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’.