Happy New Year and welcome to the Sapphic Reading Challenge 2021!
After the popularity of last year’s F/F Fiction Crossword Challenge and the Lesbian Book Bingo in 2018, I decided to host a new reading challenge in 2021 that I hope will keep you entertained—and keep you reading all year!
What is the Sapphic Reading Challenge?
The Sapphic Reading Challenge is a fun, year-long event for readers of women-loving women fiction. It runs from January 1 to December 31, 2021. You can join any time you want.
Short version of the rules:
If you don’t have the time or patience to read this entire blog post, here’s the short version of the rules:
The goal is to read sapphic books that fit as many of the 50 categories listed below as possible. You can read ebooks, paperbacks, or audiobooks; and they can be new-to-you books or re-reads. I’ll post book recommendations for a new category once a week. Of course, you could also just read whatever books you want and then, afterwards, see what categories they fit into.
Depending on how many sapphic books you manage to read in 2021, you can earn different badges and book prizes.
For the longer version of the rules, a bonus level you could go for, and an explanation of the prizes you can win, read on.
The levels and badges of the Sapphic Reading Challenge
The Sapphic Reading Challenge offers five different levels plus a bonus level, so you can pick whatever suits you best, depending on how much reading time you have. You can move up or down to a different level at any time.
Each level comes with a badge. Feel free to download the badges by right-clicking on them. You can display the badge you’ve earned on your social media and/or your blog or website, if you have one.
|Book Penguin: |
The goal is to read 10 sapphic books in 2021. Each book has to fit one category listed below.
|Book Squirrel: |
The goal is to read 20 sapphic books in 2021. Each book has to fit one category listed below.
|Book Bear: |
The goal is to read 30 sapphic books in 2021. Each book has to fit one category listed below.
|Book Dragon (level 1): |
The goal is to read 50 sapphic books in 2021, one book for each of the 50 categories.
|Book Dragon (level 2): |
This is the level for our hardcore readers. The goal is to read 100 sapphic books in 2021, two books for each of the 50 categories.
|Book Unicorn: |
The Book Unicorn is a bonus level that you can pick either by itself or as an additional goal. The goal is to read 10 sapphic books from a list of 12 harder-to-find genres and themes. I’ll post book suggestions for one Book Unicorn category each month.
- The reading challenge will run from January 1, 2021 to December 31, 2021. You can join at any time.
- Each book needs to have at least one main character who is a woman who loves women or a nonbinary character who identifies as sapphic.
- Each book needs to fit one of the 50 categories (for the Book Penguin, the Book Squirrel, the Book Bear, or the Book Dragon) or one of the 12 extra categories (for the Book Unicorn). You’ll find the list of categories below.
- Each book may be used only once, even if it fits several categories.
- Pick the level that you think will work best for you. If you later change your mind and realize you’ll be reading fewer or more books than you initially thought, you can switch to a different level any time.
- Every week, I’ll post a new category with a list of book recommendations. For the Book Unicorn, I’ll post reading suggestions for one category each month. You can either pick a book from those recommended reading lists or choose any other book that fits the category.
- Only books you started and finished in 2021 count.
- Books can be any format—ebook, paperback, or audiobook.
- It doesn’t necessarily have to be a novel. Novellas (usually around 17,500-40,000 words) count too, as do anthologies, short story collections, and graphic novels.
- Re-reads of books you’ve read before count.
The real prize, of course, is discovering a lot of awesome books and new favorite authors.
But there’ll also be a big giveaway at the end of the year. Everyone who sends in their reading list and made one of the levels will be entered into the drawing. There will be 6 winners—one for each level—and each winner will get a book bundle of either 10 signed paperbacks or 10 ebooks (winner’s choice, provided international shipping has resumed normal operations by then).
Email me your filled-in reading list—either the filled-in PDF you can download below or a screenshot/photo of it—by December 31.
I’ll draw the winners on December 31, 2021, at 10 a.m. Central European Time, using a random numbers generator.
The categories for the Sapphic Reading Challenge
I’ll post a total of 50 categories, with a new post going up on my blog every Thursday. I put together a mix of popular genres and tropes as well as categories that’ll push you to try new books and diversify your reading. I encourage you to read diversely, from a wide spectrum of authors and genres.
