I am blown away that my article on “5 Reasons Not to Do the Goodreads Reading Challenge in 2016” has become my most viewed and most commented-on blog post so far in 2016. It seems that there are others like me who wanted to live off the Goodreads grid and take a year off the Goodreads challenge. This makes me feel like less of a misnomer and more of a community member.
If you’ve found this post chances are you’re looking for alternatives to the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Maybe you still want to challenge yourself to read more books or read more widely. Or maybe you want to stay connected to the bookish world even though you’re not participating. Friend, I welcome you to try out some or all of the following seven bookish things to do instead of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. You can cut the chord (er, the progress percentage bar) and still stay connected to the book world, accomplish your personal reading goals, and challenge yourself to grow as a reader. Read on.
Do an alternative challenge
Goodreads is an amazing way to push yourself to read more books—but it’s not so great at helping you define what it is you want to read and how to stretch yourself in your reading selection. The rest of the internet takes care of that, whether you want to challenge yourself to read more diverse authors, more female authors, more books in translation, or a little bit of everything.
The POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2016 has a boatload of categories (41, to be specific) to really stretch yourself—from a book that takes place during the summer to a book set in your home state. You can join in the fun on Goodreads with the “Pop Sugar’s Annual Ultimate Reading Challenge Group”. This is a great place to find support and suggestions from other participants.
Book Riot returns with another Read Harder Challenge for 2016. The 24 tasks, approx. two a month, include categories like “Read a food memoir” and “Read a collection of essays,” and the Book Riot team regularly posts guides, lists, and videos for each of the categories. You can join the Read Harder Goodreads group and even find a live event for a Read Harder book group near you.
If you go to Goodreads and search “Challenge” in the “Find Groups” search bar of the Groups page you’ll find plenty of other challenges. Even though you won’t be racing to collect “Read”s on Goodreads for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, you’ll be reading in a way that stretches your limits and pushes you to read outside the box. Better still, there are communities of likeminded people out there to interact with and trade reading recommendations and opinions.
Start a book blog
Well of course I’m going to say this! If you’re a control freak, starting a book blog might be for you. I love having one. It’s like running a magazine in which you are the editorial director and is a great way to participate in the reading community. If you’re not doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge this year, you could use your blog to start your own reading challenge, set one for yourself and update us on the progress, write about literally whatever you want, and reach readers like you.
Also, having a book blog really gets you to think and reflect on what you’ve been reading. I recommend it because you will grow not only as a writer, but also as a reader. My most personal posts, the ones in which I talk about my life as a reader as opposed to generic listicles, continually bring in the most views and the most audience engagements. There’s something about being brutally honest with yourself and the world that earns people’s trust. I can think of no better way than to document your journey as a reader. So if you’re not doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, spending time creating and maintaining a book blog is a rewarding way to engage with books and the reading life. (For more of my tips for beginners, check out this article on “Tips and Advice for Aspiring Book Bloggers”).
Volunteer in a library or with a literacy cause
By completing the Goodreads Reading Challenge in 2013, 2014, and 2015 I spent a lot of time indoors all alone. Sure I can boast that I met or exceeded my challenge goal, but staying inside all that time made me more reclusive and ramped up my social anxiety to the point where I left my old job to freelance from home.
Okay, so that’s kind of extreme, but what I’m saying is it can get you comfortable as a solo reader, someone who doesn’t interact with others that much. That is why I have found volunteering with my public library as a volunteer shelver once or twice a week for more than a year has really got me out of the house and interacting with the reading public again. It’s truly magical to shelve and be in a library space (see: my Book Riot article about doing a library scavenger hunt to get acquainted with the stacks). The hours I spend as a volunteer are almost twice as rewarding than an hour spent reading. Thus I recommend taking those hours you would have spent agonizing over the Goodreads Reading Challenge and instead volunteering for a library or with a literacy initiative (like tutoring or reading books to children) or in an environment that promotes books and reading. This is definitely a rewarding way to fill the hole in your life from not doing the Goodreads Challenge.
