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.
Christina @ Christina Reads YA says
Quantifiable targets definitely make me feel like I can actually achieve the goals versus making them really broad feels like I don’t even know where to start.
“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.” — Yes, but this also leads to misery on my part. I don’t know that I want to compete with myself. Will it be that much better to read like 20 more books? What if I speed read and don’t enjoy as many? I totally respect this in other people, and I wish that it would work for me. So many challenges everywhere!
I might check back on your Dive into Diversity progress! I think I commented on your challenges post about wanting a diversity challenge, if at least to check myself and see that I have read some diverse titles.
“I’m consciously pushing myself to read more non-fiction because I believe it opens up my mind and helps me gain invaluable skills.” — This is good. I think my problem is a reading challenge would make me focus on YA books alone and I want to read more nonfiction for the same reason you do.
Having all the information gathered is nice though! I still love the idea of the Around the World challenge. And being more aware of which series I haven’t is a definite bonus (oh geez, I don’t know that I even want to know that number…).
“Some feel the pressure to achieve their reading goals so much, they lose the joy of reading.” — Mmm, not even the joy of reading so much as the joy of other things. Getting competitive with myself might make me, as you state below, lose sight of other goals that I have for myself too and then I’ll get disappointed and not realize that there’s also a time limit involved and blah blah.
I wish that I could approach challenges the way you do. And have I ever told you how much I like your layout and font and background? Despite me talking about stressful things, I feel quite soothed by all of this, ha. :)
Christina @ Christina Reads YA recently posted Review: In a Handful of Dust – Mindy McGinnis
Jessica @ Jessica's Rainbow Inspiration says
Great post! I totally agree with everything you said!
For me, this is my first time joining reading challenges. My purpose for joining reading challenges is to diversify my reading. This is also the criteria I used to select which reading challenge to participate in. As this is my first time participating in a reading challenge, I hope that I will get more information about my reading habits from this.
The reading challenges I am participating in this year are: 2015 Goodreads, 2015 Let Me Count The Ways, 2015 Where Are You, 2015 Authors A to Z, 2015 Alphabet Soup, 2015 Books In Translation, Diversity on the Shelf, Back to the Classics and Popsugar 2015 Reading Challenge. Hopefully I can complete all of them!
Jessica @ Jessica’s Rainbow Inspiration recently posted Book Review: Dragons Wild (Dragons #1) by Robert Asprin
Jess @My Reading Dress says
Unfortunately I just feel all the cons which sucks. I get so stressed out with reading challenges and I just realised that they weren’t for me. I set my GR challenge a little more realistically this year though. Ideally I would like 100 but let’s be honest, that’s not going to happen, unfortunately.
Jess @My Reading Dress recently posted Seeking Saturday’s Read #19: 2015 Welcomes More Pictures, Sad Attempts At Planning And Fun (For the Time Being)
I never participated in reading challenges beside the godreads one up until this year. Lays year I did a challenge of a few month and realized how much fun readign challenges could be, I met new bloggers and it gave me something to focus on when I didn’t knew what to read. So this year I picked 3 year long challenges and probably a few shorter ones. I don’t set the goals too high as I don’t want to stress myself.
Lola recently posted Lola’s Ramblings: Happy New Year!
I have really only done the Goodreads challenge, but this year I am going to do the Fairy Tale Re-telling challenge but that one should be really easy for me because I love re-tellings!
Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings
Missie recently posted Review of Into The Woods
I always feel extra motivated by reading challenges. You are right about picking a few challenges you are interested in with realistic goals. It’s best to pick a low goal in the beginning and to set the bar higher later on :)
Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted January link-up Retelling challenge.
I’m kinda lucky I guess because I don’t really care if I actually accomplish all my challenges. “They’re more like guidelines anyway.” :D
I often use them as reminders, because I tend to forget about certain books even though I love them. Like retellings or rereads in general. I love both but I often forget about them but now that I joined a challenge for each of them I’m reminded that I should read more of them :)
(thanks for mentioning my challenge! <3)
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