Bob on Books 2022 Reading Challenge

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This is the time of the year when reading challenges come from Goodreads and other bookish sources–libraries, bookstores, and a variety of articles. There seem to be a lot of these focused around reading harder, faster, smarter, and setting numerical goals and tracking them. I do a Goodreads challenge, but deliberately set it below what I likely will read. Interesting, even that low number is higher than what I once read.

I like goals that focus on both growth and enjoyment. I’m interested in deepening my appreciation of good books and learning more about my world and my place within it. Challenges can be good when they lead to the ends of our growth and enjoyment. Here are some ways I want to challenge myself that may be helpful as you think of your reading in 2022.

Good Writing. I not only read a good deal, but I write, and edit the good writing of others. Most of this is instinctive for me, or reflective of whatever ingrained grammar and writing instruction I received. I want to read a book on good writing, to not only better appreciate it when I see it but to do it better myself. My book____________________.

Deep Dive. It is interesting to dig deeper on a subject that is of personal interest, and perhaps read several books on different aspects or perspectives on a topic. Just don’t become “that” person who “did their own research.” To give you perspective (and ideas for further reading), read the notes or bibliographies of the books you read to grasp how much research those who write the books do! My deep dive topic______________________.

Different genre. I will probably suggest this every year to get out of my ruts. My book of a different genre_____________________.

A Work in Translation. It could be one of those great Russian novels, or a contemporary novel written by someone whose first language is other than yours. Look for reviews of works in translation. My book_____________________.

A Children’s Book. I miss read-aloud times with my son, not only as a time of closeness, but also because I loved the stories and the writing. The best children’s books are also great reading for adults. I reviewed a couple recently that whet my appetite for more. My book_____________________.

An Old Friend. Some of the best books I’ve read become richer each time I read them. Just like our best friendships go deeper with time, so can our relationships with books. My renewal of an old book friendship will be______________________.

Food. The necessity of nourishing ourselves is pretty basic. I have to admit to being fairly clueless about the elements of good nutrition. I’ve enjoyed the artistry of others who care about good food and gathering friends to eat it. I’d like to learn more about how to do that. My food book is_____________________

Finish a series. True confessions! I’ve started a number of series that I’ve enjoyed but haven’t finished any of them! This year I want to finish at least one! The series I will finish is____________________.

An Inherited or Gifted Book. I have books that have been passed down in the family. Maybe you have friends who have given you a book. I want to read one of those this year. My book is______________________.

A Long Book. Because I review books, I tend to choose books of 200-300 pages to read, to have books I’ve finished 3-4 times a week. That’s hard to do with those long 700-1000 page or more books that may take a month or longer to finish. But some of the best books are long. I want to read one. My long book is_______________________.

A Play. From the ancient Greeks to Shakespeare to contemporary Broadway, plays have been part of our cultural life. They are not a part of my reading. This year, I want to read a play, perhaps one I will see (hopefully) performed live. The play I will read________________________.

A book I will discuss with others. One of the things that has gotten me through the pandemic is talking with some friends about a book we are reading together. It’s pretty easy if you are in a book club, but you can do this with just one other person. I always see more in a book when I discuss it with others, especially if it is a challenging book to read. The book I will discuss with others is_____________________.

There are twelve challenges here. You could do one a month, or just pick a few that really fit you. This is my reading challenge after all. But if it suggests some reading challenges that you will enjoy, go for it. I’d love to hear how it goes.

Bob on Books 2021 Reading Challenge

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There are lots of reading challenges that have to do with how many books we read. Some of us like them. Some don’t. We all have our own tastes. But I thought I would come up with my own reading challenge. An ongoing challenge for me as I get older is settling into familiar ways, ruts, maybe even my own “echo chambers.” So I thought of some “challenges” that at least will help stretch my reading habits. No number of books are involved (although if you read one of each you will read twelve–one for each month). You are welcome to join me for some or all–or none. The point is to keep reading both fun and enriching.

Old. Read one book that was written before your lifetime. One of the hazards of reviewing is that many of the books I read are published in the same year I’m writing. Old books can give a sense of perspective at times. My book:_________________________

New. At the same time, I tend to read authors I like and am familiar with in different genres. Most have published a number of books, so I can keep doing that for a long time. Find a new author in your favorite genre–read reviews, talk to your bookseller, or local librarian. My book________________________

Different genre. We tend to have our favorite genres. Get some recommendations and a book in a different genre. My son introduced me to graphic books, which I’m coming to like. A friend has been bugging me about reading a few thrillers. That might be the different genre for this year. My book________________________

Science or technology. I’ve observed that most people have never talked to a working scientist. The ones I’ve talked to have opened my eyes to the wonders of the world. There is so much we see but don’t really understand. I want to read something that will help me understand some part of the physical world a bit better. My book___________________________

Issues. Go deeper on one issue in the news. If you’ve already formed an opinion, try reading something that takes a different perspective. There are people as intelligent as I am who disagree with me. I’m curious why. Are you? My book_____________________________

