Our 2024 challenge is here with fifty-two new prompts designed to challenge each of us! Some years are trickier than others, and we think that 2024 will definitely help push us to try new authors and genres.
Have a question about one of the prompts? You’re in the right place! This #52booksin52weeks challenge has a broad range of prompt types and styles, and we know that sometimes, you just need a little extra explanation. This guide walks readers through EACH of the fifty-two prompts on our 2024 challenge. Not only will it explain what each prompt means, it will also offer suggestions, ideas, or alternative interpretations for completing them.
Things to remember:
- Use this guide as a tool to help with tricky prompts, but know that it’s not an exhaustive list of ideas. There are always other interpretations and creative ideas for tackling the prompts. Have fun with it! And if you’re still not sure, remember that “If you think a book fits the prompt, it does!”
- Keep in mind that everyone completes the challenges differently. You may be super strict with your interpretation of the prompts OR you may enjoy getting creative and thinking outside the box. How you choose to complete this challenge is ultimately up to you. YOUR CHALLENGE, YOUR RULES!
- Bookmark this page! We recommend keeping this post close by for when challenge questions arise! This is your go-to spot for all 2024 prompt-related questions. Feel free to direct others here if they have questions too!
The 2024 Prompts:
1. Locked-room mystery
A locked room mystery is a popular sub-genre of detection fiction, in which a crime is committed but there is seemingly no way for the culprit to have gotten in or out of the room. (For example: Someone is murdered but the door has been locked from the inside and the victim was the only one with a key. How was it done?)
There are two types of locked-room mysteries. The first type is when a crime is discovered behind an actual locked door (as mentioned above.) The second takes place in a larger isolated area – like an island, a remote country house cut off by a snowstorm, a boat in the middle of the ocean, etc. There are a limited set of suspects and often (but not always) there are multiple murders, increasing the suspense.
Murder is the most common crime featured within locked-room novels, however, an alternative may be a locked-room mystery that is centered around a heist, theft, or other seemingly “impossible” mystery.
Examples: Murder on the Orient Express, And Then There Were None, The Hunting Party, One by One, Shiver
Goodreads List: A locked-room mystery
2. Bibliosmia: A smelly book
Bibliosmia may or may not officially appear in your dictionary yet, but those with a penchant for bookish words will love this one! Bibliosmia can be defined as “the smell or aroma of a good book” or “the act of smelling books.”
All our prompts can be completed using any format of reading, and this prompt does not mean that you have to physically smell a book (unless you want to, of course!) This is one of those prompts that invites you to get super creative, and we look forward to seeing what you come up with.
To help you get started, here are a few ideas for how one might complete this prompt:
- A book that has that “good book smell.”
- A book you read but didn’t enjoy. (“This book stinks!”)
- A book you enjoyed but that has bad reviews from others. (It stinks!)
- A non-fiction read about the science and sensation of smell.
- A bookish character within the book who mentions “book smell” or “bibliosmia.”
- Smell is often associated with memory. You may pick a nostalgic read that reminds you of a specific time (or book) in your life.
- A book with words like, “Smell,” “Scent,” or “Aroma” in the title.
- Capture that “new book smell” by reading a newly released book (in any format!)
- Capture that “old book smell” by reading a classic (in any format.)
- A novel that heavily relies on scents / smells for descriptions within the narrative.
- A character with hyperosmia (an extremely heightened sense of smell.)
- A character who works with scents (perfumist, aromatherapist, sommelier, etc.)
- A cover design featuring something smelly (either positive or negative association). For example: Garbage, candles, perfume, fish, flowers, garlic, feet, smoke, coffee, etc.
- For a freebie: Light “a book scented candle” while you read a book of your choice.
3. More than 40 chapters
For this prompt, the book must contain more than forty chapters. The chapters can be any length or style, as long as there are at least forty-one of them. It is up to you whether or not you decide to include epilogues or afterwords into this count.
Examples: Private Moscow, Desert Star, Outlander, A Time to Kill, Mummy Darlings
Goodreads List: More than 40 chapters
4. Lowercase letters on the spine
If you take a quick look at the closest bookshelf, you’ll notice that most book titles are written using upper case letters (also known as capital letters) on the spine. However, for this prompt, we’re looking for books with lowercase letters on the spine.
Lowercase letters are the “small letters” in the alphabet.
The only requirement for this prompt is that lowercase letters appear on the spine. This may be the main title, author’s name, or any other words that appear on the spine. It can be in any style or type of font as long as it’s lowercase. The entire title may be in lowercase letters (For example: the winemakers wife) or it may be a mix of upper and lowercase (For example: Such a Pretty Girl).
As with all our prompts, this can be completed using any format of reading and/or read in any language. As long as one edition of the book has lowercase letters on the spine, you can use it toward this prompt.
Examples: Ghosts, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, The Simple Wild, The Connellys of County Down
Goodreads List: Lowercase letters on the spine
5. Magical realism
Masterclass defines magical realism as: “Magical realism is a genre of literature that depicts the real world as having an undercurrent of magic or fantasy. Within a work of magical realism, the world is still grounded in the real world, but fantastical elements are considered normal in this world. Like fairy tales, magical realism novels and short stories blur the line between fantasy and reality.”
Put another way, magical realism is set in the world in which we live but they contain magical elements that are considered normal. It has also been described as “literary fiction with a dash of fantasy” or a book in which “fantasy slips into everyday life.”
Note: Understanding and classifying magical realism can be tricky. There will always be debate about whether certain books fit under “magical realism” or simply “fantasy.” For example: If you web search whether or not Harry Potter or The Night Circus is magical realism, you’ll find articles arguing both for and against. And that’s okay! We leave the final decision regarding a specific book in your capable hands. Remember that some of us approach the prompts with very strict interpretations, while others love flexibility. Ultimately, if you think a book fits the prompt, it does!
Examples: The Midnight Library, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Beloved, Remarkably Bright Creatures, One Italian Summer, The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie, Like Water for Chocolate
Goodreads List: Magical realism
6. Women in STEM
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. Books matching this prompt can be either fiction or non-fiction, but should feature a woman or women who work in/are involved with STEM. It may be a memoir or feature a fictional character, but STEM should play an important part in the character’s life or in the theme of the book overall.
