Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading Challenges

Posted by: Unknown
Like most writers, I am an avid reader and have a lot of books in the house. Thousands of books. I have a room downstairs we call the library and I keep a couple of thousand in there. Those are the books I’ve read. I visit them on occasion, pet them, talk to them. Appreciate the fact they had an impact on my life. Upstairs, I have a few scattered bookshelves. In the spare room I have some mysteries and thrillers and a lot of books from when I was a kid. In my writing nook I have a bookcase full of books I haven’t read yet.

The bottom two selves of my TBR bookcase

My TBR er, shelves, began innocently enough as a stack of books by the bed. These were the books I wanted to read next. When one stack became two, then three, I bought a bookcase for them.  It was an attractive cubby hole looking arrangement with nine cubbies. I filled three of them with books. By the time we moved from Texas to Jersey, I’d filled six cubbies. When we moved to Pennsylvania, I’d broken the back of the bookcase and books spilled out of eight of the nine cubbies, with the last holdout being filled with book related paraphernalia.

I started making resolutions to read all these books. I also took a volunteer position with the local library sorting book donations for the annual sale. I collected more books. I bought a new bookcase. I threw away some books—or moved them, donated them, decided I’d probably never read some of them. I soon filled the new bookcase and now have three stacks in front of the neat rows…on every shelf but one.

Two years ago, I started participating in reading challenges—partly in an effort to reduce the TBR pile, but mostly because I liked the idea of assigning myself a list of books and checking them off as I read them. I LOVE CHECKING ITEMS OFF LISTS. I’m quite compulsive about it. Imagine my horror when I failed to read the fourteen books selected for my first challenge. All those unchecked items. My depression when I failed to read all of the books even more carefully selected for my second challenge was quite profound. Meanwhile, my collection continued to grow. I began to feel a bit weird every time I passed the shelf. I agonized over new acquisitions and went through periods of believing I was strong enough to pack up a few books and put them away. Somewhere, anywhere. Not on my TBR shelves.

Thing is, I do actually read quite a lot. According to Goodreads, I read 292 books in 2014 and 273 in 2015. So why are there 229 books on the shelves behind me and an untold (and probably astronomical) number of books hiding on my virtual TBR shelves? Well, because I like books. I like a lot of different kinds of books and that’s the root of the problem. I’m an extremely diverse reader, therefore I cannot really predict what I’ll read next, let alone over the course of a year. So this year, instead of making a list, I’ve devised a new challenge and it’s fairly simple: For every two books I read (from the physical shelf only) I may buy one new one. I came up with a complicated set of rules and loopholes for my new challenge and you can read them here, on my blog.

I’m only participating in this one personal challenge this year. I have a busy writing schedule and don’t want to commit a lot of time to report posts—wherein I lament my failure to choose one out of fourteen carefully selected books and instead talk about the other thirty books I’ve bought and read and pretty much ignore the extra fourteen that somehow found their way onto my shelves…unread. But, in previous years, I have enjoyed participating in a number of themed reading challenges. In an effort to encourage you all to whittle down your TBR piles—and maybe discover something new and different, I thought I’d list a few of them here.

The name says it all.

Not a challenge—more a call to read some really old books.

Read a book, share your review. Read other reviews and end up with a wish list a mile long.

Reading diverse books is a great way to broaden your horizons and meet new to you authors and characters.

This one is fun and includes a really nice graphic to keep you inspired.

Worlds Without End has a neat tool where you can create your own challenge. Link points to the one I participate in, The Definitive Science Fiction of the 1950s.

For the list makers and shakers!

A quick web search will turn up dozens more challenges, or you could simply set a numerical goal on a site like Goodreads. Happy reading and if you’re participating in a challenge, I’d love to hear about it.


If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories of the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.

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  1. My primary TBR pile seems permanently stuck at fifteen. Like you, I read 200+ books a year and yet that number never seems to go down and there are titles in it that were there last January. If I don't read a book in the first two weeks after I buy it, its chances drop drastically. A new book by a favourite author immediately goes to the top of the pile. The result is that my TBR pile mostly consists of authors who are either new to me and an unknown quantity, or authors whose books sometimes delight and sometimes disappoint.

    1. I can't believe your TBR pile is only 15 books. You have more willpower than me! :)

    2. Well, I confess I also have a "backlist to be read list" of about 59, but only two of those have made it upstairs from the downstairs library of 5000 titles... (You see, my husband is also a big SF/F reader and he's about ten years behind on his TBR pile.) Not that this stops us from buying new ones. It's a vice. And then, I also have a Goodreads list of titles of forthcoming books or books that I haven't bought yet that sound interesting...


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