Foreign country. Read a book about a country or a person from a country other than the one in which you reside. It could be history, biography, or even a travel book. My book_____________________________

Local history. From writing about the town where I grew up, I’ve discovered that both I and many of my readers knew little about the place where we grew up. So, now I have a book about Columbus on my reading stack–I’ve lived here 30 years and don’t know that much about my current home town. My book_____________________________

Foreign fiction. Fiction written by someone not from my country of origin allows us to see the world through a person who sees it from a different perspective. My book_____________________________

Re-reads. It can be a fascinating thing to re-read something we read at a different time of our lives. The book hasn’t changed but it is a mirror reflecting how we have. My book_____________________________

Religious Text. Here I have several suggestions. You could go deeper in exploring something in your own faith or you could read about a different religious tradition within your faith. You could read about another faith to understand it better. Spiritual but not religious? You might try a work of philosophy. Whatever is the case, we all could do with living up to the tenets of what we believe and understanding others better. My book_____________________________

A possible new hobby or interest. Yes, I know, reading is your hobby. It is one of mine as well. But you might try reading about a hobby you might take up or an interest you could pursue. My book_____________________________

Health. This is a year that has reminded us we can’t take our health for granted–physical, mental, or spiritual. Read a book for you. It might be to better understand your body and care for it, or perhaps books to help us understand ourselves. Books on the Enneagram have helped been helpful in my own self-understanding. Perhaps you’ve discovered how important resilience is and want to learn how to cultivate that. My book_____________________________

So there’s my challenge. I’ve not recommended particular books because I believe that discovering interesting books in these area for yourself is part of the fun and enrichment of reading that this is all about. I’ve left room for us to fill in our books. I’ll let you know next year how I did and I’d love to hear from any who decide to take up my challenge

What to Do If You Are Behind on Your Reading Challenge

reading challenge goalReading challenges like Goodreads Reading Challenge have encouraged many people to set aside more time for something they love–reading. It’s fun to see the numbers add up, especially if you are on, or ahead of pace to meet your reading goal.

But what if you are not? You wanted to read a book a week, 52 in total and here it is, November, and you have read 20. What do you do? Here are some thoughts, facetious and otherwise.

  1. Read and count lots of children’s books. Many for younger readers are very short, and each counts as a book. You could probably binge over a weekend and reach your goal.
  2. Go on an extended reading binge for the rest of the year. Still choose relatively short, page-turners to read. At this point (November 12) you have just over six weeks. Five books a week will do get you there.
  3. Count audiobooks and listen to them while driving, working out, whenever you can.
  4. Re-define “read.” You could just skim these books, read the first sentence of each paragraph and get a sense of this.

I’ll be honest, none of this sounds like any fun, except for maybe the children’s books. Mostly, it feels pretty driven and kind of defeats the purpose of reading, which is enjoyment that grows our minds and view of the world.

I suspect that a better tack might be to look at what has hampered your reading. It might be that life has happened in a big way–an illness, a new job, a break up, or even a marriage, or a new baby. It’s probably best to forget the goals, and live in the change you are in, and be the person you hope to become amid it, which may take work. Start reading when the bandwidth and desire are there. If your are a reader, let me assure you, it’s lurking in there, just waiting for a chance to come out.

A few thoughts for the rest of us who just need to recalibrate our reading goals:

  1. Unless you are close, ditch the goal for the year. You made the goal. You are allowed to change it or set it aside.
  2. Goodreads actually allows you to change the goal. If reaching a goal means something to you, set a goal that is reasonable to reach at this point–perhaps your current total plus two. That will get you started. You might even exceed your goal. Won’t that feel good.
  3. Figure out when you will read. Fifteen minutes a day allows you to read 15 books of average size a year. That should allow you to read at least two books before the year ends. The minute a day of reading per books you want to read each year is a good rule of thumb for setting goals. If you are able to read an hour a day, then you have a chance of making that 52 book goal next year.
  4. Make reading a reward for something, and reward yourself in your favorite chair accompanied by your favorite drink. This isn’t study hall!
  5. Start with books in a genre or on a subject you enjoy, if you are getting back into the groove. That may not be War and Peace, as much as you think you should read it! Pick that up during a year when you are ahead of the pace needed to reach your goal, or after your reach your goal.

Unless you are a student or are doing work related reading, you probably just read for your own personal amusement and enrichment. If reading goals help you be more intentional in pursuing what amuses and enriches you–great! But if the goal is making you miserable, then you either need to get a better goal or just be someone who enjoys reading without goals. Maybe just keeping a tally of the books you’ve read is all you need.

Happy reading, goals or not!


Why I’m Not Obsessed with My Goodreads Reading Challenge

Goodreads Recent Updates

My Goodreads Reading Challenge as of 5/18/17

I guess there is something to our nature as human beings that needs challenges. It could be losing weight. Or running a marathon in under three hours. Or getting 10,000 steps on your Fitbit. Those of us who are bibliophiles have our own challenges. And one of the most popular is the annual Goodreads Reading Challenge. This year, over 2 million people have set reading challenges for themselves. As of right now, their challenges add up to 94,585,110 books, or roughly 46 books a person. I’ve seen challenges anywhere between reading one book to hundreds. This year I set a goal of 110, five more than my goal last year. I do it mostly for the fun of seeing the goals of my friends. I always read more than my goal without really trying.