Examples: Lessons in Chemistry, Hidden Figures, Lab Girl, The Only Woman in the Room, The Kiss Quotient
Goodreads List: Women in STEM
7. At least four different POV
We’re highlighting the four in 2024 and looking for a book with at least four different points-of-view. This means that we’re reading from the perspective of at least four different characters throughout the novel. Sometimes books with multiple POV can feel confusing, but when they’re done well, they can also really enhance the story.
What this looks like will vary from book to book. Some novels may separate different points of view by chapter. (Example: One chapter from character A’s perspective, the next from character B, then C, and so on…) Other books may have multiple perspectives within the same chapter. The book may prominently feature the perspective of one character and only be sporadically broken up by other perspectives, or it may divide points of view evenly. You may have characters from different time periods, or they may all be within the same setting. The different POV may or may not be human.
As long as there are at least four different points of view, the book works toward this prompt!
Examples: Game of Thrones, House Rules, Someday I’ll Find You, The Last Party, Crazy Rich Asians
Goodreads List: At least four different POV
8. Features the ocean
Books matching this prompt must feature the ocean in some form or another. The book will likely be set on or near the ocean, but it is up to individual readers how deeply the ocean ties into the main story. Any ocean in our world, or in a fantasy or alternate world, will work for this prompt.
The ocean may appear as part of the cover design. Your choice for this prompt may also include words in the title like, “Ocean,” “Sea,” “Tide,” “High Seas,” etc. You may pick a character who loves to surf, is an oceanographer or fisherman, or lives or rides on a boat or submarine. The ocean may tie into the symbolism of the book, or it might be as simple as a location the characters visit.
While there is a difference in the geographic definitions of “sea” and “ocean,” for this prompt we would consider the two interchangeable.
Examples: The Island of Sea Women, Life of Pi, The Outlaw Ocean, The Dragonfly Sea, Into the Planet
Goodreads list: Features the ocean
9. A character-driven novel
Novels can generally be broken down into either plot-driven or character-driven stories. For this prompt, we want the characters and their inner conflicts, personal journeys, growth, and overall character arcs to be the main focus of the book.
How do I tell the difference between character-driven or plot-driven novels? Character-driven stories will focus more on character development than plot. A plot-driven novel focuses on the things a character goes through, whereas character-driven novels explore why the character acts or makes the decisions they do. Plot-driven novels may have more external conflicts and use devices like plot twists, in comparison to character-driven novels which focus on inner conflict, compelling character arcs, and strong backstories.
Examples: The Secret Life of Bees, A Man Called Ove, A Little Life, East of Eden, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Goodreads List: A character-driven novel
10. Told in non-chronological order
A book told in non-chronological order or with a non-linear narrative means that the story is told in a different order than it occurs in time. It doesn’t progress in a straight line from beginning to end but jumps around.
There are endless ways for books to be told in a non-chronological fashion. This may include flashbacks or flashforwards, reverse order (told backward), or even time travel. The book may open with a scene from later in the book to build suspense and intrigue, or it may be a dual-timeline novel with parallel storylines across multiple generations and time periods. It’s up to you what style or type of non-linear narrative you want to choose.
Examples: Oona Out of Order, All the Missing Girls, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Cassandra in Reverse, The People We Meet on Vacation
Goodreads List: Told in non-chronological order
11. Title starting with the letter “K”
Since our 2020 challenge, we’ve been working on completing a “challenge within the challenge” and reading our way through titles starting with each letter of the alphabet. This year, we’re up to the letter K. For this prompt, any book title that starts with the letter K counts! This could be the main title, subtitle, or even the series title.
It’s up to you whether or not you choose to count definite or indefinite articles like “The” or “A,” etc.
Fun fact: Wondering where the letter “J” went? Our 2023 challenge ended with the alphabet challenge prompt, “Title starting with the letter “I.” So where’s the letter J? It already appeared on our 2019 challenge! (Hats off to The 52 Book Club superfans who already caught that detail!)
Examples: Kindred, The Kite Runner, Kingdom of Ash, Kafka on the Shore, Killers of a Certain Age
Goodreads List: Starting with the letter “K”
12. Title starting with the letter “L”
For this prompt, any book that starts with the letter L counts! This could be the main title, subtitle, or even the series title. As with all our letter prompts, it’s up to you whether or not you choose to count definite or indefinite articles like “The” or “A,” etc.
Examples: Little Women, Les Miserables, A Long Petal of the Sea, The Last Chance Library, The Lightning Thief
Goodreads List: Title starting with the letter “L”
13. An academic thriller
Academic thrillers (may also be known as Dark Academia) is a sub-genre within the thriller, suspense, or mystery genres. These books tend to have moody and mysterious narratives and take place on the campus of a university or boarding school. Often times there is a tight-knit group of friends or classmates who are bound together by a dark secret of some sort. Celadon Books says, “Think: darkened libraries, cloak-and-dagger campus societies, looming Gothic towers, and college quads buzzing with intrigue.”
As a “lighter” interpretation, you may forego the darker themes and instead choose any book or mystery set on a school campus.
Creatively, you may decide on an academic read that you find “thrilling.”
Examples: In My Dreams I Hold A Knife, Never Saw Me Coming, The Maidens, It Girl, The Plot
Goodreads list: An academic thriller
14. A grieving character
For this character-based prompt, we are looking for a character who is grieving. Grief comes in many different forms and is displayed in a variety of ways, and our reads will reflect that. Reads may be as heavy or light-hearted as you desire.
The character can be either a main character or a secondary character.
The grief aspect can play a main role in the plot and character development, or it may be something that is mentioned but not deeply explored. Characters may be mourning the death of a loved one or pet, grieving a broken relationship, grieving over societal or global injustices, mourning a life change like a move, loss of employment, not getting into the school of their choice, etc. Any type of loss that a character is grieving works toward this prompt. It is up to you to decide how central to the story you want the theme of grief and loss to be.