Here are the categories for the Sapphic Reading Challenge (Book Penguin, Book Squirrel, Book Bear & Book Dragon levels):
You can download a PDF of the reading list here. Fill it in with the titles of the sapphic books you read in 2021. You can either type in the PDF or print it out and fill it in by hand.
- Enemies-to-lovers romance: The two main characters start out being enemies or rivals before falling in love.
- Character with an everyday job: The protagonist doesn’t have a glamorous job such as famous actress but an everyday job such as waitress, cashier, mechanic, etc.
- Return to hometown: A book in which the protagonist returns to her hometown after years away.
- Character is a journalist or reporter: The protagonist currently works as a journalist, reporter, or newsperson.
- From TLR’s “Best of the Best” list: Read a book from The Lesbian Review’s “best of the best” list.
- Only one bed: There’s only one bed, so the two main characters have to share it (although they’re not a couple).
- Character with a disability or mental illness: A book with protagonist who has a physical disability, a chronic illness, or a mental disorder.
- Character is a book lover: The protagonist is a writer, librarian, book editor, or an avid reader.
- One-night stand to forever: The romance starts with a one-night stand, a fling, or a friends-with-benefits arrangement.
- Speculative fiction: A book with strong fantastical, supernatural, or futuristic elements, e.g., sapphic fantasy, science fiction, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, superheroine fiction, or fairy tale retelling.
- Ice queen character: The protagonist comes across as cold, aloof, and prickly (at least in the beginning of the book—the ice queen sometimes thaws a bit after falling in love).
- Neurodiverse character: A book with a positive and realistic portrayal of a neurodivergent character, e.g., a protagonist who’s on the autism spectrum or has dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia, etc.
- Longer book: A book of at least 120,000 words. For an audiobook, that means 12 hours or more. Page numbers can be misleading since it depends on the font, the font size, the margins, page size, etc., but if you can’t find the word count, go for books that have 350+ pages.
- Character is a medical professional: The protagonist works in health care, e.g., a physician, dentist, nurse, chiropractor, paramedic or EMT, etc.
- Genre you don’t usually read: A book from a genre you normally shy away from. Here are 5 book recommendations for f/f fantasy, paranormal romance/urban fantasy, science fiction, mystery, historical fiction, and romcom/humor.
- Grumpy & sunshine: A romance in which a grumpy character falls for a character with a sunny, upbeat personality.
- Character is a teacher or professor: Just what the category name says—a book with a protagonist who’s teaching for a living.
- Coming out later in life: The protagonist is at least 30 years old and comes out as LGBTQIA during the course of the book, either because it took them longer to figure out they aren’t straight or because they were struggling to come out to friends and family.
- Historical fiction / historical romance: A novel that takes place at least 25 years in the past.
- Nerdy/geeky character: The main character qualifies as a nerd or a geek—meaning they are very enthusiastic about some kind of non-mainstream activity or specialized subject, e.g., a video games, science, technology, comic books, cosplay, collections.
- Age gap romance: A romance novel in which one main character is at least 8 years older than the other.
- Character of a different ethnicity, culture, or race than you: At least one of the main characters has to be of a different ethnicity, culture, or race than you. Please pick a book that is own voices, meaning the author shares the character’s racial background.
- Recommended by a friend: Ask a friend to recommend a book for you to read. Feel free to drop by my Facebook group for readers and ask for a book recommendation there.
- Character is a musician: The protagonist is a musician.
- Your favorite author’s favorite book: A novel that is one of the favorite books of one of your favorite authors.
- Character was adopted/in foster care: The main character was either adopted or grew up in the foster system.
- Shy or socially awkward character: The protagonist is shy or uncomfortable/awkward in social situations.
- Character rocks a power suit: A book about a main character who’s regularly seen and looking great in a power suit.
- Book starts with the first day of a new job: A book in which the main character starts a new job in the first three chapters.
- Mystery: A book that revolves around a murder or other crime to be solved.
- Friends-to-lovers romance: The two main characters already know each other at the beginning of the book and have been friends for a while, maybe even for years, before falling in love.
- Body-positive book: A book that celebrates women of all sizes and shapes, e.g., a plus-sized protagonist.
- Disguised or living as a man: The main character is a woman pretending to be a man or an AFAB genderqueer person living their life as a man.
