Hi there! You know what time of the year it is?
Reading challenge time!
In reader land, this is the time of the year where those of us who set a challenge back in January are scrambling to finish up. This is when the posts like “Ten Short Novels You Can Finish in a Day” and “Short Stories Count for Your Reading Challenge” start popping up.
From what I can tell, most reading challenges are of the simple number variety. People choose the number of books they hope to read for the year (usually via Goodreads) and then work on that. I always do the Goodreads challenge. (This year I set a goal of 50 and I’m at 77 right now, so yay!) However, over the past few years, I’ve wanted to do something more detailed than just a number.
I’ve found that I can get in reading ruts, and I tend to stick to my comfort zone in book selection when I don’t pay attention. There’s nothing wrong with reading what you know you like and sticking with it. However, for me, especially as a writer, it can limit my creativity if I don’t branch out and step away from my comfort zone at times. So years ago, I created the Push Your Boundaries reading challenge to get myself reading more widely. Last year, I changed up the format a little bit and renamed the challenge the Read Wide Challenge.
I didn’t share my challenge officially last year, but I’ve been posting photos of my completed challenge all year. Isn’t it pretty all filled in? And a number of you have reached out wanting to know about the challenge. So here are some details if you want to do the Read Wide Reading Challenge for yourself in 2019!
Why Read Wide?
So first, before we get into the nitty gritty of the challenge, why should you give it a try?
You will discover new genres to love or re-discover old favorites you used to love.
For instance, years ago I burned out on paranormal books because I read them nonstop. They were my favorite, but when you read in the same zone for too long, books start sounding the same. So for years I haven’t read paranormal. But it was on my list this year. I picked up Jeaniene Frost’s Night Huntress series, book one, and wham, I was hooked. I realized I had missed sexy paranormal romance! Love rediscovered.
You will read things that will confirm that a genre is not for you, and you can stop worrying about missing out on those books.
This doesn’t sound like a positive thing, but it really is. I buy books I think sound interesting but then never quite get to them. This challenge forced me to face a few genres that I thought I liked but…really don’t. For instance, the comedic celebrity essay collection/memoir. I have impulse bought so many of these on sale because, hey, I love that comedienne! But then I never read them. This year, I had a Humor/Essay box to mark off. So I read in that genre. I quickly realized (after reading two of them) that these just aren’t for me. I like memoirs with a lot of emotional resonance. Ones focused on humor just don’t do it for me. I can now save my money and stop buying them.
You will give new authors a chance.
It’s easy to stick with the authors we know (and as an author, I highly encourage that! lol) but there are a lot of authors out there that we can add to our list. But we’re never going to discover them if we don’t step outside our normal reading zone.
You will diversify your reading.
I always strive to read more diversely, but that focus can slip through the cracks if I’m not paying attention. So my column focused on diversity has helped me be more deliberate about seeking out POC authors and books that feature main characters who are POC, LGTBQ, and/or neurodiverse.
If you’re a writer, it will feed your creativity.
This is a big one for me. The reason why my books are often a little outside the norm in the romance genre like The Ones Who Got Away series is because I read from all different areas. I pull ideas and inspiration from all these different genres, which I think keeps things fresh (for me and hopefully also for my readers.) If I’m only reading in my own genre, my books will start to sound like everyone else’s. I got the idea for The Ones Who Got Away because I read This Is Where It Ends (YA thriller) and Columbine (true crime/non-fiction) and wondered: what happens to the people who survive a school shooting? How do they move on as adults? That was the birth of the idea.
If you’re a person who loves to check off a to do list or complete a challenge, this is just straight up fun. It feels like a game, and there’s so much satisfaction when you get to color in those boxes. : )
How to Set Up Your Challenge
Pick your comfort zone columns
First, you need to know that this is a personalized challenge. What my version of reading wide is may be different from yours. So first, make sure you’re giving yourself your favorites. For instance, romance is my primary reading genre, and I also read a lot of YA and non-fiction, so I have three entire columns dedicated to those things and their subgenres. If you’re a big mystery reader, you may dedicate a column to that and beneath list: cozy mystery, noir, historical mystery, etc. This is about reading wide but not to the exclusion of reading the things you love most.
Pick your more challenging columns
Even under your comfort columns, there may be some challenging subcategories, but pick at least two columns that are going to make you stretch. For me, that’s non-romance genre fiction and general fiction. You can get creative with the subcategories (suggestions below). They don’t have to be “official” subgenres that the library would list. Like in my General Fiction column, you’ll find book club fiction, magical elements, etc.
Don’t put things you know you hate
This is not about torturing yourself. If you already know you don’t like a certain type of book, it’s okay not to put it on there. This shouldn’t feel like homework. For instance, I know classics and literary fiction are generally not my thing. It’s not to say I won’t ever try one of those again, but I don’t obligate myself to it on this challenge.
Make a bonus column for fun/silly categories
I have suggestions below but get creative. You want some easy wins and categories that many different types of books could fit into so that it’s not too restrictive.
Add a diversity column
I keep this simple. I list “Author” and “Main character” to mark books that were written by an author in an underrepresented category or that feature a main character who is.
Print out your list or draw your own into your reading journal like I do.
You can use my template or you can just make your own with a simple square stencil, some colorful pens/pencils, and a notebook. If you want a printable reading journal, I have a free one with my newsletter sign up. I also have a post on how to make your own journal if that’s your jam.
Choose your own rules.
Will you let one book count for more than one category? That’s up to you. I don’t but feel free. It’s your challenge!
Here are some ideas for what to put in the columns. You can select subgenres, formats, fun made-up categories. Don’t limit yourself. This is your challenge and needs to be personal to your tastes. Have a good time with it!
· Romantic suspense
· Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
· Romantic Comedy
· Old School/Retro (Romance from 70s-90s)
· Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
· Romantic Comedy
· Old School/Retro (YA from the 70s-90s)
Other Genre Fiction:
Middle Grade (and all its subgenres)
On Writing (or whatever your field is)
Entertainment (about music, movies, tv, celebrity memoirs, etc.)
Book Club Fiction
Book by POC Author
POC Main Character
Book by LGTBQ Author
LGTBQ Main Character
Book with characters whose religion is different from yours
Book in translation
Book by an author from another country
Book with a neurodiverse character
Doorstop (500+ pages)
Made Into A Movie or TV Show
Re-read From Childhood
First in Series
Book From Your Birth Year
Loved By Others
Second Chance on a DNF (did not finish)
Road Trip Story
Set Outside of the U.S./UK/Canada
Book That Intimidates You
Written By the Opposite Sex
Three in a Row of a Series
Book you should’ve read in school
Favorite Author You Haven’t Read Lately
Legendary Author I’ve Never Read
Book I’ve Owned for 3+ Years
Book Club Pick/Book of the Month Club selection
Recommendation from a Friend
Book I Bought for the Cover
Book about Books
Book about Food
Book That Made Me Cry
Book That Made Me Laugh