Monday, June 14, 2010

Reading Challenges: Your Questions Answered

A decent amount of the email I receive has to do with reading challenges - Why do I participate in so many? Where do I find out about the new ones?  How can I create my own challenge?

Let me start by saying, I love reading challenges. LOVE THEM. I think they are a great community-based way to learn about and try new authors and genres. They're great for motivating me to go back and read those classics everyone raves about that I would love to read, but would most likely postpone indefinitely in favor of the new and shiny. They get me to expand my horizons, read books in genres I'd never consider otherwise and and give authors a second chance if I didn't love the first book I read by them. They're also great for goal setting and being accountable for those goals. I'll try harder to read 50,000 pages this year, because I publicly signed up to do so. I'll put an extra effort into reading a book everyone else loves that I'm wary of because it'll fit into a challenge.

Why do I participate in so many? Because they all look so tempting. And most allow for crossover. How can I say no if I'm already planning on reading a bunch of books that'll count towards that challenge? Most of the time, the challenges cover books I want to read, but haven't gotten around to. I wanted to read the Sookie Stackhouse books for years. I had most of them sitting on my shelf, yet I never read one until I signed up for the challenge. I read the entire series in a few months and fell in love with it. Those books would have most likely sat unread forever without the challenge. I had been working my way through the libraries of Agatha Christie and Stephen King for years, but without a list to cross things off of (yes, I am one of those list people) I wasn't making much progress. So far this year I've already read one Christie and two King's with many more planned of each. Challenges also help me keep up with super prolific authors like James Patterson. Pledging to read 10 Patterson books a year is probably the only way I'm ever going to be current on his series.

Where do I learn about new challenges? I follow over 500 blogs. Odds are, if there is a new challenge out there, one of those blogs is either hosting or participating in it. Beyond that, I follow A Novel Challenge - a blog dedicated to book challenges -  and get updates on brand new challenges right in my feed reader. Things are pretty quite over there lately as few challenges start mid-year, but come November you can expect to hear about multiple challenges daily.

How can you create my own challenge? Create a new idea by thinking about what genres, authors and books you love. Once you have a direction you want to go in, Google it. With so many challenges out there, odds are your first few unique ideas has already been done. That doesn't mean you shouldn't create a new challenge, that just means you need to dig a little deeper to come up with something one of a kind. I personally depend on book bloggers for book recommendations. How awesome would it be to have a list of there favorite books and not have to ask for recommendations every time I wanted to try something new? That's why I created the Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge.

Don't be afraid to be specific. Maybe there's already a horror challenge. Why not make one specifically for zombie books? Or ghosts? Or serial killers? What do you specifically like to read that you wished more people would get into? Regency romance? Space operas? Westerns? If you like them, others must too. What about a favorite author? Or an author you've always wanted to read who has a huge backlist? John Grisham could work. Or Meg Cabot, Mary Higgins Clark, Robin Cook, Clive Cussler or any other who has written more than a handful or books. How about a series? Three books or more and you've got yourself a challenge. Gossip Girl? Sue Grafton's Alphabet series? There are ton out there without challenges. Just remember to choose something you are really interested in because your enthusiasm for the topic is what's going to fuel the challenge.

What do you think about challenges? Any questions, comments, or tips?


  1. I love challenges but try to not overdo it with the number of challenges I do.

    As I already committed to reading 100 books (specified books) from my TBR, it leaves me little room for many challenges but I'm still doing 3 this year. And I'm always tempted to sign up for more.

    I'm also in several RL and online reading groups and competitions and I often feel overwhelmed by what I *have* to read. I sometimes think it would be good to go back to basic and just read whatever's on my shelf (or what I happen to walk into in the library), just like in the old days. :-)

  2. I am totally a list person too!I love challenges but sometimes I am too lazy to get them done.

  3. I can see you doing many challenges because you read a ton. I like them mainly because it will get me to read authors I normally wouldn't.

  4. Great and helpful article! I will sign up for more next year---now that I have a clue how to find them :)

  5. I love your determination! Challenging myself so much would make me feel overwhelmed. :/

    BTW, there's a blog award for you over at my Blog!

  6. I've recently discovered challenges and there so many good ones! I had to create a separate page to keeep track of the ones I'm attempting. But that's nothing. I've seen complete blogs dedicated to challenges -- something to aspire to.

    You're very organized. And this is a helpful post.

  7. Very nice, Jennifer--thanks for sharing. I know I am one of the many who has sent you an e-mail with a challenge idea only to find out it already exists out there! LOL