Participate in a reading marathon (read-a-thon)
So maybe you miss the urgency of the Goodreads Reading Challenge, the push to read more and the way it helps you make time for reading, and the community that you are part of while on the challenge. Fortunately there are other ways to read with that same intensity, like participating in a reading marathon—a readathon!
Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon happens twice a year, in April and October. For the October 2015 readathon, more than 2,000 readers participated with more than 120 prizes awarded. You can choose to have a volunteer cheerleader cheer you on, or you can even become one. A lot of the action takes place on Twitter with live tweeting the event. It’s basically one big reading party and an excuse to block your schedule off for one day and do nothing but read. If you’re looking for suggestions on what to read, check out my article on Book Riot about “Reading Recommendations for the 24 Hour Readathon.” The next Readathon is happening April 23, 2016.
Do a book buying ban, and reread your favorite books
When you’re doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, it’s so tempting to buy as many books as possible. But guess what, you already own plenty of books to read. A book buying ban is a way to stop focusing on acquiring more books and instead focus on getting to know your collection. Also, if you’re frequently broke because of book buying sprees (ahem, see the title of this blog, “Broke By Books”) you can save money and buy books when it really counts. Plus you can use the library more and get all the books you could ever want or need—absolutely free! The Goodreads Reading Challenge was a money suck on my wallet, so this year I’m happy to say I’ve been buying fewer books and even participating in a book buying ban this month.
Even better, you can finally reread books you’ve always wanted to return to for years but never could because Goodreads wouldn’t let you count them as “Read” twice. I love rereading books, and now that I don’t feel that pressure on me to only read new things. I cannot wait to return to some of my favorite reads from recent years, like The Goldfinch and Me Before You, without feeling guilty about it.
Check out my tips on “10 Ways to Totally Rock a Book Buying Ban” for more survival tips on book buying bans, and let us know here on the blog and on Facebook if you have any suggestions.
Read by page count, not by books read
Last year I read 17,739 pages, according to my Goodreads “Read” stats. Because I was so focused on meeting the Goodreads Challenge goal, I would read just about anything that could count as a book that I’d read, even if it was just a 90-page comic (which, for the record, I definitely do consider to be a book), so I could quickly rack up “read”s. Look, I’m not proud of it; my priorities were skewed to read more in terms of quantity. Looking back, there were so many 400, 500, 600 page books that I wanted so badly to read but had to bypass. Sound like you?
This year by not challenging yourself to read in terms of quantity instead think of how you can read more pages by reading fewer books. This gives you a special sense of accomplishment. Say you’ve been wanting to get into fantasy, classical literature, or historical fiction or even dive into long nonfiction works like biographies, if you average out those might be 500 pages and you wanted to read 25,000 pages. That’s an average of 50 books to reach that goal, probably fewer. So in your year of not doing the Goodreads Challenge, pick up books like Moby Dick, or read authors like Dickens or Tolstoy. Read the A Song of Ice and Fire series and allow yourself to linger over sentences in deliciously lush long books you could only read if you’re not forcing yourself to get through as many books as possible just to “win” your reading year.
Read more than your original Goodreads challenge goal
Okay, bookish internet world. Here is my secret. Even though I am not technically doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge, I am still aiming to read a certain number of books this year. It is much higher than my previous year’s goals, and already by not formally participating in the challenge I have still read more books this year than I read by this point last year.
I have a secret number in my mind, technically a minimum goal (what I hope to reach at a minimum), a safe bet (a number of books read that I am really trying for), a reach (what I could probably manage), and a super reach—the aim for the skies sort of ambitious dream goal of books read in a year.
The best part about it is I haven’t publicized the goal or said what those goals are to barely anyone. In that way, the challenge feels more personal, less like I’m in the spotlight failing spectacularly with my friends always wondering, why did she change her goal from 52 to 150 and then down to 75, in one weekend?
This year my personal challenge feels like something I’m fully in control of, like I’m my biggest motivator and cheerleader. I’m learning more about myself as a reader away from the spotlight. So start a reading journal, start a blog, keep a Google Sheet with your reading data…you can definitely be a part of the bookish world even if you’re not doing the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I hope this article inspires you to live fully and bookishly even when you’re not doing an intense competition.