Scribd’s July reading challenge

Scribd’s July reading challenge, completed

In Community, Reading Challenges by Scribd

Scribd’s July reading challenge

Finally, we are in our favorite month: July. The midway point of the year. The time to take stock of your progress on your reading goals (and reassess accordingly). The time of mid-year check-ins on the best books of the year (so far). The time for beach reading (in our hemisphere, anyway). The time to take on our Feed Your Mind reading challenge (oh wait, that’s every month!). Whether you’re having a hot girl summer or experiencing some summertime sadness, there’s a book here to expand your horizons (or if it’s your winter, that’s cool, too).

If you’re up for the challenge, here’s how Feed Your Mind works:

Each month, we create five prompts to follow; you can challenge yourself to complete one, all five, or any number in between. These prompts are designed to motivate you to:

  1. Read more 

  2. Explore new content types 

  3. Help you find works that are outside of your usual go-to genres 

The challenges are a mix of timely prompts and random, fun ideas.

Here are July’s prompts:

Catch up with the best books of the year

As is the human condition, despite our well-laid plans and the best of intentions, we haven’t kept up with every exciting new release from the year, as we would like. But it’s okay, because now we have a better sense of which books fell flat and which ones delivered stellar stories. If you’ve been waiting to see which books won the culture games, now’s the time to see what all the buzz has been about.

Relevant list:
Best Books of 2021 So Far

Dive into a chilling mystery or thriller

Beat the summer heat with a mystery or thriller that will send a chill down your spine. When we hear “beach read,” we immediately think of psychological thrillers. 

Relevant list:
Best Mystery Blockbusters of Summers Past

Get excited for the Olympics

It’s probably an understatement to say that this year’s summer Olympics are going to be very weird: No spectators are allowed to watch any of the events live in Tokyo due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the Games were already delayed a year because of the pandemic, so we’re raring to watch from the safety of our couches. After all, when else do we all get hype about badminton?

Relevant list:  
Embracing Grit to Become Your Best Self: Olympics Edition

Catch up on this year’s award-winners (so far)

See all the stories that have been bestowed with various awards from the past six months. It’s hard to resist these highly imaginative and illuminating works.

Relevant lists:
Audie Award Winners
Edgar Awards Winners
Lambda Literary Award Winners
Pulitzer Prize Winners and Finalists

Take an audiobook on your travels

During the pandemic, lots of people (re)discovered a love of reading. After more than a year of aggressively staying inside, going nowhere, we’re starting to take some trips again. With audiobooks, there’s no need to give up reading time while traveling.

Relevant list:
The Best Audiobooks for Road Trips

Tweet us @Scribd or tag us on Instagram @Scribd using the hashtag #FeedYourMind to show what you’ve been reading or listening to for our reading challenge. Join our private Facebook Group Scribd Reading Room to talk about all the content that’s struck a chord with you.


What we fed our minds this July

At Scribd, we’re always trying to learn more — that’s why we started the Feed Your Mind Challenge. Each month, we provide a handful of prompts designed to motivate you to read more, explore new content types, and help you find works that are outside of your usual go-to genres. June’s prompts were:

  • Catch up with the best books of the year

  • Dive into a chilling mystery or thriller

  • Get excited for the Olympics

  • Catch up on this year’s award winners

  • Take an audiobook on your travels

Here’s what Scribd employees read for the challenge, and how much they enjoyed diversifying their (digital) bookshelves:


Punch Me Up to the Gods by Brian Broome

When I reflected on my reading for 2021, I noticed that a couple of memoirs from Black men, Heavy by Kiese Laymon and How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones, really stood out as being emotionally impactful and helpful for understanding the cultural context of these past couple of years. Therefore, I immediately gravitated towards another memoir, Punch Me Up to the Gods, for this month’s challenge. 

Brian Broome expertly drops the reader into enveloping settings throughout the book. You spend time as a teenager in a mall, a novice in a sex club, an introspective philosopher on a city bus, a curious child secretly exploring a toy box, and an emotional rollercoaster in a pick-up bar. And, it is all highly relatable, no matter your path in life. Some of my favorite techniques were Broome’s descriptions of beauty in difficult places and exposing the ugliness of the “nice places” of life.

Finally, the writing is “how-did-he-do-that?” good. I found myself wanting to reread sentences just for the joy of them. While this is the author’s first and (currently) only book, you can find a couple of concise pieces he contributed to Black Imagination so that you don’t have to say goodbye to these words so suddenly.

— Cameron M. (User Research)


What Happened to You? by Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey

Doesn’t it feel like trauma has become a recurring theme since last year? From Paris Hilton's Youtube documentary to Roxane Gay’s poignant 2020 essay Writing into the Wound, it seems like we’re starting to cultivate a collective awareness around the subject, and for good reason. As it turns out, childhood trauma is affecting our society on a larger scale than one would think, and Oprah joined forces with a neuroscientist to spread the word: Bruce Perry, the author of The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog.

