Whoa, I Keep Pushin’ On*

There’s so much great crime fiction out there that it’s impossible to keep track of what’s available, let alone read it all. Even if you confine yourself to recommendations from trusted sources, the options are overwhelming. Because of all the options, it can be very difficult to choose books; there are just too many. One way to focus one’s reading – and get more books read – is to join a reading challenge.

There are myriad challenges out there, too. And they cover all sorts of crime books. For some people, reading challenges feel too restrictive. For others, they add too much pressure. But a lot of people depend on challenges to plan their reading. Besides, challenges can be a lot of fun. That’s not to mention the way they can broaden one’s reading horizons. There’s only space in this one post for me to mention a few examples of the many challenges out there. I know you’ve heard of more!

Some challenges focus on geography. For instance, there’s the annual Canadian Book Challenge. Interested readers agree to read and review 13 Canadian books within a one-year-span (From 1 July (which is Canada Day) to the following 1 July). People who have been involved with this challenge have said that it’s given them a real perspective on what’s going on in Canadian writing. This is just one example, of course. There are challenges for reading US novels (state by state), Scottish novels, and many more.

But geography is only one sort of challenge. It’s no secret that male writers often get more attention than do their female counterparts. To address that problem, there’s the Australian Women Writers Challenge. This challenge invites readers to read and review books (of any genre) by Australian women. Then, participants are encouraged to post their reviews and link them to the challenge site. People who’ve taken on this challenge have found that there are plenty of female authors whose work deserves more notice.

Some challenges focus on a particular era. For instance, there’s the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt. This particular challenge’s focus is crime fiction, and invites the reader to read and review classic, Golden Age, and other vintage mysteries. To add interest, participants are given a scavenger-hunt list of book covers to find (e.g. a book with a shadowy figure on the cover), read those books, and check items off the list as they go along. So, as readers explore vintage crime, they have suggestions to help them choose novels. This can be especially helpful for readers who aren’t familiar with the sub-genre.

Don’t have time to read novels? There’s also the Deal Me In Short Story Challenge. This one invites readers to choose fifty-two short stories to read within a year. Then, readers assign each story a playing card (for instance, you might assign the Jack of Hearts to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery). Each week, you draw a card from your deck (at random) and read that story. It’s an interesting way to get to know a wide variety of short stories. It’s got the added bonus, too, of not being as time-consuming as reading a doorstop-sized novel is. And it’s an interesting way to ‘meet’ an author, especially if you’re not quite ready to invest the time it takes to read one of that author’s novels.

Some readers enjoy setting their own challenges. They may, for instance, challenge themselves to read everything by a particular author (as one example, I know a few bloggers who want to read all of Agatha Christie’s work). Or, they may challenge themselves to read a certain number of books, or just books from independent bookshops. Those personal challenges can be very effective, because they’re self-imposed goals, which tend to be more motivating.

Of course, all of these challenges have a way of adding to the TBR, sometimes making it increase exponentially. Well, there’s a challenge for that, too. It’s called the Mount TBR Challenge. There are eight challenge levels, each corresponding to a number of books. The aim is for participants to choose the number of books from their TBRs that they plan to read, and the corresponding challenge level. After signing up, readers follow through on that plan (to the extent they can). I know several bloggers who post updates on the challenge, and post reviews.

There are dozens of other reading challenges in all sorts of categories. On the one hand, they can serve as motivators, and they can help readers set and meet reading goals. They can be awfully fun, too. On the other, they can add stress, especially if the challenge isn’t going well.

What do you think about all of this? Do you take on reading challenges? Which ones? What’s the appeal for you? If you don’t take on reading challenges, why not?


*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from  REO Speedwagon’s Keep Pushin’.


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28 responses to “Whoa, I Keep Pushin’ On*

  1. Hi Margot! The only reading challenge I participate in is my own “try to read at least an hour a day” goal.

  2. I know of a few people who set their own goals via Goodreads. I can’t imagine this type of challenge, fearing I would not complete it!

  3. mudpuddle

    i’m strictly a serendipidist, i fear… i read constantly, but it varies from car repair manuals to ancient classics… somehow the next book always appears; i never have to wait long for it to show up… i’m not much of a joiner, i guess…

    • There’s a lot to be said for reading what you’re in the mood to read, whatever it happens to be, Mudpuddle. A lot of people would rather read that way than take on challenges.

  4. Well, you know I am one of those who takes on these challenges, Margot, even though I have cut back through the years. I do find myself preferring to just read what I want to.

    Of the ones you mentioned, I am participating in the Australian Women Writers Challenge and the Vintage Mystery Scavenger Hunt. On Goodreads, I joined the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge.

    • I really respect the way you take on those challenges, Tracy. And you always share really interesting stories and novels because of them. There are times, though, when it’s just better to read what you want to read, when you want to read it…

      All three of the challenges you mentioned sound very interesting. I’ll be looking forward to your posts as you work through them.

  5. I like the sound of the deal me in challenge, especially if readers have a hard time choosing something to read and end up in a slump.

