Why Reading Challenges?

If you’ve read my last post, you probably know I’m starting a 7-day reading challenge on Monday.

Depending how much time you’ve spent on the bookish side of the Internet, you may or may not have heard of reading challenges—but once you discover them, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of options out there.

In the simplest ones, like the annual reading challenge available on Goodreads, you choose how many books you plan to read in the upcoming year.

Other challenges give a specific list of titles to read, such as Penguin’s “100 Must-Read Classic Books”.

Some give a series of categories, challenging you to read one book in each category by the end of a given period of time. (This yearly challenge is a personal favorite of mine.)

Others, like the one I’m doing on Monday, don’t focus on how much you’re reading but on how you’re approaching the activity of reading.

Each of these approaches have pros and cons, and I could probably spend a solid half-hour laying them out for you—but I’m pretty sure neither of us have that kind of time today, so I’m just going to give you 3 reasons why I like reading challenges of any kind—and why I suggest you give them a try, too.

1. They promote intentionality.

If we aren’t intentional about what we hope to accomplish , chances are we won’t accomplish anything at all.

Reading is no exception. You might want to read more, or to read a greater variety of books, or to get more out of what you read—but without establishing a clear intention, you probably won’t succeed. A reading challenge establishes what you’re aiming for and gives you a plan to reach it.

2. They make you grow.

Reading challenges usually ask you to do something you wouldn’t have come up with by yourself: they push the boundaries of your comfort zone.

The yearly reading challenge I’m (very loosely) following this year asked me to read “a book outside your (genre) comfort zone.” I picked a genre I usually avoid—and I really enjoyed it! I still don’t like all books in that genre, but I’m more open to considering it than I was before.

The reading challenge I’m starting on Monday should also stretch me (and you, if you’re following along with me). You might not be used to reading deeply; it might be uncomfortable to read critically. But allowing a reading challenge to push you outside your reading comfort zone makes you grow in ways you likely wouldn’t have anticipated.

3. They open you up to new interests.

When you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, you sometimes discover that you enjoy things you wouldn’t have thought to try. Reading challenges, in my experience, are great at introducing you to interests you might not have discovered otherwise.

Think you don’t like a particular genre? I thought I disliked magical realism until I read this book and discovered that, actually, I do enjoy this genre after all—or at least, I enjoy the way this author interprets the genre, and that’s enough to make me willing to try more of it in the future.

Does reading deeply feel unnatural to you? You might discover you enjoy it more than you’re expecting. (That happened to me: after reading this book, which pushed me to think more analytically about literature, I discovered how much I enjoyed thinking that way. Cue the English degree.)

I’m excited to see how I’m going to grow and stretch myself during the reading challenge I’m starting on Monday. If you’re interested in joining me, you can sign up for the challenge here. You’ll receive daily emails for seven days containing each step of the challenge—but if you’re following along with me, we’ll be taking things much more slowly than that, so don’t worry about keeping up!

Have you ever completed a reading challenge of any kind? Are you joining me on Monday for the Be a Better Reader Challenge? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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