Mid-Year Challenge Check-In

I’m still a little in shock that the year is halfway over already, and that I actually have some time off to do some more reading. Ironically, after barely taking any sick days all year, I managed to come down with some kind of cold/possibly allergies on my first day off! How unfair is that?! Although I’ve made two posts recently about my favourite books of the year (here) and the ever-popular Mid-Year Freak Out Tag (here), I wanted to do a quick update on my progress on my reading challenges so far.

This year, I decided to take on four reading challenges:

  • Goodreads Around the Year Challenge – Consists of 52 categories that were voted on by members of the group in a series of polls throughout the year. Categories were suggested by participants and left up to a vote. We are also each allowed one wild card option to replace a prompt we don’t like or want with another book of our choice. I generally choose to use my Wild Card pick to add an extra prompt from the list of those that were rejected during the voting process, since there are always some very interesting ones that don’t make it. So for this challenge, I need to read a total of 53 books.
  • PopSugar Reading Challenge – This year, PopSugar has divided their list into a main challenge of 40 prompts, and an “advanced” challenge of an additional 12. I am taking on both parts of the list, for a total of 52 books. These lists are usually created by PopSugar staff, but for this year they opened it up to a lot of input from challenge participants as well.
  • PopSugar Summer 2016 – PopSugar also hosts seasonal challenges occasionally to add some extra prompts for those who finished early or want an additional level to the challenge. The seasonal challenges also tend to include prompts that are related to the season, so the summer list includes things like beaches, summer romances, and  vacation.  I actually didn’t see this challenge until close to the end of last year when it was too late to take it on, but the prompts interested me so I decided to take it on. I also found a Fall challenge that interested me, but decided it would be too much. The Summer challenge consists of 29 prompts.
  • BookRiot Read Harder – The Read Harder challenge is always the most difficult for me, although it has the fewest prompts. This list consists of 24 prompts, but they often put a huge focus on diversity and pushing people to read outside their comfort zones. This year’s list was especially frustrating because some of the prompts were chosen by authors, and as creative as they were, they were very difficult to fulfill.

My total for the year is 158 books, and as of the end of June, according to Goodreads, I am 5 books behind where I should be (46% of my total). Ideally, my goal is to read all 158 by the end of the year, but I am prioritizing the Around the Year challenge and PopSugar challenge (the main one, not the summer challenge) as the two that must be completed by the end of the year. I’ve managed to reduce my number of books that I’m behind from 8 (as of early May) to 5, which seems a lot more manageable since I have quite a few graphic novels and quicker books still left to read.

As of the end of June, here is where I stand on each of the challenges:

  • Around the Year – 26/53 (50%)
  • PopSugar – 22/52 (42%)
  • PopSugar Summer 2016 – 13/29 (45%)
  • BookRiot Read Harder – 12/24 (50%)

It makes sense that I am behind on the Summer Challenge since that one was the lowest priority for me anyway, but I thought I’d be a tiny bit further ahead on the PopSugar challenge. It probably fell behind a little since I thought I was falling behind on Around the Year, so I focused on that one more instead. The only thing I have to figure out is when to read some of the longer or more potentially difficult books so they don’t slow me down too much. I still have many books that I’m really looking forward to!

 

Why Take On a Reading Challenge?

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.