- Character works in the food industry: The protagonist is a baker, chef, bartender, waitress, etc.
- Re-read a favorite: Re-read a book that is one of your all-time favorites.
- Road trip: A book in which the main characters take a trip together. They don’t necessarily have to take a car; any vehicle, including a plane or boat, will do.
- Bisexual or pansexual character: A book with a bisexual or pansexual protagonist. Note: A character who has slept with men in the past before she realized she’s a lesbian is a lesbian, not a bisexual/pansexual woman.
- Animal on the cover: A book that has some kind of animal on the cover.
- Girl-next-door character: The protagonist is the “girl next door” type—sweet, kind, and everybody’s darling.
- Adventure in nature: A book with a plot revolving around an outdoor adventure, e.g., hiking, kayaking, rafting, sailing, rock climbing, snow-shoeing, etc.
- Mistaken identity: A character is mistaken for someone else for at least a part of the book. Usually, it’s misunderstanding (or at least it starts out that way), rather than one character intentionally lying or disguising herself. The misunderstanding can be cleared up quickly or the other character can play along and start pretending to be someone she isn’t, but the situation didn’t start out as an intentional disguise.
- Set in a country you don’t live in: Choose a book that takes place in a country that you don’t currently live in.
- Part of a series: A book that is part of a series. It doesn’t have to be book 1.
- Character is a business owner: The protagonist owns her own business, which can be a big company or a small business.
- New-to-you author: A book by an author from whom you haven’t read anything before.
- Set in the 20th century: A book that takes place 1901-2000.
- Character who isn’t “Hollywood beautiful”: The protagonist doesn’t fit Hollywood beauty standards, e.g., they aren’t thin, toned, young, etc.
- Character works in STEM: The protagonist works in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.
- Forced proximity: The two main characters are forced to spend time together, e.g., because they are stranded or snowed in or stuck together for some other reason.
- Anthology, short story collection, novella: Read a book that is not a novel. It can be an anthology (collection of short story by different authors), a collection of short stories by one author, or a novella (17,500-40,000 words).
The categories for the Book Unicorn level:
If you’d like to challenge yourself and read books from harder-to-find genres & themes, here are the 12 Book Unicorn categories. I’ll post reading suggestions for one Book Unicorn category each month.
The goal is to pick books from at least 10 different categories.
You can download a PDF of the Book Unicorn reading list here. Fill it in with the Book Unicorn titles you read in 2021. You can either type in the PDF or print it out and fill it in by hand.
- Butch/butch pairing: A book about two butch women falling in love or being in an established relationship with each other.
- Time travel: The book’s plot revolves around the protagonist traveling through time.
- Character over 40: At least one of the book’s main characters is over 40.
- High fantasy: High fantasy is a fantasy story set in a fictional world that is entirely different from our reality (as opposed to low fantasy, which is set in our world with some fantastic elements added).
- Polyamorous relationship: The main character is in intimate, consensual relationships with more than one person.
- Thriller: A fast-paced novel with high stakes—if the protagonist doesn’t stop the villain, her life or even the fate of the world might be in danger.
- Sapphic nonbinary character: The character is nonbinary, genderqueer, or genderfluid person who is attracted to women or female-aligned nonbinary people. Ideally, pick a book written by a nonbinary, genderqueer, or genderfluid author.
- Steampunk or gaslamp fantasy: Both are speculative fiction books set in a Victorian-style setting. Gaslamp fantasy adds supernatural or magical elements, while steampunk centers around alternate developments in technology.
- Jewish character: The protagonist is Jewish. Ideally, pick a book that was written by a Jewish author.
- Horror: A book that intends to scare you.
- Character is a sapphic trans woman: The protagonist is a transgender woman who is attracted to women. Ideally, pick a book written by a trans woman.
- Dystopian, apocalyptic, or post-apocalyptic fiction: Post-apocalyptic fiction is set in the aftermath of a devastating natural disaster or war that made society as we know it collapse. In an apocalyptic book, we’re in the middle of that disaster happening. Dystopian fiction is set in a future society that is oppressive.
Frequently asked questions
If you have any questions about the Sapphic Reading Challenge, take a look at the FAQs. If the question you have isn’t covered in the FAQs, let me know, and I’ll answer it and add it to the list.
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