At the beginning of 2020 I focused on four challenges: Read Harder, Reading Nonfiction, Reading Around the World, and reading books I already owned. My goal in January was to keep things a little simpler. And then 2020 happened. I ended up reading a lot more for comfort this year, but still read a lot of challenging and meaningful books, especially in nonfiction.
For the Read Harder challenge, there were 24 reading prompts and I met 20 of those. I didn’t push myself to finish like I did last year. The four prompts I didn’t address were: a play by an author of color or LGBTQ author, a picture book about a marginalized community, a horror book published by an indie press, and a literary magazine. Those are such specific categories, I just didn’t feel the need to commit to them this year.
In many cases I read what I wanted and then slotted the books into the prompts that fit. Still, the challenge did push me in quite a few areas. I read a memoir about a religion other than mine (Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper), a YA nonfiction book (Popular by Maya van Wagenen), a book about a cuisine I’m not familiar with (Kwame Onwuachi’s Notes from a Young Black Chef), a book about climate change (The Story of More), a book about refugees (Go, Went, Gone), and several books featuring main characters with disabilities (Get a Life, Chloe Brown).
Last year, the thing I liked most about Read Harder was the community on Goodreads. This year, I got a bit turned off by the vitriol expressed in that community about reading books about romance. I’m sort of done with people who want to tell you what you should and shouldn’t read, when the whole point of the challenge to “read harder” is to expand your boundaries. There’s an inherent contradiction here, and maybe the whole thing is too judge-y for me right now.
My favorite challenge was the Reading Nonfiction challenge by Book’d Out, which was to read nonfiction books in 12 specific categories. I completed this challenge pretty easily. Some of the more challenging prompts were science (The Story of More), psychology (No Visible Bruises), medical issue (The Brain that Changes Itself) and nature (The Salt Path). I did find that many nonfiction books were hard to categorize; for example, The Story of More could be categorized as science, nature, or disaster event. I called The Only Plane in the Sky (about 9/11) a book about true crime although it’s more fair to call it history. And The Salt Path is a memoir about travel, illness, and nature. I read a lot of great nonfiction books this year and plan to continue this challenge in 2021.
I signed up for the Mount TBR challenge hosted by My Reader’s Block, in which I hoped to read at least 12 books I owned. I fell short, reading only 10. In 2021 I hope to focus more energy on books I own as well as backlist books. In 2020 I read a lot more new releases than I normally do, but then I also read more of what caught my eye rather than planning my reading. In 2021 I may try a backlist challenge instead of a “books I own” challenge.
Finally, this year I added 7 books to my Reading All Around the World list of countries, a challenge I began in 2017. I try to add at least ten a year; plus the countries I added weren’t as diverse as I might like. I read books about Singapore, Afghanistan, the Czech Republic, British Columbia, Germany, Poland, and France. I read other books from around the world in 2020 (read about my favorites here), but the goal of this challenge is to read about new countries.
You can find a complete list of my reading for challenges in 2020 here. I’m still thinking about which challenges to do in 2021. It’s tempting to sign up for a lot of them even if I don’t finish; but in keeping with the idea of minimizing stress, I expect I’ll continue to focus on just a few. For me the key questions when considering these challenges are whether they motivated me to read books I really liked that I wouldn’t have read otherwise. And also, did I feel I really engaged with the host and other bloggers, or was it something I signed up for but didn’t do much follow-up.
What challenges did you take on this year, and how did you do? Please recommend a favorite challenge in the comments. Thanks!