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?
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…)
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!
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!