Sapphic Reading Challenge – FAQs

Sapphic Reading Challenge FAQs

I’ve had a lot of questions about the Sapphic Reading Challenge, so I thought I’d put together a list of frequently asked questions.


I’d like to participate in the Sapphic Reading Challenge, but it seems a little complicated…

It’s really not complicated at all. Here’s a short, easy-to-understand explanation of the rules:

  • The goal is to read sapphic books that fit as many of the 50 categories listed on my blog 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.


How do I join the challenge?

You just start reading. No official registration required. At the end of the year, you send me the list of books you read. A handy PDF for that is part of the rules post on my blog.

Optional: If you’d like to exchange book ideas or chat about the challenge, can join my Facebook group for readers or join the Goodreads group for the challenge. Here’s an easy-to-understand instruction on how to join the Goodreads group.


What does “sapphic” mean?

Mostly, it means any woman who’s attracted to women. That includes lesbian, queer, bisexual, pansexual, and homoromantic asexual women. There are also some nonbinary people and intersex people who identify as sapphic.


Do I have to decide which books I’ll be reading for all of the categories right away?

No, there’s no need for that, unless you absolutely want to. You could just read whatever book grabs your attention and afterward figure out which categories it fits into.


Help! How can I find books for all of the categories?

I will post a list of 15 book recommendations for each of the categories on my blog. There’ll be a new post with suggestions for a new category every week on Thursdays. I’ll start with category 1 (enemies-to-lovers romances) and finish with category 50 in December.

Once a month, I’ll also post suggestions for the Book Unicorn categories, starting with the butch/butch pairing category on January 14.

If you are on Facebook and want book recommendations from other readers, feel free to join my Facebook group for readers. You could also join the Goodreads group for the Sapphic Reading Challenge. Here’s an easy-to-understand instruction on how to join the Goodreads group.


When will the book recommendations for each category be posted?

There will be a new blog post with suggestions for a category every Thursday. Here’s the schedule so you will know when to expect each post.


Do I have to register to participate in the Sapphic Reading Challenge?

No. No registration needed. Just send me your list of categories & books read for each by the end of 2021, and I’ll enter you into the drawing for the book prizes.


I only discovered the Sapphic Reading Challenge now. Can I still join?

Of course! You can join any time. The Sapphic Reading Challenge is a year-long event and only ends on December 31, 2021.


Is there some sort of form we print out to keep track of things?

Yes, there’s a PDF for both the regular challenge and the Book Unicorn. You can either print it out or fill it in on your computer.

Reader Michelle C. also created a handy Google doc that allows you to keep track of your progress. Here’s a step-by-step instruction on how to use it.


Are we supposed to stick to the order of categories–start with category #1, then #2, and so on?

No. You can start with any category you want and read them in any order you’d like.


Can a book count for more than one category, e.g., an enemies-to-lovers romance with a character who owns a business?

No. Each book can only be counted once. Many books will fit several different categories, so you’ll have to decide for which category you want to use it.


Can we use more than one book by an author?

Yes, you can read books from the same author for different categories, just not the same book.


If I read a series, can each book be used for a different category?

Yes, of course.


Do I have to read a book for each category, or can I read more books of one category?

Of course you can read as many books for one category as you want. If you love enemies-to-lovers romances, for example, feel free to read all you can find. But one book is enough to check off the category. At the end, your reading badge depends on how many different categories you have covered. So you need 10 books from 10 different categories to get the Book Penguin, for example.


I know we can only use each book once, even if the book could go in multiple categories. Say I have a book that’s both enemies-to-lovers and ice queen, and after I read it I put it in my enemies-to-lovers slot. But maybe later on I read a different book that’s enemies-to-lovers. Can I put the second book in enemies-to-lovers and move the first book to ice queen?

Yes, of course. You can switch books around as much and as often as you want. You only have to make a final decision as to what book will go into what category at the end of the year, when you send me your list.


Do I have to decide which badge I’m going for now? / Do I need to register for a specific level?

