History in the Making

Are Reading Challenges Helpful?

If you are any sort of social reader, you have probably heard of reading challenges. All sorts of sites and groups create and sponsor them, and in the age of publicly documenting everything, readers jump on them. You update sites, Instagram, your bullet journal with what you read. They take all shapes and sizes, but they all have one goal in mind- to read more! Now that I’m going to be going into my 8th year of challenges, I have to ask: are reading challenges helpful? Or are they putting unnecessary  constraints upon our reading lives?

Are Reading Challenges actually helpful?

The Reading Challenge By Numbers

Unless I am completely missing something, I would say that the Goodreads Reading Challenge is by far and away the largest reading challenge out there. Goodreads users can sign up for their reading challenge on the first of the year, and decide how many books they want to read by the end of the year. It is pretty simple and puts all of the control into the hands of the reader. You can track your own books for the year (you have to ensure read dates are entered), as well as your friends’ challenges. The widget on Goodreads tells you how many books you need to read per month to make your goal (if you need motivation). Given how many readers are on Goodreads, I am not surprised by how popular this challenge is!

Fun fact: as of 10 November, 2018, there are almost 4 million participants, and 15,200 people have completed their challenge. (I would have thought that it would be more…)

Goodreads Reading Challenge

The Reading Challenge By Topic

There are also more focused reading challenges out, like those that are geared towards a specific country, time period, or genre. (I’m sure anyone who has spent any time looking at books on Pinterest has seen those reading challenges by country…) The PopSugar Reading Challenge is also incredibly popular; it is a reading challenge put together by the folks at PopSugar with 26 different prompts to get you reading outside of your regular comfort zone. Each prompt is unique, meaning that one might ask you to read a book with your favourite colour in the title while another might have you read a book written by someone in a younger generation. There is a Goodreads group for this specific challenge you can join to keep yourself accountable!

Popsugar reading challenges

But Are Reading Challenges Actually Helpful?

For me, it really depends on the type of challenge. I love the Goodreads style based specifically- I hate thinking that there are so many books that I will never read, so I like to keep myself reading as much as possible. The “how many books you need to read per month” stat is super helpful and is a great way to pace myself. However, as I discovered this year, the focused reading challenges like the PopSugar challenge make me not want to read. (That’s exactly what you want from a reading challenge, right??) I wasn’t reading books I was really excited to read because they didn’t fit any of the prompts, and I was forcing myself to read books I had no interest in because they fit a very specific niche. I also would never have done all of the prompts to begin with, because I don’t read all genres. However, for people who want to read more widely, it is perfect!

There are also a lot of people who don’t like the pressure of challenges at all. The thought that they have to be accountable and on a schedule for a relaxing and enjoyable hobby turns them off entirely. I can entirely understand this sentiment! If you aren’t sure if you would enjoy a challenge, I would start with a basic challenge like the Goodreads challenge and set a low number. You could also find a shorter focused challenge of 10 or so books to see if you like putting parametres on your reading. And if nothing else, you can dump it altogether!

Are you finishing up a reading challenge for this year? If you are, what challenge did you do? And if you haven’t ever done one, do reading challenges appeal to you?

The Historian
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12 thoughts on “Are Reading Challenges Helpful?”

  • I do the general Goodreads annual challenge, but I always set my goal a little lower than what I know I can accomplish. I feel anxiety and pressure easily, and I don’t want to be stupidly stressing out come December because I might not make my Goodreads goal, lol. I do love logging my books and seeing how far along I am in the challenge. I’m currently on track to make my goal for 2018, but I might fall short. But…since I started a blog this year, I figured it’s okay if I don’t make the goal this time. 😉

    • I have no idea how you read so much for your blog AND make recipes to go with them- that should get you double the books read in a Goodreads challenge! I used to highly stress about it- I set my goal to 75 books one year but really wanted to read 100. I made it to 100, but I really didn’t enjoy that last 2 months of the year when I was power reading. Now I just set it to 52 and go on my merry way 🙂

      • LOL. I hear ya. My goal is set to 50. I’m at 43 right now, and I have about 9 books that just came in from the library at once (ugggggh!!) so I should make my goal, especially since I do want to read a few Christmas books in there, as well. I don’t write reviews for those; they are just for me to devour in a day and move on to the next! It’s the best way to round out the year AND make my goal without being too pressured.

