2018 Reading Challenges

Stack of books and ereader

The year isn’t quite over, but I’m done with all my reading challenges except one, so I might as well report the results. I took on three challenges this year. I did the PopSugar and Mt. TBR challenges for the third year in a row and the Bookriot Read Harder challenge for the first time. In addition, I’ve kept a spreadsheet of all my reading for the year. 

2018 PopSugar Challenge

I did the main and the “advanced” challenges for a total of 50 books. I completed all but one of the categories by August, and I only sort-of cheated on one to get there: “A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place.” Readers, I looked and looked, on planes, trains, buses, park benches, you name it. But either I couldn’t see the book title or it was a book that I would rather stab myself with a fork than read. (No, I am not going to read The Shack.) I turned in despair to the Goodreads group and found that people were fulfilling the prompt via photos of people reading books. Success! 

My only unfinished prompt was “A microhistory.” As a social scientist who does a lot of historical work, I’m familiar with this term. However, the way reading challenges define microhistory is weird and inaccurate. Both Bookriot and PopSugar consider books like Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, i.e., books about a single commodity, to be microhistories. They aren’t. A microhistory is a study of a person, event, or locality that is not “important” but which sheds light on larger processes and trends. In other words, it’s anti-famous-person, anti-global, anti-sweeping. But don’t tell the PopSugar and Bookriot people that. As far as they’re concerned, Empire of Cotton fits the category despite having “empire” and “global” in the title. 

Obviously I could have read an actual microhistory, and in my search I found the perfect one for me, the history of an English village I’m quite familiar with. But it’s December and I still haven’t read it. I want to, but I read 200-500 pages a week of nonfiction when I’m teaching and more than that if I’m doing research. I don’t need a challenge to help me read nonfiction, that’s my day job. So I cheated. I stuck Robert Harris’s Munich in the spreadsheet and I’m calling the challenge done. I’ll definitely read the Foxton history, but on my own schedule. 

2018 Read Harder challenge

I’ve looked at Bookriot’s annual challenge in the past, but it often overlaps a lot with PopSugar or skews too much toward YA and didactic reading for me. But this year’s categories looked enjoyable, so I made up an Excel sheet for it. It turned out to be pretty easy to complete, even with three comics categories and more than one children’s/YA category, and I was done by July. I finally read A Bear Called Paddington and I returned to Dickens’ Hard Times to fulfill the “assigned book you hated or never finished” prompt. And I loved it this time, so thank you Bookriot! I fudged a little bit on the social science prompt for the above reasons (I rarely read an entire book cover to cover for work), but I figured anything that passes for pop social science counts in this so I used How to Break Up With Your Phone. It was surprisingly good. 

2018 Mt. TBR Challenge

This turned out to be a harder challenge to fulfill than I’d expected. I have a huge TBR, but as it turns out, the rules stipulate rereads don’t count if you owned the book when you previously read it and neither do library books. I hadn’t paid attention to this in previous years, so I’ve never actually completed my goals. This year, armed with a more accurate understanding, I set my goal at 24 books (the increments are 12, 24, 36, 48, and never-gonna-happen-for-me). With four weeks left in the year I’m at 20/24. 

I’m pretty confident I’ll make it to 24, since I’m trying to read a minimum of 3-4 Harlequin TBR books a month. But I won’t get much past that. Next year, however, will be different because I plan to read a lot more of my own books. But that’s a topic for the end-of-year post. Stay tuned!


9 thoughts on “2018 Reading Challenges

  1. Congratulations!
    The only challenge I do is the GR number of books in a year. And I should hit my goal (100 books) with the book I’m currently reading. I only count never-read-before books to make sure I don’t spend all my time wallowing in re-reads (though I do a fair amount of those anyway). I really want to up my non-fiction reading next year. Maybe I’ll do the MT TBR, as most of my TBR is biographies or science books… (I’ve had some of the ‘popular’ cosmology books so long they may well be outdated!)..


    1. I have counted some rereads for the non-TBR challenges, but they are books I haven’t read in years. With a couple of others I honestly don’t remember if I read them the first time or skipped them in a series, so I counted those in Mt. TBR. But for the most part I try to adhere to the Mt. TBR rules, because the point *is* to get books off your TBR and your bookshelf. And it’s been enlightening to see how caught up I can get in new books and talked about books; I thought I was reading a fair amount of backlist, but no. There is also a “virtual TBR” challenge next year, which is for library books. My wishlist is getting way too long, so this will hopefully provide me with an incentive to whittle away at it.


      1. I’m such a magpie when it comes to my library wish list! Oooo, teh shiny! An interesting blurb or good review and onto the library reserve list it goes. And by the time I finally get the book, 9 times out of 10 I’ve totally lost interest, or I DNF it after 30 pages for some reason or another. Well, I guess that’s one way to whittle the list. And that 1 in 10 book is usually really good!


  2. It’s impressive that you can juggle three different book challenges in one year! Did you have any overlaps—books you could cross off more than one list?


    1. Oh definitely there are overlaps. I think most of the Bookriot and some of the Mt. TBR books are on the PopSugar list too. But I don’t double count within a challenge. So 50 different books in PopSugar, 24 in Bookriot.


  3. I’m impressed. I think I have 7 Pop Sugar categories to go, though I am in the middle of several books that will tick them and I can use children’s books for 2 and a graphic novel for 1. I think I can make it. Probably! I doubt I will do it again, though, because in the last few months it’s felt like homework. I do want to read these books, but not necessarily right now.


    1. I’m feeling the same way. I may check in and out of PopSugar again just to enjoy the prompts, but after 3 years I’m kind of done. The challenges have been helpful to get me reading widely again but I’m well over that hump now.


  4. Well done! The only “reading challenge” I did this year was the Goodreads Challenge. I set myself 150 books and I’m already at 161 for the year. 🙂


    1. Wow that’s impressive! I am at 111 and will add 4 or 5 more I think. 100 plus or minus is pretty much my max, and if I read very many of the big fat books on my TBR that will reduce the overall count.


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