Let’s Talk About Reading Challenges

With November creeping up on us next week, I started thinking about the books I’ve read this year and reading challenges! Since 2013, I’ve tried to read a certain number of books per year. Generally, because of my interest in graphic novels that are quick for me to read, I read around 150-200 books a year. This year, I’m well on my way to almost 300 books and if all my recent comic book requests come in soon, I will probably hit that goal.

That got me thinking, what are some ways that people keep track of their personal reading progress? If you use Goodreads or a similar alternative (my site of choice is The StoryGraph) then you are probably also tracking your reading through quantifiable means. There are also some sites that create their own reading challenges based on different characteristics, such as a certain number of books by women authors, a certain number of fantasy books or non-fiction, etc.

Screenshot of the Vaughan Public Libraries' Catalogue Page for Becoming by Michelle ObamaWhile these are lofty goals, it may be a bit hard to find books that fit these categories if you’re not sure where to start. One place I often find helpful is looking up a book that I’ve read before in VPL’s library catalogue. For example, I looked up Michelle Obama’s Becoming and through the catalogue’s recommendations, I’m able to see more books that have the same topic or I can even search through subject headings such as autobiographies (pictured left). This method works great if you’re aiming to read more of a certain genre. While I don’t do this method often, as I still am too much of a mood reader, I think this totally works for those who are looking to expand on a certain reading goal in the next few months. Looking up books by a genre is its own challenge in a way, one would need to know a fair bit about the books within that category before they can embark on reading a set amount. That’s why using methods like the one above or looking for recommendations on staff lists is great. Some of my favourite staff lists from this month include Books for K-Pop Fans and Black Stories Matter.

I also know that some people track their reading on their own, through the use of spreadsheets that can log everything from where you got the book to how many pages a book has (e.g. the one made by Book Riot). There are some advantages of this system, as you can easily prioritize books by author background (e.g. reading 75% books by women authors) or genre (e.g. reading 60% non-fiction). I am not much of a math person, so I find spreadsheets intimidating but I can totally see the appeal. There is also the classic option of a written list in a dedicated notebook or planner. I’ve seen many lists (especially on Pinterest) that do this in an aesthetically pleasing way.

This long-winded explanation is all to sPie Chart that shows 80% allocated to "fiction" and 20% allocated to "non-fiction"ay that I don’t know what the right answer is. Perhaps I am really the only person who even cares to track the books I read, I think some readers wouldn’t even bother. I personally like the idea of knowing exactly how much non-fiction I read a year (spoiler alert: not as much as I’d like to) compared to general fiction but I’m not sure how vigilant I should be about keeping a log. Thankfully, The StoryGraph creates a chart for me (pictured left, … I promise this post isn’t an ad for the site!). The question then becomes on whether I want this chart to look a certain way, do I want this pie chart to be more even or am I okay with my clear preference for fiction?

2020 has been such a weird year that this also boils down to the question of do we even need reading challenges? Have we not hit a point in the year where you just want to say screw it, I’ll read what I want if I want to read it? I clearly don’t know what the correct answer is but one thing is for sure, we have two months left of 2020 and I want to spend it reading only good books. Is there a tracker for that?

About Shelly

Shelly is an Information Assistant II (Youth). They love novels with great characters and a plot that transports you, whether it be in real life or in fantasy worlds.  |  Meet the team

2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Reading Challenges

  1. Yes! I want to read only good books for the remaining months of this year too! I do like the idea of reading challenges that have specific checkboxes to tick off, making you push the boundaries of what you’re comfortable reading within, but I’ve never actually participated in one before. While I think it’s important to diversify one’s reading for the sake of it, there does come a point when you want to be content with your pie graph as it is (while perhaps also recognizing that there are things about it you’d like to change) – the endless reading to attain your goals instead of primarily for pleasure can get so tiring (not to say that diversifying your reading can’t be pleasurable as well, since it absolutely can and regularly overlaps!), and with 2020 being as it is, at this point I kind of just want to read what I want for a small break before jumping back into the idea of challenges, so absolutely: GOOD BOOKS ONLY!

    1. I totally get what you mean! I’ve tried the challenges with requirements in the past and while I do like that it encourages reading outside your comfort zone, sometimes it get tiring to read for the sake of the challenge only. Totally agreed with you, GOOD BOOKS ONLY! shall be our motto.

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