Reading Challenges

What are reading challenges?

A reading challenge is a set list of either individual books or books that fall into a particular category, that you decide to read. There may be a time limit on the challenge.

Some people set themselves challenges for reading a set number of unspecified books per week, month or year. Other people like to set more specific challenges or join in with challenges their friends are doing.

I’m not doing a reading challenge at the moment, but I do like to always be reading something. I’m focusing on reading books in the genres I’m writing, the genres I enjoy the most, and supporting indie authors by reading their books (as I intend to be one myself at some point!). I have a rough focus of trying to read one book a week, but I don’t worry too much about it as long as I have a book on the go. Some books just take longer.

In the past, I have participated in a very big reading challenge, and I’m going to do a series of posts exploring what I learnt from it. However, I’m using this first post to talk about why we do challenges.

As an example of a current challenge, I have seen people involved in this one in 2016:

2016 reading challenge

Corinne at The Pink Notebook is doing this challenge – check out her blog if you’re interested to see what books she has chosen.


Why do a reading challenge?

There are many good reasons to do a reading challenge.

It can get you out of a reading rut – This is primarily why I started the challenge I did. I’d fallen out of the habit of reading and wanted to get back into it. Having a list of books that someone else had already told me were good books was an easy way to do this.

It can provide you with ideas of what to read next – If you read a book by an author you enjoy, you can then find other books by the same author, or check out Amazon recommendations on that book. A challenge can continue to improve your reading life after you’ve finished it.

Expand your horizons – Most challenges are designed to push you in some way. They encourage you to read books in genres or by authors that you wouldn’t have selected on your own. It’s a good way to explore something new.

Sense of accomplishment – You feel good when you finish a challenge! I do anyway as I love ticking off lists. Reading is a nice hobby, but can feel like one used for escapism rather than one that accomplishes anything. If you can say, this year I tried ten new authors or whatever, you’ve learnt something and that’s good.


Are there any cons to doing a reading challenge?

Yes! And some of these are reasons why I haven’t done another one.

Time-consuming – If you have limited time to read you may find the challenge takes all your time. If there are other books you want to read too, you may find your to-read pile gets higher and higher!

Money – You have to get hold of all the books and this costs money! Make sure to utilise your local resources – libraries, charity shops, second-hand shops, friends bookshelves etc. And check out the latest deals on Amazon and Kindle to get books when the price drops.

Procrastination – If you don’t fancy reading one of the books on the list you may find the challenge drags. And you dread reading the book and leave it till last. Then it takes months to read.

Perfectionism – If you’re not enjoying a book you may force yourself to finish it just so you can tick it off the list. Yes, I did this. I would no longer do this. Life is too short and there are too many books.

Books you can’t unsee – You may find you read a book you wish you hadn’t. And once you’ve read it, it’s too late. This is particularly bad if combined with perfectionism above because it means you have to finish the book! Yes, I did this, too–three times! I will tell you all about it in another post. Am I stupid, you may ask? Maybe. But that urge to finish the challenge was too strong to ignore. I would have felt I’d failed if I hadn’t stuck it out.


How to make challenges work for you:

– Picking a challenge with categories of books (like the one mentioned above) might be better than a definitive list of books because you have wiggle room in terms of the actual books needed to complete the challenge.

– If you can’t face finishing a book these days, it’s often easy to find out what happens by reading a summary of it on Wikipedia (only for more well-known books)

– Remember why you are doing the challenge–to read more books ongoing, to find new authors, to broaden your knowledge or whatever your personal reason is, and don’t fixate on the end result of finishing the challenge.

– Ignore the speed at which other people complete challenges if it discourages you. Reading is personal and doesn’t have to be a competition. Extend the challenge deadline if you need to.

– If you don’t complete the challenge, focus on what you have read and what you got out of it, not what you haven’t done

– Use reading challenges as a stepping stone to finding more books you enjoy in the future.


In the next post, I will talk about the challenge I did and my experiences with it.


  1. Great overview of reading challenges. I do the Goodreads one every year, which is to read however many books you set yourself over the year. I haven’t actually completed one of these yet (I just don’t have time to read 100 books/year), so I try to do what you suggested above and focus on what I can get out of the books I do manage to read.

  2. I do the Goodreads one, the 50 States Reading Challenge, and my own challenge whereby I’m reading books that are like my WIP. I allow myself to not finish a book if I hate it and it still counts toward the challenge because I tried and rated it on Goodreads. Doing a challenge without a deadline also makes it less stressful, however, some deadlines are unavoidable.

  3. I’ve never embarked on a challenge but now I’m seriously considering it! I’ve got myself into a bad habit of rereading my old favourites, and I need to be broadening my horizons. I agree with you about perfectionism. I used to make myself slog through a book I wasn’t enjoying, but now I put it down. It’s one thing I like about the Amazon sample pages, they give you the opportunity to see if you would enjoy the whole book without paying up front. But I don’t rate or review a book I haven’t finished.

    1. magicwriter

      Oh re-reading old favourites has to be done every now and again 🙂

      Some people on Goodreads mark books they haven’t finished as DNF (did not finish) and review accordingly, but I tend not to bother either.

  4. I used to read five, ten, twenty plus books a week… College ruined that for me by giving me a) loads of homework and b) a social life. Both of which were/are important, but it was difficult to get out of that reading rut.

    I’m not currently doing any reading challenges, but I’ve seen the 2016 one floating around in a variety of places and am tempted to pick it up and start doing it, if only to stretch my reading muscles a bit.

    I used to claim proudly that I finished every book I started. Years later and wiser, I put it down if it’s not worth the read… As you said, “Life is too short and there are too many books.”

    1. magicwriter

      My reading tailed off when I went to university and then afterwards, got married. I was so busy socially I didn’t read much at all. It was a few years before I got back into it.

  5. I did my first reading challenge last year(the Goodreads one) and though I started out behind(my reading time doesn’t begin until late spring. That’s not planned, it just happens that way), I easily beat my goal, so I raised it again, beat it, raised it again, and still beat it lol.

    I can’t say it changes what I do or how I read. If I’m too busy to read, I’m too busy, and if a challenge was specific and I couldn’t just choose what I wanted to read, I probably would avoid it.

    When I was younger I used to do the pizza hut reading program and participate in my local library’s reading contest(won something every year!). I also thought it was grave sin to not finish a book!

    Then I got to the point where life was too short and there’s too many good books out there to waste time reading a book I don’t like.

    I did enjoy getting a pat on the back for reading what I would’ve read anyway! I’m doing the challenge again this year and setting my goal high to start and not worrying about my late start.

    Last year I started 21 books that I didn’t finish. There was definitely times I was tempted to push ahead(especially if I’d passed the halfway point) just to add it towards my goal.

    1. magicwriter

      It seems a lot of us get stuck in the ‘must finish a book’ mentality. I wonder if we get told that as children? That you have to finish one book before you can start the next.

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