With the new year come the resolutions and goals for achieving, for doing better, for fixing the parts of one’s life that aren’t working or could be working better. For readers, of course, this means setting up a number of goals for what they want to read or how much they want to dive deeper into their reading lives with a new calendar ahead of them. But maybe instead of setting some big goals — or, indeed, maybe in addition to those big goals — you’re looking for something smaller or more achievable. Consider this roundup of weekly challenges for your reading life an opportunity to expand your reading horizons and check off a number of new, creative, and clever literary bucket list items over the course of the next 52 weeks.
The inspiration for this post, as well as a number of the ideas, come from a series of similar posts I did a few years back. These offered seasonal reading activities (summer, fall, winter, spring) which were easy to make a season from or to pick and choose items from to expand one’s reading life.
This year, I offer 52 tasks — some small and some a little larger — to enrich, grow, and invigorate your reading life. You can do this week by week or you can do multiple tasks across a single day. You can jettison some of the tasks that don’t interest you and replace them with something else or simply use this as a tool to help stave off boredom throughout the year. Some of these may already be a part of your everyday life, and if that’s the case, carry on or encourage someone you know who may not do these things to consider joining you in them. Imagine, for example, taking a neighbor to the local library to get a library card who’d never been inside and being able to offer a tour of your favorite spaces, collections, and offerings within it.
As we are still in a pandemic, all of these are offered with the knowledge they are and can be made COVID safe. They are offered in no particular order, so go at this however you would like.
These weekly challenges are meant to be fun and not work, so don’t stress about doing them correctly or following any certain how-to to achieve them. Instead, give yourself over to creativity, wonder, and joy in your reading life. Most, if not all, of these activities are no or very low cost.
You can, of course, also pair these little challenges alongside the Read Harder 2022 tasks.
52 Weekly Challenges For Your Reading Life
1. Read a cookbook cover to cover and choose at least one recipe to try from it. If you’d like to go further, grab a few cookbooks and host your own showdown of recipes of a single item (for example, biscuits or hummus).
2. Begin every morning with a poem. You can choose from a collection or have a poem a day emailed to you. Maybe you follow a handful of poetry accounts on your favorite social media account.
3. Do a book puzzle.
4. Sign up and take a literary class. There are tons of free or inexpensive options to choose from, including free English literature classes online, online writing courses taught by writers, and courses through sites like Lit Reactor. Don’t feel limited to book websites, though. Atlas Obscura, for example, offers a ton of really fun classes that would appeal to any book lover’s heart, as does Airbnb.
5. Watch a book made into a film or television series.
6. Borrow a stack of picture books from your local library and spend a lazy morning or afternoon enjoying them in bed with your favorite beverage (hot, cold, boozy, doesn’t matter!).
8. Visit a place within 50 miles of your home where there’s a famous landmark, museum, or other public spot honoring an author or a book. The more local, the better!
9. Chances are, you don’t pay attention to the world around you as much as you could when you’re out and about. Change that by capturing literary, poetic, and other bookish references you see in the wild with your phone camera. Collect them on Instagram or Flickr and create a collage at the end of the season or year (or create your own Google Map). You’ll be surprised where these things pop up.
10. Leave a review for a book you love but hasn’t gotten much attention on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, social media, or anywhere else you know people look when choosing what to read next. Be its champion. Bonus if the book is from an indie press or by an author from communities of the global majority or who is queer.
11. Challenge everyone you know to come up with their five favorite words and why. This makes for a great game when you’ve got time to kill waiting in lines or driving in cars. This is an especially fun one to do on social media.
12. Pick up a word search, crossword puzzle, or other paperback word game book from your local grocery store and work your way through it. These are great to stash in a bag or purse on the go or to tinker with during a bath, before bed, or other periods of time when reading may not be an option or of interest.
13. Discover a new book podcast and add it to your library of listens. You could easily pair this activity with a book puzzle or, depending on how much your brain can juggle, a word-based game.
14. Drive to a bookstore you’ve always wanted to go to, even if it’s five or eight hours away. Especially if it’s five or eight hours away. If you can’t drive to one, the next best thing is to see if they have an online store and purchase from them that way. If neither of those are an option, why not spend some time on Google Maps and dream up what an ideal day would be were you to visit that store sometime. Let yourself be budgetless and without any logistical constraints.
15. Make that reading nook you’ve always wanted to make using just what you’ve got around the house. Look for those pillows, blankets, posters, pictures, promo items, chairs, what-have-you and pull them together in a corner of your house or in your yard. Get comfy and get inspired by some reading nook ideas, from large spaces to teeny tiny ones.
16. Name your plants something literary. Name them something obscure from mythology or fairytales. Give those suckers appropriate name tags. Don’t have any plants? Name something outside your home the same way and greet it every time you walk by.
17. Buy a coloring book and coloring utensils. Take that coloring book to the beach, to the park, anywhere, and just let yourself enjoy coloring. Have kids? Family coloring party time!
