Tuesday, August 7, 2012

On Reading Challenges

Hey all, long time no see. It's been a while since I last posted an update on here, and I've been pondering a bit about the pros and cons of reading challenges, so I figured I'd share my thoughts on here.

Reading challenges are a new thing for me, as I only started doing them this year. I blame this on two things: joining Goodreads and getting a Kindle for Christmas.

The point of reading challenges, as I understand it, is to add an extra element of fun to reading. But lately I've been wondering, do they really add more fun to it? Or do they actually suck the fun out of reading instead? I thought about it, and decided the answer really depends on what kind of challenge you're doing.

From what I've seen there are two types of reading challenge: there are 'speed reading' challenges, and themed challenges.

The themed challenges encourage you to read books according to a specific criteria. For example, the A-Z Reading Challenge I've been doing encourages you to read books with titles corresponding to each letter of the alphabet. Others might challenge you to read books which have been adapted to movies, collections of short stories, books translated from foreign languages, and so on.

These kinds of challenges might be fun to try out because they influence your reading choices, perhaps encouraging you to try something out that you'd never have considered reading otherwise. In my case, the A to Z Challenge even got me to check out books I'd been meaning to read for years, but just hadn't got round to it yet.

Speed reading challenges, like the Goodreads Reading Challenge which I've been participating in, encourage you to attempt to read a set amount of books within a certain amount of time.

The problem I've found with this kind of challenge is that if you take it too seriously, and if you try for a goal that's going to push you beyond your natural reading speed, you might find you're not enjoying the books you're reading as much as much as you ought to be. You're reading them faster than you're used to, so you're not absorbing them as much as you normally would. Also, you might find that the need to read a certain amount per day/week/month in order to make it to the finish line makes the act of reading stressful rather than enjoyable, which kind of defeats the point of reading in the first place, don't you think?

I challenged myself to read 75 books this year - I'd read Stephen King's comment in On Writing where he says he reads about 70 to 80 books a year, and made it a personal goal to match that - and I'm still on track to manage it. But as I've said, I feel that it's taken some of the fun away from reading for me, so I'm going to dial back to a more natural reading pace for myself and just enjoy reading, challenge be damned.

That said, it might be interesting next year to do the Goodreads Challenge again, set myself a lower goal, read at my normal pace, and see how many books I get through by the end of the year that way.

All in all, I think reading challenges can be fun, particularly the themed challenges, as they can help you add a little more randomness and variety to your reading choices. I'll definitely be signing up for a couple more of those myself next year, as well as doing the A to Z Challenge again. Even speed reading challenges can probably be fun as long as you don't get carried away and try to do too much like me. I guess I just have a masochistic competitive streak in me. Who knew?

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