I don’t really understand why someone would challenge themselves to read x amount of books every year. Unless you don’t read at all and you’d like to get into the habit, why put pressure on yourself or limit yourself to a number? Reading is fun. Do it because you like it, and read what you want and as many of it as you have time for.
However, I do understand challenges aimed at improving yourself. I see many challenges online aimed at getting people to read books by authors from certain demographics, or a book by an author from each country in the world, or a genre’s canonical greats. Although I fully support people reading whatever they like for the love of it, I can’t find fault with stepping a little bit out of your comfort zone and broadening your reading horizons.
For the past few years I’ve challenged myself to read one non-fiction book per month. The reasoning for that was that I often get story sparks from things I read for my flash fiction, and (ahem) I have a habit of buying interesting non-fiction books by the basket load at book sales, so it was a great way to “force” myself to actually read those books, instead of just proudly displaying them on my bookshelf.
This worked very well and I’ve learned so much in the last few years. I have a particular interest in ancient history, so I’ve read about Tutankhamen and Egyptian temples, tombs and hieroglyphics, I’ve travelled vicariously to ancient Babylon, followed in the footsteps of Casanova and learned about who the Mona Lisa might have been. I’ve read about whales and trees and discovered the world through the eyes of the great explorers and scientists.
It’s been quite a journey, I can tell you. And although there are still many, many unread books on my non-fiction shelf, it’s now time for a new challenge.
I studied English Literature at university and although I loathed some of the books my lecturers made me read (I’m looking at you, James Joyce!), they did manage to instill in me an appreciation for the great classics. (Although, to be fair, I read and enjoyed Jules Verne long before my tenth birthday.) And although I’ve read more of the canonical classics than most people, there are still so many that I haven’t read, embarrassingly enough – especially the ones ingrained into pop culture!
So in 2023, I’m challenging myself to read 12 classic novels (or novelettes, whatever) that I haven’t read before. I haven’t set any specific plans or order yet, but in my sights I have such well-known stories as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, and The Scarlet Letter.
How do I define and determine which books are classics? Meh, I won’t be too pedantic about it. If it’s famous and older than I am, then it counts!
(PS: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them to buy books it won’t cost you any extra, but I will get a small commission to fuel my book-reading habit. Thanks!)
Do you set yourself reading challenges? What are you reading this year?