Would you believe me if I told you a reading challenge can make this year way more fun? Plus as a side benefit, you’ll feel smug next December 31st.
The best part? If you cast your net wide enough, there is the real possibility of rediscovering that youthful joy of reading that is so easily lost once we take on the responsibilities of adulthood.
I challenged myself back in 2016 to read 12 classics, and then I did it again in 2018, throwing more variety into my books. I learned a bit about what worked for me and what didn’t and applied that to this year’s list. I’ll share the advice I gave myself in compiling my new reading challenge this year.
Reading Challenge: Number of Books
Most often, people will pick a certain amount of books to read in one year.
How you keep track of your reading challenge is up to you. A simple spiral bound notebook works great. Or you can invest in a funky reading journal that will keep your inspired to keep track of your progress.
I’m a fan of my (free!) online Goodreads account, as I love perusing my “read” list and seeing all the covers beautifully displayed!
So how many books should you pick for your reading challenge?
The best advice is to start simple. If you are limited on time, six to twelve books is a great amount to begin with.
If that seems like a lot, consider that you can easily reach that amount if you listen to audiobooks while commuting, working out, or running errands. Visit your local library and ask about audiobooks, books-on-CD, and playaways. The options have exploded in the last few years!
(And no, audiobooks are not cheating. They are a brilliant way to entertain yourself. We humans never outgrow the need to hear stories!)
Rules for a Reading Challenge
This is the best part. You make up your own rules! Here are some ideas to get you daydreaming of the possibilities:
- a list of favorite books you want to reread
- middle grade fiction
- books heard on NPR
- “trashy” novels
- books recommended by students/your kids
- one book from 12 different genres
- 12 books from one genre
- comic books
- your grandmother’s favorite books
- books published the year you were born
- books you’ve been putting off reading
- your favorite author’s favorite books
- books with ridiculously beautiful covers
- all the books by your favorite author
- all the books in one series
You can also follow others’ challenges, which can be fun too, particularly if you like the social let’s-do-this-together aspect of reading.
Last year, I followed three challenges: Modern Mrs. Darcy’s challenge (this year’s challenge looks intriguing!), a Bronte book challenge, and a read-along with a Booktuber.
If you want to try this, go to Youtube and look up Booktube Reading Challenge and the year in the search bar. If you have a genre you prefer, enter that in the search bar as well. Then explore a few videos until you find something that suits you!
It’s an effective means to get outside one’s comfort zone and I’ve discovered some incredible books this way. (The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry were two favorites.)
What if I hate a book?
So what if you pick a book for your challenge and you hate it?
Guess what? You are a grown-up! You can drop that book like a hot potato!
Two of the books on my list this year were duds for me: Catch-22 and The Master and the Margarita. I got halfway through each and it was like pulling teeth. I finally decided to go online and look up “book synopsis” for each title.
And you know what? I happily abandoned each book because I could see that the ending held no promise for me. They were simply not my cup of tea.
Yes, it can feel a little naughty abandoning a book. But there’s too many great books out there that are up your alley to waste time with those that aren’t.
Plus, finding books that don’t do anything for you help you narrow in on what you DO like. It’s like dating. But less stressful and much less expensive.
Advice to Myself on Reading Challenges
Having done a few of these reading challenges, here is some advice I’ve doled out to my sweet little self. Feel free to follow or disregard.
- Make it fun! Pick books you’ve been dying to read.
- You like Jane Austen/Dickens-y classics. Nothing wrong with that. So what if most bestsellers leave you scratching your head.
- There is no such thing as a guilty pleasure. It’s all good. Even if it’s crap writing. The more you get pulled into the zone, the better.
- A book you buy is one that should feel at home in your hands and makes you smile.
- Only keep the books that make you happy or that you want to reread. Sell the rest.
- Oprah’s an amazing woman. And you and she have widely different reading tastes. If she recommends a book, you’ll probably hate it.
- Stretch yourself a little in one of your choices, but don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out. Just because you don’t like a book that is considered great, doesn’t mean that your IQ is on par with a Cabbage Patch doll.
My 2019 Reading Challenge
So with that advice in mind, I have 24 books on my booklist this year, 2 per month, all from my bookshelves. Picking out books for a reading challenge is one of my favorite things to do. I giddily scan my shelves, coffee mug in hand, and feel like the richest gal in the world.
As you’ll see, I was gung-ho for the classics this year. Next year, I could easily switch back to vampire and beach novels.
Also, I splurged and got myself and Audible subscription this year, so that should help enormously in meeting this goal. (I’m looking at you, War and Peace.)
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arther’s Court by Mark Twain
- Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
- Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
- War and Peace* by Leo Tolstoy
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
- The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
- Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
- The Portrait of a Lady* by Henry James
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence
- Classic Horror Tales* (Word Cloud version)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- Tarzan and the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs
- The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle
- The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
- Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- All Quiet on the Western Front* by Erich Maria Remarque
- Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
- The Woodlanders by Thomas Hardy
- The Black Tulip by Alexander Dumas
- The Professor by Charlotte Bronte.
*my “stretch” books this year
Now it’s your turn! What are your thoughts on doing a reading challenge? Tell us in the comments below:
- What kind of challenge will you try?
- Which books are on your list? Any guilty pleasures or stretch books?
- What reading challenges have you done before? Did you like them? Hate them? Did you discover any new favorite books?
As always, if you found this information valuable, please share it on your favorite social media platform! Till next week!
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