Stretch yourself a little this year with our monthly reading challenge! Each month, we will encourage everyone
to read a book from a different featured category, so that by the end of the year we will all have broadened our
reading horizons a little. Watch for monthly prize drawings, where we will give away gift cards and other prizes.
Plus, we’ll draw for a Grand Prize Kindle Fire tablet at the end of the year!
How to participate:
- Each month, read a book from that month’s category. See our suggested reading list below if you need a little inspiration!
- Once you’ve finished your chosen book, fill out an entry form at either branch or enter online. (Limit one entry per person per month.)
- At the beginning of each month, we will collect all of the entries from the previous category and announce the prize winners on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We may spotlight some of the books participants chose to read as well!
- At the end of the year, ALL of the entries we have received will go into the Grand Prize drawing to win a Kindle Fire!
- Participate in as many or as few months as you would like, but remember, the more you participate, the more chances you will have to win.
- Have fun, and keep reading!
August Suggested Reading:
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, or at least just as fascinating. If you like reading about people’s real lives, you’re in luck, because the challenge topic for August is to read a biography or memoir! Here are some suggestions of great biographies or memoirs you could choose from our collection. Feel free to read one of these or any of the many other selections we offer in our physical collection or online! More options can also be found on our NLR Reads display just inside the main entrance of our Laman Library location.
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden
From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film. Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!
Poet Warrior: A Memoir by Jo Harjo
Poet Laureate Joy Harjo offers a vivid, lyrical, and inspiring call for love and justice in this contemplation of her trailblazing life. Weaving together the voices that shaped her, Harjo listens to stories of ancestors and family, the poetry and music that she first encountered as a child, the teachings of a changing earth, and the poets who paved her way. She explores her grief at the loss of her mother and sheds light on the rituals that nourish her as an artist, mother, wife, and community member. Moving fluidly among prose, song, and poetry, Poet Warrior is a luminous journey of becoming that sings with all the jazz, blues, tenderness, and bravery that we know as distinctly Joy Harjo
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, Louis Zamperini, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity and suffering with hope, resolve, and humor
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. by Samantha Irby
Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. With We Are Never Meeting in Real Life., blogger and comedian Samantha Irby turns the serio-comic essay into an art form. Whether talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette—she’s “35-ish, but could easily pass for 60-something”—detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slashromantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, sharing awkward sexual encounters, or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms, she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.
The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she read a book called The Double Helix and became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his codiscovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
“Long live the King,” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part masterclass by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
John Adams by David McCullough
In this powerful, epic biography, David McCullough unfolds the adventurous life journey of John Adams, the brilliant, fiercely independent, often irascible, always honest Yankee patriot who spared nothing in his zeal for the American Revolution; who rose to become the second president of the United States and saved the country from blundering into an unnecessary war; and whose marriage to the wise and valiant Abigail Adams is one of the most moving love stories in American history. This is history on a grand scale—a book about politics and war and social issues, but also about human nature, love, religious faith, virtue, ambition, friendship, and betrayal, and the far-reaching consequences of noble ideas.
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard
James A. Garfield was one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president. Born into abject poverty, he rose to become a wunderkind scholar, a Civil War hero, and a renowned and admired reformist congressman. Nominated for president against his will, he engaged in a fierce battle with the corrupt political establishment. But four months after his inauguration, a deranged office seeker tracked Garfield down and shot him in the back. But the shot didn’t kill Garfield. The drama of what happened subsequently is a powerful story of a nation in turmoil and a bitter behind-the-scenes struggle for power— over his administration, over the nation’s future, and, hauntingly, over his medical care.
Know My Name: A Memoir by Chanel Miller
She was known to the world as Emily Doe when she stunned millions with a letter. Brock Turner had been sentenced to just six months in county jail after he was found sexually assaulting her on Stanford’s campus. Her victim impact statement was posted on BuzzFeed, where it instantly went viral—viewed by eleven million people within four days, it was translated globally and read on the floor of Congress; it inspired changes in California law and the recall of the judge in the case. Thousands wrote to say that she had given them the courage to share their own experiences of assault for the first time. Now she reclaims her identity to tell her story of trauma, transcendence, and the power of words.
