forced time with her. Sophia knows her girls are in trouble. She hopes to show them the importance of the bonds of family and believes a summer filled with the possibility for change is what they all desperately need.
  • Snake Island by Ben Hobson: (Australia) In an isolated town on the coast of southern Australia, Vernon Moore and his wife, Penelope, live in retirement, haunted by an unspeakable act of violence that sent their son, Caleb, to serve time in prison and has driven the couple apart. Ashamed, they refuse to talk about him or visit, but when a close friend warns Vernon that Caleb has been savagely beaten, he has no choice but to act to protect their only child.
  • His Only WIfe by Peace Adzo Medie: (Ghana) Afi Tekple is a young seamstress in Ghana who has been convinced by her mother to marry a man she does not know. Elikem is a wealthy businessman whose mother has chosen Afi in the hopes that she will distract him from his relationship with a woman his family claims is inappropriate. But Afi is not prepared for the shift her life takes when she is moved from her small hometown of Ho to live in Accra, Ghana's gleaming capital, a place of wealth and sophistication. She has agreed to this marriage in order to give her mother the financial security she desperately needs, and so she must see it through. Or maybe not?


Diverse books: Read a book by a diverse author


  • Lakewood by Megan Giddings: When Lena's beloved grandmother dies, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan. On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out-of-pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she's willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
  • Nights When Nothing Happend by Simon Han: From the outside, the Chengs seem like so-called model immigrants. Once Patty landed a tech job near Dallas, she and Liang grew secure enough to have a second child, and to send for their first from his grandparents back in China. Isn't this what they sacrificed so much for? But then little Annabel begins to sleepwalk at night, putting into motion a string of misunderstandings that not only threaten to set their community against them but force to the surface the secrets that have made them fear one another. How can a man make peace with the terrors of his past? How can a child regain trust in unconditional love? How can a family stop burying its history and forge a way through it, to a more honest intimacy? 
  • Let's Get Back to the Party by Zak Salih: It's just weeks after the historic Supreme Court marriage equality ruling, and all Sebastian Mote wants is to settle down. A high school art history teacher, newly single and desperately lonely, he envies his queer students their freedom to live openly the youth he lost to fear and shame. Oscar Burnham, a friend from childhood, takes a different view- he's outraged by what he sees as the death of gay culture: bars overrun with bachelorette parties; friends getting married, having babies. As they collide again and again, both men must come reckon not just with one another, but with themselves.
  • Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor: The Witch is dead. And the discovery of her corpse--by a group of children playing near the irrigation canals--propels the whole village into an investigation of how and why this murder occurred. Rumors and suspicions spread. As the novel unfolds in a dazzling linguistic torrent, with each unreliable narrator lingering on new details, new acts of depravity or brutality, Melchor extracts some tiny shred of humanity from these characters that most would write off as utterly irredeemable, forming a lasting portrait of a damned Mexican village.
  • Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: Reese almost had it all. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Ames isn't happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese--and losing her meant losing his only family. When Ames's boss and new lover, Katrina, reveals that she's pregnant with his baby, Ames wonders if this is the chance he's been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family--and raise the baby together?


  • Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour: An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building. All that changes when he receives an exclusive invitation to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor. Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as "Buck," a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he's hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America's sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.
  • A Spy in the Struggle by Aya de Leon: When Yolanda’s prestigious New York law firm is raided by the FBI, she turns in her corrupt bosses to save her career--and goes to work for the Bureau. Soon she's sent undercover into an African-American "extremist" activist group back in her California college town. Yolanda is determined to finish this, head back to corporate law, and regain her comfortable life...Until an unexpected romance opens her heart--and a suspicious death opens her eyes. As the stakes escalate, and one misstep could cost her life, Yolanda will have to choose between betraying the cause of her people or invoking the wrath of the country's most powerful law enforcement agency.
  • We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen: Jamie woke up in an empty apartment with no memory and only a few clues to his identity, but with the ability to read and erase other people's memories--a power he uses to hold up banks to buy coffee, cat food and books. Zoe is also searching for her past, and using her abilities of speed and deliver fast food. And she'll occasionally put on a cool suit and beat up bad guys, if she feels like it. When the archrivals meet in a memory-loss support group, they realize the only way to reveal their hidden pasts might be through each other.
  • Her Lady to Love by Jane Walsh: Lady Honora Banfield arrives in London with one mission: to catch a husband. Miss Jacqueline Lockhart is having too much fun in her sixth season to ever consider settling down. When Lady Honora agrees to exchange invitations to the most exclusive events in return for Jacqueline's introductions to eligible gentlemen, neither expects their friendship to ignite passion. The two begin an affair with the strict understanding that it will end once Honora is married, but as a proposal becomes more imminent, choosing between a conventional life without love, or certain ruination if they stay together, isn't as simple as it seems.
  • The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim: Margot Lee's mother is ignoring her calls. Margot can't understand why, until she makes a surprise trip home to Koreatown, LA, and finds that her mother has suspiciously died. Determined to discover the truth, Margot unravels her single mother's past as a Korean War orphan and an undocumented immigrant, only to realize how little she truly knew about her mother, Mina. Thirty years earlier, Mina Lee steps off a plane to take a chance on a new life in America. Stacking shelves at a Korean grocery store, the last thing she expects is to fall in love. But that moment leads to repercussions for Mina that echo through the decades, leading up to the truth of what happened the night of her death.