You may also choose a memoir about an individual grieving a loss, or interpret this prompt as any non-fiction book about grief.
Examples: Can You Just Sit With Me, Lincoln in the Bardo, The Hate U Give, A Grief Observed, Atlas of the Heart
Goodreads List: A grieving character
15. Part of a duology
A duology is a series comprised of only two books. The books are usually by the same author (but not always) and must be related to each other in some way. For this prompt, you can read either book one or book two of the duology.
While we’re particularly looking for a duology that was intentionally written to only have two books total, you may decide to get creative and pick a series that currently has two books (and for which a third is assumed but hasn’t been announced or released yet.) You may also pick a book that started out as a standalone, but was so popular the author decided to release a sequel years later.
Examples: Gone with the Wind / Scarlett, The Firm / The Exchange, This Savage Song / Our Dark Duet, Fable / Namesake, Six of Crows / Crooked Kingdom
Goodreads List: Part of a duology
16. An omniscient narrator
What is an omniscient narrator? Omniscient means “all-knowing.” Omniscient narrators know what is happening at all times throughout the book. They know the thoughts, feelings, and backstories of all the characters (or a specific character or character group for limited omniscient.) Usually, omniscient narrators are written in third person (he/she/they/them) but there are a few exceptions to this. (For example, The Book Thief, which is narrated by death.)
A few tips for working out whether or not you have an omniscient narrator:
– Does the voice remain the same throughout the novel? You may explore the perspectives of multiple characters, but the narrator’s voice should use the same language and tone while exploring the story with each character.
– Whose perspectives do we see? Books with omniscient narrators often have multiple, varied perspectives. You may see the thoughts or feelings from multiple characters, even in the same scene.
– Is the narrator all-knowing? Is there anything in the book that the narrator doesn’t know? Does the narrator provide details about what’s happened in the past and what’s currently happening? Are we being told things that the characters couldn’t or wouldn’t know? For example: You may see sentences like: “Little did he know, the killer was already waiting for him…”
– Web search! When in doubt, a quick web search with the book title “+ narration style” may help clarify whether or not you have an omniscient narrator.
Examples: The Lord of the Flies, Beloved, Middlemarch, Where the Crawdads Sing, Everything I Never Told You, Dune
Goodreads List: An omniscient narrator
17. Nominated for The Booker Prize
The Booker Prize is a literary award given for the “best novel written in the English language, which was published in the United Kingdom or Ireland.” This prompt is for any book that has been nominated for a Booker Prize. This may be the final winner, or a book that was shortlisted or longlisted from any year. You can find the nominees based on Prize Years here.
The first Booker Prize was won in 1969. You may choose any nominee from any year. The book may or may not have ultimately gone on to win the Booker Prize for that year. Regardless of the fact that the Booker Prize is for the “best novel written in the English language,” you do not have to read your copy in English, your copy may have been translated into any language.
You can find the list of winners and shortlisted work here.
Examples: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, The Promise, Shuggie Bain, The Testaments, Milkman
Goodreads List: Nominated for The Booker Prize
18. An apostrophe in the title
An apostrophe is a punctuation mark used to indicate possession or to represent omitted letters. (Example: Sarah’s Key) Books that fit this prompt will have an apostrophe somewhere in the title. It could also be found in the subtitle or series title.
Note: Sometimes books have alternate titles in different regions. As long as the book title in at least one region has an apostrophe in it, that book will work toward this prompt regardless of the edition or format you’re reading.
Examples: Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Nazi Officer’s Wife, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Goodreads List: An apostrophe in the title
19. A buddy read
What is a buddy read? A buddy read is when you agree to read the same book at the same time as someone else, so that you can discuss it together.
Buddy reads are a great way to discuss a book in depth with a friend or group of friends. You may complete your buddy read prompt virtually or in person. Buddy reads can have a set schedule to follow or can be open ended. (For example: You may assign certain chapters to be read on or by certain dates, and discuss as you go along. Or you may keep it more open ended and say, “Let’s aim to finish the book by the end of the month and discuss when we finish!”) It’s up to you what you want your buddy read to look like.
Any book, genre, or author will work with a buddy read. You may count a book that you read with a book club, a book that you read aloud to a family member, participate in a 52 Book Club readalong, etc.
Official 52 Book Club Buddy Reads: Over the course of 2024, we have four different 52 Book Club readalongs planned. The readalongs will take place in January, April, July, and October of 2024. Participating in any one of these readalongs will count toward this prompt. If you haven’t yet signed up for e-mails, be sure to do so, so that you don’t miss any readalong announcements!
Self-Led Buddy Read Threads on Facebook: Have a book but no buddy? We will have monthly share threads in the Facebook group to help you connect with fellow buddy readers. Look for the pinned posts under announcements in the Facebook group. Comment with a book title you’d like to buddy read, or look through the comments and see if anyone else has posted a title you’d like to read with them. Set up a spot to chat with anyone interested in buddy reading the same title (example: Facebook messenger) and work through the details of your buddy read. When will you start? When will you aim to finish? Will you chat as you go along or after? Set up the buddy read however works best for you and your friend! These share threads will be self-led.
Examples: Any book will fit this prompt, as long as it’s read with a buddy!
Goodreads List: There is no Goodreads list for this prompt.
20. A revenge story
The dictionary.com definition of revenge is, “The action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.” Books meeting this prompt will feature a character taking or enacting revenge for some reason.
The book may feature the word “Revenge” in the title. The revenge may be carried out by the protagonist, or by a secondary character attempting to destroy or overthrow the main character. While it is up to you to decide what you classify as a “revenge story” we would consider it to be part of the main plot point or overarching theme of the book.
Examples: The Count of Monte Cristo, The Revenge List, Hamlet, Gone Girl, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest
Goodreads List: A Revenge story
21. Written by a ghostwriter
What is a ghostwriter? A ghostwriter is someone who is paid to write a book that someone else will be credited for. They often try to emulate the voice and style of the individual they’re writing for, and they may or may not get credit for their work on the cover or in the copyright.
