Reading challenges – love ’em or hate ’em?

Happy New Year!

New year, same old complaints about reading challenges. Even the Guardian published a piece this year telling people not to worry about reading more, but reading better.

Well yes.

I confess I do wonder why people take reading challenges so seriously. The things we choose to care about. I mean, if you’re finding that it’s causing you stress or undue pressure, then don’t do it! It’s only reading. But there they are, apparently ploughing through piles of books in order to reach a certain number in a year. Or are they? Really? I can’t imagine anyone really takes it that seriously.

I’ve just set my Goodreads reading challenge for the year – I’m suggested I’ll read 100 books. I said the same last year and adjusted it to 120 in September. You can, of course, also adjust the challenge down. Or ignore it altogether! No one cares if you read 6 or 60 books a year. The quality is indeed the thing.

I take part in the challenge simply as I already use Goodreads to track my books, otherwise I may end up buying something I’ve already read. (I feel like I should use a different platform as Goodreads is owned by Amazon but I prefer the format to other book tracking apps, and it’s easier to use than Amazon itself which, if I have to use it, I always find to be a dreadful user experience. Yet another reason to boycott.) I also have a lo-fi tracker and jot down how many books I buy or read each month.

There’s no pressure to complete the challenge and it’s a little bizarre that people do take it as a further source of pressure on themselves. But if you are looking to read more in general this year, or get through a tbr stack that’s threatening to take over your house then here are some tips:

  • Read what you fancy at the time. I see people list books they plan to read that month and I’ve never understood this. You’ve chosen crime, history and sci fi but what if you’re in the mood to read romance, nature and memoir? Surely you won’t enjoy books you feel obliged to read if you’re not in the mood for them?
  • Vary your reading. It’s more fun to come to something fresh and different to what you’ve just read. My Mr alternates fiction with fact to mix it up a bit but do what you want.
  • Read right for the time of day too. I can’t handle non-fiction or serious literary books at bedtime. What fits into your day? Short stories over breakfast? Something challenging at lunch or on your commute if you have time to get stuck in?
  • Slip your tbr pile in among your other books on your shelves. Novelty makes a difference. If your tbr pile is sitting there like a “big deadhead” then you won’t be inspired to read it. If you browse your shelves then it’s likely you’ll come across something that looks interesting and it will remind you of why you bought it in the first place.
  • Think about formats too. How do you enjoy books best? Are there other formats that will work in certain times or conditions? E-books or audio books, graphic novels, hardback or paperbacks – all have their good points and moments. The sensory pleasure of each is as valid as any other reading experience.

As well as the numbers, I’ve suggested to myself that I will read more non-fiction this year and also slip in some rereads from the shelf that I’ve been meaning to get to as well. This is partly a nod to quality reads, which I found were not really there for me in 2022 – I found myself reading a lot of books that attracted hype but didn’t live up to that hype for me. And as ever, I have a load of books I’m hoping to read from my shelves so hopefully I can make some progress on these. Wish me luck.

I hope 2023 is a good reading year for you! Let me know if you take part in a reading challenge or just can’t be bothered!

1 comment

  1. Totally agree about putting your TBR books in amongst your shelves rather than sitting and looking at a pile, which is a great way to turn reading into a chore.

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