I love the beginning of one year and end of another, primarily for the wrap-up posts and surveys everyone shares. Creeping on books is the best! But, another reason I love it is because of READING CHALLENGES. I know there are countless people out there who have opinions on reading challenges, and I think they generally fall into one of two camps:
- GIVE ME ALL THE CHALLENGES. I love them and they’re fun and motivating!
- GIVE ME NO CHALLENGES. I hate the pressure, regardless of the goal I set. No thanks.
It goes without saying that both of these outlooks are F-I-N-E to have. I obviously happen to fall into the first bucket of people because I generally loooove challenges and readathons and readalongs. I just think they’re fun and they tend to motivate me. Even though it looks like I over-do it and go willy-nilly on the sign-ups, there’s a method to my madness. Today let’s talk a bit about reading challenges and why I like them!
When I hit my first full year of blogging, I made sure to sign up for a lot of yearly challenges. I finally could! I started blogging in July 2014, so I kept waiting and waiting for 2015 to hit. I ended up signing up for a total of 9 challenges that happened during most or all of the year.
You’ve all probably seen my wrap-up posts and surveys, so you may already know that I completed every challenge except for one. That’s pretty solid, if you ask me! A quick recap:
- Fairytale Retelling Challenge | Completed with 13 out of 10-15 books
- Reread Challenge | Did not complete with 11 out of 17 books
- 105 Challenge | Completed with 105 out of 105 books
- TBR Pile Challenge | Exceeded with 48 out of 12 books
- Library Challenge | Completed with 28 out of 28 books
- Series-A-Month Challenge | Somewhat failed at this, but it wasn’t an official 2015 challenge
- Flights of Fantasy Challenge | Exceeded with 26 out of 20 books
- Book Blogger Organization Challenge | Mostly completed goals, not a reading challenge
- Audiobook Challenge | Completed with 36 out of 30-50 books
When it got to the middle and end of 2015, I started to look at the books I had left to read for my challenges and got to making a solid end-of-year TBR. It seriously motivated me to finish my challenges! I was able to combine books to meet multiple challenges at once, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I got a lot of benefits from joining in with these challenges, but I did learn to cut back a little bit. I don’t need to go crazy or pressure myself into challenges that don’t fit what I’m hoping to focus on reading.
Here are some of the ways I was able to achieve my goals, how I went about setting them in the first place, and the benefits I felt by the end:
The biggest thing for me was making sure I chose the right challenges. If I’m a big contemporary reader (which I am), I don’t necessarily NEED a challenge to get me to read contemporary. In 2015, I didn’t bother with one because I knew I would make that happen regardless. (Things are a little different this year, which I’ll share more on later!) I signed up for challenges that interested me, pushed me to read different books (or MORE books within a genre I enjoy but don’t read as much), and would also be somewhat easy to achieve. I didn’t want the pressure of choosing impossible challenges. I signed up for the Fairytale Retelling challenge because (A) I enjoy retellings, (B) don’t read a lot of them, and (C) knew I would be binge-reading THE LUNAR CHRONICLES that year. This challenge was perfect because it was moderately easy to finish off because of the series-binge, but also challenged me to read more of them in general. Most of the challenges I signed up for enabled me to do that. Sometimes you need a boost in a certain genre if you’re in the mood for it. It was the first year I actively wanted to reread books, so I joined the challenge. Things like that really helped me achieve nearly all of my goals.This is owed almost exclusively to the 105 Challenge. Basically you had to choose 14 categories of books to read from and a certain number of books in each. For example, I had to read 14 new releases, 14 YA contemporary, 12 debuts, etc… all the way down to 1. There were quite a few really easy categories that I achieved right away, but a number of the smaller categories that needed to be filled. I became determined to diversify my reads in December. I ended up reading a few books I’ve owned for a loooong time, a bunch of nonfiction, and a couple more New Adult. If I didn’t have this challenge, I wouldn’t have been able to beef up those numbers in different genres. Out of all the books I read, over 50% were contemporary. Aside from that, there was a really nice mix of other genres! I don’t expect that statistic to change much in 2016, but it’s nice to see other genres coming in to diversify. Going beyond the 105 Challenge, I had the other genre-specific challenges to meet (Retelling and Flights of Fantasy) to help.The Goodreads challenge number is one that I stress about at first, but always enjoy coming up with. I picked 175 for 2015 because I knew I would be doing a LOT more reading. This meant that I would have to read around between 