2021 Reading Challenge Roundup

Oh my goodness. I started searching the web for y’all to see if I could pick a few challenges for you for the new year. There are SO MANY out there! I curated a list of six different reading challenges that looked good to me.

Some avid readers complete many challenges in one year. Even though I’m an avid reader, I just don’t want to have to keep track of all the different categories on a bunch of different reading challenges. I like the stretch of reading outside of my usual genres, but then I like the freedom to return to whatever genres I feel like in between or after working on a challenge. So I’m going to pick two challenges for this year.

Before we get to the list, a little Q&A:

Why do you even like reading challenges, Christina?

I like reading challenges because they move me out of my normal reading habits. I tend toward the same kinds of books because I know I like them. However, just like I tell my students, you might be surprised at what kinds of books you like once you try them. I know I often am! Does this mean I’ve suddenly discovered I’m a fan of murder mysteries? Heck no! But . . . I did read one book in that genre this year that I enjoyed. That’s the great thing about genres – they help us understand the book better because we have the general frame for the story – but there are myriad different flavors within the genre. Since participating in reading challenges, I have been more satisfied with the books I read and have happened upon treasures that I would not have found otherwise!

I feel like I should read more, but that’s not exactly my highest priority. Why should I make reading part of my 2021 life goals?

The fact that you’re reading this means you’re somewhat open to it. If you’re considering making reading part of your 2021 resolutions, here’s a bit of inspiration based on my own love for reading:

  • Books can make you rich. – Just kidding! Kind of. Did you know that most millionaires spend far more time reading than watching TV? Look it up – for example, this article. Books can’t actually make you rich, but there is a correlation between the those who are rich and their habits of reading. Why? Well, I’m not a researcher in this area, but I think it’s because books help us grow as people and give us new ideas. When we are exposed to fresh ideas, we’re able to apply those ideas to our lives. Which could, in time, lead to more financial success for you and me. (And, let’s be honest, all the knowledge and experiences we gain through books is a type of wealth too, right?)
  • Books spark our imagination: “Whatever man imagines is possible” – The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. I have read the aforementioned book to almost every class I have had as a teacher. And do you know what my kiddos, who spend way more time than is healthy on video games and YouTube, have said? It taught them to imagine. We need imaginative people on this planet to approach age-old, and new, problems.
  • Books facilitate more empathy toward others – something we need more of in this world.
  • Books are great teachers – not just about concrete topics, like the ocean, but about abstract concepts, like what someone else’s inner emotional world might be like.
  • Books help us realize we aren’t alone in our experiences, and therefore help us process them. Sometimes people like us don’t live near us – but we can often find them in books!
Why should I commit to a reading challenge?

Let me answer that by asking you this:

  • Are you unsatisfied with your reading life – the amounts and kinds of books that you read, and the time you spend reading?
  • Do you want to grow as a reader, but you’ve not figured out how to do that on your own?
  • Have you felt that you’ve been stuck reading genres you love, but know there must be other glorious reads out there – you just don’t know how to find them?
  • Do you tend to be more successful when you tell someone else that you have a goal?

If you answered “yes” to any or all of the above questions, then you may want to consider a reading challenge! A reading challenge helps you grow as a reader, read new things, and give you a reading community to help you reach your goals.

Though many of the reading challenges that I found online encourage you to post/write/link up with whoever is hosting the challenge, you don’t have to. Having community who is doing the same thing as us helps us be more likely to stick to something and complete it, but it doesn’t have to be an online community. Find an in-person reading buddy or group and tell them your reading goals instead!

However, if you’re the kind of person who feels blocked in or stifled by a list telling you what to do, or you’re content with how much/what you’re reading . . . don’t put yourself through the agony of saying you’ll do something that sounds awful to you.

Personal Reading Goals for This Year

Photo by Markus Winkler on

This will be my fourth year doing a reading challenge as an adult. At first, my goal was to read more books and different books than I was reading before 2018. I’ve greatly increased the amount and have been successful in trying new kinds of books in the last three years.

My goal in 2020 was to read 100 books. I surpassed that goal, but I found that I didn’t like the constant drive I felt to read more, more, more. I ended up reading not-terrible-but-not-awesome books just to add more titles to my list.

For 2021, I’d like to keep cruising in my reading by finding quality books – and not wasting my time on books that are blah to me. I’m not really going to focus on the quantity, though I still figure I’ll read between 75 and 100 books. That’s me. That might not be you: four years ago, twelve felt like plenty to me.

Reading Challenge Roundup

Here is a list of some reading challenges. I’m limiting how many I’m linking to here, because I know that for some (like me), too many options can be overwhelming and exhausting.

⭐️ = a challenge I will be doing this year

What’s in a Name – only 6 titles to complete this challenge – yet six books is more than the typical American reads. (While I can’t speak for number of books in other countries, according to this online survey, only China, Spain and the U.K. have the U.S. beat for the percentage of the population who reads daily.)

⭐️Modern Mrs. Darcy 2021 – this is the reading challenge that convinced me reading challenges are effective and worthwhile. It’s different than other years, but I think it will be even better. Still 12 books total for the whole year, but a “choose your own adventure” challenge. Signing up means you get put on an email list – but you guys. I actually read Anne’s emails more than any other list I’m on. The stuff she puts out is worth it.

Monthly Motif – This challenge leaves your choices pretty wide open, giving a phrase for each month. All you need to do is pick a book that fits the phrase.

⭐️Book Voyage: Read Around the World – this one collects titles for 12 different regions of the world – one region for each month. You can choose which title(s) to read for each region, and there’s a Facebook discussion group you can join as well. I’m curious to see what they collect. I hope it’ll be lots of books by local authors!

52 Book Club – pretty self-explanatory: 52 books, one for each week of the year. While some categories might be a little weird/difficult to find, for instance, an author with a nine-letter last name, this list gives you some creative ideas to keep from getting you in a rut.

Pick Your Poison – If I find that I need an extra boost, I may do this one later in the year, because it looks plain fun! It has five different levels, ranging from 13 to 104 books. Lots of lively categories to choose from that will get your creativity pumping!

If none of these tickle your fancy (or, blow your skirt up, as my dad would say 😳), check out Girl XOXO’s master reading challenge list oreven make up your own! I mean, “read 20 minutes a day, 6 days a week” could be your reading challenge for 2021.

What are your reading goals for this year? Share in the comments below! Your idea might inspire someone else 🙂

Happy Reading!

This and post’s first photo by Karolina Grabowska on

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