18. Grab a piece of poster board and create poetry using candy wrappers, box tops, or any other product label. Example: Mary Jane Snickers at Nerds. Count Chocula Dawn(s).
19. Buy a new notebook and fill it with favorite literary quotes.
20. Reread a book you read in school that you remember enjoying. Highlight or annotate the book with favorite quotes or insights gleaned on this read. If you’re really eager to write, too, maybe consider what those insights mean about you now, versus when you were younger.
21. Go to your local high school or community college’s fall play. You might not know anyone there, you might not know the play, but you’ll get to enjoy something that young actors and actresses poured their heart into.
22. Spend a night or two laying outside beneath a nice blanket with some cider and watch the stars. Then read a book or two about space, the universe, and everything out there. Don’t want to do it at night? Same idea, but do it in a local park or community space.
23. Choose a series of books you’ve read before or that you’ve been meaning to read, then read them start to finish.
24. Take a readcation. This doesn’t need to be anywhere. You can choose to do your readcation at home.
25. Buy yourself a fancy notebook, a fancy pen, and dedicate ten minutes every day to writing. Don’t think too hard. Just write. If nothing else, it will feel good to open up and use a fun notebook and pen each and every day.
26. Write a letter, by hand, to an old friend or to a family member you haven’t talked to in a while. Along with the letter, send them a list of books you think that they should read. If you’re feeling really generous, send them a book or two. Buy yourself fancy a stationary kit if you’d like!
27. Visit a new-to-you library. Wander the stacks. Attend one of their programs. Enjoy one of their periodicals.
28. If you don’t have a library card for your local library, go get one. Then use it on stuff in the building, as well as any digital goods they offer.
29. This is a much bigger task, so choose how to approach it in a way that makes sense for you. Consider how you can help work against book censorship locally or nationally and give being part of your library board consideration.
30. DIY a bookmark. If you don’t want to do pressed flowers, there are so many options for the kinds of bookmarks you might like to try, so poke around for tutorials online.
31. Attend a reading or open mic night — virtual is more than encouraged! — for an author about whom you know nothing. Then buy or look up their work to enjoy later.
32. Invite your bookish friends over for a readover — a sleepover where instead of sleeping, you read. Make sure everyone brings a small stack of books with them so you can swap and share.
33. Read a book aloud to yourself, to a pet, or to a loved one. Make it romantic. Or don’t!
34. Host a literary picnic. Invite friends for a pot-luck style meal and in addition to bringing food, have them bring five books. Then, over said meal, talk about the books. Lend and borrow as you please.
35. Take a daily or weekly walk with an audiobook that you only listen to while on a walk.
36. Make spine poetry, take a photo, and share it on social media.
37. Create your own literary scavenger hunt. Pick a book from your shelf, open to a random page, then try to find all of the objects around your home or neighborhood that are mentioned on that page.
38. Try out exercising while reading. If it doesn’t work for you, ditch it without shame. If you like it, stick with it!
39. Participate in an organized readathon. Dedicate a weekend or chunk of time to nothing but reading as much as possible OR reading down the books you keep meaning to get to.
40. Take on the identity of your favorite author or fictional character when asked for your name at the coffee shop or other place where you can take on that identity. Note if anyone notices or comments.
41. Pick a random location on Google Maps anywhere in the world, then borrow a book either set there or a book about the history and culture of that place.
42. Get that literary tattoo you’ve been wanting — permanent or temporary.
43. Spend some time identifying your favorite illustrators. Which comic style is one you love? Who creates the art for picture books that stick with you? See if they have their own shops to sell art.
44. Challenge yourself to read one book that was nominated or a finalist for any literary award the year you were born.
45. Make your own bookish tote bag. Grab a blank canvas bag, some iron-on letters or fabric paint, and go to town. Don’t need your own tote? Make one for a friend or a loved one.
46. Expand your horizons and learn a new-to-you language. Download the free version of Duolingo or utilize the databases in your local library. Pick something that might be “useful” for you — or choose a language that you’re just curious about, even if you’ll never do anything more with it than learn some phrases.
48. Write a fan letter to your favorite author. Know that no matter what nice things you say, it’s going to make their day, week, month, or maybe even their year.
49. Browse a favorite childhood comic and let yourself be nostalgic. Great options to consider are Family Circus, Garfield, or Calvin and Hobbes.
51. Create wishlists of books (audiobooks, comics, anything!) you’d like to read. Keep them public so your loved ones can send you surprises.
52. Make a habit of reading local news regularly. It doesn’t need to be daily, but keeping abreast of what’s going on in your backyard is the surest way to stay informed, as well as to know when you may need to step up, write in, advocate, or otherwise engage in local democracy. Digital is fine, but picking up a print paper is also powerful, as the act of holding a newspaper makes a story more immediate and tangible (not to mention tactile). Once you’ve done this, stream Storm Lake on PBS to understand why this small habit has such a huge impact.
Have fun. Get creative. Grow your reading life into something bigger, bolder, and more exciting than it already is.