Challenge Accepted!

Today’s blog entry was written by Kathleen Corcoran, a local harpist, writer, editor, ESL teacher, favorite auntie, turtle lover, canine servant, and chronically addicted reader.

Ever notice that the same titles and authors keep showing up when you look for your next favorite book? Literary prize winners, Oprah or Reese’s Book Club, Books to Read Before You Die, or endless variations of “Recommended for you because you liked…”

Try this one!

Part of this is because such lists are often curated or sponsored by publishers. Part of this is because search algorithms almost inevitably lead to echo chambers. (For a bizarre and frightening illustration of this, check out this article on how fake social media accounts “learn” to push misinformation and conspiracy theories.)

So how to bump yourself out of your reading rut? Take a reading challenge! There are all kinds of reading challenges you can join, not to mention the book clubs, library groups, and reading forums online or in person. I’ve included a few here, but these are just the very tiniest tips of the iceberg available. And, of course, nothing can compare to the miraculous powers of a curious librarian!

Year-Long Challenges

I am greatly indebted to girlxoxo for directing me to most of these challenges. For more, check out their 2022 Master List of Reading Challenges.

Read voraciously!
  • Backlist Reading Challenges – Ease yourself into the world of challenges by joining Austin Decker‘s challenge to clear out some of that pile of books you keep meaning to read but never quite get around to it.
  • 52 Books in 52 Weeks – Just as the name suggests, the 52 Book Club challenges you to read a book every week in a year, following a different prompt every week.
  • Monthly Book Award Reading Challenge – Literary awards are announced every month of the year, and this challenge if to read a book that was awarded a prize (during any year) in that month. 
  • Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks – Not related to the 52 Book Club, this challenge has a similar goal: follow the various suggestions and prompts to read a book every week this year.
  • Monthly Motif Reading Challengegirloxoxo will prompt you with a theme or motif every month, and your goal is to read a book with that motif.
  • Beyond the Bookends – Twelve prompts over the course of the year (“adapted for the screen” or “set at or about a circus or carnival”) will nudge you to expand your horizons a bit.
  • Mount TBR – Blogger MyReadersBlock has a challenge to help you work through some of those books you already own (digital or hardcopy) but haven’t quite made your way through yet.
  • The Nerdy Bookworm 50 Books a Year Reading Challenge – You can follow the prompts, but it might be more fun to fill out Emily the Book Nerd‘s BINGO cards as you read.

Genre Challenges

One of the great things about challenging yourself is that you can read what you like. No teachers grading you or tests you don’t want to take. The Story Graph has a pretty amazing database of reading challenges, which you can search by genre, author, awards, or even geographic location.

Library Travel

Seriously, don’t mess with librarians.

Real-life travel can be tricky, especially with the ever-changing restrictions to stem the flow of Covid. It’s so much easier to go somewhere else by reading about it, especially

Stretch Your Brain

As I mentioned earlier, once of the most fun things to do with a reading challenge is to challenge yourself. Read something you don’t normally read. Pick up a book from the opposite end of the Dewey Decimal System. Find an author with a different point of view. Hear someone else’s story in their OwnVoice.

  • Books in Translation – I’m a language nerd, so this one speaks to my nerdy soul. The idea is to read a book that’s been translated from any language into a language you can read. (This is extra helpful for those trying to learn another language.)
  • Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge – The Book Riot community has 24 prompts to nudge readers out of comfortable ruts they may have fallen into. Some of these prompts are purely for fun, and some might be more of a challenge.
  • Diversify Your Reading Challenge – There are prompts in twelve genres, one for each month, encouraging readers to look beyond those “more of what you love” ads.
  • Diversity Reading ChallengeGothicVampirestein has a range of categories and keywords to encourage readers to look at the world through someone else’s eyes.
  • Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors – Though not a specific reading challenge, this essay from Rudine Sims Bishop gives very helpful suggestions for expanding your worldview and reading empathetically.

And if that’s still not enough to break you out of a rut (or at least widen the rut a bit), try this 52 Weekly Challenge list from BookRiot. It includes suggestions like dusting and cleaning your real-life bookshelves, making a recipe from a cookbook, going to a community theater production, and asking a librarian a question – fun ways to remind yourself of how vast the world of books is.

My good friend Vivian Lawry has challenged herself to add a Nobel Prize winner’s work to her genre reading every month this year. So what are you going to read in 2022?

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