5 Ways to Reach Your Year-End Reading Challenge Goal

There are just a few days left until the clock strikes 12:00 am on January 1st and we’re ringing in a new year. For many readers and bookworms now is the time that panic sets in. If you are freaking out over how to reach your Goodreads reading challenge or other personal reading goal, chances are the end of December is a time of anxiety and angst.

It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re 1, 5, or even 10 (yes, 10! I know you people are out there, and I salute you!) books away from having read that magical number of books in your Goodreads or personal reading challenge, it’s possible. You can do it. You can do it! And here’s how. Here are my five ways to read more books during crunch time when it counts.

1. Rescue and finish abandoned books (the low-hanging fruit method)

I’m the worst at finishing books. Even though I, like most people, have issues with abandonment on the emotional level, I totally have no bad feels about putting a book down, returning it to the library, or leaving it at 63% read on my Kindle. This year I realized that these are the low-hanging fruit of your reading life. Committing to reach the final page in a few of the books you divorced during this last ditch effort to reach your reading challenge goal before the end of the year is totally within your grasp. Hell, if you’ve got 3 novels with less than 100 pages to go in each, it’s easier to finish those three books instead of trying to read 3 books that are 350 pages.

Also, there are some books that I am so glad I went back to and gave them another chance, like Still Life by Louise Penny, A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, and, of course, my all-time favorite book that I just about gave up on, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

It’s usually a good idea to trust your gut when you say that a book isn’t for you, but hey, going back for the second date after a rotten first one with a book you “just weren’t feeling,” is a quick way to meet your reading challenge goal and potentially stumble upon something that could become a new classic in the canon of your reading life.

In this article I’m definitely taking into consideration ways you can get your hands on these books quickly and for free or low cost if possible. For this first category—finishing books you’ve abandoned—that’s pretty straightforward since all you have to do is dig through your e-reader library or browse your shelves for something you can continue and finish in these final days.

2. Listen to audiobooks while you do other things (the multi-tasker method)

I love audiobooks because I soak up stories like a sponge. My favorite activity to do at the same time I listen to an audiobook is coloring in an adult coloring book. I just put my Audible app on speaker and color away and manage to cover a lot of ground. I can get even more “read” if I turn the speaking speed up to 2x, 2.5x or 3x normal—trust me, not as crazy as it sounds and very easy to get used to, although I do not recommend it for books that have a lot of distinct character voices (I’m looking at you, Jim Dale).

Other things you could do while listening to an audiobook is, well, just about anything. You can listen during your commute, listen while you cook dinner, listen while you clean, listen while you shop in the grocery store, etc. This is a great way to multi-task while absorbing stories.

If you aren’t an Audible member, you can sign up now and get one book free for your first month. A neat little reading hack is if you own the Kindle edition of a Whispersync eligible book, you can get the audiobook for a reduced rate. (Go to “Popular Features” on the lefthand side of the page and choose the last option “Find Audio Upgrades for Books You Own.”) And libraries often have partnerships with audiobook collections like OverDrive. Check out your library system’s homepage and look for phrases like, “Get e-books and audiobooks,” etc. LibriVox collects entirely free audiobooks, no strings attached, from public domain books like the classics.

3. Read shorter books (the obvious method)

This is definitely the most obvious way to reach your year-end Goodreads reading challenge or personal reading goal: read short books! In my post about “How to Read More Books: Read Shorter Books,” I listed some of my favorite short reads and how I got over my snobbish view that the bigger the book the better the book.

Here are three more novels or novellas that have Goodreads entries and that you can read in a hot minute and get for free online:

“Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet” by Arthur Conan Doyle

Of course I’m going to recommend you read the very first Sherlock Holmes story—a full length novella—in preparation for the fourth season of Sherlock. Spend three hours reading this and then go watch “A Study in Pink,” the first episode of the first season of Sherlock. The PDF is available for free here and you can listen to a decent, free audiobook version on YouTube here.

“My Man Jeeves” by P.G. Wodehouse (130ish pages)

If you are new to the Jeeves-Wooster stories, My Man Jeeves is a great place to start and was in fact my first Jeeves-Wooster collection, the gateway Wodehouse short story collection for me, if you will. Amazon clocks a copy at 130ish pages, and you can read it for free here on Project Gutenberg. After you’ve read that, or if you’re considering it, head on over to YouTube and watch an episode of one of the classic Stephen Fry – Hugh Laurie adaptations also for free, like this one, “Bertie is in Love.”

“Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (170ish pages)

Herland is a kick-ass early science fiction novella that envisions a feminist utopia where women rule peacefully. First published in 1915, the novella is having a bit of a revival, even though it does have problematic positions, as The Guardian neatly sums up. Regardless, the novella definitely asks you to question the idea of utopia, feminism, and political science. Read it with a friend because I guarantee you’re going to want someone to discuss it with once you’ve both finished the story. You can read it for free on Gutenberg and listen to a free audiobook recording on LibriVox.

If you’re looking for more recommendations beyond those or the ones in my earlier blog post, I recommend this definitive list of “17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting” by Electric Literature (literary fiction) and Flavorwire’s eclectic collection of novellas: “The Greatest Novellas, Or the Best Two Hours of Your Weekend”.

4. Read graphic novels (the reading pictures method)

One summer I became obsessed with reaching my Goodreads goal and read 12 books in 7 days. How did I do it? I read a ton, a ton of graphic novels and comics. Although I don’t regret it, I do think I overdid it and generally wanted to avoid graphic novels for a good long while after that until the fall when I got really excited and published a guide to comics and graphic novels new releases.

Graphic novels and comics are not only a great way to up your “read” count quickly, they are also really nice at breaking up the monotony of prose. They can make you see things differently, well, literally, but also from a storytelling perspective. My library system has an awesome graphic novel and comics collection that I frequently dip into, but you can also have them downloaded to your Kindle or laptop instantly if you choose the e-book option.

Here are my three favorite quick-read graphic novels/comics I read in the last year. All are available on Kindle (you can get there through the links) or are widely available through libraries, bookstores, or an online retailer.

Emily Carroll's "Through the Woods" graphic novel
Emily Carroll’s “Through the Woods” graphic novel

Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods (208 pages): These interconnected supernatural short stories all take place against the backdrop of a dark and gloomy forest, with the woods being a definite presence in the story. The artwork is stunning, with bold lines messy but delicate and intentional. The color scheme is a very basic black, white, blue, and red. This graphic novel is perfect for fans of Brothers Grimm, Tim Burton, and Neil Gaiman. 

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim (143 pages): In Skim, Kimberley “Skim” Keiko Cameron is an awkward Goth teen who hates her all-girls private school, except for her captivating literature teacher. I love the Tamaki sisters and will read anything by them, and Skim nails their trademark teenage ennui, narcissism, and self-conscious attempts to be both original and stand apart. So much of the dark humor is tongue in cheek, but it is definitely a poignant story that stays with you long after. 

Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich
Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich

Joelle Jones’ Lady Killer (138 pages): I love this smart feminist comic so much that I can’t shut up about it. It’s witty but nonetheless brutally blood. The “Lady Killer” in question is housewife by day, assasin by night Josie Schuller. When her boss puts a hit on her, Josie goes rogue. With its retro artistic vision, Lady Killer really does look like a Good Housekeeping magazine from the mid-20th century, hinting at some of the frustrations of housewives of the era. 

5. Watch a book (the quasi-unkosher way to cut corners)

Okay, this is my idea for how to read a book fast in a sorta cheating way. Don’t judge me and I won’t judge you should you choose to use this method!

Did you know that many popular movies and TV shows also publish their scripts in books? For example, on Goodreads there is the Sense and Sensibility screenplay listed on Goodreads, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom screenplay, and the Downton Abbey scripts for different seasons (like season one).

Did you know that you can stream or rent these movies or TV shows, turn the subtitles on, and literally watch a book?

Mind = blown

I know, I know. That might not seem like too kosher a method to chalk up books as “read” for your Goodreads reading challenge or personal reading challenge, but it’s legit and it works. Hey, it’s still reading, right? So that is my last ditch, truly desperate way to get books read fast.


There you have it, my five proven ways to reach your reading goal by the end of the year.

Do you have many books left on your goal? How are you planning on meeting the magic number? Do any of these methods sound good to you? Am I missing one of your favorite ways to cross the finish line? Leave a comment below—and best of luck in the homestretch of the reading year!

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Welcome to Broke By Books, a blog by Sarah S. Davis, where the guiding mission is to spread a contagious love for reading through helpful, thought provoking, and enjoyable writing about books. Please join me in growing an inspired, engaged, and fearless reading life.

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