Together, after a 30-year friendship, they came up with What Happen to You?, where they explain the neuroscience of trauma through the lenses of empathy. In a more conversational manner than (also groundbreaking) books like The Body Keeps the Score and It Didn't Start with You, Winfrey and Perry give readers a well-rounded understanding of trauma, making them think twice before judging unhealthy behavior in themselves and others. Real trauma stories narrated with compassion are interwoven with research data points and even graphs (you can tell the co-authors come from vastly different career backgrounds). But for however didactic or memoiristic it may sound, this book is an urgent exercise of public health, which is why I chose it among all the great books listed as the best of the year. I will personally recommend it to everyone I know.

Andrea B. (Editorial)

Start Listening


Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui

It’d be hard to find a book that dissects everything you ever wanted to know about swimming more completely than Why We Swim. If you’re a lover of the sport, in the pool or open-water, this book will have you nodding in agreement with the many facts and stories Bonnie Tsui weaves together proving that swimming is the best. Swimmers may like to know that great thinkers and leaders like Benjamin Franklin, FDR, JFK, and Oliver Sacks came up with many of their best ideas in the water. Could swimming make you smarter and more resilient? As an avid swimmer, I’d like to hope so. Personally, I enjoyed all the parts about swimming Alcatraz because I could relate: Swimming from The Rock was one of my bravest physical accomplishments. Ultimately, this book is a love letter to swimming that will captivate swimmers; however, for non-swimmers, I’d probably recommend starting with The Uncertain Sea first.

— Sarah S. (Editorial)



Love After the End edited by Joshua Whitehead

Love After the End, an anthology of short stories, sees the silver lining in our dystopian future, where the planet has become hostile to human life because humans did not respect the planet. As the reality of climate change really sets in for all of us, more stories of disaster tinged with hope about people’s perseverance have come out. (As an anime nerd, the movie Weathering With You comes immediately to mind.) But as these types of stories become increasingly popular, Love After the End still stands out; it won the Lambda Award in the LGBTQ anthology category, and it’s curated by Lambda-winning Canadian writer Joshua Whitehead. All the stories are written by members of the 2SQ (Two-Spirit and queer Indigenous) community, who each bring a unique take on what will, can, or should happen in our probable disastrous future. Each story is rooted in a deep love of Mother Earth and an understanding that sci-fi staples, like colonizing other planets, are paths that only lead to more destruction — or, at the very least, will deplete our souls. As with most short story collections, my mileage varied with each story, but each and every one was thought-provoking. 

— Ashley M. (Editorial)


The Three-Cornered War by Megan Kate Nelson

I chose to read The Three-Cornered War, a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History. I was intrigued by the book’s premise: telling the underreported story of how the Civil War was fought in the West. As a Westerner, I grew up learning about the Gold Rush, pioneers and wagon trains, and the building of the transcontinental railroad, but never about how the nation’s Civil War played out west of the Mississippi. Historian Megan Kate Nelson’s fascinating chronicle fills in that gap.

Out West, the Civil War wasn’t just North versus South. The Union and Confederate armies both wanted to bolster their side’s power by gaining control over the natural wealth in the Western territories, like minerals and access to ports on the Pacific Ocean. But that meant disrupting Native Americans. Ultimately, the Union government fought to end slavery in part by imprisoning Indigenous people on reservations.

The Three-Cornered War is told through the diverse experiences of some of the people who lived it. Nelson weaves together the stories of an Apache chief, a Union army wife, a Texas Confederate, a gold miner, a Navajo weaver, and even the famous frontiersman Kit Carson. She also describes battles fought by the first multiracial forces. Their stories make for an eye-opening account of an overlooked yet pivotal moment in our country’s history.

— Katie W. (Editorial)


The Cabinets of Barnaby Mayne by Elsa Hart

Cecily Kay simply can’t help herself. She respects knowledge, order, and the truth. And the murder of Sir Baranby Mayne isn’t adding up. In spite of the disapproval of the widow Barnaby and warnings from an old friend, she simply must solve the problem: who killed Sir Barnaby? 

As a librarian, I sympathize with Lady Kay’s admiration for the massive collection of objects Sir Barnaby gathered and meticulously cataloged in his labyrinth of a home. I identify very much with the scene where she guides her friend Meacan in making the proper inventory of the collection. I mean, I know there’s a murder mystery to solve, but let’s give my girl credit for knowing how to make an index.

Cecily is braver than I, though, and much of the thrill of reading this book comes from the moments where her curiosity is getting the better of her. I found myself yelling at the book like a horror movie: “Don’t go there! Why would you do that?” Engrossing and set in the perfect location for a mystery (a dark and shadowy house in London in 1703), it’s easy to see how this title won an Edgar Award.

— Meghan F. (Content Operations)

Start Listening


One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Trains, planes, automobiles — they’re all about making connections, right? While not technically a road trip, I decided to listen to One Last Stop during my flight to Mexico this month, and I’m glad I did so! The story is quirky and cute, with an unexpected time-traveling element, to boot. The chemistry between August and Jane was sweet and endearing (although I’m not sure about the cleanliness of those late-night rendezvous on the Q train). I loved August’s bond with her roommates; how the eccentric group of characters took her under their wings from day one, and ultimately, became not just friends, but family. The story also gave me flashbacks to my years in New York and what it was like to be young and single there, looking for love. 

— Janelle G. (Marketing)


Look out for next month’s challenge. To participate, tweet us @Scribd or tag us on Instagram @Scribd to show what you’ve been reading or listening to using the hashtag #FeedYourMind.

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