The Rural Diaries: Love, Livestock, and Big Life Lessons Down on Mischief Farm by Hilarie Burton Morgan
While Hilarie Burton Morgan's hectic lifestyle as an actress in New York and Los Angeles gave her a comfortable life, it did not fulfill her spiritually or emotionally. After the birth of their first son, she and her husband, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, decided to make a major change: they bought a working farm in Rhinebeck, New York, and began a new chapter in their lives. Burton’s charisma, wide eyed attitude, and fortitude—both internal and physical—propels this moving story of transformation and self-discovery. The Rural Diaries honors the values and lifestyle of small-town America and offers inspiration for anyone longing to embark on their own unconventional journey.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah’s unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother—his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics by Jeremy Schaap
In 1936, against a backdrop of swastikas flying and a storm troopers goose-stepping, an African-American son of sharecroppers won a staggering four Olympic gold medals and single-handedly crushed Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy. The story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 games is that of a high-profile athlete giving a performance that transcends sports. But it is also the intimate and complex tale of the courage of one remarkable man. Drawing on unprecedented access to the Owens family, previously unpublished interviews, and exhaustive archival research, Jeremy Schaap transports us to Nazi Germany to reveal what really transpired over those tense, exhilarating few weeks some eighty plus years ago.
Lost & Found: A Memoir by Kathryn Schulz
Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s father died, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the story of those relationships into a brilliant exploration of the role that loss and discovery play in all of our lives. The resulting book is part memoir, part guidebook to living in a world that is simultaneously full of wonder and joy and wretchedness and suffering—a world that always demands both our gratitude and our grief. A staff writer at The New Yorker and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Schulz writes with curiosity, tenderness, erudition, and wit about our finite yet infinitely complicated lives. Lost & Found is an enduring account of love in all its many forms from one of the great writers of our time
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris’s new collection, Me Talk Pretty One Day, tells a most unconventional life story. It begins with a North Carolina childhood filled with speech-therapy classes and unwanted guitar lessons taught by a midget. From budding performance artist to “clearly unqualified” writing teacher in Chicago, Sedaris’s career leads him to New York and eventually, of all places, France. Whether describing the Easter Bunny to puzzled classmates, savoring movies in translation (It Is Necessary to Save the Soldier Ryan), or watching a group of men play soccer with a cow, Sedaris brings a view and a voice like no other to every unforgettable encounter.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her enslaved ancestors, yet her cells— taken without her knowledge—became one of the most important tools in medicine. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Intimate in feeling, astonishing in scope, and impossible to put down, Skloot’s tale captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences
Will by Will Smith & Mark Manson
One of the most dynamic and globally recognized entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had. Will Smith’s transformation from a West Philadelphia kid to one of the biggest rap stars of his era, and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, is an epic tale—but it’s only half the story. This memoir is the product of a profound journey of self-knowledge, a reckoning with all that your will can get you and all that it can leave behind.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist coming to terms with his father’s story, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats. Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history’s most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail by Cheryl Strayed
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life by Alex Trebek
Since debuting as the host of Jeopardy! in 1984, Alex Trebek has been something like a family member to millions of television viewers, bringing entertainment and education into their homes five nights a week. Now he finally shares his story. The book combines illuminating personal anecdotes with Trebek’s thoughts on a range of topics, including marriage, parenthood, education, success, spirituality, and philanthropy. Trebek also addresses the questions he gets asked most often by Jeopardy! fans, such as what prompted him to shave his signature mustache, his insights on legendary players, and his opinion of Will Ferrell’s Saturday Night Live impersonation. This wise, charming, and inspiring book is further evidence why Trebek has long been considered one of the most beloved and respected figures in entertainment.
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
In five years, Jesmyn Ward lost five men in her life, to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that can follow people who live in poverty, particularly black men. Dealing with these losses, one after another, made Jesmyn ask the question: why? Jesmyn grew up in poverty in rural Mississippi. She writes powerfully about the pressures this brings, on the men who can do no right and the women who stand in for family in a society where the men are often absent. She bravely tells her story, revisiting the agonizing losses of her only brother and her friends. As the sole member of her family to leave home and pursue high education, she writes about this parallel American universe with the objectivity distance provides and the intimacy of utter familiarity
Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover
Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag.” In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard. Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.