Every bibliophile loves a good reading challenge, right?! The August Birthday Reading Challenge (developed by yours truly) is to read literary works from authors born in August. The hardcore readers who complete the challenge within the month of August get all the bonus points! Lucky for you, we’ve done the hard work and provided the authors and selections below to get you started. Happy reading!
August 1 – Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
Captain Ahab is on a quest to find the whale that “reaped” his leg, but said quest quickly turns into fanatical obsession in the novel considered one of the greatest works in literary history.
August 2 – Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Baldwin’s first major work is a semi-autobiographical novel about a fourteen-year-old boy who is the stepson of a minister for a storefront Pentecostal church in Harlem. According to Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain was the book he needed to write if he was ever going to write anything else.
August 3 – The Children of Men by P.D. James
When the human race has become infertile, and the last generation to be born is now adult, civilization crumbles as suicide and despair become common. Historian Theodore Faron spends most of his time reminiscing the past until he is approached by Julian and her band of unlikely revolutionaries who may hold the key to the survival of the human race.
August 4 – Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Although poems are up for interpretation, many believe this poem expresses hope that the words will inspire those who read it. Since he was a radical, others believe Shelley wanted to spread the message of reform and revolution with the wind being the trope for spreading change. Some people also believe the poem was written to cope for the loss of his son. What’s your interpretation?
August 5 – A Heart for the Gods of Mexico by Conrad Aiken
Blomberg has loved Noni for as long as he can remember. Noni has spent years in a passionless marriage, and now she only has a few months to live. Before she dies, Noni begs Blom to help her go to Mexico to get a divorce and marry the man she loves, Gil, who must remain unaware of Noni’s condition.
August 6 – I Swim an Ocean in My Sleep by Norma Farber
A young boy goes on an underwater adventure where merry mermaids, dancing lobsters, and five-fingered fish become his playmates in this nautical lullaby.
August 7 – The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars
Summer for 14-year-old Sara was turning out to be the most confusing time of her life because now she wants to fly away from everyone, but could she fly away from Charlie, the younger brother she loves but grows tired of sometimes?
August 8 – The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Jody adopts an orphaned fawn he calls Flag who quickly becomes his best friend and feels like part of the family. When life in the backwoods of Florida become too harsh as his family fights off local wildlife and failing crops, Jody must part with his animal friend.
August 9 – Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Charlie is a mentally disabled man who undergoes an experimental brain operation that increases his IQ and changes his life. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough until Algernon, the lab mouse that also underwent this experimentation, begins a sudden and unexpected deterioration.
August 10 – The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
In the nation of Panem, the annual televised event known as the Hunger Games serves as a reminder of the power and grace of the Capitol. One boy and one girl from each district is selected through a lottery system to participate in the games. The chosen “tributes” are forced to fight to the death, leaving only one survivor to claim victory.
August 11 – Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
The two-century drama of Kunta Kinte and the six generations who came after him—slaves and freedmen, farmers and blacksmiths, lumber mill workers and Pullman porters, lawyers and architects—and one author.
August 12 – Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon is on trial for murder and has become a pawn in “the system” full of authority figures and unscrupulous inmates who will turn in anyone to shorten their sentences. To cope, Steve decides to transcribe his trial into a script.
August 13 – Election by Tom Perrotta
Who really cares who gets elected President at Winwood High School? Nobody—except Tracy Flick. Her heart is set on becoming President of Winwood, and what Tracy wants, Tracy gets, and that’s the problem, according to Mr. McAllister, advisor to the Student Government Association.
August 14 – Going Home by Danielle Steel
Gillian Forrester is filled with the joys of love that she is sure will last forever, but a painful betrayal forces her to flee from San Francisco to New York to start a new life. New York brings Gillian an exciting new career, but when her newfound happiness is shaken to its core, Gillian must choose between her future and her past.