I’m writing about this today because of an amusing article in Bookriot titled “Why I’m Obsessed with My Goodreads Challenge Tracker.” I think for this writer (and apparently a number of commenters!) that this really is an obsession. Would you consider reading a bunch of children’s books, graphic novels and novellas at the end of the year just to make your challenge obsessive? Would you consider yourself an abject failure, a wipeout, if you got behind on your reading goal, or horror of horrors, finished the year short of your goal? Apparently this writer is far from alone.

I guess there is one simple reason why I do not obsess over my challenge. And that is that, short of an emergency, I set a goal that I will reach with time to spare, given my reading habits. That way I get to enjoy all those good feelings the writer describes of seeing her list of completed challenges and being ahead on the current one. Shouldn’t something connected with your favorite activity make you feel even better about it?And by most standards 110 books (a bit over two a week) is a goodly number of books. Some think I’m crazy that I read that many.

I don’t like the idea of worrying that I’ll fall behind if I sink my teeth into a really long history or Russian novel. It’s nice to have some slack if other things rise to greater importance and I have to set aside my books.

Jesus of Nazareth once said that we should be careful in trying to remove a speck from someone else’s eye while we have a log in our own. As I thought about this, it occurred to me that I may have book-related obsessions that make the writer’s look benign.

Probably one of the biggest is simply keeping up with my “to be read” piles, or for that matter, the “to be reviewed” pile. I swear that when I turn out the lights at night, they multiply! Actually it is a case of requesting more interesting books to review from various publishers than I should. I probably shouldn’t buy any. That, as much as anything accounts for reaching reading goals–it is not the goal, but the burgeoning TBR pile that can sometimes lead to obsessive reading (“gotta get through this–it’s been three months since the publisher sent it on my request!”).

Objectively, I haven’t done too badly with this, reviewing 30 books that were advance review copies so far this year. It’s fun when a new book to review comes in the mail–until you add it to the pile and queue it with the others and have that realization that it will be a while until you read it unless you read faster! Funny how you don’t think of that when you are reading the description of a book you are considering requesting! Then the rationale is, “that looks like an important book, I’ll fit it in somewhere!”

Well, I think all I’ve accomplished here is to demonstrate that booknerds are indeed quirky people. But you already probably knew that, whether you are a booknerd or not. But to paraphrase my favorite teacher–“let him (or her) without obsessions cast the first stone!”



Category Reading Challenges


LibraryThing’s Category Challenge Group

Many of us who read lots of books or want to read more have participated in reading challenges. Many have participated in a read a book a week challenge. Goodreads allows you to set up your own challenge and to see your friends challenges.

As I continue to get acquainted with LibraryThing, one thing I’ve discovered is they have a thing called “category challenges.” When they first started in 2008, the challenge was to come up with 8 categories of books in which they would read 8 books. Next year it was 9 and 9. Eventually they decided to let people set as many or as few categories as they please and read as many or as few in each as they want. People who sign up for this are in a group, each with their own page and thread of comments from other group members.

People are really creative with their challenges. One, for example came up with a “leap year” challenge, an acronym, which stands for:

L: Let Them Eat Cake — historical fiction
E: Elementary, My Dear Watson — mysteries
A: All You Need Is Love — romance and chick lit
P: Play It Again, Sam — re-reads
Y: Yer a Wizard, Harry — fantasy
E: Everybody! — CATs, dogs, and group reads
A: Age Before Beauty — from my TBR shelves
R: Roam If You Want To — set outside the U.S. and U.K.

I’m not sure if I like being that structured in reading, although I love the creativity! My reading follows what I tend to be interested in or exploring at the time. It is interesting, though, that most of us do have our default categories. Some of my defaults categories:

  • history, especially American, European, Civil War, and military history generally.
  • biographies, especially presidential biographies.
  • mysteries, especially some of the classic writers.
  • science fiction–currently I’m intrigued  with Philip K. Dick among others.
  • historical fiction–I want to read some Hilary Mantel this year.
  • sports–every year I read a baseball book. I also have a bio on Vince Lombardi, a legendary football coach.
  • higher education, because I work in collegiate ministry.
  • theology, biblical studies, spiritual formation and lots of “faith and…” books.

The one benefit of category challenges is they offer us the chance to break out of our reading ruts.  Here are four for me (we’ll see how many of these I get to):

  1. Different ethnic and cultural voices.
  2. Books on books, especially fiction, inspired by yesterday’s post.
  3. Different religious voices, including atheist voices.
  4. Youngstown books–I have a stack that I’ve browsed but not really read.

And one for fun is to read or re-read the mysteries of Dorothy Sayers.

How about you? What categories are your defaults? If you did a category challenge, what would be your “break out” categories?