3-4 books per week to meet my goal. This was a challenge because I would certainly need audiobooks to keep me going. I hemmed and hawed about keeping it more realistic (like 150) but decided to push myself. I’m really glad I did! I ended up reading 180 books. This was great because I got into graphic novels, which are quicker and shorter than the full-length novels I read, and I was able to keep going strong. I did lower my number for 2016, but not because I don’t think I can read 175+ books again. (Also, more on that later.)So towards the end of the year, I started thinking about the books I would need to read to finish off my challenges – again, the 105 Challenge more specifically. I planned out a general TBR to read from based on books I genuinely wanted to read and would meet the criteria. It actually worked really well, and I was able to finish it off! I’ve talked about how much of a mood reader I am and how TBRs really don’t work for me, but I always WANT them to work. By giving myself general categories to follow, I was able to pick out corresponding books and successfully read them. I know now that I can possibly handle a low-key TBR each month if I really want to. This will definitely help me avoid genre burnout (which I definitely started feeling about romancey books) and mix up my reading for the challenges.This is a benefit that most people experience and I kind of did. It’s worth mentioning, but I wish I participated more in Twitter chats or commenting on blogs. I definitely started picking up on new blogs to follow and hope this trend continues into 2016. I want to focus on hopping around to other participants’ blogs when I see them link-up each month.
This brings me to my next challenge (har har)… choosing which challenges to join in on for 2016!
Which did repeat for 2016? How many new ones did I add, and why?
Let me start out by saying I don’t regret participating in any of these challenges, and they all are hosted by WONDERFUL people. I highly recommend joining in with them if they interest you. I just knew that, unfortunately, I would need to slow my roll on challenge sign-ups. I decided to give myself a new focus and mix up the genres, as well as change the number of books I planned to read.First and foremost, I was obviously happy with the 180 books I read out of the 175 I had planned to read. I went on some major book binges at certain points, but other times I didn’t have a lot of motivation. Through most of the year, I was always 5-9 books ahead of my challenge. Even then, I never really took a breather. I never felt like I could enjoy other hobbies, even if that just meant watching TV for a few days in a row instead of reading. While I know my reading habits won’t change TOO much if I give time to other hobbies, I know I want my goal to be lower. I decided to go with 160 books for 2016. I thought 150 wouldn’t be enough of a challenge and 175 wouldn’t give me the right amount of “free time” I’m looking forward to. I also hope to enjoy some podcasts instead of audiobooks. Basically, I’ll be reading about 3 books per week and then listening to about 2 audiobooks per month. Of the challenges I worked on in 2015, which would I stick with? Which would I eliminate to make room for something else? I didn’t have a lot of analysis to do because (A) some challenges weren’t happening in 2016 and (B) I already had a good idea of what to continue with!
- 105 Challenge | Not being hosted again in 2016
- Reread Challenge | Rereading isn’t a priority for me right now
- TBR Pile Challenge | Two other, similar challenges happening in 2016 instead
- Fairytale Retelling Challenge | Not a lot of retellings that are a priority for me
- Library Challenge | Didn’t want an official challenge but will still rely on the library
- Flights of Fantasy Challenge | Will be joining again in 2016
- Audiobook Challenge | Trying to cut down on audiobooks this year
I really just decided to stick with the Flights of Fantasy challenge! I loved this one because Fantasy is a genre I say that I love, but I read surprisingly few. I found a few other challenges that would effectively take place of the TBR Pile Challenge that sounded fun, so I decided to eliminate that one. While there are still retellings out there that look appealing, I won’t have a big series to binge this year to knock down the Fairytale Retelling Challenge pile. I will likely join in again next year for that challenge, as long as Mel hosts it again. As for a couple of others (Reread, Audiobook, and Library), I just didn’t plan to focus on those areas this year. I hope to cut down on audiobooks and rereads are really a mood-based thing for me. I will absolutely keep using the library, but the challenge didn’t really motivate me to use the library more. I can do it on my own!I ended up signing up for 5 challenges for this year, which is definitely a (smart) decrease for 2016. I decided to base it on some of my resolutions and challenge-related goals. I wanted to focus on some of the following things this year:
- Read more backlist books, especially those I already own. (This means, spend WAY less money on books and stop acquiring so many.)
