Setting 2012 Reading Challenges and Goals

BlogHer Original Post

This is one of my favorite times of the year. As 2011 is winding down I'm looking back at the books I read in 2011, the goals I made and thinking about what I'm hoping for in my 2012 reading year. Yes, I am talking reading challenges and goals and I'm absolutely giddy about it.

I'm sure it helps that 2011 was a great reading year for me. It helped that I met most of my 2011 reading goals. I wanted to read more books than I did the year before, I wanted to be smarter about the books I requested from the library, I wanted to read more of my own books, and I wanted to find the fun on my personal book blog again. I mostly accomplished those. We also launched BlogHer Book Club in 2011. It was just a great year and I want 2012 to kick just as much book butt.

rainbow stack of books

Credit: Horia Varlan

I've been doing my research. Yes, I've hit up Novel Challenges to see what reading challenges are in the works for this year. I've been book blogging for a long time. In internet years I think my book blog is probably close to being a senior citizen. I remember back when book challenges were new, novel ideas. The fact that there is a whole blog that catalogues the challenges out there is fascinating and wonderful. So is the fact that I know people that are creating their own challenges, like BlogHer's own Family Section Editor Jenna Hatfield, who for the second year is hosting the adoption reading challenge.

I am convinced there is a reading challenge out there for everyone. Are you a fan of food-lit, steampunk, Jane Austen, sci-fi, graphic novels or romance novels? Are you looking to deepen your faith, finish that series, explore Southern literature or read more short stories? There's a challenge (or three) out there for you. There's even a challenge for reading challenge addicts.

Every year I look at these challenges and want to sign up for everything. Here's the problem -- I really suck at reading challenges. I love them. I am just not good at actually doing them. So a few years ago I changed my thinking a little. What I do is I look at the ones that interest me and then create some goals. Sometimes they include a reading challenge, sometimes not, but they are always inspired by them and this year I have found plenty of inspiration.

Can you believe that it's been 100 years since the Titanic hit that stupid iceberg? The Titanic 100th anniversary reading challenge is truly a 2012 reading challenge. Like many people I've found the story of the Titanic fascinating since I was a little girl and remember checking a book about it out of the school library repeatedly. I am thinking of all the non-fiction and documentaries there are and yes, I do believe that it is time for me to finally get around to reading more about the Unsinkable Molly Brown (even if she was never called Molly by her friends).

I am a fan of audio books but I feel rather ashamed to admit that I did not listen to a SINGLE audio book in 2011. I know, it's shocking. This is what happened -- I started working from home full time. No more time in the car. No more walking a mile each way to work. No more days in my former office with a light work load where an audio book helped me get through the hours. I need more audio books. I'm thinking I could tie this audio book reading challenge into a fitness goal if I only listened to them while walking on the trail. It has potential, don't you think?

I am really tempted by the TBR Double Dare reading challenge in which you only read books from the piles you actually own (you can buy new books, you just can't read them until after April 1!). Unfortunately it just doesn't work for me and my obligations. I could, however, participate in the Mount TBR Reading Challenge, which spreads the TBR pile over the year.

I like the idea of reading for a cause. The reading for a cure challenge reminds me of how my friend Elizabeth Willse donated $1 to the New York Public Library for every book she read in 2011. I think I want to take a leaf out of her book and doing the same for my library. Libraries are important to me and provide me with most of my reading material. Perhaps for you it's a cancer charity (Reading for a Cure has a long list of them). Or Global Giving. Or Doctors Without Borders. Donating per book read is a nice way to tie something you do for entertainment to a cause that is important to you.

Sometimes I find challenges that I just simply love but am unable to join. One of those is the 3360 minutes reading challenge, which challenges you to read to your child for 10 minute every day. Love it. Love, love, love it. But I don't have kids in my life in a way that makes it practical so that's not happening here.

Challenges also need to be challenging. There are ones that I could finish quite easily. I read a lot of WWI and WWII non-fiction and fiction. So the lower levels of the war through the generations WWI reading challenge isn't particularly challenging for me. Ditto the literature and war reading challenge. They are something that I would do anyway and while I could easily complete them, it feels almost like cheating for me to join them. The 100(+) books in a year is a little bit challenging because while I often read more than 100 books in a year I don't always. The 150(+) books in a year challenge would be really challenging for me because I've never hit that number, though I came pretty close this year. (If I dropped everything and did nothing but read until January 1 I could hit it but I doubt that's going to happen.)

Now, I read more than 52 books a year. Even on my last "light" reading year I read 80 books. You would think that the 52 Books in 52 Weeks reading challenge would not be all that challenging for someone like me. You'd be wrong. You need a read a book each and every week (reading week starts on Sunday). I... don't do that. I often will go for a few weeks without reading at all and then read four books in a week. I am really tempted to sign up for this one but the idea of having to read a book every. single. week. is a little scary.

The challenge I joined last year, and actually accomplished (woo!) is the Outdo Yourself reading challenge. If I do it again in 2012 it will be difficult since 2011 was one of my best reading years ever.

I am sure you can see how easy it would be to sign up for lots of challenges and set really crazy reading goals. I hope you can also see how looking at all of the reading challenges can help you set up attainable and fun reading goals for the coming year. Here's how I see my 2012 reading life shaking out:

Outdo myself: Even though it's going to be hard because I read a heck of a lot in 2011 I would like to attempt to outdo myself in 2012. Maybe I'll even hit that magic 150 books read number.

Read from the stacks: A few years ago I gave myself a goal of reading 50 of my own books. Everyone told me I was crazy and I was. I didn't even come close. I hit that in 2011, largely because buying e-books totally padded that list. That's ok because it's just an electronic stack, right? What that meant is that 1/3 of the books I read were books that I own and I'd like to maintain that ratio in 2012.

Give back: For every book I read in 2012 I will donate $1 to my public library. If the books I own only account for 1/3 of the books I read those other 2/3 are coming from the library. The more I read the more both I and the Ottawa Public Library benefit. It feels right.

Blogging what I want: 2011 was the year I discovered that I enjoy book blogging so much more when I blog about the books I want to blog about. I'm sure GoodReads can be blamed for part of that since I can just add a book to my list and not say anything about it. There are books I want to talk about though and those are the ones I'll blog about. No pressure to blog every single book I read is really more of a gift than a goal I suppose, but I think I'll find I'll actually blog more often because of it.

What are your reading goals for 2012? Are you joining any reading challenges?

Didn't find the right reading challenge in this post? Head on over to a A Novel Challenge and find the one that is right for you.

BlogHer Book Club Host Karen Ballum also blogs at Sassymonkey and Sassymonkey Reads.

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