Reading challenges seem to be all the rage.
I once asked visitors to my blog which ones they did, and someone said “I don’t do any – I read to relax, not challenge myself.” That’s a very good point. Many people are delighted to select a book from the library, store, or online, and sit down to read it as and when they prefer.
I do too. But…
Why I do Reading Challenges
I suppose my entry into reading challenges was all spurred by Goodreads. Just discovering I read 30+ books in my first year was interesting. Being a bit of a numbers geek, I wondered what patterns were in my choices, and there probably weren’t any. As an author, though, I was ‘supposed’ to read widely in my genre. That’s where the change in my approach came. I needed to read more children’s books, and specifically those which filled the gap between now and when I last read as a child (or teen). All I’m saying is that it’s a year or two. I hadn’t read any Roald Dahl (or Dr Seuss). I really ought to read in my genre.
So I started, first by setting myself a challenge on Goodreads (that’s an annual challenge, but you can sign up any time). I generally aim to read 50-60 books a year, so that means I can review one a week on my blog. Having that challenge helped push me to find time to read even when I was busy.
Then I started having difficulty choosing which book to read next. They were all on my To-Read list on Goodreads, which by now had grown to over 200. I wanted to reduce the number. Just reading the first on the list wasn’t always what I wanted to do. The first on the list started to be ignored… in fact, I suspect that I moved it back down the list one year and it still hasn’t surfaced (it was a thriller).
Choosing a Reading Challenge
If you need help choosing which book to read next, or feel you want to widen your horizons, there are probably well over a hundred reading challenges to join. I mainly pick ones that run for the whole year. At first I saw my blogging friends involved in one that seemed fun (I think my first was the YA and MG Time Travel Challenge). Then I started seeking out challenges to help me reach my overall Goodreads goal, since in most cases you can count a book towards more than one challenge.
Lists of Challenges
There is a huge reference list maintained by Reading Challenge Addict. Some have defined books to read, like the 100 greatest classics; others have categories to fill, still others just challenge you to complete a set number on a theme.
Mount TBR Challenge
One of the most useful for me is the Mount TBR Challenge, from ‘My Readers Block’. That simply encourages you to reduce the list of books on your To-Read list (To Be Read). Strangely, I started that one with my TBR at over 400, and despite reading over 30 books, started the next year with over 500 on my list. You see my problem.
I’ve also been trying to read Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time for the last 25 years. I haven’t opened it yet, it’s been sitting on my bookshelf since, well, not long after it was published! It rose into the top ten in my TBR last year, and I still haven’t started it. Thanks to the Reading Challenge Addict, I discovered a Non-Fiction Adventure, from a blog called Gather Together and Read, with a goal to read fifty non-fiction titles in 10 years (although you can adapt the numbers to your own aims). Somehow, Stephen Hawking did not appear among the first three books I read… but I’m doing five a year, and with any luck, he’ll be next.
Colours and Alphabets
I’ve done an alphabet challenge (Alphabet Soup) for the past two years – read something with a title that fits each letter of the alphabet during the year. If you’ve got a big TBR be warned this can add to it, as you find you haven’t got any with letters Q, X, Z, or even, strangely, Y, U or I. Someone joked I should title one of my books to fit one of these letters – I have a Z planned now!
Colours, of either covers or in the title, works, too – but again, you may have to search for something new to fit the last colour on the list.
A few challenges set you a puzzle to fit parts of their theme. The Bookshelf Gargoyle usually does something that gets the mind working overtime – this year its the Wild Goose Chase Challenge; with seven categories (so only seven books to read), but each has to fit one of his categories surrounding the words ‘wild’, ‘goose’, and ‘chase’. Mind-bending but fun.
Fun is what it’s all about – and connecting with other people reading books, too. Most have a place where you can talk about the books you’ve read and swap ideas. It’s part of the reading community in the blogosphere.
If you haven’t tried a reading challenge yet, give it a go. You can join most of them at any time during the year. But whatever you do, keep enjoying your reading!
See what I’ve been reading with my quarterly challenge update HERE.
PS I’m launching a new book on 27th April, so please watch out for details of Willoughby the Narrator and a giveaway on my blog – and on some other lovely people’s blogs too!