Read 2021

After a challenging year in 2020, staff at the Evanston Public Library once again invite you to join us in a year-long reading challenge: READ 2021.

With this second year of our challenge, we hope to move beyond the genres and authors we typically read, explore new territory, get outside of our comfort zones and expand our love of reading to include new voices and stories. We hope you will join us!

Each month we’ll be reading a different genre or format:

January: Books with Fewer than 200 pages | PDFDigital Content
February: Romance | PDF | Digital Content
March: Books in Translation | PDFDigital Content
April: Poetry | PDF | Digital Content
May: Graphic Novels & Comics | PDF | Digital Content
June (Watch Month): A Non-English Language Film | PDF | Digital Content
July: Beach Reads | PDF | Digital Content
August: Science Fiction & Fantasy | PDF | Digital Content
September: Non-Fiction S.T.E.M. | PDF | Digital Content
October: Horror | PDF | Digital Content
November: Humor | PDF | Digital Content
December: Memoir & Biography | PDF | Digital Content

How to participate:

  • Read a book from our monthly list of suggested titles or choose a book that fits the monthly category on your own.
  • Read 2021 is flexible! Participate in any month that interests or inspires you. No need to register!
  • When you complete a month’s challenge, fill out this form online to enter for a chance to win a gift card. We’ll choose winners at the end of every month.
  • If you really love the book you read that month, share it with us by writing a Community Picks Review!
  • The monthly topics for this year will be the same as last year’s Read 2020 challenge but the suggested reading lists for each month will be edited and expanded.

Our monthly suggested title lists will be available on the library’s website on this post and on our READ 2021 book display on the second floor of the Main Library.

Keep an eye out for book reviews, blog posts, and book talk events connected to READ 2021 and, most importantly, have fun!

Need some more recommendations for a specific month? Use our LitMatch form and ask for titles that match a specific month’s category!

eRead 2020

We’ve made a few changes to the Read 2020 challenge to accommodate the governor’s Shelter in Place order and make Read 2020 more accessible while the library is closed.

In addition to the linked lists for each month we’ve added linked lists of recommended digital content that the library owns and which meet the requirements of each month. Additionally, you can now submit your monthly completions online via this form.

Are you an Evanston resident but don’t have a library card? You can sign up for a temporary online card here. If you are not an Evanston resident you are still welcome to participate in Read 2020, but would need to access online content through your home library.

If you haven’t started Read 2020 this is a perfect time to catch up! Just take a look at the Read 2020 program page (linked above) and join us!

Keep an eye out for April’s recommended titles, which will be added later this week.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Brilliant, career-oriented Alexa wouldn’t normally agree to be a stranger’s last minute wedding date but there’s just something about Drew. They have a great time at the wedding, but could there be something more between them than just fun and a mutual physical attraction?

If you’re new to the romance genre and looking for something to read for February’s Read 2020 challenge, I highly recommend picking up one of Jasmine Guillory’s books. They read quickly, they’re fun and flirty in a realistic setting, and they have a moderate level of steaminess.

Read 2020 Categories: February (Romance)

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

The less that is said about this strange little book, the better. More like a short-story or an experience than a book, you will speed through this illustrated Murakami creation in a whirlwind. A surreal book that’s worth reading and a perfect quick read if you’re trying to fit in your January Read 2020 book before the end of the month!

Read 2020 Categories: Under 200 Pages (January) & Translated (March)

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Keiko Furukura had known since a very young age that she wasn’t “normal.” Despite her family’s efforts to make her change, more than anything she found ways to adapt and hide the lest desirable of her thoughts and actions from society. Then, one fateful night just after she had started university, Keiko stumbled upon the soon-to-be-open Smile Mart at Hiiromachi Station and her life changed forever. She soon became a convenience store worker. Now, 18 years later, Keiko finds meaning and fulfillment from her life as a Smile Mart employee, but the pressure to change from those around her may change everything.

Sayaka Murata is quite popular and successful in Japan but this is the first of her books to be translated into English. This book is just phenomenal. Keiko is thoroughly examined as a character in such a beautiful and respectful way that allows the reader to fully empathize with her even though they may have very little in common. The book is very ‘slice of life’ and gives the reader such a vivid feeling of being inside a Japanese convenience store that it gave me flashbacks to my visit to Japan. At a slim 163 pages it reads quickly, and not a single paragraph is wasted.

READ 2020 Categories: Under 200 Pages (January) & Translated (March)

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti is leaving her traditional, rural home against the wishes of her family, to pursue her education at the prestigious Oomza University. Unexpected events lead to an encounter with the Meduse, a seemingly violent and war-like race. But Binti soon learns that misunderstanding and miscommunication run deeply through all aspects of the universe and she may have a unique ability to bring hidden truths to light.

This is the first novella in a three novella series and the winner of both the Hugo and Nebula, prestigious Science Fiction writing awards. The moral and social implications and discussions make this a great title for fans of Star Trek.

READ 2020: Under 200 pages (January) & Science Fiction & Fantasy (August)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

I first picked up this debut translated novel because it had been nominated for the 2017 Man Booker prize and was reviewed on one of Booklist’s podcasts. I was expecting a stunning and gripping short novel, but what I received instead was a two hour Fever Dream of my own.

Reality is obliterated more than blurred in this haunting interchange between a woman named Rachel and a boy who is not her child. Reading this book is so immersive and disorienting that, to me, it cannot be matched. It is best read in its entirety, home alone wrapped in a blanket in the near-dark. Upon finishing you may feel transported and, admittedly, a little confused. Samanta Schweblin is an author not to be underestimated.

READ 2020 Categories: Under 200 Pages (January) & Translated (March) & Horror (October)