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Chronicles of an Obsessive Bookblogger: Reading Challenges

chronicles of an obsessive bookblogger

Reading Challenges

This is the first year that I’ve taken part in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and I don’t know about you, but when I signed up I thought, “this could be a very bad idea.” You see, adding a reading challenge of any sort has the potential to suck some of the fun and spontaneity out of reading. I was worried that the end of the year would come around and I would be really disappointed if I didn’t hit my goal of 100 books.

Sure enough, around August I started paying attention to the little widget tracker as it helpfully informed me I was 8% behind schedule. Then October hit and I knew I was in trouble: I was a whopping 12% (thanks to easy math, exactly 12 books) behind my goal.

That meant I would have had to read 3.5 books per week to reach my goal by the end of the year (I average 1.75). Rationally, I knew it wasn’t going to happen – between family, work, blogging, and everything else that keeps my life so busy there was no way I was going to finish that many books a week. But, like any stubborn reader would, I tried…

I even came up with a game plan – I would read as many YA as I could because, let’s face it, they are the easiest to get through. Almost all of the adult speculative fiction on my shelves are well over 500 pages which take me at least a week to read. As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before I started to get really tired of reading all YA (I was focusing mostly on dystopian because I was doing a challenge for that as well). It felt like I was reading because I had to, and not because I wanted to. That’s NEVER good.

A few weeks ago, I finally threw in the towel. I was so tired of reading books that I knew would help me towards my goal that I randomly snatched an 800 page book off my shelf to reread and concentrated on that for a solid two weeks… it was bliss.

So what have I learned? It’s no fun to read things because you feel like you have to (even if they are really good books) and reading challenges can be stressful if you don’t pick goals that are consistent with your current reading habits.

In 2014, I’m going to start with 80 books as my Goodreads challenge goal and if I read more I’ll just bump it up accordingly at the end of the year. I’m still going to continue with the Dystopian Challenge (hosted by Blog of Erised), although I don’t think I will come anywhere near that 24+ books I read for it this year. Finally, I’m doing a Series Challenge (hosted by Read. Sleep. Repeat.) with the hopes that I can finish out a few of the dozens of unfinished series still hanging over my head. I’m worried about the last one mostly because I don’t want to feel obligated next year and I kind of already do when it comes to finishing what I start.

What about you? How many challenges do you have for yourself in 2014? Does participating stress you out like it does me?

by Niki Hawkes

17 comments on “Chronicles of an Obsessive Bookblogger: Reading Challenges

  1. I too set a goal on Goodreads this year and missed it by a mile, but I don’t let that stress me out. It’s a personal reading challenge, not a life/death endeavor. Life gets in the way, you know? I’m in college, and I had more classes than I’ve ever had at one time this semester, so, naturally, I didn’t hit some of my less important goals this fall. -shrug-

    Really, I care more about enjoying the books I do read than trying to stuff a certain number into a constrained amount of time. If I do hit a reading challenge goal, great! But if not, whatever. It’s the books that matter to me, not the number. :)

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    • I think that if you are in college it’s an achievement if you read anything other than textbooks, haha. I wish I didn’t care so much about the goals because I know how silly that is. Your philosophy on reading is exactly what I’d like to take with me going into 2014 – getting back to the type of reader I was before I started my website (and before I became a bookseller, for that matter). There’s just so many I want to read that I have a difficult time not picking up several at once.

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  2. I threw in the towel too. I’m like 17% behind schedule and I’ve never been behind schedule in reading. I can’t hate myself though, I have next year. : ) I think 80 books is a great goal, did they already put up the new challenge?

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    • I’m thinking eighty books a year is probably my sweet spot – especially considering how many 500 page high fantasies I plan on reading next. I’m glad I’m not the only one who missed this year, LOL. I don’t think the new challenges up yet… At least, it wasn’t anywhere I could find.

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      • I did feel a little bad because I read 120 last year and this year that number plummeted. Good luck on your challenge and your long fantasies! I will come back and see you’re doing.

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  3. You did much better with your GR challenge than I did this year. I only made 31% of my goal. I usually take whatever number of books I read the previous year and use that as my goal for the next year. Last year I read 116 books, this year I’ll be lucky if I finish with 38. But I stopped “trying” to reach that goal years ago and instead use the GR Challenge as a milestone of how my life is going. This is was busy year for me. I started a new job, I was treasurer for my church, and then I got a serious illness. As I look back at the year I can see when I was stress and not feeling well because my read number dropped to nothing. When I was having a good month I read more. So I’ve learned to race myself with this number but rather use it as road marker for how my life is going. I’m happy to say that I’m reading more in Nov and Dec and I think I’m going to stick with 116 for 2014 and see how I do.