Ghostwriting can take a variety of forms. Celebrities, politicians, or famous personalities will often use ghostwriters to write their memoirs or a tell-all. Publishers may also use ghostwriters to increase the number of books written by a well-known, highly marketable author (for example, the later books in the Babysitter’s Club series by Ann M. Martin) or by an author who’s since deceased. (For example: Robert Ludlum died in 2001, but Jason Bourne books continue to be published with Ludlum’s name on the cover.)
Ghostwriters may also be used to write new books for an established series where the author is a pseudonym (like Carolyn Keene in the Nancy Drew series, or Franklin W. Dixon in the Hardy Boys.) Or, they may be used to write spin-off books for a popular television series (such as the Richard Castle books or Murder She Wrote mysteries.)
Authors who use ghostwriters aren’t always transparent about that fact. It’s up to you whether you pick a book that is definitely known to have been written by a ghostwriter, or a book in which it is rumored but not proven to have been written by one. As always, if you think a book fits the prompt, it does!
Getting creative with this prompt, you may also choose a book that features a character who is a ghostwriter, a book with an unnamed narrator, or a non-fiction read about ghostwriting.
Examples: Spare, Heat Wave, Open, Shoe Dog, The Tower Treasure, Nineteen Steps
Goodreads List: Written by a ghostwriter
22. A plot similar to another book
The next two prompts are closely tied together. For this first one, we want you to pick a book that has a plot similar to another book.
This is another prompt that is open to broad interpretation. It’s up to you how similar the books should be or what those similarities are. Maybe they’re very similar on the surface level, but the style and details within are vastly different. It may be a retelling or spin-off of a popular myth or fairytale, or a case in which one author accuses another of plagiarism.
The books may have similar covers, titles, or genre – or they may be completely different. It may even be two books by the same author. The comparison between books may also be made by the publisher, “For fans of…” or “If you liked _____, you’ll love this!”
Books often have similar themes, tropes, and storytelling methods. How specific you want to get for this prompt is up to you! As always, if you think a book fits the prompt – it does!
Examples: The Giver of the Stars and The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek, A Rip Through Time and A Murder in Time, The Woman in the Window and Saving April
Goodreads List: Books with similar plots
23. The other book with the similar plot
Prompt 23 is closely tied to the previous one, #22. For this prompt, we want you to read the other book with the similar plot. So if Book A and Book B have similar plots, and you read Book A for prompt 22, we want you to now read Book B for prompt 23.
The point of this isn’t to feel like you’re reading the same book twice, but to look at some of the similarities and differences that naturally occur between books. Of these two, which did you like more? Were they actually similar? Or what it just surface-level similarities? Was one inspired by the other? These are all things to think about and explore while reading this book.
Examples: See prompt #22 above
Goodreads List: This list is the same as prompt #22 above
24. A cover without people on it
This is a cover-related prompt for books without people on them. It may be an abstract cover, a cover with a landscape scene, objects on the cover, a title-only cover, etc. It doesn’t matter what the cover looks like, so long as there are no people on it.
Note that different book editions may have different cover art. For example: Books published in the UK often have different covers than books published in the US or Australia. As long as at least one edition has a cover without people on it, the book works toward this prompt and can be read in any format or edition.
Creative interpretation: Since the word “people” is plural, you might get creative with this prompt and pick a cover that has only one person on it. For more strict interpretations, however, we would look for books without anyone on the cover.
Examples: Pineapple Street, Mad Honey, Age of Vice, The Innocents, The Measure
Goodreads List: A cover without people on it
25. An author “everyone” has read except you
Similar to the prompt on our 2023 challenge “a book everyone has read,” this time we’re looking for an author that “everyone” has read – except you, of course.
The prompt is purely subjective but may include: authors on New York Times Bestseller lists, authors whose books frequently pop up in our Facebook group or on BookTok, etc.
The author doesn’t necessarily have to have widespread popularity. You may interpret this prompt as a local author that your town can’t stop talking about, or an author that all of your personal friends or family have read, etc.
Your definition of an author “everyone has read” will likely differ from other participants, and that’s part of what makes this challenge so fun. If you feel like you’ve been missing out on an author’s work and need to know what all the hype is about, it’s a book that works for this prompt!
Examples: The Harry Potter series, And Then There Were None, Pride and Prejudice, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fairy Tale
Goodreads List: An author everyone has read except you
26. Hybrid genre
A hybrid genre (also known as cross genre) is a genre that blends themes and elements from two or more genres. For example: Paranormal Romance, Historical fantasy, Historical Mystery, Sci-Fi Thriller, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense, Space Western, Science Fantasy, etc. With so many different hybrid genres, this prompt has endless possibilities!
Examples: A Wrinkle in Time, The Sun Down Motel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Mexican Gothic, 11/22/63
Goodreads List: Hybrid Genre
27. By a neurodivergent author
What does neurodivergent mean? The Cleveland Clinic defines neurodivergence as: “Being neurodivergent means having a brain that works differently from the average or “neurotypical” person. This may be differences in social preferences, ways of learning, ways of communicating and/or ways of perceiving the environment.”
For this prompt, we’re looking for books written by a neurodivergent author. The books may explore topics, themes, or characters relating to neurodivergence, but not necessarily. “Some of the conditions that are most common among those who describe themselves as neurodivergent include: autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dysgraphia, dyslexia, mental health conditions, sensory processing disorders, social anxiety… People with these conditions may also choose not to identify as neurodivergent.”(Cleveland Clinic. You can find more here.)
As usual, books for this prompt can be any genre or read in any format.
Examples: The Kiss Quotient, Turtles All the Way Down, The House in the Cerulean Sea, Cassandra in Reverse, Get a Life, Chloe Brown
Goodreads List: By a neurodivergent author
28. A yellow spine
The “spine” of the book is the part of the book where the pages are bound together. The exterior part of the spine is what faces outwards on the bookshelf, and usually includes the title of the book and the author’s name.
For this prompt, choose any book with a yellow spine. It may be a fully yellow spine or simply have yellow as the most prominent color (any shade).
