Book Challenges

I had promised to write this post back in January, but things took over, so here I am midway through February writing it at last…

Book Challenges – are they a good thing or not? Well, it depends on the reader ultimately. I have taken part in the annual Good Reads Challenge since 2013. In this challenge, you set the number of books that you think you are going to be able to read over the course of 12 months. For some people, this can be as low as one (see below), but any number can be chosen. Apart from the first year where I set it at 185, have stuck to a regular total of 190 and have achieved that or exceeded it every year.

One of the disadvantages of this though is the self-inflicted pressure of trying to reach the total that you have set and for a number of people, it takes away from the pleasure of reading. Some people overcome this by setting their total for the year to one, finish it really early and then don’t have to worry about it until the following year. It will still keep a track of your exact number read by the end of the year too.

So should you do these? Well, it is entirely up to you. I do because I like doing them, and for those trying to get back into reading it can be a good way of getting a discipline of reading on a regular basis. It must work too as I frequently see comments where people are so pleased that they have achieved the target that they have set themselves.

The other sort of challenge is those that aim to push your reading boundaries. Often, people read well within their comfort zone, reading their preferred genres and almost never venture outside it. I run an online book group on Good Reads called Book Vipers and each year I have created a challenge for the members. This year it is the Dusty Shelf Challenge with the aim of getting people to rootle through their shelves and read some of the books that they have had for far too long.

I make these up in a bingo format. There are two reasons for this, one is the satisfaction of crossing off a square, secondly, those who might not read as much can do a row only should they wish.

The grid I created is below. The intention of some of these is to get you to find things that fit the criteria and often to do that you need to look outside your reading landscape.

The books that I have chosen to meet the criteria are below. I have had some of these on my shelves around the home for waaaaay too long, hence why I have picked them.

A Book With A Blue Cover – This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
A Book You Have Borrowed – Mirrors of the Unseen: Journeys in Iran by Jason Elliot
A Book That Has Been Longest On Your TBR – Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
A Book You Started And Never Finished – Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett
A Book With An Animal On The Cover – Corvus: A Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson
A Book By A Female Author – Among Muslims by Kathleen Jamie
Free Choice – How the Light Gets In by Clare Fisher
A Book With A Red Cover – The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Non Fiction Book – Gathering Carrageen by Monica Connell
A Book From A Literary Prize – In Search of Conrad by Gavin Young
A Book Published In The Last Century – Against a Peacock Sky by Monica Connell
A Book With A Green Cover – The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood
A Book By A Male Author – Naples 44 by Norman Lewis
A Book Borrowed From A Friend – The Marsh Arabs by Wilfred Theisger
Free Choice – Herbaceous by Paul Evans
A Biography – Toast by Nigel Slater
A Library Book – The Edge Of The World: A Cultural History Of The North Sea And The Transformation Of Europe by Michael Pye
Free Choice – Letters by Saul Bellow
A Book With A Black Cover – The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
A Book With A Figure On The Cover – Travels With Myself And Another: Five Journeys From Hell by Martha Gellhorn
An Award Winner – The Prester Quest by Nicholas Jubber
A Book Over 500 Pages – Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
A Book Under 100 Pages – A Force That Takes by Edward Ragg
A Book In A Series – A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
A Book With A White Cover – Vicious by V.E Schwab


So do you take part in challenges?

If so, what are you preferred type?

What books would you include on this challenge?

Spread the love


  1. Desperate Reader

    I sometimes take part in reading weeks, but reading challenges don’t work for me – which I think probably sums up the amount of self discipline I have. I do like Simon and Kaggsy’s reading clubs where the only constraint is the year of publication. That’s been both a really good excuse to re read books I love with the opportunity to think about them specifically in the context of their time, and to be inspired to pick up something new to me.

    • Paul

      I have never done any sort of challenge to read books constrained by year. That gives me an idea though…

  2. Annabel

    I love reading challenges, but rarely worry about completing them, although I’ve set my Goodreads number at 125, which is a below what I normally read which is 130-140, just to keep nudging me, so I should accomplish that one.

    It’s having to plan ahead what to read that does me in – a stack of books staring at me doesn’t make me want to read them. But if I can be a bit more spontaneous about joining in on a tag that only needs one or two reads, I am more likely to achieve more of those in a year. That said, my own week of reading only Paul Auster has been a joy!

    • Paul

      I have never read any of his books! I like to plan, but leave it open enough to be flexible

  3. Linda Hill

    I do take part in Goodreads but it is incredibly inaccurate as some books aren’t listed. I avoid all other challenges and memes as I get too stressed!

    • Paul

      Really? I am a librarian on there so can add them if you’re missing them.

  4. Bam

    My daughter and I have discussed whether the pressure of having to read a certain number of books for a yearly challenge ever allows one to slow down and savor a really good book over days or even weeks. She asks, Do I even remember what I’ve read months later if I read at the pace of one book every two or three days? Probably not, without refreshing my memory by looking at my review.

    • Paul

      I don’t think it helps everyone. There are some books that I can remember months and even years after and others that fade much quicker than that

  5. Liz Dexter

    I seem to do an author challenge every year or, for example reading Hardy and Iris Murdoch, a book a month until they’re done. I enjoy the sense of community. Then I like doing the place ones – I have Japan, Ireland and Australia to do this year, again for the sense of community. I am doing Heaven-Ali’s Daphne Du Maurier week because I won her giveaway during her week last year, and I loved Non-Fiction November for making me write about different things and linking me with a load of new-to-me bloggers so will do that again this year. What else? I do 20 books of summer for the community but do it off my TBR (actually, all are coming off my TBR again this year) and I like All Virago / All August because i do that alongside people on LibraryThing.

    So I suppose what I’m saying is I do it for the sense of community!

    • Paul

      And that is perfectly fine. Good to see you back again, too

      • Liz Dexter

        Thank you, and for your kind comment on Twitter, too. Two books you’ll like being reviewed tomorrow …

        • Paul

          Just replying to your post at the moment

Leave a Reply

© 2024 Halfman, Halfbook

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