No. No registration needed. You could decide what badge you are aiming for now, but you don’t have to. You could just play it by ear and see how many categories you managed to cover by the end of the year.


If I go for a higher goal, such as dragon, can I still get the Penguin badge? or can you only get one badge?

Yes! As soon as you read 10 books in 2021, you get the Penguin badge. Once you finished 20 books, you get the Squirrel badge, and so on. So if you end up earning the Dragon level 2 badge, you will also have all of the other badges.


Can we download the badge we’re aiming for before the end of the year, as inspiration and a goal?

Of course! Feel free to download and even display it as your reading goal for the year.


Do we send you our list as we complete each book level or just wait till all levels are finished?

Wait until the end of the year to send me your list of books & categories or until you finish all levels you intend to finish.


Is there a list of how your novels fit into the different categories of the Sapphic Reading Challenge?

Thanks for asking. Yes, there is! Here’s the PDF that lists the categories and which of my books fit each category. If you have a certain book of mine in mind and want to know where it would fit, scroll all the way down and check out the handy little book cards that look like this:

Wrong Number, Right Woman by Jae_Sapphic reading challenge


What is the shortest word count/pages for a book to count?

Ideally, each book should be either a novella (17,500 to 40,000 words) or novels (40,000+ words), but if you have a couple of short stories here and there, that’s okay too, as long as the majority are longer works (novellas, novels, anthologies, or short story collections).

Page count can be so deceiving because it depends on the formatting. As a rule of thumb, if Amazon says an ebook has about 50 pages or less, it’s definitely a short story. Anything around 100 pages is heading toward novella territory.


Is it okay to re-read books that I have already read sometime in the past? 

Yes, absolutely. Re-reads count. But if you read the same book twice in 2021, it only counts once.


Do audiobooks count?

Yes, absolutely! Any format counts—audiobook, ebook, or paperback.


Do short stories count?

In general, I’d rather you read novellas or novels, but if you have a couple of short stories that fit a category, I’m not going to protest.


Does manga count?

Yes. Manga, comics, and graphic novels count, as long as they feature sapphic main characters.


Does fanfiction count?

Yes, of course! If they feature sapphic protagonists, fanfic stories count.


Do the books have to be romance novels?

No. Any book with a woman-loving woman protagonist counts. The genre doesn’t matter. It could be a mystery with a female bisexual detective, a science fiction novel with a lesbian space pirate, or a fantasy novel with a pansexual witch. Some of the categories are tropes that are more common to find in romance, though, but otherwise, any genre is fine.


Do books in languages other than English count? 

Yes, of course! If you’d like to read German books for some or all of the categories, take a look at this list of German books and how they fit into the catetgories.


Can I buy the book journal you created for the Sapphic Reading Challenge?

Unfortunately, I can’t put it up for sale because I don’t self-publish. But if you want to print your own book journal, here’s the PDF version of the book journal.


Questions about the Book Unicorn

What is the Book Unicorn?

The Book Unicorn is an optional bonus level that you can take on in addition to any other badge you are going for. To become a Book Unicorn, you need to read 10 books from 10 (of 12) Unicorn categories, which you’ll find here (scroll down to where it says “categories of the Book Unicorn level”).


I’m not into horror, so does that mean I can’t aim for the Book Unicorn?

You still could. The Book Unicorn requires you to read 10 books from 10 of the 12 Unicorn categories, so you could skip horror and one other category.


Dragon (level 2) and unicorn? Are those separate?

Yes, they are separate. Dragon level 2 is 100 books from the 50 main categories, while the Unicorn is 10 books from the 12 unicorn categories.


Can a book be used for both the regular challenge and the Unicorn challenge, or do I have to pick it to go on one?

You have to pick. Each book can only count for 1 category.


Questions about the categories of the Sapphic Reading Challenge

Category #4: “Character is a journalist or reporter”: Can I also read a book about a person who is in the social media sector?

