New Year – New Reading Challenge

I like to set myself a reading challenge every year, as do some other writers here at JL. Have you ever considered doing a reading challenge? Maybe you want to, but don’t know where to start. Read on, to find out how to choose the best challenge for you.

What are reading challenges?

A reading challenge is:

  • a set list of individual books, or
  • a choice of books that fall into a particular category, or
  • simply a particular number of books that you decide to read.

There may or may not be a time limit on the challenge. Some people set themselves challenges for reading a set number of unspecified books per week, month or year. Other people like to set more specific challenges or join in with challenges their friends are doing.

I like to go for mix of a set list and a particular number of books. I record my reading via Goodreads, a book website which also has a great Reading Challenge feature. To find out more about my challenge, check out my blog post.

There are lots of graphics on social media with books challenges that suggest different categories of books. Here’s an examply to show you the kind of things you can choose. (Yes, it’s got 2017 on it, but I’m sure you can do it any year you choose!).

Why do a reading challenge?

There are many good reasons to do a reading challenge.

It can get you out of a reading rut – This is primarily why I started doing challenges. I’d fallen out of the habit of reading and wanted to get back into it. Having a list of books that someone else had already told me were good books was an easy way to do this.

It can provide you with ideas of what to read next – If you read a book by an author you enjoy, you can then find other books by the same author, or check out Amazon recommendations on that book. A challenge can continue to improve your reading life after you’ve finished it.

Expand your horizons – Most challenges are designed to push you in some way. They encourage you to read books in genres or by authors that you wouldn’t have selected on your own. It’s a good way to explore something new.

Sense of accomplishment – You feel good when you finish a challenge! I do anyway as I love ticking off lists. Reading is a nice hobby, but can feel like one used for escapism rather than one that accomplishes anything. If you can say, this year I tried ten new authors or whatever, you’ve learnt something and that’s good.


Are there any cons to doing a reading challenge?

Yes! And some of these are reasons why I haven’t done another one.

Time-consuming – If you have limited time to read you may find the challenge takes all your time. If there are other books you want to read too, you may find your to-read pile gets higher and higher!

Money – You have to get hold of all the books and this costs money! Make sure to utilise your local resources – libraries, charity shops, second-hand shops, friends bookshelves etc. And check out the latest deals on Amazon and Kindle to get books when the price drops.

Procrastination – If you don’t fancy reading one of the books on the list you may find the challenge drags. And you dread reading the book and leave it till last. Then it takes months to read.

Perfectionism – If you’re not enjoying a book you may force yourself to finish it just so you can tick it off the list. Yes, I’ve done this. I would no longer do this. Life is too short and there are too many books.

Books you can’t unsee – You may find you read a book you wish you hadn’t. And once you’ve read it, it’s too late. This is particularly bad if combined with perfectionism above because it means you have to finish the book! Yes, I did this, too–three times! Am I stupid, you may ask? Maybe. But that urge to finish the challenge was too strong to ignore. I would have felt I’d failed if I hadn’t stuck it out.

Encourages reading shorter books – If you have a challenge which is a set number of books, you may find yourself tempted to read shorter books to finish the challenge quicker. If this is the case, setting a lower goal might help avoid this temptation. (I fell into this trap myself last year, setting a goal of 100 books on Goodreads. This year my goal is a more modest 30 books).


How to make challenges work for you:

– Picking a challenge with categories of books (like the one mentioned above) might be better than a definitive list of books because you have wiggle room in terms of the actual books needed to complete the challenge.

– If you can’t face finishing a book these days, it’s often easy to find out what happens by reading a summary of it on Wikipedia (only for more well-known books)

– Remember why you are doing the challenge–to read more books ongoing, to find new authors, to broaden your knowledge or whatever your personal reason is, and don’t fixate on the end result of finishing the challenge.

– Ignore the speed at which other people complete challenges if it discourages you. Reading is personal and doesn’t have to be a competition. Extend the challenge deadline if you need to. Or reduce the challenge to a more manageable level.

– If you don’t complete the challenge, focus on what you have read and what you got out of it, not what you haven’t done

– Use reading challenges as a stepping stone to finding more books you enjoy in the future.


Do you set reading challenges? Let us know what you are up to this year!


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