This year, I completed not one, not two, but FOUR big reading challenges: The Popsugar Reading Challenge, BookRiot’s Read Harder Challenge, The Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, and The Reading Women Challenge (click the links if you want to see all of the challenges and which books I read for each one). If you’re thinking that’s completely insane, you’d be right. Including the bonus/advanced reading prompts (which, of course I completed), we’re looking at 110 individual prompts, which is 112 books (some challenges require more than one book).
Not too bad when you look at the fact I’ve read over 160 books so far this year (also insane). But considering I also had thirty-two review copies to read (most of which didn’t fit a single challenge), read 44 nonfiction books (less than half of which I managed to squeeze into a challenge), finished my five-star predictions list and my 2019 reading list, finished the challenge I set for myself of reading the lowest rated books on my TBR, went through a few reading slumps, and also did a whole lot of reading whatever I felt like, we’re delving into brain-melting territory.
Why did I do this to myself? I still don’t know.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I did double-count some books, but not within the same challenge. A book could count for both the Read Harder Challenge and the Reading Women Challenge, but only once within each challenge.
So how many books did I end up reading total for these four challenges? Eighty-four. So, about half of all the books I read this year.
Most of the books I read were ones I would have read anyway, or books that I picked up on a whim and managed to fit into a challenge. Only about twenty-five of them were books I read specifically to complete a challenge. But those twenty-five books ended up being some of my favorites.
I have a pretty big comfort zone when it comes to books. This year, I’ve read everything from science books about insects and dinosaurs to contemporary romance and historical fiction. All of which I picked up solely because I was interested in them. But that doesn’t mean my comfort zone includes all books. Honestly, before this year, I generally stayed away from contemporary romance, This, year, I read thirteen of them because I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and discovered I actually really enjoy reading them. My reading tastes and habits are constantly changing. And going outside my comfort zone helps me discover new things I love. When I first set myself the challenge of reading one nonficiton book a month, I never imagined I’d get in the habit of picking up books on true crime or dinosaurs or huge biographies. Now I’m excited to read those things.
Doing these challenges definitely broadened the scope of my reading. Honestly, a lot of the diverse books I picked up this year were because of these challenges. I finally read Americanah and Autonomous after they’d been sitting on my shelves for years. I read about women in sports and post-colonial African politics. I learned what LitRPG and cli-fi (climate fiction – it’s apparently a thing) are. It introduced me to new things that I was interested in, but had never really gravitated towards.
It also forced me to read a lot of books I’d been putting off. The perfect example: I could only think of one book I wanted to read that would fit the POPSUGAR challenge to read a book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent. Without this challenge, I think I would have put off reading The Pillars of the Earth for another five years. Because that thing is HUGE and I was honestly a bit skeptical about how much I would enjoy a thousand-page book about the building of a cathedral. But I absolutely loved it! It’s now one of my all-time favorite books. I do regret not reading it earlier, but I’m so glad I finally did (even though I hated myself a little bit for putting it on my list at the beginning of the year).
I have always tried to push myself outside of my reading comfort zone. To read books in new genres or big books that intimidate me. But this year made me realize I could do better. Sure, this was crazy and honestly pretty stressful, but it was worth it.
And if any of you were wondering why I went a whole year before saying anything, it’s because there was a pretty good chance I would fail – this is one of the most ambitious reading projects I’ve ever done, and there was a pretty hard deadline – and I just didn’t want the added pressure (not that I think you guys would put pressure on me, but I know I’d put more on myself).
But I did it! And I’m really proud of myself. I learned a lot. I read a lot of great books (and a few not-so-great ones). I crossed a lot off my TBR and found some new favorites.
Worth it? Absolutely. Would I recommend it? Absolutely not (unless you’re crazy like I am). Would I do it again? I won’t say never, but I am very glad to be done. I’m excited to read whatever I feel like reading now, and hopefully I’ll carry over some of what I’ve learned.