Lowdown On…Reading Challenges – Good or Bad?

It’s the beginning to another year, and the beginning to over a million different reader’s reading challenges (according to Goodreads’ count). It’s exciting or daunting depending on how you left the last year reading wise. This year is a mix for me since I ended up scaling down my challenge a couple times in 2020 instead of the usual up. Did that inspire this post? Believe it or not, no. I actually had planned this post last year before I had even known I was going to be stressing over the end results of my 2020 reading challenge. So what does that mean for me and challenges?

To start this, I think overall, challenges are a great tool. They gear you up for a possible achievement, and push you to work on that goal. I am a completionist/perfectionist at heart so accomplishing a goal is a high, and challenges in general bring out the competitive side of me in a no one ever sees it kind of way. I want to succeed, therefore I’m going to read. I enjoy starting off my year with a soft number of books I’d like to get through, and hope/plan to exceed it. There are also smaller challenges like what is in my reading planner that keep things interesting along the way, and tempt you to finally read that book that’s been sitting on your shelves ignored for too long.

With that said, I don’t think I’m a challenge hater. So why this post? For one, there seem to always be questions surrounding the potential stress these challenges can bring on. One I hit this last year was whether to mess with my goal number in order to complete the challenge or leave the year below the original goal and upset with myself. Typically in the past I haven’t really cared in the end if I finished my challenge. I had classes, other events in my life, and also hadn’t started the blog so I maintained there were good reasons I hadn’t read as much. This last year though was different. I was in my house more often, had control of my schedule in a way I hadn’t previously, and had opportunities to read. 2020 though, hit me hard and left me in some minor, but many reading slumps, so in my head I only had myself to blame. Was it the reading challenge’s fault? No, but it didn’t help as I struggled to finish it in the last and craziest month of the year. I also stayed up reading a book I wasn’t entirely happy with, so it was a strange way to end the year (though that one is on me lol).

The other reason I’ve heard reading challenges aren’t preferred? Taking away the fun from reading. There’s two sides to this one I’ve seen; the competitive nature/numbers and the push to read a certain number of books. The latter is primarily just the fact that as a casual reader quantifying from the start takes away from being able to enjoy a casual reading of a book. By putting a number in the beginning some readers feel they aren’t able to just go at whatever pace they want throughout the year, but feel pressured to read as much as possible in as little time as possible. A cool solution I’ve started to see to this is to have a goodreads’ challenge but only have the goal set at one book so they can still track. The other issue? With having so many readers plotting out their goals and announcing it there is always competition, and always a wide range of goal numbers. I’ve seen goals ranging from 5 books to upwards of 200 for a year (16-17 books/mo.). It can be daunting if you read in the 5-80 books area (I hit around 40-60 depending on the year), so I can definitely understand feeling put down by other reader’s numbers. I’ve felt it a few times, mostly when I’m already having a hard time with my own reading, so it’s not an uncommon feeling for sure.

So, to do reading challenges or not? This should be the new ‘to be or not to be’ of the reading community. I’ve seen plenty of debates on how helpful they can be in reading overall. I think it’s a personal question for each reader. I find them still to be helpful even if I end up editing the goal midway or towards the end. I think challenges should be handled in the best way you think is helpful to you. I start soft with my number, and go from there. If I read more than that it’s great, if I just meet the goal I’m still great. It’s all about knowing yourself and what helps you or hurts you as a reader. If you look at the numbers other readers pledge and wonder about your smaller goal, it’s alright there are so many different readers so the numbers will all be different too. I always look at it that maybe that’s part of their job, maybe they read smaller books, or possibly that they are just really fast readers. If you plan on doing a challenge, do it however works best for you, and however many books you read be proud of yourself!

Are you doing a reading challenge this year? How many books do you set for your goal? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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