8 Things I’ve Learned in 2018 (From Doing my Fourth Year of Reading Challenges)

Around this time last year, I summed up what I’d learned about myself and my reading habits through doing another year of reading challenges, so I thought it would be a good time to reflect once again. This has now been my fourth year in a row of doing prompts-based reading challenges, and I feel like each year I learn a little more about my reading tastes. I always find this time of year a bit stressful if I’m behind on my challenges, because I end up stressing out a bit from the completely self-imposed pressure of finishing everything on time. It always helps me a bit to take a step back and look at the year as a whole, and anything I can take away from it which might be helpful when planning for next year’s challenges.

As with last year, when I look back at my year as a whole, it’s been a great reading year overall! I won’t go too far into depth on how I did on my goals since that will be a separate post later on this month, but I’ve read many of the books that I was most excited to try, and discovered some amazing new ones that I never would have expected to enjoy. In the midst of so many end-of-year wrap-ups, and best of/worst of lists, I think it’s a great chance to self-reflect a bit. I think it’s especially important now, while I’m still slowly coming to terms with the idea that I may not actually finish my challenges this year! It’s a good time to look back and see any patterns to my reading, and possibly if there is anything I can do better next year to make it even more fun!

I am still very bad at balancing out my reading!

One of my strategies for taking on multiple reading challenges each year is to make a conscious effort to try to balance out what I read throughout the year. I try to avoid reading too many books in a row that are the same genre, very similar in style, or very long. Usually I get the majority of my books from the library, so I tend to put holds on most of the books I want for the year, and release them in batches of 8-10 at a time, depending on my mood. I do my best to make sure each batch includes a mix of YA and adult books, longer and shorter books, and different genres, as much as possible. I also try to balance out the books I’m most excited for and least excited for, so that I don’t read all the “best” ones early in the year and leave myself with books I’m dreading at the end. In theory, this strategy should work really well, but I somehow did a terrible job of it this year. Aside from the usual October full of creepy books and thrillers, which is intentional, I found there were a couple of times this year where I had nothing but back-to-back YA fantasy books. Although I like the genre in general, I naturally get burnt out on reading too many similar books in a row, and I feel like I’m less likely to judge them fairly because I’ll naturally compare them. This is definitely something I want to improve for next year!

Bigger books are not necessarily intimidating

One of the potential downsides of doing reading challenges is that I’m sometimes put off reading longer books because I worry that they will take too long, and prevent me from finishing everything in time. I noted last year that I’m not great with judging how long it will take me to read a book. I know I generally read an average of 100 pages per day on a weekday, and more than that on weekends, but I often find that I’m completely off in my estimations for how much I’ll be able to finish on specific days. This year, I had quite a few longer books that I really wanted to read and did my best to time them so they were read during breaks from work where I should have had more time. That didn’t quite work out as planned, but I at least learned to get over some of my aversion to reading longer books, especially when it is a book that I’m really interested in reading. I read the last two books in the ACOTAR series and the last two Daughter of Smoke and Bone books, all of which were about 500 pages or more. I’m sure those slowed down my progress overall, but especially in the case of the ACOTAR books, they didn’t really “feel” that long while I was reading, which just proved to me that the size of the book should not be enough on its own to put me off if it’s a book I really want to read.

I get very frustrated when I feel like a book is taking “too long,” but what counts as “too long” is completely subjective

As I mentioned above, I tend to read about 100 pages per day on average, so it’s reasonable to expect a 600+ page book to take close to a week to finish, and I honestly don’t have a problem with that. What tends to bother me is when I get stuck for too long on a shorter book, usually because it is not interesting me very much or because the writing style is much denser than I expected. For an average-sized book of 300 – 400 pages, I usually assume I’ll need anywhere from 2-4 days to finish it, so I tend to get a bit frustrated if it takes any longer than that. Thinking about it now, I’m sure a part of that is just the general frustration with not enjoying the book as much as I would have liked, because I don’t like feeling “stuck” on a book when there are lots of others that I’m more interested in trying. I’ve never really been the type to DNF a book, especially when it counts toward a challenge because then I’ll feel like I’ve wasted all the time I’ve already invested in it. I tend to get quite far into it before deciding that I’m really not into it because I always hope it will start to get better toward the middle. Luckily for me, I don’t think I had too many books that I felt took too long this year. If anything, it’s more relevant to the books that I still need to read since I don’t want to read anything too long and take up too many days on one book at this point!

