Reading Challenge: How To (Actually) Read More Books This Year

If you feel like your reading life has been lacking, or (cough, cough) non-existent, I completely understand where you’re coming from! I was in the same boat at the beginning of last year, so I decided to attempt a reading challenge for myself. I cannot encourage you enough to set up your own reading challenge this year. It’s a great way to get you back into the reading habit, and more importantly, it’s super fun. Keep scrolling to learn about my reading challenge this year and how you can set your own reading goals for 2019.


How to (Actually) Read More Books This Year, Reading Challenge


Why I Created My 2018 Reading Challenge

In 2017, I had read maybe eight books total, and that is a generous estimate. Here I was, a 4th grade teacher requiring my students to read for homework each night, and yet I hadn’t regularly read for pleasure since before college. This situation needed to change – I definitely needed to read more books. I created a reading challenge for myself and set the goal of finishing twenty-five books by the end of the year. As it turned out, it was the most enjoyable New Year’s resolution I’ve ever attempted.


Reading Challenge Success!

I started right away in January and finished my first book, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, on January 10th. I stayed on track of about two books a month through the first half of the year, but the summer really kicked my behind. Since I’m a teacher, I had July and August off, but my daughter was also out of daycare during those months. Turns out it’s hard to care for an almost two year-old and read at the same time!

By the beginning of November, I had fallen way behind and still had seven books to read. I prioritized reading above Instagram, Facebook, and Netflix, and finished five books in November. In December, I read two more books at the beginning of the month and reached my goal of twenty-five books.

But there’s more! I went beyond my twenty-five books goal and read two more books at the end of December. That made a total of twenty-seven books in all! I blitzed my reading challenge! 


How to (Actually) Read More Books Reading Challenge
Photo by Nadine Wuchenauer


What I Learned from My 2018 Reading Challenge

Reading twenty-seven books this year resulted in me learning a lot about my reading preferences, the best way for me to uphold goals I’ve set for myself, and even how I am evolving in terms of self-acceptance. Here’s what I learned:

  • I really like non-fiction books. Eighteen out of twenty-seven of the books I read were non-fiction, though two were memoirs.


  • Even though I’m capable of reading deep and heavy books like the classics, I’m not necessarily drawn to them for pleasure reading. As a recovering overachiever, I am learning to accept the fact that my innermost self doesn’t always want to read books that other people read to earn their degree in English. It’s more than okay to read a book because it’s fun and your brain needs a mental reprieve. Besides, some of the classics are incredibly boring and it’s a mystery why anyone spends so much time on them at all.


  • I’m super into personal development books right now, and I don’t think that’s going to change any time soon. Last September, I took a short personality quiz as an icebreaker activity during a staff meeting. The description of the personality I belonged to said that one of my traits was that I was always on a quest to find myself. When one of my colleagues who had the same personality type as me read that line, she quipped to the group, “Really? You don’t know who you are yet?” But it’s true. I don’t know who I am yet, and I don’t know if I’ll ever truly know. I know who I used to be, but I am still learning about who I am becoming. Life changes. Roles change. The world changes. And who I am changes with them all.


  • I’m getting tired of the complicated female lead characters who may not be entirely bad, but aren’t exactly the kind of gal you’d want to hang out with either. They may have their reasons for acting the way they do, but I still wouldn’t be their friend in real life even if I knew their terrible history. You can have a hard life and still have a good heart. If you’re not sympathetic, I don’t really want to read your story. Thank you, next!


  • In order for me to keep the goals I set for myself, I have to broadcast them to the world and then also broadcast my progress. I posted pictures of my completed books on my personal Instagram with mini-reviews in the captions. I knew people didn’t really care if I met my goal or not, but it’s hard for me to not to do something I told people I would do. (According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Four Tendencies, I am an Obliger, which means I uphold promises I make to others but not myself.) This was a big “aha!” realization for me.


How to (Actually) Read More Books This Year, Reading Challenge
Photo by Matthew Henry


What’s Next: My 2019 Reading Challenge

To keep things as simple as possible, my reading challenge goal for 2019 is going to increase to thirty books. Since I noticed that I am reading mostly non-fiction, I’m going to add in a clause that fifteen out of the thirty need to be fiction to give myself some variety. I also read fiction faster than non-fiction, so that will help me cruise toward my goal.


Your Turn: What Will Be Your 2019 Reading Challenge?

If you’ve been feeling like your reading life needs a kick in the pants, it’s the perfect time to set up your own reading challenge for this year! It can be as simple as mine with a set number of books you’d like to read in a year, taking into account your schedule and how much time you reasonably have to devote to your reading. You can also make it more complicated by setting goals for genres you’d like to read or another means of categorization you find interesting (see Anne Bogel’s 2019 Reading Challenge for ideas).

Those last three words are key: “you find interesting”. If it’s not interesting to you, you’re not going to do it. And the point of reading, at least for me, is that it’s interesting and it’s FUN. It’s called pleasure reading for a reason.

So set up a reading challenge for yourself and start turning those pages. What are you going to read first? Let me know in the comments!

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