        • The library rush is the best and worst feeling haha! I’m currently feeling the crunch with my NetGalley requests- I requested way more than I should have because I had no idea on how many would be approved, and now I’ve got SO MANY books to read haha. And I do have to do full reviews on those, but I’m okay with that 🙂

  • I do the Goodreads book challenge. I find it useful to set a goal of the number of books that I’d like to read in a year, but I never feel upset if I don’t ever achieve it. I don’t think I’d ever do one of those other reading challenges, mainly because I like to pick what I read and enjoy it. I don’t really want to feel obliged to have to read certain books if that makes sense? I suppose it’s a good way to find new books (like Book clubs) but I don’t think I’d ever do it as a challenge.

    • I might try to do a month challenge this year, see if that holds my attention more, but overall, I think that I much prefer the numbers based challenges. I love having the freedom to read whatever I want whenever I want, and I don’t want to have not a read a book I am interested in. I find the Goodreads challenge is more a reminder to keep reading, period 🙂

  • I love reading challenges! The Goodreads one is definitely my favorite – like you, I enjoy seeing my stats and having a digital tracker available that I don’t have to work too hard to maintain. 😉 I also set personal challenges, although they have gotten much more lenient over the past couple of years. When I first started my blog, I always set at least two books to read during each month, and oddly enough, I typically only read those books. Now, I set larger TBRs and challenge myself to read more, which has led me to read more books – I think giving myself a lot of options helps me actually get more reading done, even if I don’t finish all the books I set out to.

    • I love seeing those stats- especially when you can break it down to the books read each year, the pages, and the publication years. It really does motivate me haha, and even more so now that they finally added the challenge to the app. I try to set my goal at a minimum 52 a year, which really just serves as a reminder to me to keep reading no matter what. I find when I don’t set any limitations at all and can read whatever strikes my fancy, I will read 3-4x as much! I may try and set specific TBR lists for a month though, and see what I can make happen!

  • I don’t find them helpful. I participated in summer reading challenges in elementary school. I also kept a year-long reading log when I was in ninth grade, in which I secretly competed with the only other voracious reader in my class to turn the most pages. I don’t remember a single one of those books.

    In graduate school, however, I hard-skimmed 78 books per semester and I could recount those scholarly conversations even today.

    I don’t see anyone handing out reading awards to adults, and I wouldn’t have time to compete for one if they did. I read because I want to learn things, and I think that is reason enough.

    • I’ve never heard of schools offering summer reading challenges, I think that is a fantastic idea! I think that for some kids, it might offer some motivation (but I wouldn’t want it to be mandatory).

      I have to say, I am the opposite of you. I can remember most every book I’ve read in the last 5 years, but the 400+ books I read in my undergrad and graduate history degrees are a blur. I found that because in grad school especially I was reading several related books, they blended together into a grouping rather than remaining separate books. That may have been because they weren’t discussed individually but they did not stick with me.

      I find that my reading challenge of 52 books a year is more of a reminder to keep reading, rather than watching Netflix or whatever. And I’ll be 100% honest, I am a type-A, accomplishment-oriented person who likes to see what I have done. However, I think that for a lot of people, they do just as you say- they take the fun out of reading. I think that they are worth giving a shot but they should never be taken too seriously!

  • I never do reading challenges. I want to read what I want to read, when I want to read it.
    That said, I do sometimes participate in month long read-a-thons. Every reads the same book each week on a theme that lasts a month and then you all post reviews of it and discuss a bit. That can be fun but I just dropped out of one because I could not make myself read the books.
    The fact that I review a new book every week on my blog means I have to read a book a week. I can’t afford to not want to read. Can’t let my followers down. Or myself for that matter.

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