Note: Different editions of books may have different spines. As long as the spine in at least one edition is yellow, it works for this prompt. You also do not have to read the book in its physical format. As with all our prompts, you can choose to complete this prompt using any format of reading. As long as one version of the book has a yellow spine, it works toward this prompt.
Examples: Yellowface, Anxious People, 4:50 From Paddington, The Reversal, The Seven Sisters
Goodreads Lists: A yellow spine
29. Published in a Year of the Dragon
What is the “Year of the Dragon?” The Year of the Dragon relates to the Chinese calendar. Dragon is the fifth animal in the 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. 2024 is the “Year of the Dragon.” This occurs every twelve years.
For this prompt, we are specifically looking for a book published in a Year of the Dragon. The book does not have to relate to Chinese culture or be set during a Year of the Dragon – but you’re welcome to add that on as a bonus challenge if you like. You may choose any Dragon year from any time in history.
Some examples of more recent Years of the Dragon include: 1904, 1916, 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012, 2024. A book originally published during any of these years will count toward this prompt.
Note: If you are unable to read 52 books in a year and have chosen to double up your prompts, this prompt will double nicely with the prompt “Published in 2024.”
Examples: Why We Can’t Wait, The Alchemist, Charlotte’s Web, The Duke and I, Insurgent
Goodreads List: Published in a Year of the Dragon
30. Picked without reading the blurb
For this prompt we want you to choose a book without reading the blurb first. A blurb is a short description or summary of the book, usually printed on the back cover. This prompt is like a first date with a book – you may be initially drawn to the cover design, author, or title, but you don’t actually know too much about it.
Some ideas for picking a book without reading the blurb:
- Visit your local library or bookstore and grab a random book off the shelf. Or, pick a book solely based on its cover or title.
- Scroll through #bookstagram or The 52 Book Club Facebook group and pick a book from the feed.
- Ask for a random book recommendation from a friend or librarian, but make sure they don’t tell you anything about it!
- Choose a book you know nothing about by an author you’ve enjoyed in the past.
How you choose the book is up to you – the only requirement for this prompt is that you pick it without reading the book description! (Given this, it’s likely that it won’t be a book you already own but as a creative alternative, you may pick a book on your bookshelf for which you’ve forgotten the plot or premise.)
Goodreads List: There is no Goodreads list for this prompt.
31. Includes a personal phobia
What is a phobia? A phobia is an irrational fear or aversion to something. It could be fear of an object, situation, or activity. Common phobias include spiders, heights, snakes, drowning, flying, small spaces, etc, but they also can include more specific fears like turophonia (fear of cheese) or arachibutyrophobia (fear of having peanut butter stick to the roof of your mouth.)
For this prompt, pick a book that includes a personal phobia. It does not have to be YOUR personal phobia, just A personal phobia. This may be a phobia for the main character, a common phobia, a fear that you personally have, or one you know someone else.
While it has to “include” the phobia somewhere within the book, it does not have to be a book about that phobia. It may be as simple as a sentence, a short scene within the book, a word in the title, etc.
For those picking a fear personal to yourself, it may be a fear you’ve experienced in the past, or one you have currently. (You don’t have to pick your deepest, darkest fears. Mild phobias or fears count.) You can get as creative as you like when picking a book for this prompt. For example, I have a fear of drinking hot drinks (otherwise known as hygrothermophobia) so for this prompt, I may choose a book with a steaming cup of tea on the cover.
If it’s a personal fear, you might decide on a book where the character experiences the same fear as you. (For example, both you and the character may share a fear of flying.) Or, you may go the opposite direction and pick a character who is a pilot and loves to fly (even though that’s your personal fear.) The book’s plot may center around that specific fear or it may only appear in a small scene. As long as a phobia is somehow connected to the book, it works for this prompt.
You may also choose a “personal phobia” for the book character. Choose a book with a character who has a specific phobia. The phobia may or may not be a key part of the plot.
Other options include non-fiction reads on overcoming general fears or anxieties, etc.
Creative Interpretations: You may also choose a book in which your personal fear or a common fear appears in the title but that phobia doesn’t actually play a part in the story. (For example: Wuthering Heights for a “fear of heights” or Along Came a Spider for “arachnophobia.”)
Feel free to get really creative with this one! As always, if you think the book fits – it does!
Examples: Drowning, The Woman in the Window (agoraphobia), Peter Pan (fear of growing old), Harry Potter (Ron Weasley has arachnophobia, fear of spiders)
Goodreads: Includes a personal phobia
32. Time frame spans a week or less
Books picked for this prompt should have a plot that takes place over the course of a week or less. You may pick a book that takes place over a full week, a book that spans a single day, or anything in between.
As a creative interpretation, you may also pick a book in which the character is stuck in a time loop and relives the same day or week over and over again. If you’re looking for a non-fiction read, you may choose a historical book that focuses on a specific day or week in history. Some books may not explicitly state days or times, so there is flexibility within this prompt as you gauge the timeframe to the best of your ability.
Examples: Mrs. Dalloway, They Both Die at the End, The Sun is Also a Star, A Spark of Light, 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Goodreads List: Time frame spans a week or less
33. An abrupt ending
Completing this prompt may require a little different technique than the others. After all, how can you tell if a book is going to have an abrupt ending unless you read it first? And that, to be honest, is all part of this challenge. Sometimes you’re able to plan books out in advance, and sometimes you’ll have to decide on a prompt after you finish reading the book.
Whether or not an ending feels “abrupt” is also going to vary from reader to reader. This will be a very subjective prompt, and again, that’s all part of the fun!
Tips for completing this prompt:
– Keep in mind that books are never locked into a specific prompt. (Unless you’ve made that a personal bonus challenge for the year.) For example, let’s say you’re planning on reading a specific book for prompt 32, but once you finish reading, you realize it has an abrupt ending. No problem, simply move it to this prompt instead! You’re welcome to shuffle books from prompt to prompt as often as you like.
