Hello, Internetland! Happy New Year! Here is my first post of 2018!
This post is not a book review. It’s a post about reading. Reading challenges, to be specific. A reading challenge, if you are not familiar with them, is a way to motivate yourself to read. Usually people will set a specific number of books they want to read in a year and strive to reach that goal. Other times, people will set themselves a challenge to read certain genres that are outside their normal reading habits. For example, one year I set myself a challenge to read more non-fiction since I tend to mostly read fiction books. I didn’t set a specific number of non-fiction books I wanted to read. Just that I wanted to read more non-fiction.
Goodreads.com has an excellent reading challenge format. You set the amount of books you want to read, then Goodreads keeps track for you and lets you know if you are ahead or falling behind. There’s also the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge that challenged the reader to read things in different genres, from different time periods, etc. If you Google “2018 Reading Challenge” you will certainly be able to find one that suits your fancy.
Now the real question: Should you set a reading challenge? What is the purpose of a reading challenge other than to motivate you to read. It’s not like you are actually accountable for it. It’s not like you are going to win some prize (well, unless you’re a kid and you are doing a summer reading program through your local library!).
I’m going to go through the pros and cons of setting yourself a reading challenge. If you want to read a Goodreads specific set of pros and cons, head over to BoatsAgainstTheCurrent.net for blogger Laura’s list: http://boatsagainstthecurrent.net/pros-cons-goodreads-challenge/ It’s a good read and has many of the same points that I will be discussing.
- First and foremost, a reading challenge is meant to encourage you to read more. Maybe you only get through one or two books a year but you want to challenge yourself to read 5 or 6. It can be the motivator you need to get through your to-read pile.
- Not only does it encourage you to read more, but read more broadly. A lot of reading challenges encourage readers to read outside their usual genres. For example, the challenge might list X number of romance, X number of sci-fi, X number of classical literature, etc. etc.
- A reading challenge can help you keep track of your reading. Maybe it’s through an online system like Goodreads, or maybe you have a nifty little book tracking spread in your bullet journal. Doesn’t matter! You can keep track of what you’ve read and go back and look whenever you feel like it.
- If you use the online method, such as Goodreads, to keep track of your challenge you can often times see what your friends are reading and how well they are doing with their challenges. A little bit of friendly competition can be a great motivator!
- There are health benefits to having a reading challenge as well. For example, if you know you want to reach your goal then maybe, just maybe, you make time to read. You schedule yourself an hour or two just for reading each day and you find yourself feeling more relaxed, less stressed. The Magic of Reading!
Now, the Cons:
- Not making your goal number by the end of the year can be discouraging. In 2017 I set myself the goal of reading 52 books. One book a week. I didn’t meet my goal and let me tell you it feels really crappy. Especially when you see all your friends on Goodreads reading 100+ books and you think to yourself, “I’m a freaking librarian! I should be able to read more than 52 books in a year!” Nope. Life sometimes gets in the way. For me it was a newly re-discovered hobby that I got really into.
- Having a reading challenge can also make you feel pressured to read and that can be stressful. In fact, having a reading challenge can have a negative effect on your health if you are forcing yourself to read instead of doing other things you might enjoy, or sacrificing sleep in order to get those last few chapters in.
- A reading challenge can negatively influence what you read. Maybe you need to hit a certain number of books or you see you’re falling behind on your challenge, so you binge on some short trashy romances (not that there’s anything wrong with short trashy romances!) JUST to meet your goal, instead of reading what you REALLY want to read.
- Reading challenges that encourage you to read outside your preferred genre can also sometimes put you in a reading slump. If all you really like to read is high fantasy but your reading challenge is forcing you to read some chick lit or westerns, you may find yourself bored and putting down your book for a while. If you’re like me you can’t move on until you have either decided to give up on the book (which, for me, would mean failing my reading challenge) or finish the dang thing (which would be unpleasant if I’m really not enjoying the book). So you end up at a standstill. Unable to start something new and unable to finish what you started. And there you are. Slumped.
So there you have it, Internetland! Some of the Pros and Cons of setting yourself a reading challenge in 2018. Take care of yourself, and if you find yourself not enjoying your reading challenge don’t forget you don’t need to stick to it. No one is going to hold you accountable to it. No one will scold you if you change it mid-year. No one will scoff if you don’t read as many books as Joe Schmoe over there. Reading is meant to be fun and relaxing. This year I decided to set myself a smaller challenge. In fact, I halved my challenge this year because I want to make time for my other hobbies. I am also going to keep in mind that I CAN change the number any time I feel like it and I’m going to try and not feel too badly if I can’t make that number. I implore you do do the same. A reading challenge shouldn’t be something you beat yourself up over. It’s meant to be a fun motivator.