New year’s is the time to make resolutions or at least to decide whether or not we are game for resolutions. On a personal level, I rarely make resolutions. But when it comes to reading, I have taken to setting yearly goals. As with any hobby, I usually aim to better myself in one way or another. This is where reading challenges come into play.
The Pros of Reading Challenges
One of the goals I’m setting for the fourth year running is the number of books I want to read. Does it make me a better reader if I read a hundred books over ten? No. But it gives me a sense of satisfaction when I reach my goal and maybe even exceed it. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a rather competitive person. When I’m not competing with others, I compete with myself.Setting a goal also encourages me to track my progress. It helps me remember which books I read. I know that the first books I finished reading was An Abundance of Katherines by John Green because tracking the numbers helps me remember.
The greatest accomplishment of reading challenges is that they encourage diversity in the books that we read. Most obviously, Dive into Diversity challenges participants to read books based on the following creed.
We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.
—Mission Statement, We Need Diverse Books
Beyond looking for diversity in books, reading challenges also push us to read books outside of our comfort zones. That often means reading genres we usually don’t; like classics, non-fiction or even fantasy, despite a preference for contemporary fiction.
Unless we purely read for pleasure, we do hope to gain something out of reading. Maybe we want to appear smarter or maybe we want to learn something. I’m consciously pushing myself to read more non-fiction because I believe it opens up my mind and helps me gain invaluable skills.
Reading with intent also helps with tackling that ever-growing mountain of books to be read. Setting specific goals gives us a better overview and plan on how to whittle down our list of TBR books.
Even if we don’t set a quantifiable goal that we want to achieve, reading challenges can also be a way to gather information on what we read. Take the Around the World Challenge. Participants are encouraged to mark all the places they visit through the books they read on a map. There are mini challenges as well but they aren’t mandatory. Basically, it’s a fun way to track our fictional travels.
Another popular type of challenge is reading sequels to the series readers started. By taking part in such a reading challenge, participants end up much more aware of all the series they are in the midst of reading.
Cons of Reading Challenges
As with most things though, reading challenges aren’t exempt from cons. For all the good that they can contribute to reading lives, in some ways, they can have negative impacts too.
The main reason I’ve seen people reject reading challenges is the stress they create. Some feel the pressure to achieve their reading goals so much, they lose the joy of reading.
Lack of Time
We all lead busy lives. That can make it somewhat difficult to keep up with reading challenges, not so much because we lose steam but rather because we simply don’t have time to read. Worrying about reading challenges then seems to be very counter-productive.
Reading challenges can also steal our focus from reading or from particular books. Rather than immersing ourselves in the books we read, we focus on whether or not reading a specificll help us achieve our reading challenge goals. Perhaps reading challenges even deter us from reading heavier books in favour of lighter books that we can breeze through more easily.
Approaching Reading Challenges
When it comes to reading challenges, I believe the best approach is moderation. Pick the reading challenges you are truly interested in and set reasonable goals. Don’t join twenty challenges, only to wail at the end of the year that you failed them all. Choose reading challenges that honestly challenge you as a reader but don’t try to push yourself so hard, you end up giving up everything else in life.
For instance, when setting a goal for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, ask yourself how quickly you can read and how much time you will have to read. Just because you managed to read x books last year, doesn’t mean you will read x books this year. If life will slow down for you, then by all means, increase your goal. However, if you know that half the year you won’t even have time to sleep, then lower your reading goal accordingly.
The point of reading challenges is to push yourself as a reader. The point isn’t to reach a mental breakdown.