– Check out reviews! Goodreads reviewers or reviews on bookseller sites will often note whether or not they thought a book ended too abruptly. (You may read the book and agree with them, or you may creatively interpret this prompt as a book someone else thought ended abruptly.)
– Books that are part of a series may end in a “cliffhanger” and can often make a specific book feel like it came to an abrupt ending. Again, this will vary from reader to reader, but is something to consider if you’re stuck on this prompt.
– Ask for suggestions in our Facebook group!
Examples: What Harms You, Widowland, Finnegans Wake, In the Woods, The Birds
Goodreads List: An abrupt ending
34. Set in a landlocked country
What is a landlocked country? A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean. According to Wikipedia, there are currently 44 landlocked countries. Examples include Liechtenstein, Mongolia, Nepal, Austria, Bolivia, Chad, Switzerland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Vatican City, Hungary, Afghanistan, etc. (You can find the full list here.)
For this prompt, choose a book set in a landlocked country. Since country boundaries have shifted throughout history, it is up to you whether you choose a country that is currently landlocked, was landlocked at one time, etc.
It is also your choice as to whether the entirety of the book takes place within a specific landlocked country, or if there are other countries also featured within the book. Countries chosen for this prompt may also be from fantasy or alternate worlds, as long as they’re landlocked.
Examples: A Thousand Splendid Suns, Vienna Prelude, Kisses from Katie, Into Thin Air, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency
Goodreads List: Set in a landlocked country
35. Title matches lyrics from a song
For this prompt, choose a book title that matches lyrics from any song. It does not have to match the song title, but it may! The lyrics can be from any style of music, from any time in history, and released by any songwriter. (Write your own music? That counts too!) The matching lyrics may be part of the verse, chorus, title, etc.
Examples: Just Haven’t Met You Yet, I’ll Be Seeing You, Dear John, Since You’ve Been Gone, Look What You Made Me Do
Goodreads List: Title matches lyrics from a song
36. Has futuristic technology
Futuristic technology is technology that doesn’t currently exist in our world / that surpasses our current technological capabilities.
It may feature realistic technology that is only months or years away, or include imaginative or otherworldly technology that may or may not be possible. The book may be set on Earth or take place on another planet, in outer space, an alternate reality, etc. It may also be based on technology that we have available today (for example: AI) but the author has taken that technology to another level or imagined it interacting with our daily lives in a way outside of how we currently use it.
You may also decide to pick a story that contains technology that did not exist when the book was initially written but has since been invented. (For example, a novel written in the 1950s that features self-driving cars, etc.) Or an alternate reality-style story that “rewrites history” to include advanced technology for a specific time period. (For example: Steampunk.)
While the book must feature futuristic technology, it does not necessarily have to be set in the future. And while the technology must be featured somewhere within the story, it does not have to be a part of the main plot.
Examples: Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Red Rising, Foundation Series, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Scythe
Goodreads List: Has futuristic technology
37. Palindrome on the cover
What is a palindrome? A palindrome is a word, sentence, or phrase that reads the same backward as it does forward. For example, “racecar” or “nurses run.”
For prompt 37, we’re looking for a book with a palindrome on the cover. This may be a word in the title, the title as a whole, a design element on the cover, a word in the blurb on the back cover, a word in an endorsement on the cover, the author’s name, etc.
One-word palindromes work toward this prompt, and the palindrome can be in any language. A few examples of one-word English palindromes include: radar, civic, madam, rotor, rotator, kayak, level, noon, mom, sagas, solos, stats, wow, bib, nun, refer, pop, peep, sis, tenet.
If one of these words appear anywhere on the cover (front, back, or spine) as either a word or a graphic, it counts toward this prompt. (For example: You may have the word “Kayak” in the title, or a picture of a kayak in the cover design.)
You might also choose an author named Hannah, Anna, Bob, Ava, Otto, Elle, Arora, Aviva, Eve, Ada, Lil, Viv, etc. Additionally, if these names appear in the title, subtitle, another author’s endorsement on the cover, a character name in the back blurb, etc, it works toward this prompt.
Examples: Hop on Pop, Radar Girls, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, I’m Glad My Mom Died, Act Your Age Eve Brown
Goodreads List: A palindrome on the cover
38. Published by Hatchette
Hachette is a publishing company known as Hachette Livre (France), Hachette UK, Hachette Australia, Hachette Book Group (USA), etc. Hachette is considered one of the “Big Five” publishing companies and brings together over 200 imprints across the globe.
Books published by any of the Hachette divisions or Imprints count toward this prompt. You can find a list of the US imprints here or the UK divisions here.
Examples: Yours Truly, Living My Best Life Hun, Long Shadows, The Wind at My Back, The Princess of Thornwood Drive
Goodreads List: Published by Hachette
39. Non-fiction recommended by a friend
Non-fiction is a genre that attempts to convey information about the real world, be it through memoir, biography, history, self-help, travel, cookbooks, true crime, etc. For this prompt, we’re looking for non-fiction book recommendations from a friend.
(You get to define what you consider a “friend,” but if you’re stuck, I would definitely consider The 52 Book Club’s Facebook and Goodreads groups to be full of friends!)
Examples: Spare, From the Ashes, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Unbroken, The Glass Castle
Goodreads List: There is no Goodreads list for this prompt.
40. Set during a holiday you don’t celebrate
For this prompt, we’re looking for books set during a holiday that you don’t personally celebrate. It may be tied to a specific religious tradition or celebration, or a festival or event celebrated in a specific country or region. It may be a serious holiday, or something more lighthearted.
Examples of holidays include: Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, Chinese New Year, Easter, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s Day, Oktoberfest, Day of the Dead, Ramadan, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, etc. You can see here for a more extensive list of holidays.
At the heart of this prompt, we’d love to see readers pick a holiday that they’re not familiar with. However, you may choose a holiday that you celebrated previously (but no longer do), a holiday that your family celebrated as a child (but you no longer celebrate now), or a holiday that you’re familiar with but don’t celebrate.
