Weekly Geeks 2009-23: Reading Challenges Or Why I’m Quitting Them

Reading Challenges: a help or a hurt? Do you find that the reading challenges keep you organized and goal-oriented? Or, do you find that as you near the end of a challenge that you’ve failed because you fell short of your original goals? As a result of some reading challenges, I’ve picked up books that I would have otherwise never heard of or picked up; that, frankly, I have loved. Have you experienced the same with challenges? If so, which ones? Do you have favorite reading challenges?

Yes it’s a long title and you’ve read right, I am quitting almost all of the reading challenges I’m signed up for. Before I get to why I’m quitting my reading challenges, let me tell you why I love reading challenges so much.

Some of the reasons why I love reading challenges

If it wasn’t for reading challenges, I wouldn’t have a blog. I think that’s probably true for many of us.  When I started blogging two years ago, it was because I found Wendy’s of Caribou’s Mom, Yahoo Group. Here was a group of readers dedicated to books, reading, and reading challenges. I didn’t know what a reading challenge was before I joined the group.

Reading challenges takes you out of your comfort zone. If you’re a reader of mostly American works and want something different, you can join the challenges Orbis Terrarum or  Lost in Translation and read 10 books in translations. Don’t read young adult books very often? J.Kaye hosts a Young Adult Challenge to get more people reading books from this genre. Think you read more than your fair share of books by and about heterosexuals? Amanda over at Tea Leaf has a great GLBT challenge.

Reading challenges show even the most eccentric reader new genres, books, and authors that they weren’t aware of. If it wasn’t for the many challenges I’ve signed up for in the last two years, I probably wouldn’t be reading fantasy or young adult fiction right now. It was the passion of so many bloggers that helped me to see what I’ve been missing, authors like Neil Gaiman and Markus Zusak and new favorite like Locomotion or the Fables series.

Another great thing that reading challenges do is bring the book blogging community closer together. You sign up for a challenge, make a list, and then visit other bloggers, many of whom you may not have heard of before. I’ve made so many blogging friends this way.

There is a but. . .

As great and addictive as reading challenges are, I rarely ever complete one. Usually I sign up for a challenge, spend hours coming up with a great list of books to read, and then forget about it. Suddenly the last day of the challenge is here and it’s too late for me to read whatever books I was going to read. I’ve tried to be flexible and keep my lists open to whatever I feel like reading so it doesn’t feel like required reading but I still don’t finish. So I end up feeling guilty about one more challenge that’s not completed.

Another thing that bothers me is the volume of posts I put up about the many challenges I’ve signed up for. I’m starting to feel like I’m clogging up my blog and my readers’  (all six of you) feedreaders by posting so many posts.

So instead, here’s a new plan. . .

I’m giving up almost every challenge I’ve signed up for this year. Though there’s nothing like the thrill of a new challenge, I’m going to pass. I want my reading to be free to go in any direction. I could do that with challenges but I’m not going to.

The only challenge that I plan on keeping is Project Fill-in-the-Gaps. I’m staying with this challenge because it’s a five-year plan and I really want to read more classics. One of the books I’m currently reading is The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer. I’m going to have a personal challenge to read the books that Bauer’s listed in The Well-Educated Mind and have no deadline.

So let me thank every blogger who’s hosted ever hosted a reading challenges. You guys have made our community a great place to be a part of.

What’s your take on reading challenges? Do you participate? If not, why?

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35 thoughts on “Weekly Geeks 2009-23: Reading Challenges Or Why I’m Quitting Them

  1. I tried 2 challenges last year and bombed on both of them, so I swore I wasn’t going to do anymore, but just this week, I signed up for 2 more.

  2. I don’t do reading challenges because honestly they don’t appeal to me as they sort of go against my reading philosophy. I don’t need to make my reading into a competition and set myself deadlines only to feel, as you said, as though I’ve somehow failed. I’m all for learning about myself as a reader, but why do I have to read a certain number of any type of fiction in a timeframe in order to do so? I approached my real life book club as an opportunity to read outside my comfort zone because I wouldn’t always be picking the books, but I honestly tended to find myself less than enthused about what I was reading! I’m all for having aims/goals such as to try to read more international fiction, or more fiction by minorities, but I don’t necessarily believe that downing 10 GLBT fiction in a row is necessarily going to make me a better reader.

  3. I am right there with you. I have signed up for challenges and they have motivated me to stretch myself – I have read books I would not have read if not for the challenges and the bloggers out there. But I have pretty much failed at every challenge so I have stopped signing up for any new challenges. I am trying really hard to cut back on blog time (reading and posting) and use those found moments for actually reading.

