Developing a Reading Challenge

reading challenge

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My friend and fellow blogger Julie is great at setting — and meeting! — audacious goals when it comes to reading. Today I invited her to share some of what she does when setting reading goals in the hope it will inspire of all us to be more thoughtful readers. Thanks, Julie!

Hello! I’m Julie and I blog over at Eggs and Herbs. While my blog is primarily about food, I also blog about my other two passions: arts and crafts and reading. Today, Sarah has invited me to share with you how I go about choosing my annual reading challenge.


2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Julie has
read 57 books toward her goal of 52 books.


This year is my second year doing a reading challenge. Last year I made it my goal to read 52 books, one for each week of the year. I had never read that many books in a single year before, so it was very exciting to accomplish my goal. While I loved setting a numeric goal for my 2012 reading challenge, I wanted to delve a little deeper in 2013. I wanted my reading goal to focus less on numbers and more on a specific type of book or a theme.

I spent quite a bit of time contemplating what my 2013 challenge would be and I am super excited about where I landed. I will be reading a non-fiction or historical fiction book about each state east of the Mississippi River. What a great way to learn about our amazing country!

I did not come about this decision lightly, so today I am going to share with you a little about how I came about choosing my challenge.

There are three things I consult when developing a reading challenge:
1. Reading Journal
2. Book Recommendation Tools
3. Personal Interests/Advice from Friends

Reading Journal

I first began tracking the books I read on my blog in 2008. I didn’t really review them for anyone else but myself, I just felt like I should be keeping some sort of record of what I read if for no other reason than to prevent myself from reading the same book twice. (Yes, it has happened on more than one occasion!)

Why should you keep a reading journal?

1. Why not? Seriously, I wish I had started keeping track of what I read a lot sooner than I did. It is always very exciting to me to look back on all the books I have read.

2. Recommendations to others. It’s so much easier to recommend a book when you can reference your list, see how you rated it and read a few words about what you liked and didn’t like.

3. Variety. I have very eclectic interests and I like to read a variety of books. Keeping a book journal helps me to see which genres I read a lot and those which I would like to explore further.

4. Stats. I like to know how many books I read in a certain time. Which months do I read more? Do I read certain types of books faster?

I was already blogging so it was natural for me to review my books on my blog. If you are a blogger, you might consider doing this as well, but there are a lot of other great ways to track what you read such as a paper reading journal or online tracking services (see Book Recommendation/Tracking Tools below).

Book Recommendation/Tracking Tools

reading challengeOne of the most difficult things for me to do is choose my next book. Whether developing a reading challenge or just selecting the next book I am going to read, a book recommendation tool is vital.

Book recommendation tools work better the more you use them. They give recommendations based on what you have already read and enjoyed. These tools are great but do take some work as you have to input lists of books you have already read. One you finish the initial setup future visits are very easy and helpful.

Goodreads is my favorite tool to use for recommendations, but it can also serve as a reading journal and way to get (and give!) recommendations from friends and like-minded readers. It is a great all in one tool.

My favorite features of Goodreads are the genre tools, the “shelves” you can create, reading “wish-lists” and the reading widgets that you can place on your blog or Facebook page.

What Should I Read Next? is a really simple algorithm-based site that will generate a list of books you may like based on the title or author of a book you have previously read. What Should I Read Next is simple and straightforward but lacks depth in its recommendations.

Your Next Read is VERY similar to What Should I Read Next. The one big difference that I like is that you can connect this site to your Goodreads account and use it to enhance your Goodreads experience.

Personal Interests/Advice from Friends

When it’s all said and done, choosing a reading challenge is really all about choosing books that are going to make you happy to read.

Make a list of topics that interest you. List things you are curious about. List things you want to learn more about. List, List, List.

Take a look at your list and see if any ideas pop into your head.

Are you a mom that wants to spend the year learning about how to teach your children to become well-rounded adults? Are you an artist who wants to learn more about a specific technique? Are you a history buff that wants to learn more about an important historical event?

Building a reading goal from topics that highly interest you is a sure way to be successful.

Advice from Friends

I have several friends who are authors and several friends who just like to read a lot. I love to hear what they have to say about books.

My friends have a lot of varying interests and styles and through their recommendations I have discovered a lot of books I may not have otherwise read. I follow several of my friends on Goodreads but I also keep up with their Facebook pages and blogs to see what they recommend.

When it came time to choosing a reading challenge I began by consulting my friends. I asked for recommendations on a topic. I got so many great ideas I could do reading challenges for 100 more years and never run out of ideas.

Ultimately it was a combination of factors that led to my decision to read non-fiction or historical fiction books about the eastern United States. I always enjoy non-fiction and historical fiction and feel I don’t focus on it enough. There are so many interesting (and TRUE) stories about our country I felt I wouldn’t be bored with this challenge. I chose the eastern part of the states because that is where I spent the first half of my life.

I’d love for you to check out Eggs and Herbs and follow along with my progress on my current challenge or take a look as some of my past book reviews. Of course I would also love for you to connect with me on Goodreads! Send me a request and I will gladly follow you back. Who knows, maybe your current reading passion will influence a future reading challenge of mine!

Thanks Julie, that was awesome! I’ll share more about what I’m reading this year soon.

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