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The Champaca Reading Challenge: 2023!

Welcome to 2023’s Champaca Reading Challenge! We’ve put together a list of prompts designed to help us, and you, read widely and more diversely. Let’s discover something new together!

You don’t have to follow the prompts in the order that they are listed, and you don’t have to finish the challenge within the year (or even at all). We encourage you to think of this as a way to read beyond our horizons, discover new voices, and experience new worlds through the books we read.

Remember to use the hashtag #ChampacaReadingChallenge when you post on social media, and let us know what you’re reading!

Read on to find our curated recommendations for each prompt.

1. That is a retelling of a fairytale or myth

Reimaginings and retellings of fairy tales, folklore, and mythology come in many forms. Some give voices to marginal characters, and some recast classic stories for the present time. Pick up:

 

  • After by Vivek Narayan – a collection of poems inspired by Valmiki’s Ramayana, that brings the epic into conversation with the present.
  • Circe by Madeline Miller – a retelling of a woman who grows up in the shadows, but soon discovers that she has a powerful gift: witchcraft!

2. That consists of interlinked short stories

Interlinked short story collections are some of the most fascinating books! In these, something connects characters through different short stories – whether they all take place in the same city, or characters weave in and out of each other’s stories. We recommend:

 

 3. That's science fiction written by women

Science fiction is a genre that’s often associated with male writers (as many genres are). But there are tons of inventive, groundbreaking SF books written by women. If you’re a science fiction reader, discover something new with us. And if you’ve never read SF before, we hope we can help you find the perfect book to broaden your horizons! Consider:

 

4. That's about food

Cookbooks! Memoirs! Novels! If it’s about food, it fits this prompt. Pick up one of the many food memoirs on our shelves, or a story that holds food at the heart of it. We recommend:

  

5. Set in two countries (at least)

We love picking prompts that encourage multiple possibilities. For this one, there’s a wealth of books to choose from – immigrant narratives, travel memoirs, or even just a book where the protagonist takes a plane ride. Pick up:

6. With birds on the cover

For this prompt, judge a book by its cover, and not its content. (The birds may be relevant to the plot, or not – you’ll have to read to find out!) We recommend:

7. Translated from Farsi, Norwegian, Swedish, or Japanese

Reading translations gives us a glimpse into different cultures, voices, and experiences. There’s a wide range of incredible writing coming to us in these four languages, across fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Pick up:

8. About a house 

There are books where houses have a presence, almost as much as its characters. Haunted house stories, stories of people moving homes – pick up a book where a central setting is the physical space of a house. We love:

9. Set before 1900

We thought we’d go back in time a bit. Pick up something set before 1900. You have millenia to choose from – go as far back as the Big Bang, or to the 1857 revolt; dip into history, geology, or historical fiction. It all counts! We recommend:

  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell – in this moving reimagination of Shakespeare’s life, O’Farrell explores the possibilities that led to one of the most celebrated works of all time, Hamlet

10. Set in France, Afghanistan, or Australia

We wanted to pick three countries from across the world, where we could travel through books. You can choose one of these, or even all three! Here are some of the ones we love:

 

11. With a green cover

As you can guess from our logo – and the plants that fill our space – we love the colour green. Pick up something with a green cover for this prompt. Here are a few to get you started:

12. Starting with the letter C 

Since it’s the Champaca Reading Challenge, pick something starting with our first letter – C! We recommend:

13. A Pulitzer-Prize Winner (for any category of book)

The Pulitzer Prize was started in 1917, and annually awards prizes to American writers in twenty-one categories. Pick a book from decades’ worth of prize-winning works, across the categories of fiction, drama, history, poetry, biography/autobiography, poetry, or general nonfiction. With hundreds of books to choose from, we recommend picking up something outside of your comfort zone. We like these ones:

  • The Return by Hisham Matarthis is the moving story of Hisham Matar and his father, who was kidnapped and taken to prison in Libya when the author was just nineteen.
  • 3 Sections by Vijay Seshadri – The Pulitzer committee described this collection of poetry as “a compelling collection of poems [...] in a voice that is by turns witty and grave, compassionate and remorseless.”

14. That's written in letters

Novels written in a series of letters can be a fascinating form. And they last to the present day, even if we rely less on snail mail – modern novels sometimes do this in the form of emails and texts! Whether you’re interested in fiction or nonfiction, this prompt has a lot to offer. We recommend:

15. Set on a boat or a ship

An unusual setting for a book on a boat or a ship. Pick a book partly set at sea! Fishing narratives, rowing adventures, Moby Dick – interpret this however you wish. To get you started, we recommend these books:

16. About Indian wildlife and nature

We’re surrounded by nature and wildlife in India – even in our cities, we are constantly coming across urban nature, whether surviving or thriving. There are fascinating and eye-opening books coming out of the country about these topics, whether in fiction or nonfiction, about conservation, ecology, and the wild world that surrounds us. We recommend:

  • Superpowers on the Shore by Sejal Mehta – this accessible nonfiction book is the first of its kind – a science book about the wonders of Indian coastal life, from venomous jellies to wily octopuses.
  • Blue Sky, White Cloud by Nirmal Ghosh – the three novellas in this collection explore the connections between humans and animals across the country, and the curious ways in which we impact each other.

17. That's a play

 

 

18. That's been adapted into a TV show

In 2023, instead of choosing between a binge-watch or a book, why not do both? Discover your favourite stories in two different mediums! We recommend:

19. About a sport

Is there a sport you’ve always wanted to try, but never got around to it? Is there one you used to play in school? A sport you follow obsessively? For this prompt, pick any sport – whether cricket, tennis, swimming, running – and pick a book or two! Consider:

20. That's an Indian novel published in 2023

We encourage you to explore the landscape of contemporary Indian writing, whether in English or in translation. Pick up something new in 2023!

 

21. That's a crime novel but not a whodunnit

When we think of crime, we often think of murder mysteries that end in a room full of suspects, with Hercule Poirot pointing an accusing finger. For this prompt, find a book that is about a crime, but that isn’t about finding a killer. This could be a book whether the killer is announced on the first page, or one about a crime that has nothing to do with murder – like an art heist or espionage! We recommend:

  • Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith – two people meet on a train with a dilemma, and work out a solution: each of them will kill the other’s enemy. They have no connection to each other, and will leave no trace. It’s the perfect crime – or is it?

22. With an older woman as protagonist

For this prompt, pick a book where the protagonist is a woman over fifty years of age! For multiple reasons, these aren’t stories we hear of often. Pick from a wide range of books where older women are everything from athletes to witches to film stars – but always at the centre of their story. Consider:

23. Written by and translated by women

24. Set during winter

And to end the year, pick up something set during winter! Feel free to interpret this prompt however you like. Is it a book that takes place during a Chennai winter, or a Delhi one? On a part of the world – or a planet – where it is winter year-round? What does winter mean to you? We recommend:

 

 


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