Examples: Three Holidays and a Wedding, A Holly Jolly Diwali, The Matzah Ball, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas, Cemetery Boys
Goodreads: Set during a holiday you don’t celebrate
41. A sticker on the cover
Is there anything readers hate more than stickers on the cover? But for this prompt, that’s exactly what we’re looking for! It may be a physical removable sticker attached by the publisher or bookseller, a sticker that was included as part of the cover design, a digital sticker for advertising, etc.
Examples of how to complete this prompt include:
- Books that have won a major literary award often have a “sticker” printed on the cover (Example: National Book Award winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Newbery Medal finalists, etc)
- Books that have been adapted as a movie or TV series may have a “Netflix Original” or “As Seen On…” sticker included as part of the cover design
- Any sticker you place on the cover of a book (makes this prompt a freebie!)
- A “25% off” sticker or other discount sticker from the bookstore
- A price sticker from a used book store (front or back cover)
- An “advance reader copy” sticker from a publisher
- A “recommended by…” sticker from someone at the bookstore
- Audio cover may have an “Only from Audible” or other similar sticker
- Any book choice from Reese Witherspoon’s bookclub (regardless of whether you’re reading that edition or not)
- Any book that’s been included in the “Once Upon a Book Club” book box (regardless of whether you’re reading that edition or not)
- A cover design with a sticker, post-it note, or stamp on it
- Books may also contain the word “sticker” in the title
- A book written by an author whose last name is “Sticker”
- The barcode on a library book
One of the main guidelines for this challenge is that “as long as at least one edition (or copy) fits the prompt, you can use it toward this prompt regardless of the edition you’re reading.” For instance, you may see a copy of a book at your local bookstore with a sticker on it but decide to listen to it on audio or read it on your e-reader. Any read that is posted in the Facebook group for this prompt will also work for you.
It’s always up to you how strict or flexible you want to be with each prompt. If you’d like a freebie — since library books usually have sticker barcodes, any book in your local library (or any global library) will fit this prompt.
Goodreads List: There is no Goodreads list for this prompt.
42. Author debut in second half of 2024
What is a debut? A debut is the first book published by a specific author.
For this prompt, we’re looking for a book that is an author’s debut work. The catch? We want it to be published in the second half of 2024. This means that the book should be published between July 1, 2024 and December 31, 2024.
It can be published by any debut author, and in any genre. Creative interpretations on a “debut” include: An author who has previously written non-fiction, and is debuting in fiction, or an author who was previously self-published but is now releasing their first novel published traditionally, etc.
While the majority of us will be unable to complete this prompt until the second half of 2024, you may also be able to complete this prompt early if you can get your hands on an advance copy of the author’s debut. (If you’re interested in advance reader copies, we recommend signing up for or checking out websites like NetGalley.com)
Examples: Strange Folk, The Girl With No Reflection (List will be further updated as releases are announced)
Goodreads List: Author debut in second half of 2024
43. About finding identity
We love books with themes, and for this prompt, we’re looking for books centered around the theme of identity.
This may be a middle school book about belonging and finding who you are, a memoir of a celebrity sharing their road to uncovering identity, a non-fiction read, an inspiring novel, etc. This theme will look widely different from book to book and includes a broad range of interpretations, sub-topics, and sub-themes. But no matter what form or genre the book, it should have a clear message or central theme around finding identity.
You may also decide on a more literal interpretation of this prompt and choose a book where the character is suffering from amnesia and has no idea who they are. Or, a mystery or suspense-style novel in which a character’s identity is stolen, etc.
Examples: Becoming, Wild, Not Quite Narwal, Pageboy, Becoming Free Indeed
Goodreads List: About Finding Identity
44. Includes a wedding
A wedding is a celebration in which two people are united in marriage. Books picked for this prompt should include a wedding somewhere within the story. Wedding celebrations come in a wide variety of forms, styles, and traditions, and any type of wedding works toward this prompt.
It is also up to readers to decide how central the wedding is to the story as a whole. It may be part of the main plot, with the entire story building toward the wedding day, or it may only appear in a single scene, chapter, or even as an epilogue. As long as there is a wedding somewhere within the book, it counts!
Examples: Four Aunties and a Wedding, The Wedding Date, The Guest List, Destination Wedding, You’re Invited
Goodreads List: Includes a wedding
45. Chapter headings have dates
For this prompt, we’re specifically looking for books in which the chapter headings have dates. The date may be specific (Example: “June 21” or “Christmas Eve”) or you may stretch it to include chapter titles that are less precise. (For example: “Summer 2019” or “Ten Days Before.”)
It’s up to you whether the chapter title is only a date (For example: None of This is True by Lisa Jewell) or whether it includes the date as part of the chapter heading alongside other chapter title details. (For example: It may have a chapter number or title and then the dates and location underneath.)
Books that take place over a broad stretch of time or jump between characters or time periods are more likely to feature chapter headings with dates, but they can occur in any genre.
As a creative interpretation, you may choose a book that has dates for some chapter headings but not all. While we wouldn’t necessarily consider section headings to be the same as chapter headings, some books may be broken up into parts or sections with dates but not include dates with individual chapters. Ultimately, it’s up to you how you decide to interpret the prompt. If you think a book fits the prompt, it does!
Examples: The Enemy at Home, The Last Party, The Codebreaker’s Secret, The Invincible Miss Cust, None of This is True
Goodreads List: Chapter headings have dates
46. Featuring Indigenous culture
“Indigenous peoples” is a collective name for the first inhabitants of an area and their descendants. It can be used to describe a variety of peoples and cultures.
“Indigenous Peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, Indigenous Peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples.” (UN)
For this prompt, choose a book that features Indigenous culture. This may be a memoir by an Indigenous or Aboriginal author, a novel by an Indigenous author, a book of poetry or non-fiction, etc. It may feature Indigenous culture and peoples from any part of the world.
Examples: Braiding Sweetgrass, Daughters of the Deer, The Break, Stolen, Fire Country
Goodreads List: Featuring Indigenous culture
47. Self-insert by an author
A self-insert is when the author writes themselves in as a character within the novel. The character may use the author’s real name, or be disguised by a different name but share many similar qualities to the author.