It really bothers me to read books in a very fragmented way over many days

My one biggest regret from this year is reading Two by Two first, instead of Our Dark Duet.  My original intent was to read Our Dark Duet on New Year’s Day since I had the whole day off, but I decided to switch and read the Nicholas Sparks book instead because I thought it would easier to finish off most of that when I had the whole day to read. I assumed that Our Dark Duet would be much more motivating to read after coming home from work so I’d have no problem getting into it, whereas the Nicholas Sparks book was a bit harder to get into when I was already tired. I ended up reading Our Dark Duet over 4 days (again, not unreasonable at all for a 500 page book!) but I found myself constantly frustrated that I had to keep stopping, and I don’t think I enjoyed it quite as much as I would have if I’d read it all the way straight through. In general, I find that I get pretty annoyed when I don’t have much time to read if it’s a day where I’m really in the mood to read or I’m reading a really good book. I try my best to time things out so I’m reading the books I’m most excited for on days where I have the most time, but somehow it often doesn’t work out that way. I can almost never finish an entire book in one day, but I find it much more frustrating to read only a few pages at a time.

I have a very bad habit of putting off some of the books I’m most anticipating for way too long!

Each year, I go into my reading challenges with an idea in mind of some of the books that I’m most strongly interested in reading, and sometimes even with goals to read specific books or series. As I mentioned above, I try to space out the most exciting books through the year so I don’t rush through all of them in the first couple of months, but sometimes I think I put them off for too long. For example, this year I was super excited to read the rest of the Raven Cycle books, and I ended up not even touching them until late November! Part of that is because I tend to go through all the books I reserved from the library first, and put off the books that I actually own. Since I’m more likely to own a copy of the books I’m most excited for (usually books by a favourite author, or books from a series I love), they get pushed back until closer to the end of the year. I also tend to prioritize some of the less exciting books to get them out of the way early on, and purposely leave myself some of the books that I’m most interested in until closer to the end so I keep my motivation up in the last few months. The problem with this is that it leads to putting them off for so long that I sometimes feel a bit rushed when I get to them since I’m worried about finishing my challenges in time, and I definitely don’t want to feel rushed when I’m reading!

Sometimes I need to listen to the hype, because the book really is worth it

If you had asked me a few years ago whether I was likely to read books that have a lot of hype around them, I would have answered with a very firm “no!” or at least “not until the hype has died down.” I’ve mentioned before how I almost missed out on Harry Potter because I stubbornly refused to buy into the hype, and there were many YA series that I’d heard about all over blogs and vlog channels that I finally gave in and tried. I’m so glad that I changed my mind since many of these series (ACOTAR, The Raven Cycle, Illuminae, Daughter of Smoke & Bone, etc) became some of my favourites of the year. It’s not just series either. I picked up The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo this year based on the hype alone, and I was completely blown away by it! I avoid overhyped books because I always think they can’t possibly live up to it, and I also get so sick of hearing about them everywhere. I think I need to start paying a little more attention though, since some of the best books I read this year and in previous years have been the most overhyped.

I am absolutely terrible at sticking to a TBR list

I know most bloggers tend to make monthly TBR lists, but I discovered pretty quickly this year that I just can’t handle them. To be fair, I make a pretty detailed list at the beginning of the year of all the books I plan on reading assigned to the prompts I expect to use them for, and I stick pretty closely to that. I guess you could consider that a yearly TBR list. Toward the fall, I decided to make myself a tentative TBR list breaking down the books I had remaining by month so I could see if it was even possible to finish, how many books I’d need to read, etc. In the end, I found the list much more overwhelming than it was helpful. It made me feel pressured to finish things quickly and started to make reading the books feel like a chore. Honestly, I think part of that was because of the sheer number of books being a little unrealistic, but as soon as I found myself shifting books from one month to the next, I realized that the entire TBR list was a bit pointless. Maybe if there was a way to organize it a bit better for next year I’d be willing to try it again, but once I make a list I tend to feel locked into it, and I like having the flexibility to pick up books as I’m in the mood for them.

I bite off way more than I can chew with reading challenges (and then do it all again the next year!)

Since I started doing reading challenges in 2015, I’ve been progressively increasing the total number of books each year. This wasn’t even intentional or a goal of any kind. I just found that it happened naturally as I started to have fun with the scavenger hunt aspect of filling in my list, and generally discovering more and more books that I want to try. This year, I had a goal of 182 books in total, and I’m struggling to finish it in time. Although I technically gave myself until March to finish several of my challenges, I don’t really want to deal with the logistical headache of carrying over from one year to the next. To be fair, if I used the March deadline, I think I would finish everything by the dates I set for each specific challenge. As it is though, I’ve been feeling stressed about finishing everything by December 31…but that hasn’t stopped me from making a very similar, huge plan for next year! I’m currently looking at multiple challenges with a total number of prompts around the same as this year’s total, although I’ve included a lot more graphic novels and short books to try and balance things out better. I’m sure by this time next year I’ll be complaining again that it is too much to manage, but the planning stage is so much fun and I love getting excited for all the books that I want to read next year!


3 thoughts on “8 Things I’ve Learned in 2018 (From Doing my Fourth Year of Reading Challenges)

  1. Pingback: 9 Things I Learned in 2019 (From Doing My Fifth Year of Reading Challenges) | Abyssal Librarian
  2. Pingback: 10 Things I Learned in 2020 (From Doing My Sixth Year of Reading Challenges) | Abyssal Librarian

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