For several years, I was stuck in a rut when it came to reading books for pleasure rather than for school. I spent 7 years straight in post-secondary education, so when I wasn’t in class or working on assignments, I spent most of my time reading textbooks or studying my notes. By the end of the day, the last thing I wanted to do for fun was to read some more!
I still got my fill on reading by taking a couple of classes about children’s literature, and making sure to squeeze in some of the titles I was most excited for. It wasn’t until the very end of 2014, after I graduated from college and was starting my full-time job that I realized how much I wanted to start reading more again.
Around the same time, I started seeing posts on Facebook about PopSugar’s first ever reading challenge, a list of 52 categories. The intent was for challenge participants to read one book per week, each fitting one of the prompts on the list. For close to two months, the idea of the challenge stayed in the back of my mind. I thought it might be fun to try, but I was worried about being able to follow through. As I touched on in my original “Welcome” post (found here), I soon came to love reading challenges, for several reasons:
1. They can push you to stretch your comfort zone – Although I would like to think that I’m not too picky when it comes to books, the challenges have made me really recognize where my comfort zone lies. There are several books that I’ve read that I probably wouldn’t have touched if it weren’t for the challenge, but I ended up loving! It can really help to refresh your interest in reading when you discover a brand new kind of book you may never have tried before.
2. They give you an excuse to try new books/authors – Even though most challenges don’t prohibit you from re-reading books, it sometimes feels like cheating to count books that you’ve read before. In the course of my challenges, I’ve often found myself exploring GoodReads message boards and recommendations to find new books, and try new authors that I may never have heard of otherwise. I often had books that I’d heard about but wasn’t so motivated to pick up immediately. A challenge gave me the push I needed to actually take the first steps to start reading it.
3. Challenge categories help narrow things down to make choosing books easier – As a result of all this exploring, my GoodReads list has blown up to over 1100 books that I’d like to read, and I’m sure there will be many more. With a list of that size, choosing what to read next can become daunting. When there were too many choices, it could be easiest to just avoid choosing which led to reading ruts. With a challenge imposing some limits, it was easier to choose books.
4. Challenges encourage you to keep reading – This may especially be the case for people like me, who are a little compulsive about checking things off a list. Once I committed to starting my challenge, I didn’t want to leave it before I’d finished all of the prompts. Having a defined list and number of books to read helped to keep track of progress and keep up the motivation to continue. It was strangely satisfying to check things off the list, and seeing the remaining number of books needed shrinking each time you read something can be very motivating.
5. The planning process can be part of the fun! – Sometimes it’s not just about checking items off the list. Part of the fun for me has been the “scavenger hunt”-like style of finding books that fit each prompt. When I started to take on multiple challenges within the same year, it became even more strategic to shuffle things around to help fulfill some of the more difficult prompts.