Why Every Serious Reader Needs To Make A Yearly Reading Challenge

by Kerri Jarema

I've talked a lot about my reading life recently; specifically how taking a social media break and meditating to help with anxious thoughts have actually served the double purpose of making me a better, more present reader. Though I had dabbled in both social media breaks and meditation before, this has been the first time I've made a commitment to sticking with them for any extended period of time and the results have been hard to ignore. But there is something else I have done as a reader for years, and which I have only just begun to see the huge effects of: The Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Since I first joined the site back in 2011, I have been making a yearly reading goal, the amount of books I want to read throughout the following 12 months. I'm far from the only person to take on the yearly goal (according to Goodreads, 2,684,827 users are participating in the 2017 challenge) but this is the first time that I have really thought about why I am always so pumped to set my goal every year; and it's definitely related to my current goal of mindfulness.

This is the first time that I have really thought about why I am always so pumped to set my goal every year; and it's definitely related to my current goal of mindfulness."

Though everyone's challenges are different (I don't count re-reads, others do; some go for 25 books, others 125 books) I think many people who take on the challenge probably do it for a similar reason: they are competitive or goal oriented and feel like setting the challenge helps them read more than they would otherwise. They like to see the fruits of their reading labors pile up on their page, and they like to see how much other people are reading, too.

And while that was, and is, true for me, the stressful nature of the challenge has definitely gotten to me a couple of times in years past; there were times when I didn't think I would meet my goal and the idea of that scratched uncomfortably at the back of my mind (Hello, I'm a Type 3 Capricorn Gryffindor, it's nice to meet you.) But this year, the challenge has been more than just a goal for me to reach, or a reason for me to stress read six graphic novels in a row come December.

Because, if I have learned anything from my personal goals of meditation and social media detox this year, it's that many humans thrive on singular, focused thinking. On cultivating brains and bodies that are mindful, and living in the present moment. And, actually, the yearly reading goal fits perfectly into that ethos. Because, in the end, you can only read one book at a time. And in order to reach whatever goals you set (reading or otherwise) the only way out is through.

By having a reasonable idea of how many books I want to read already set out for me at the beginning of the year, I can allow my new mindful reading to take over. I can give each one my full and undivided attention for a week, or two weeks, or however long I have to read a book based on that final goal. It might sound like an overly zen way to look at yearly numbered reading goals, and maybe it is, but it has honestly been one of the most beneficial discoveries of my reading life. Not worrying about reading more and more and more is the best way I have found to really enjoy what I read.

If you've ever been hesitant to take on the Goodreads Challenge or the 50 Book Challenge, try looking at it this way: goaled reading is mindful reading. And mindful reading is some of the most rewarding you will ever do in your book-obsessed life. Get ready for the 2018 challenge, friends, and be prepared to read right.