Interlude – 5 alternative challenge books

Goliath is taking longer than planned. So to give you something, I thought I’d talk about a few books that would be great for this challenge except that I’ve already read them. Maybe you’ll find something for your TBR (to be read) list! I’ve included them here in reverse chronological order of publication.


Amina Akhtar, 2018

This is simultaneously the most commercial and probably the most polarizing book mentioned in this post. Many reviewers have described this book as The Devil Wears Prada meets American Psycho. I’d throw in bits of The Talented Mr. Ripley while we’re at it. The protagonist, Anya, is a disrespected fashion industry writer who decides to take out her frustrations with her coworkers through homicide. She also happens to be really funny, and the book skewers a lot of fashion industry tropes along the way. If you enjoy some dark humor in situations like I’ve described, check this out.


Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos Papadimitriou, 2009

A graphic novel inspired by the life and work of logician Bertrand Russell might not sound like your idea of a good time. And it might not be. But I’d argue that the book is really more about how we know what we know, and how things often tend to be more based on assumptions than we realize (hence the subtitle “An Epic Search for Truth”). If you’re interested in exploring those ideas, Logicomix is a fun way to do so. Set theory never looked so entertaining.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Mohsin Hamid, 2007

The book is told in a single monologue by Changez, a Pakistani man who comes to the US to study finance at Princeton. After graduation, he is hired by a consultancy firm for lots of money but feels like he isn’t truly accepted by American society. These feelings are only exacerbated when the 9/11 attacks happen and some people conflate him with the people who perpetrated the attacks, even though those people weren’t Pakistani. This causes Changez to reassess his desire for success in America, among other things. It’s an interesting examination of what I’d call the flip side of the American dream.

Black No More

George S. Schuyler, 1931

This book’s full title is Black No More: Being an Account of the Strange and Wonderful Workings of Science in the Land of the Free, A.D. 1933-1940. So you might be wondering, is it science fiction or satire? And the answer is, yes. The premise of the story is that a scientist comes up with an easy way to turn black people white. But when that happens, who can racists target? Spoiler alert: they find equally ignorant things to fixate on. Also hilarity ensues. Nobody is safe from parody, including luminaries like W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, whose thinly-veiled caricatures appear in the story.


Dezső Kosztolányi, 1924

Skylark takes place around the turn of the twentieth century in what turns out to be the latter days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Skylark is the pet name that a couple has for their daughter. But Skylark is considered unattractive and is past the age when most women get married when the story starts. This has not stopped her parents from centering their lives around her; indeed, it might make them even more motivated to do so. However, when Skylark is invited to spend a week with other family members, her parents start to dip back into things they enjoyed in the past. Skylark is short on plot but long on characterization and beautiful writing.


While it’s impossible to cover everything in five books, this post offers some diverse books to consider for future reading. And going forward, I plan to be more conscious of switching things up in my book selection for the challenge. These first five books have skewed heavily toward important literary fiction, and that can turn into a slog, which is why I’ve already set up some lighter fare once I finish Goliath. See you next week!





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