“Thoughts On” is a monthly feature on thewasofshall where I give my (often rambling) thoughts on a topic relevant to reading, literature, or the book business. To see previous (and future) topics, click here. To participate, scroll all the way down.

Since the first of the year is notorious for goal setting, it’s also a prime time for book-related challenges to pop up: like the annual one hosted by GoodReads, Book Riot’s #ReadHarder challenge, PopSugar’s Ultimate Reading Challenge, Authors A to Z, Flights of Fantasy, and maybe one or two more. If you’re a reader who a) likes to track what they read or b) likes to stretch their reading habits, challenges are awesome ways to not only read more but to also read smarter. The very act of participating requires some on-the-side planning to make sure that the book choices you make throughout the year will conform to the challenge’s rules. Additionally, if your challenge is purely a numbers game, you’re forced to figure out how many days or weeks you’ll have to finish a book before moving on to the next one.

I’ve participated in the GoodReads challenge since 2011, but my numbers pledged went as high as 70 while my numbers read were as low as 19. There’s been a lot of talk on why a particular reader is participating in the challenge (or why they’re not), but for me, it’s never about whether or not I read my desired number of books. Instead, I like keeping track of what I read and I do that on GoodReads – so my participation in the GoodReads challenge naturally follows suit. Eventually, as I read less and less each year, so too will my pledged number each January 1st. It’s like a fun game where all the fun is participating and the results are ultimately unimportant.

This year, however, I decided to participate in a more focused challenge: BookRiot’s #ReadHarder challenge, which posits 24 broad themes from reading a book by someone of the opposite gender (easy peasy) to one written when its author was over 65 (not so easy peasy). As I mentioned above, it’s forcing me to do a bit of research before I simply pick up a book that’s at the top of my tbr pile. To help myself, I created a page which outlines each task and which book I’ve decided to read to fulfill that task. I spent almost an hour asking myself, Which books could potentially fit each task? Out of those titles, which sound interesting? Or are currently on my tbr list? Or are ones that I already own? Because I also told the bookternet that I wanted to read a number of books in 2015, I got busy matching titles on that list with my #ReadHarder list – which resulted in yet another question: which book could I match with a specific task to narrow down how many books I would pledge to read?

If you’re a member of GoodReads, you’re able to poke around my Stats page and see just how many books I tend to read per year (which is how I get my pledge number in the first place). Even though I read 4/5 of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series – which, combined, totaled 4,056 words – I still only read 19 books and my total pages read was the lowest it’s ever been. Not very encouraging to a person whose theoretically pledged to read 24 books for the #ReadHarder challenge, 26 titles for my Top Ten Tuesday post, and however many other titles that pop up. That’s a solid 50 books right there – not only higher than my total goal of 41 but also way higher than my average of the last two years.

It’s almost like I’m setting myself up for failure.

Except, kind of, I’m not. Because, like I keep mentioning, I don’t take my participation in the GoodReads challenge all that seriously. I also am viewing my participation in BookRiot’s #ReadHarder challenge as an excuse to read some of the books I’ve already told myself that I want to read but, for whatever reason, haven’t. Like Lauren Beukes’ Broken Monsters, Louise Erdrich’s The Round House, or Jill Lapore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman. These all sound like fantastic reads but, because I don’t own a copy, am in the middle of a series, or am thinking about a different book when it comes time to pick my next read, these titles languish on my tbr list. Now, I’ll get to read them.

Also, and most importantly, the reading goal that I actually hope to accomplish this year is reading 30 minutes per day. However many books that amounts to or however many tasks that completes, reading on a daily basis is my main priority. I’ve talked about making reading a habit, but I’m still not consistently hitting my goal. So, yes, completing all 24 #ReadHarder tasks or hitting my 41-book goal would be awesome, but I’m not stressed out if I don’t make it – because I really just want to keep reading day in and day out, from whatever book of which I happen to be in the middle. And, ultimately, that’s my reading goal for 2015.

Have your own thoughts on reading challenges? Share them! Post them to your blog, link back to this post, and then comment letting me know!

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