Friday, January 16, 2015

Do You Need a Challenge to Read?

Does it count if you make a New Year's resolution two weeks into the New Year? I think so! Long ago, I gave up resolutions that were meant to remold me or to improve upon my basic nature. It's not that I’m perfect; it's that, like the heads on Mount Rushmore, my habits seem to be set in stone. New Year's promises quickly fly out the window.

A few years ago, I was dared to try a reading challenge. Asking a reader to read, really! Well, Farmer McGregor, I said, throw me in the briar patch, where I'll be right at home.

Really, all I needed to do was expand and perk up an activity that already occupied a great deal of my time.

That particular challenge was The Global Reading Challenge, and I was to read books from as many countries as I could, providing I eventually read something from each of the seven continents. I completed the challenge and enjoyed the entire experience.  I even found something written by a denizen of Antarctica––and no, it was not a Penguin book.

This Global challenge died a natural death and it's somewhere out there waiting for CPR. Seattle school children are doing some sort of global challenge and I don't qualify. I don't live in Seattle, otherwise you might see me tearing up those YA books.

On the other hand, the great number of reading challenges that do abound on the World Wide Web in 2015 floored me.

The only constant among these challenges is that books must be actually finished, chewed and digested, as Francis Bacon would have it:
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention" (Francis Bacon: The Essays).
One year, I joined the Chunkster Reading Challenge. What's a chunkster? Well, it's an adult or YA book, nonfiction or fiction, that's 450 pages or more. I thought I would reread Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet and a few other doorstops, but why I thought I could read about a dozen of these was nothing but hubris. Big fat F for me.

This challenge is typical of most challenges. One uses some good sense mixed with optimism to predict how many of the books specified will be read throughout the year. Some of the challenges require a link to a site to keep track of what's been read and often a paragraph or more to prove you are not fudging your accomplishments.

I was looking into the 2015 Nonfiction Reading Challenge, which is, of course, to read some history or memoirs or anything not fictional. Like most challenges, it has levels you can choose:
Dilettante--Read 1-5 non-fiction books
Explorer--Read 6-10
Seeker--Read 11-15
Master--Read 16-20
Then there's the 2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge which is perfect for me, The New Author Challenge, The Authors A-Z Reading Challenge (Austen to Zola), and many more.

Do you want to improve your mind? Try the Back to the Classics Challenge or The Dive into Diversity Reading Challenge.

I have a load of books that I want to read one more time before divesting myself of them. It might be that The Re-Read Challenge might have the added benefit of helping my housekeeping skills.

Here on Read Me Deadly, we have an appreciation for British literature and I am tempted by the Reading England 2015 challenge, the goal of which is to travel England by reading, and to read at least one book that takes place in each county in the country according to how many books you challenge yourself to.

For instance, you might aim to read three books from three separate counties and you might choose some of Ann Cleeves's Vera Stanhope books from Northumberland, Murder in the Cotswolds by A. B. Guthrie, Jr., or one of the Dalziel/Pascoe series by Reginald Hill that take place in Yorkshire.

My favorite challenge is one on PopSugar, which gives the reader a choice from a wide range of books, spanning many time periods and genres, and it's the easiest to follow. You can print up this list and check them off as you read. The best part is that you answer to nobody but yourself.

A book with more than 500 pages
A classic romance
A book that became a movie
A book published this year
A book with a number in the title
A book written by someone under 30
A book with nonhuman characters
A funny book
A book by a female author
A mystery or thriller
A book with a one word title
A book of short stories
A book set in a different country
A nonfiction book
A popular author's first book
A book from an author you love that you haven't read yet
A book a friend recommended
A Pulitzer Prize winning book
A book based on a true story
A book at the bottom of your TBR
A book your mom loves
A book that scares you
A book more than 100 years old
A book based entirely on its cover
A book you were supposed to read in school but didn't
A memoir
A book you can finish in a day
A book with antonyms in the titles
A book set somewhere you have always wanted to visit
A book that came out the year you were born
A book with bad reviews
A trilogy
A book from your childhood
A book with a love triangle
A book set in the future
A book set in High School
A book with a color in the title
A book that made you cry
A book with magic
A graphic novel
A book by an author you have never read before
A book that you own but have never read
A book that takes place in your home town
A book that was originally written in a different language
A book set during Christmas
A book written by an author with your same initials
A play
A banned book
A book based on or turned into a TV show
A book you started but never finished

The easiest challenge of all is from Goodreads, because all you have to do is predict how many books you will read this year and log them on to the Goodreads site and a record is kept for you. It's my kind of reading challenge because there is very little guilt involved if your eyes are bigger than your reading time.

But in the end I don't need a challenge to read, though sometimes I do need one to improve my reading selections.


  1. Yes, I do find the challenges help me in narrowing reading selections some. I've got my own TBR Tackle that I set for myself - read at least one book each month that's been sitting in my TBR for over six months). I also do the Debut Author Challenge, which is teen and middle grade, and I do the Goodreads Challenge.

    I've been tempted by the Chunkster Challenge and I once signed on for a Translation Challenge (which died after the year I participated).

  2. Just waking up in the morning and walking past my stacks of books to read is a challenge in itself. I like the sound of these challenges, especially the last one from PopSugar. I could fish books out of my TBR pile to read and satisfy the criteria of the list. That would be a good thing.

    I'm currently reading Dutch writer Peter Buwalda's BONITA AVENUE. Wow, it's one jaw-dropping discovery after another in the Sigerius family saga. It reminds me of being home sick and tuning into a soap opera after not having watched an episode since the last time I was home sick and trying to figure out what has been going on. But Buwalda's book is more lurid and crazy than Days of Our Lives ever was.

  3. Becky,
    There is a Books in Translation challenge which might tempt you ( Maybe it will have a long life.

    Georgette's idea of reading books that could cross -pollinate a variety of different challenges is a good one. You would have to spend more time documenting your reads which can be a PIA (pain in the tailbone).

    I haven't found a challenge yet for books that drive you crazy. Maybe there is one for the opposite, books you are crazy to read. That could be fun.