August 15 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist battling a libel case, partners with Lisabeth Salander, a 24-year old pierced and tattooed genius hacker, to solve the case of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger. The unlikely team discovers unfathomable behavior in the Vanger family, corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish business and government, and an unexpected connection between themselves.
August 16 – The Blacker the Berry by Wallace Thurman
In her hometown of Boise, Idaho, Emma Lou Brown’s dark skin is a source of sorrow and humiliation, not only to herself, but to her friends and family with lighter complexions and even to the white community. As a young woman, Emma travels to New York in search of a safe haven in the Black Mecca of 1920s Harlem.
August 17 – The Journal of Charlotte L. Forten: A Free Negro in the Slave Era by Charlotte Forten Grimké
Charlotte Forten was born into an affluent and politically active black family in Philadelphia almost three decades before the Civil War. Her journal reveals her keen observations of life as a black women in America leading up to the Civil War and during the Reconstruction era.
August 18 – The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
Marcy’s favorite teacher, Ms. Finney just got fired. Marcy always thought life would be better if she could just lose weight, but the loss of Ms. Finney sparks something inside her. She decides to join the fight to bring her favorite teacher back and discovers her voice might matter more than she ever realized.
August 19 – Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants, Angela and Malachy, Frank endures an impoverished “miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” In this memoir, he recounts this time with astounding humor and compassion.
August 20 – I Can Hear the Cowbells Ring by Lionel G. García
Through autobiographical vignettes, García reconstructs life in a small rural village in South Texas after World War II with portrayals of memorable characters like his crazy uncle Merce, the long suffering village priest, and the town dog.
August 21 – The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley
In his Upper Eastside Manhattan apartment, Michael is throwing a birthday party for Harold complete with a surprise gift. As the evening continues, unresolved resentments among the guests come to light when a game of “Truth” goes terribly wrong.
August 22 – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Censorship is so prevalent that the “firemen” burn books to keep citizens away from anything that might cause dissent. Guy Montag loves the act of burning, but he has never actually stopped to consider what he is burning, until he meets a strange girl named Clarisse who encourages him to question everything.
August 23 – Girls in the Grass by Melanie Rae Thon
A collection of 11 stories that explores the harsh awakenings of adolescence: eroticism and hypocrisy, love and violence, responsibility and guilt, adult inconstancy, and the random cruelty of life and death.
August 24 – Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
Forty select stories, essays, and parables representing the multi-layered, self-referential, elusive, and allusive writing of Borges edited by Donald Yates and James Irby with an introduction by Borges enthusiast William Gibson.
August 25 – Black Zodiac by Charles Wright
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, this collection of poems explores faith, religion, heritage, mortality, and aging with grace.
August 26 – Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan
The blue jays and cardinals of Stone-Run Forest have turned against one another. According to legend, only the Swordbird has the power to restore peace in the land, but is it real or just a myth?
August 27 – Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Millicent Min is having a bad summer until she meets Emily, who doesn’t know Millicent’s IQ score and actually thinks Millie is cool. If Millie can hide her awards, ignore her grandmother’s advice, and keep all her lies straight, she might make her first friend.
August 28 – The Yellow House on the Corner by Rita Dove
The debut collection of poetry from Poet Laureate, Rita Dove, including Yellow House on the Corner, the protest poem that challenges our notion of neighborhood and community.
August 29 – Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
During the heart of the Great Depression, 14-year-old Billie Jo must endure ordeals that no child should have to face, but the quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.
August 30 – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Committed science student Victor Frankenstein is obsessed with discovering the cause of life and animating lifeless matter. Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts, but is horrified by the creature he brings to life. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator.
August 31 – Porgy by DuBose Heyward
Porgy is a crippled street-beggar who lives just on the edge of maintaining his livelihood and trusts his fate to chance. His one shining moment is his pursuit of Bess, whom he wins and then loses during one summer of passion and violence.
So … are you accepting the challenge to read books by authors born in August, in August? Which book are you reading first?