Example 1: Agatha Christie’s character Ariadne Oliver is considered a self-insert by the author. Ariadne is a mystery novelist whose frustrations toward her Finnish detective often mimic Christie’s own frustrations toward Hercule Poirot. Fun fact: “Ariadne Oliver discusses her book “Body in the Library” in Cards on the Table, published in 1936. Christie didn’t publish her version of The Body in the Library until 1942.” (Wikipedia)
Example 2: In Anthony Horowitz’ series, “Hawthorne and Horowitz Mysteries,” Horowitz himself appears as an author and sidekick to the fictional lead detective. He appears under his own name.
The self-insert may or may not be specifically confirmed by the author. (For instance, many believe The Twilight Series to include a self-insert by Stephanie Meyers.) This is probably one of the more difficult prompts on this year’s challenge, so unsubstantiated self-inserts definitely work for this prompt.
As a creative interpretation, you may choose an author who made a cameo in the TV or film adaption of their book, even if they didn’t include a self-insert in the original book. You might also choose a series in which a self-insert occurs in one of the books, even if the author isn’t featured in the specific part of the series you’re reading.
As an alternate interpretation, any memoir or non-fiction read in which the author is featured will count toward this prompt.
Examples: True Crime Story, Hallowe’en Party, A Line to Kill, The Dark Tower Series, Anna Karenina, Perelandra
Goodreads List: Self-insert by an author
48. The word “secret” in the title
This is one of our winning 2024 prompts, as voted upon by our 52 Book Club members! You can re-watch the live draw here, in which the word “secret” was drawn from our two finalists. (The runner-up was the word “last.”)
The word “secret” must appear in either the title, subtitle, or series title. It may also appear as a variation of the word, such as secrets, secretly, or secretive. As a creative interpretation, the word “secret” may also be inside another word – for example, “secretary.”
This prompt can be completed in any language and does not have to be the English word for “secret.”
For those who participated in our 2023 challenge and feel this prompt is too similar to “a book about secrets,” we would encourage you to pick an entirely different genre for this prompt.
Examples: The Secret Garden, The Secret Life of Bees, The Husband’s Secret, Secretariat, Madam Secretary
Goodreads List: The word “secret” in the title
49. Set in a city starting with the letter “M”
In September 2023, our 52 Book Club members voted on the setting they’d most like to see as a 2024 prompt. “Set in a city starting with the letter ‘M'” was our winning prompt. You can re-watch the live draw here. (The runner-up was, “Set in a country starting with the letter ‘I.'”)
For this prompt, the book should be at least partially (or fully) set in any city starting with the letter M. Examples include: Munich, Manila, Moscow, Montreal, Mumbai, Mexico City, Melbourne, Madrid, Minsk, Mosul, Milan, Marseille, etc. You can find more examples here. The city may also be a fictional city, a city from another world or alternate reality, an ancient city that no longer exists, etc.
Britannica.com defines a city as, a “relatively permanent and highly organized centre of population, of greater size or importance than a town or village.”
As a creative interpretation, you may choose a non-city location that shares a name with a city starting with M. For example: There has been some debate within the Facebook group as to whether or not Manhattan, New York counts as a city, since it’s classified as a borough of New York. However, Manhattan is also a city in Kansas (along with other locations.) Since Manhattan, Kansas is a city, you may decide to read a book set in a location that shares a similar name — like Manhattan, New York.
Examples: Beneath a Scarlet Sky (Milan), The Girl Who Was Saturday Night (Montreal), The Savage Detectives (Mexico City), Journey to Munich (Munich), The Story of Ferdinand (Madrid)
Goodreads List: Set in a city starting with the letter “M”
50. A musical instrument on the cover
The surprising winner from our September 2023 votes, was “a musical instrument on the cover.” For this prompt, pick a book that has a musical instrument somewhere on the cover.
This can be any musical instrument included as part of the cover design, or any musical instrument mentioned within the title, subtitle, author’s name, etc. There are a wide variety of musical instruments and any instrument from anywhere in the world (or a fantasy world) counts toward this prompt.
Keep in mind that there may be several different cover editions for a book. As long as at least one edition has a musical instrument on the cover, it doesn’t matter what version or format you read it in.
Other creative interpretations: A cover design that includes clapping hands, or a character on the cover who is a singer. You may also include words in the title that have musical instruments within them, such as “violinist,” “eardrum,” “bluebell,” “hawthorn,” etc.
Examples: The Cellist of Sarajevo, The Violin Conspiracy, Run Rose Run, The Trumpet of the Swan, Drums of Autumn
Goodreads List: A musical instrument on the cover
51. Related to the word “Wild”
Our final prompt that was voted on by our 52 Book Club members is, “Related to the word ‘Wild.'” For this prompt, choose any book that you associate with the word “wild.” Some examples include but are not limited to:
- The word wild in the title or subtitle. (This may include any variation of the word, or other words with the word wild in them. Example: wildflower, wilderness, bewilderment, wildfire, wildly, etc.)
- A part of the cover design.
- The book may be set in the wilderness
- Creative take: a book that you read while you’re in the wilderness!
- It may relate to the main character (described as being “wild”)
- Plot description: described by reviewers as “a wild ride!”
- Part of the author’s name. (Laura Ingalls Wilder, Oscar Wilde, etc)
52. Published in 2024
For our final prompt of the year, we are looking for any book published in 2024! This is a book that should be published sometime between January 1, 2024 and December 31, 2024. Try a book outside your regular genres, pick a comfort read, or a new release by your favorite author — it’s entirely up to you!
Examples: Funny Story, The Woman With No Name, Lies and Weddings, Ghost Station, That Night in the Library
Goodreads List: Published in 2024
Thanks for joining in our 2024 challenge! We hope that this reading guide helps answer any questions you may have about a prompt, but remember, it’s not exhaustive. There are always alternative ways to interpret prompts and we love to see how creative you can get! Feel free to comment below with any other “out of the box” ideas for how to interpret one of these prompts.
For more suggestions or help with the prompts, join us on Facebook or our Goodreads Group.
Here’s to new reads in 2024! Happy reading!