  6. Margot: I am glad you mentioned the Canadian Book Challenge. It is my only official book current book challenge.

    In recent years I have made personal commitments to read the shortlists for the Canadian Arthur Ellis Award for Best Canadian Mystery Novel and the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.

    I wish Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise would re-activate her ABC of Crime Fiction. The challenge inspired me to do some theme related ABC’s and broadened my reading base.

    • I liked the crime fiction alphabet challenge very much, too, Bill. It was a good way to read some different things, and there were different ways one could approach it (e.g. authors, titles, etc..), so there was plenty of flexibility. I’m glad you brought up award shortlists, too. Many people challenge themselves to read different shortlists, and then, like you, choose the book they think deserves to win. I think that’s a good way to get to know some of the good books that are out there.

  7. I prefer personal reading challenges rather than those that focus on a particular area – I am in the Mount TBR and Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer which in theory are reducing my outstanding reads from my own bookshelf. I do like the sound of The Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt though so thank you for highlighting this one – oh and I’m slowly rereading Agatha Christie novels too!

    • I think those personal challenges, like Mount TBR and the 20 Books of Summer (thanks for mentioning that one!) can be really helpful, Cleo. As you say, they help whittle down the personal TBR, and they can give one a real sense of accomplishment because of that. I love it that you’re working your way through Agatha Christie’s writing, too!

  8. I’ve taken part in a few challenges, like the 20 books of summer, the Triple Dare TBR reduction challenge, geographical ones etc. And I’ve failed quite a few, succeeded in some. The point is to have a community to discuss things with, isn’t it? And of course, I hope to do better justice to my personal #EU27Project, which I’ve neglected a bit because of lack of time!

    • That’s exactly the point, Marina Sofia: the community. Regardless of whether one succeeds or fails at reaching this or that challenge level, it’s the experience of doing some reading and discussing it all with others. And I know just what you mean about time issues. I admire you for putting the #EU27Project together; time is one of the big reasons I’ve not put together any sort of challenge, myself.

  9. I participate in the occasional challenge, but try to avoid ones that have strict rules or deadlines. I fail every year in the 20 Books of Summer challenge – not that I read too few books, but I keep straying from the list. But I don’t care – it’s fun anyway! I’m really enjoying being part of the Classics Club, though there’s a great chance I’ll ‘fail’ at it too. And I like to set my own challenges too – to find the Great American Novel, to read about a specific period of history in fact and fiction, and a brand new one that I’m thinking about which is crime related and may well increase my TBR right into the stratosphere… 😉

    • Well, that’s definitely the problem with any challenge, FictionFan – the damage to the TBR! 😉 It is fun, though, isn’t it? Even when you don’t read X number of books by Y date, it’s still a good time. And thanks for mentioning the Classics Club. I’ve followed that one a bit, but forgot about it. I appreciate your filling in that gap. Oh, and I do like your GAN quest very much; it helps me take a good look at US literature from another perspective, and that’s helpful for me.

  10. I love reading others’ posts on challenges, and following their progress with great interest, but rarely take part myself. But I do set myself challenges – for instance last year I absolutely loved reading through all the original James Bond books. I also, like the rest of us, am forever challenging myself to reduce the TBR…groan…

    • Yeah, mine, too, Moira *groan.* I wish there were a way to avoid that… I know what you mean, too, about following people’s progress on challenges. I enjoy doing that, myself. And I often find myself making notes for books I want to read. I like the idea of setting personal challenges, too. I was really interested in your James Bond challenge last year; in fact, I’ve promised myself to spotlight one of Ian Fleming’s novels, so I’m glad you reminded me.

  11. Col

    I’ve signed up for a few over the years and done my own personal ones, but I’ve stopped taking on any news ones for now. I’m still trying to complete the last couple I set myself in 2014! They are fun though.

    • They are, indeed, Col. Still, I know exactly what you mean about trying to complete them when there are so many other good books out there, and when the rest of life needs attention, too. There’s never enough time to do, or read, everything.

  12. Margot, another terrific post. So glad that others find various challenges perhaps not up their street. Myself I set a GoodReads 2017 challenge (which I have now passed, so perhaps I’m a bit wary of over-commitment). I do like to keep a record of what I have read during the year so this is a good way to do that. I also joined the 20/15/10 Summer 2017 Reading challenge – choosing 10 books – I have now just passed that but difficult to see whether I could get another 4/5 in before the finish in Sept, I doubt it so that’s about right for that challenge. I have enjoyed them both especially as I tend to get a number of book presents in May – not always to my usual taste – so it does tend to ‘make’ me read them. I think some of the other challenges sounded interesting so perhaps next year I’ll swap around and see how they are.

    As ever Margot always an interesting and informative post.

    • Thanks very much, LBRB, for the kind words. I’m so glad you like what you find here, and very glad that you enjoyed this post. It sounds as though you’ve enjoyed the challenges you’ve done, and that’s the most important thing, isn’t it? You have a well-taken point, too, about challenges ‘making’ you read things you might not otherwise try. Sometimes that’s a very effective way to discover a great ‘new-to-you’ author, (sub)genre, etc…

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