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    • That is a good way to pick your goal – this is the first year I’ve kept track, so I’m hoping eighty is about my average. I have to say though, thirty-eight (while not 116) is still a commendable number in my opinion. It means to me that you are a reader at heart and always had a book handy regardless of how much time you had to read it. I’m really glad to hear that November and December have been good months and I hope you continue to feel better into next year. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you hit 116! ;)

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  4. I know exactly how you feel! I had a big problem with this a couple of years back when I took on too many challenges at once and it did suck a lot of the fun out of reading. I didn’t make my deadline either which was shocking to me because I always meet deadlines, lol! After that I vowed that I would carefully consider in the future which if any reading challenges I took part in. Although having said that, the series challenge you’ve mention could be really good! I was going to make finishing off series one of my New Years Resolutions so I might have to investigate that one.

    I hope you have a lovely Christmas. :)

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    • Well, i just looked at all my stats on GR. I’ve been a member since 2008 and I’m averaging 63 books a year. I think I’m going to make that my goal for next year. Like you’ve pointed out why set myself up for a goal that I probably won’t meet. that just puts pressure on me to read and takes the pleasure out of reading. I never want to take the pleasure out of reading. I don’t think GR will open up the 2014 Challenge until New Year’s day. I’m hoping I might get another book or two in for this year. :)

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    • I think the series challenge is good motivation for me but I’m going to try really hard not to focus too much on it ha ha. I was fairly selective this year, and have decided that the filling the challenges truly secondary to what I want to read at the time. I wish I had figured that out last year though LOL. I really think I would’ve read more books had I not been trying so hard to – it’s funny how that works isn’t it?
      Christmas was so lovely I dropped off the face of the earth for a while – I hope you had a good one to! :-)

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  5. I can definitely understand that! Challenges can bring on a lot of pressure. The first year I did the Goodreads challenge three years ago I was OBSESSED with staying ahead of my goal. Then year after year the pressure got less important and I was like eh, I can always lower it, aha.

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    • LOL – the ability to cheat and lower the goal kept the fact that I missed it by so far from being truly annoying. I’m hoping that, like you, I will care a lot less about the goal this next year… Although I am lowering it from 100 to 80 so I think that might help. :-)

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  6. What a great post! I started my goodreads challenge off at 24 books (2 books a month – before I started blogging) and bumped it up a few times. I found I got demotivated once I had a dedicated schedule and time scale for reviews of books I had to read instead of wanting to read. It felt like I lost my ‘free will to choose’ if that makes any sense. I haven’t decided 100% yet what challenges I will do for 2014 yet, I’ll make up my mind in January!

    Chanzie @ Mean Who You Are.

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    • I agree totally that a schedule for reading kills the fun. For a while, I was doing three or four reviews a week and got to the point where I felt like I had to read so I’d have something to write about. I am so happy I relaxed a bit on that, but now I run the risk of forgetting what I thought of a book because I’m 6 or 7 books behind in reviewing what I read. You can’t win, LOL. I look forward to seeing what challenges you choose. :-)

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      • I have to write a review right after I finish a book. At least my first draft. If I start another book I lose my connection to the first book. So I’m slow one book – one review kind of girl. And there are some books I just don’t review because I want to hurry up and read the next one in line. And I try not to write negative reviews. I figure if I can’t find *anything* nice to say about a book the blame is on me, because I should have researched the book more before selecting to read it. I can usually tell within the first few pages if I’m going to at least like the style of an author. These days I’m realizing that life is too short to read books that just aren’t any good (or don’t appeal to me). It has taken a really long time to accept that and move on but I have to realize that early in the reading process. There is some imaginary point/line that if I read beyond it, I am compelled to finish the book. I’m hoping I pick wisely in 2014. Looking forward to reading your reviews and hoping your enjoy reading them all! Happy New Year!

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      • I kind of wish I was on a read one – review one type of system because the reviews I write while the story is still fresh generally end up being the best ones. I wouldn’t be able to do it at all without my trusty notebook. I carry it everywhere with me and capture thoughts and impressions as I have them – it serves to re-jog my memory when I finally do get around to writing the review. Other times, I really do need the time to let the review percolate in my brain before I commit post to it.

        I agree totally with not wanting to write negative reviews. It’s just not the kind of tone I want for my writing, nor do I think it’s always the author’s fault. I do my best to never write anything that would be perceived as an attack on the author of the book, but rather an objective evaluation of what did or didn’t work for me and why. I also try to highlight when I think an element that didn’t work for me might be suitable for a different kind of reader.

        Happy New Year to you as well – I hope the books you pick will be awesome this year. :-)

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