  4. I don’t do them because I want the freedom to go wherever my interests take me. But I think they are great for people who are interested and set those goals and want to meet them. I like to follow interesting tangents when I read, and I don’t want reading to be like work or school. Sometimes blogging feels like that enough as it is! :–)

  5. I love challenges! Because I love making reading lists. :D Then I have a bunch of great books to choose from when I go to the library. But if I feel like ignoring them all, and getting books just because, I do. :)

  6. I just started doing challenges. They’re fun and I like doing them, but being forced to read stuff when I would rather read something else is kind of a pain. I haven’t decided if they’re good or bad yet.

  7. Good for you! If they’re not fun, then it’s not worth it. :) I, on the other hand, am completely addicted to joining challenges – and you just mentioned one I haven’t heard of yet: The Fill-in-the-Gaps Challenge. Hmmmmm…….

  8. I have done challenges in the past, but this year is the first year where I am doing blog-hosted challenges. I have signed up for a number of them, and now that we are nearing July 1, I realize I should probably have read more from my challenges than I have as to be able to finish. But we’ll see :) I just joined another one!

  9. For me, what I tend to do most is just sign up for challenges unofficially. I’ve only ever signed up officially for two challenges: Once upon a Time (which isn’t so much a challenge as it is an excuse not to stray from my preferred genre ^-^; but fun and you do get to meet new people and blogs) and What’s in a Name which just seems fun and is quite low-pressure.

    Unofficially signing up gives me an excuse to fit every challenge into something that works better for me. I’d be demotivated and unhappy with incompleted challenges too, so I don’t want to do that.

    The book you’re reading now sounds quite interesting too. ^-^

  10. I hear you. I won’t quit officially my challenges now, but I won’t be joining that many next year. I will still keep my favourites on,like Once upon a time, and probably the herding cat challenge. I also want to try to to the RIP challenge at halloween. But that’s it, I’m done too! I have my own list of books I want to read in the near future and only few of them fit in some challenge.
    I too feel guilty when I don’t finish a challenge, even though I know it’s silly, and even without a list previously decided, I do feel compelled to choose something that would fit in the challenges. So yeah, I will be gradually reducing the amount of challenges and see how it goes!

  11. I love the idea of challenges and making reading lists for them, but I also almost always fail them. I just have a hard time committing to reading these books however many weeks or months after I’ve chosen them! Part of the problem is that I try to use them as ways to read books that have been languishing for too long, but the reason they’re languishing is because I’m not ready for them yet. I should probably quit challenges too.

  12. I swore off reading challenges late last year and I’m now trying to keep library due dates from directing my reading as well–I want to read totally at whim. I am participating in the Southern Reading Challenge because it’s just three books and I like to read Southern authors in the summer, and, like you, I’ve signed on to the Fill in the Gaps project. Otherwise, I’m a free agent.

  13. It’s funny, you’re dropping all your challenges and I’ve just started a whole bunch. You’ve made very good points here….in fact your comments on why you’ve done challenges in the past are exactly the reason I’m signing on to do them now.

    Having not had a lot of experience with these types of things I’ll be interested to see how I fare when deadlines loom and such. I tend not to put any pressure on myself so if I don’t complete I don’t complete. I’ll still have gotten out of it what I wanted and that was to connect to people I may otherwise not had the opportunity to meet and to read some good books :)

  14. I am definitely a sucker for a challenge, but I try to pick ones that I already have the books for and actually want to read. Though when mine all finish by the end of the year, I might seriously reconsider joining any more.

  15. I like challenges, but I only join them if they go along my own personal objectives. For instance, I joined the “Sookie Stackhouse reading challenge”, but only because I already have the books and already planned to read them in the coming year. This way, I can easily share with people who are reading the same thing! Same thing with the Summer Reading challenge : I joined because I already had made a list of books I wanted to read in the summer, so it only made it official.
    But I don’t join challenges related to a genre; instead, I look at what other people read and note interesting suggestions. That’s how I fell into the YA genre, for instance! I don’t want to put pressure on my reading : after all, I don’t want to see my reading as a competition!

  16. For about 2 1/2 years I joined and completed tons of challenges. Although I enjoyed the way the challenges stretched my limits in terms of the books I chose, I found a downside too. I’m pretty much incapable of giving up on a challenge I join, so I found myself putting aside books I really wanted to read for books I felt I had to read for a challenge. I also found myself finishing books I might otherwise have set aside because it was a book I’d listed for a challenge.

    Beginning in January 2009 I severely limited the challenges I joined. I had a select few favorites that I wanted to do again (What’s in a Name and Southern Reading to name a couple). I also geared my TBR challenge choices for this year to listing only “the next book” in 24 different series I’ve started but not finished. Yes I have a serious series addiction. The only unplanned challenge I’ve joined this year is the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge.

    I have to say that this choice to de-challenge my reading has been completely refreshing and freeing for me. I even changed the name of my blog to “Whimpulsive” to celebrate making this choice. I didn’t want to ban challenges from my life because I really do enjoy some of them. That said, something I enjoy even more is the return of spontaneity to my reading choices. If I see a review on a blog that looks interesting – I’m right on the library website requesting it. If I don’t feel like reading what I did have as ‘next’ on my list – fine! I can pick up something else instead.

