How to Design a Reading Challenge

How to design a reading challenge to encourage more reading in 2017.

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One of my big goals for 2017 is to read a lot more than I have been for the past few years. I enjoy reading all sorts of books, but I haven’t been reading a lot of fiction lately (unless the Magic Tree House series and other things I read with the girl count) and I feel like there’s just a lot I want to read and I need to make more of a commitment to it.

Also, my personal motto in hashtag form is #makeamericasmartagain, and that means me, too. So that means more reading.

If you want to design a reading challenge for yourself, there are a lot of ways to go about it. Here are a few things to think about.How to design a reading challenge to encourage more reading in 2017.

A Reading Challenge with a Number

Probably the most basic way to design a reading challenge is to just pick a number of books you’d like to read in the coming year.

If you’re on Goodreads, they make this really easy for you because there’s a reading challenge of this sort built right in. I went with 52, one a week, though I really think I can do more (and have already finished two, and have two more pretty close to done).

You can decide to do one a week, two a month, one a month, whatever is more than what you’re doing now.

Goodreads is also great because if you remember to log your books it will count them for you.Be less evil. Read more.

A List Related Reading Challenge

Many years ago, like maybe 2000 or so, I decided I wanted to read all the books that had won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. I don’t know why I picked that particular list, but I wanted to feel more well-read and I thought that might be a good place to start.

I’m four years behind now, and I know those are all fantastic books, so I will probably add them to my list for this year.

I’d love to read National Book Award winners, too (there’s actually not a huge amount of overlap).

But of course there are tons of book lists you could try, especially this time of year. There’s the Shelf Awareness best books list, a list from Lit Hub of the most overlooked books of the year, and this handy one from Quartz, which tallies 36 best books lists and whittles them down to a list of 20 must-reads.

Or check out the most anticipated books of 2017, or the books you should read before they become movies (or before you see the movies, anyway).Develop a reading challenge to encourage reading more in the new year.

Join a Book Club and Read What They Read

I’m part of an online book club that reads books on feminism, politics and feisty women. It selects several books a month and I’m making it my intent to read all of them.

If you don’t have a real in-person book club, you could also read all the books Emma Watson’s book club read last year. So much good stuff there.

Design a Reading Challenge of Your Own

Maybe you feel like your education had some gaps in it you need to fill. Mine is, well, I have a lot of them, but one I’m trying to work on is that lack of books by women I’ve read. So I have a list dedicated to that on Goodreads. And I should read the Bitch Media best books of 2016, for sure. There’s some great stuff on there, and they’re almost all by women.

Try to read more books by black women. (Here’s a reading list of 50 books by women of color.)

Check out the books that are required reading in schools around the world. Or what some teachers in America recommend.

Choose a genre you’ve always wanted to read more of. Or books from a particular period in history.

Read dead white guys, or only books in translation, or only books by LBGTQ community members. Someday I really want to do a year of presidential biographies.

It doesn’t really matter what the list is, as long as you design a reading challenge that’s exciting to you and that feels like a challenge.

What are you reading this year? I’d love to hear about it!


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  1. Just discovered your blog! Love it!
    This is such a great article! Thank you for the awesome resources!
    I’ve never done a reading challenge before. This year I just wrote down the books I plan to read in advance. I plan to read a bunch of nonfiction and some books that I already have sitting on my shelf, like Redwall & The Mysterious Benedict Society, that I just haven’t gotten around to reading yet. I’ve already added a few more though like Everyone Brave Is Forgiven.
    I want to see how it goes this year and then next year maybe be more intentional about creating more of a theme or sign up for an actual challenge or make my own challenge!

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