- Engage more with the challenges (their hosts, the participants, the mini-challenges, etc.).
- Read a higher percentage of fantasy books, or at least non-contemporary.
- Read LESS in general, in order to give myself more time with other hobbies. This also means listening to less audiobooks so I can enjoy podcasts and music.
- Give myself a real challenge with at least one “out of my comfort zone” or genre/topic that I wouldn’t usually reach for.
The fourth goal will be covered by the reduction of my Goodreads challenge number. Based on my other goals, I decided to sign up for these challenges…
I know I mentioned above that challenges are usually there to help you read more books you might not usually read, but this one seemed like a great way to engage more with the community of participants. They planned a monthly topic along with their link-up, so you can make lists or discussions about contemporary romance books. It seemed like a fun way to bop around the participating blogs and add a little something extra to my monthly wrap-ups. Also, I own SO many contemporary books that need to be read!
As I said, I decided to stick with Flights of Fantasy for 2016. I did meet my goal last year but I cheated a bit to include some sci-fi retellings that had fantasy-like elements (whoops?). Even without that series, I would have met my goal of 20 books. I made it a goal to read even more Fantasy this year and try to get that percentage up! I also own plenty of books within this genre to read. Rachel and Alexa plan to host a Fantasy Book Club each month to go along with the challenge, so that could be another way to get involved.
Helps with goals 2, 3, and 5 | Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl
When I posted my TTT about debut books I was looking forward to, I realized there was a really solid amount of them! I usually don’t focus much on debut vs. non-debut authors, so this challenge is something sort of “out of my comfort zone,” like I was seeking for my fifth goal. The challenge is to read one per month, so I’m excited to just that. I already got off to a great start by reading FIRSTS in January (and loving it!). There are some non-contemporary books on my debut TBR and author highlights on Jana’s blog, so that’ll help with a couple of other goals too.
Helps with goals 1 and 3 | Hosted by The YA Book Traveler
This challenge exists to help you read books you already own. I really need something like this, because I lost sight of that idea during the TBR Pile challenge of 2015. I kept reading backlist books that I may not have already owned, and counted them. The goal of this one is specifically to take down your physical TBR. I desperately need to do this.
Helps with goals 1 and 3 | Hosted by Pretty Deadly Reviews
When reading the books by debut authors I have planned, I don’t want to lose sight of backlist books. I’ve loved reading older books and sharing reviews to beef up PR. I think there are so many blogs that have a lot of ARCs and new releases; I like focusing on some older stuff too. Again, this can help me read books I already own and expand into other genres too. There are lots of backlist fantasy series I can and WILL finally read in 2016. I like that the book must be published at least a year before the date you read it.
I started thinking about how there were so many books I discovered in 2015 or earlier that I was SO EXCITED for when I first saw them, but never got around to reading. I put out a tweet that said how I was just going to make a list of them and try to knock it down through 2016. A number of other people thought it was a good idea, and a link-up was created! I called it a “challenge” initially, but thought it added too much pressure. It’s merely linking up a book list and then maybe checking in with each other at the 6 month and end-of-year marks. There’s even a TTT planned with this exact kind of list that you can use as your sign-up post. If you’re interested in joining in, please do! It’ll be fun and low-pressure, I promise. 🙂
So you can tell just how much thought and effort goes into planning my challenges. I learned a lot from the ones I joined in 2015 and hope to achieve all of my goals in 2016. I can definitely see the drawback to joining so many challenges, but I see a lot of people who like them too. What camp do you fall in? Let’s chat!