    I’m definitely not anti-challenge, but I am very pro-BALANCE!! Don’t let the challenges crowd out those “Whimpulsive” reads.

    Sorry for the long comment – looks like maybe I should turn this into a post for my own blog.

  17. If I don’t start challenges soon after signing up for them, I never finish… I try to keep the number of them small, anyway! Good luck with your fun reading!

  18. I just decided not to join any more challenges, then saw the Everything Austen Challenge today – now my resolve is weakening! The Well-Educated Mind is a great book. I bought it several years ago, and your post just prompted me to take it off the shelf for another look.

  19. I can understand where you are coming from. They can certainly be overwhelming and can sometimes be stifling, depending on the challenge. I am definitely going to be choosier next year.

    With that, there is an award waiting for you over at my blog.

  20. Truthfully, I don’t have time for challenges. It’s as much as I can do to keep on top of reading for review. I’ve been tempted by some of the blogging challenges like Bloggiesta, but again, I look at my tbr pile and nudge my impulse aside.

  21. I like challenges but in the future I won’t make any lists when I post that I’m joining. I hardly ever actually follow my original list.

  22. I love challenges but rarely do I complete one. I think for me the big thrill is actually coming up with the book lists! haha.. It gives me a chance to go over shelf sitters I’ve had and reminds me of books I want to read one day because my one stipulation for joining a challenge is that all books must come from my stacks.

  23. I like challenges, but I don’t see myself joining many more in the near future (with a few exceptions, like Carl’s RIP). This year I’ve been following my reading whims a lot more, and it’s been great. If a book I want to read happens to fit a challenge, great. I like making lists, I really do. But I don’t always like sticking to them. I also hear you on feeling that posts about joining/completing challenges won’t interest others much, so I don’t always do them anymore.

  24. The question this week was very timely for me as I have been thinking about the whole challenge thing myself. I signed up for a lot pf them last year, and several this year although I made sure my lists overlapped much more this year to make things easier. There are definitely challenges I would like to repeat next year, but they will be ones that allow me more flexibility in my reading whims. I don’t think I can just chuck them this year though, the goal driven part of me says hang in there. Luckily the books I have on my lists for the challenges are all ones I really want to read anyway!
    Oh, and just wanted to say that as a reader of blogs I do enjoy reading folks’ posts they write announcing a joined challenge and their wrap up posts–I view it as another way to look at more books!
    *smiles*
    Kim

  25. This is my first year blogging and participating in reading challenges. I love that I am finally reading books that I have been meaning to for years and ‘discovering’ so many great new authors and books but the downside is that I can’t pick up a book on a whim. After realizing this negative, I decided that I would complete my challenges for this year but next year I would only join a couple of challenges, possibly host a challenge and create a personal challenge to finally read all the great books I have been reading about on other book blogs. Your post put into words alot of the conflicted feelings I have had about challenges. p.s. Will you still be running your In Your Shoes challenge?

  26. I go through phases with challenges…I join a bunch and then I don’t join any at all. I read for a bunch and then I just quit :) I’m a mood reader so if it doesn’t fit or I don’t feel like reading it then I just don’t. Hope the no challenge plan works for you!

  27. I’m relatively new to blogging, so really only found out about reading challenges this year–and there are many interesting ones, so I can see why it would be tempting to join so many.

    I’m only participating in two–because they were/are ones I know I would be able to finish. I probably will keep it that way; no more than two a year :-).

  28. I used to homeschool, so I’ve read and loved The Well Trained Mind. I’d like to get to her adult reading list, too, at some point.

  29. The Well Trained Mind – I’ll have to look for that one in the library and see what the author thinks we should be reading. Sounds interesting.

  30. I’ve just found out about challenges. I only joined and completed one so far and I loved it! I’ve been on the lookout for another challenge that appeals to me since then.

  31. I’ve only done one challenge, the 2008 Russian Reading Challenge, and it was a great reason to discipline myself and read four books I never seemed to get through or get around to before. But that’s enough challenges! I have many shelves of books to read and like to pick and choose depending on my mood.

  32. I have a love/hate relationship with challenges. I love giving my reading some focus and reading by “theme” and creating reading lists. I hate being tied to a list and feeling an obligation to read something at a particular time. I’ve semi-resolved this by limiting myself to a few “must do” challenges that, thankfully, do not run at the same time. They also require a minimal and/or flexible reading commitment (e.g. 3 books in 4 months, or choose the number of books to read within a certain time frame, etc.). I’ve had to limit myself in order to keep reading enjoyable.

    I do still take reading ideas from various challenges, such as browsing the dewey numbers and reading from a section of the library I wouldn’t normally read from.

  33. I started my blog to participate in challenges and to get review copies. :) I’m terrible at completing them and even remembering to post about them. Most of the fun comes with compiling the lists. But when it comes down to it, I’m just going to do what I want!

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