If they are running their social media platform in at least a semi-professional way, sure.


Category #10: Does Speculative Fiction mean stories that might include witches, zombies, ghosts, werewolves, dragons and other ‘mythical beings’ but also science fiction settings and storylines?

Yes. Any story with a fantastical or futuristic element. That includes urban fantasy, high fantasy, paranormal romance, dystopian fiction, time travel, and science fiction.


Category #13: “Longer book”: What does “longer book” mean? How many pages?

Page count is pretty unreliable–since it depends on the size of the pages, the font size, the margins, etc. So if you can, look at the word count (120,000+ words would be considered a long book). If you don’t know the word count, check out the paperback version of the book and go for something that is at least 350 pages. Or for audiobooks: something that is 12 hours or more.

Category #14: Do books about a vet count for “character is a medical professional”?

I’d say yes, they do.


Category #15: “Genre you don’t usually read”: Does nonfiction count for the “genre I don’t usually read” category?

Yes, absolutely. As long as it’s related to a queer/sapphic topic, it counts.


Category #18: “Coming out later in life”: What exactly is considered “coming out later in life”?

A character who comes out (to themselves or to friends/family) at 30 or older during the course of the book.


Category #23: “Recommended by a friend”: What if none of my friends read sapphic/lesbian fiction? 

Online acquaintances or other people particiapting in the Sapphic Reading Challenge could recommend a book for you. If you are on Facebook, you could join my Facebook group for readers. Or wait until I post this category on my blog. There’ll be plenty of recommendations in the comments.


Category #25:Your favorite author’s favorite book”: How on earth am I supposed to find out the favorite books of my favorite author?

You could look up their email or social media on their website and just ask. Or wait until I post this category on my blog. I’ve asked the 10 most popular authors for you and will post a list of their favorite books.


Category #25: I was wondering for “your favorite author’s favorite book”, should we mention the author on our sheet?

Yes, that would be great!


Category #34: If a character is a winemaker, does that count for the “character works in the food industry” category?

Yes, of course.


Category #36: Do the characters have to already know each other for the book to count as a road trip or can they be strangers initially like two people sitting next to each other during a long flight?

Any trip where the characters travel together counts, even if they didn’t initially plan to travel together, so seatmates on a plane or meeting on a cruise counts.


Category #41:Mistaken identity”: What does “mistaken identity” mean?

A character is mistaken for someone else. 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.


Category #48: “Character works in STEM”: What is STEM?

STEM means science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.


Category #48: If a main character is a winemaker could that book count as “character works in STEM”? My basic understanding of wine making is that chemistry is a key part of the process so would that count as STEM?

I’d put a winemaker into the “character works in the food industry” category. A lot of jobs apply chemistry, but I think most winemakers wouldn’t think of themselves as working in STEM.


Category #49: In the case of a story that takes place (at least in part) on a plane or cruise ship would that count as Forced Proximity?

Any situation/setting that forces the characters to spend time with each other, even though they are not enthusiastic about it is “forced proximity.” So if they are cabinmates or seatmates even though they initially don’t like each other or would rather be alone, that’s forced proximity. If they are happily chatting away, pleased to get to know each other, we have the proximity component, but it doesn’t feel very “forced.”


Unicorn category #4: Is High Fantasy a story that is set in a whole other world or universe then? Outside of lesfic would Harry Potter be considered speculative fiction while Star Trek would be High Fantasy?

High fantasy is a specific subgenre under the speculative fiction umbrella. The setting is a fictional world that has its own rules, creatures, and culture. If the book is set in our world, with some elements of magic added, it’s considered urban fantasy or “low fantasy.” Harry Potter is considered low fantasy by most, so while it’s speculative fiction, it’s not high fantasy. And Star Trek is science fiction, so it’s not high fantasy either. An example for high fantasy would be The Lord of the Rings.


More questions?

Do you have a question about the Sapphic Reading Challenge? Send me an email, and I’ll answer your question and add it to the list.