Reading a favourite book is a great way to escape into another world – whether it be Pemberley, Prince Edward Island, Narnia or the Galactic Empire. Yet reading is not just an idle form of entertainment – the best books teaches us to see the world with different eyes. Novels can expand our knowledge of different countries, cultures, professions, periods of history or innovations or activities.They can challenge us to think about controversial issue in a more nuanced way or change our understanding of humanity and the cosmos. They can help us understand ourselves, challenge our prejudices and walk with us through difficult periods. A world without stories is a world without a soul.
Of course, there is more to life than books. Books have been a lifeline to me more than once, but deeper, more important, more trustworthy has been God’s love, not just through His story but also by His powerful presence in my life. So while I love memes about books, I tend to shy away from ones that suggest they are our only saviour.
All of which is a long-winded way (sorry) of saying that I love reading books. And one way I’ve discovered of adding an extra spice to reading, is participating in a reading challenge. There are a huge variety of these – some easy, some hard. Here are four – some of which I’ve participated in, one of which I might do one day.
GoodReads Reading Challenge
Goodreads is a social media site that has a lot to offer to the reader (see here). One feature is the annual reading challenge (see here). At the beginning of the year you set the number of books you aim to read in that year – it could be 10, 30 or 100. As you enter your books & mark them off as read, Goodreads keeps track of how you are progressing towards your goal. In 2013 I set 40 books and surpassed my goal, last year was 55 – and I just made it – mainly because I have been involved in the launch of four anthologies over the last six weeks.
Read the Bible in a Year Challenge
I started this challenge last year as part of a group. I really enjoyed the impetus to sit down and read long sections of the different books in the Bible in a more or less chronological order and then discussing our discoveries with other enthusiastic people. We used Diane Stortz’s A Woman’s Guide to reading the Bible in a year. Each week, the guide gave a set or readings from the Old or New Testaments, a brief introduction of the background of the passages & then asked 3 questions. For one reason and another, the group was unable to complete the whole year, but it is something I will do again in the future.
The Popsugar 2016 Ultimate Reading Challenge
This year I’ve joined a group doing a 2016 reading challenge – which sets out 40 categories and 42 books for the year (apparently last year it was 50). Categories range from A New York bestseller to a dystopia; a book with a blue cover to a book you can read in a day; a book set on an island to a book of poetry (see the challenge here). So far I’ve read 2 books (which together add up to 1200 pages) and have almost finished the third, as I went for what I considered the most difficult item first – a book over 600 pages. I looked at the library return trolleys and picked up the only book that big (actually over 700 pages) by an author I had never read before in a genre I wasn’t that interested in (women’s fiction set in 1880s New York) – and loved it. The challenge has already stretched my reading and, as we talk about our books in the Facebook group, I’ve learnt about other new, interesting books I plan to follow-up and which I might not have heard about otherwise. It is a great opportunity to reduce books from the to-read list. It’s not yet the end of week three and I’m thoroughly enjoying this challenge.
The Geographical Challenge
One of the members of the above group shared another, even more difficult reading challenge (see here) – to read a book connected in some way to each of the 196 countries of the world. This is a challenge which take most people much longer than a year – but I imagine it would be an intriguing way to do the ‘world trip’. It could be a grand voyage of discovery.
There are many other reading challenges of course – some harder, some easier.
So, why do a reading challenge? I think they can add direction and excitement to our reading, like book clubs (see here) they can push us to read more widely than we normally would and ensure we never run out of something to read.
How about you. What would you set as a reading challenge - perhaps an alphabetical challenge (choosing books with authors starting with each name of the alphabet) or a genre challenge? I’d love to hear your thoughts or your experiences with reading challenges.
Image of coffee cup and open book courtesy of Apolonia at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Other images from Jeanette O'Hagan
Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl.
Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.