Why It’s Okay to Fail Your Reading Challenge

Rebecca Wei Hsieh

Staff Writer

Rebecca Wei Hsieh (she/her) is an NYC-based actor and writer with a BA in Theatre and Italian Studies from Wesleyan University. She doesn't enjoy talking about herself in the third person, but tries because she's a Hufflepuff. A proudly awkward queer Taiwanese American from three continents, she fancies herself a connoisseur of bad puns.

Okay, we’re only a month into the new year, so maybe I’m being a little too pessimistic. But I’m fairly certain that I won’t be able to complete my reading challenge this year. I’m in good shape so far, but I know I’m going to lose steam as the year goes on.

There are iterations of reading challenges everywhere. We even have the Read Harder Challenge here at Book Riot. They crop up around the end of the year when we’re all busy pledging resolutions, hoping to become better versions of ourselves.

Reading challenges have definitely pushed me to read more, especially because they tend to be public and I’m frankly quite vain. However, I inadvertently begin to stress out about catching up with my reading challenge, turning a beloved pastime into a chore to add to a never-ending to-do list.

And that’s why this year, I’m repeating this to myself every time I update my Goodreads account: it’s okay to fail my reading challenge.

Why it's okay to fail your reading challenge. reading life | reading habits | reading challenges

Reading Doesn’t Have to Be a Burden

During college, I regularly signed up for reading- and writing-heavy classes. I’m a giant nerd who loves words, so I figured ploughing through hundreds of pages would be right up my alley. I was so wrong.

I’m not proud of this, but I ended up going to class unprepared because all the mandatory assignments killed my love for reading. (I am, however, proud of my ability to pretend to have done the readings.)

Since graduating though, I’ve been wolfing down words every second I have because it no longer feels like a tedious task I need to complete to pass a class.

Ditching the “I have to read X many books” mindset can help bring the joy back into reading. Remember, it’s a challenge to help you read more, not an obligation you have to fulfill. You didn’t sign a contract with the devil (as far as I know).

On that note…

You Don’t Have To Finish Every Book You Start

Yes, that’s right. Life’s too short to suffer through a novel with dry vocabulary and even drier characters. Sometimes a book is interesting, but you’re simply not in the mood for a new adult sci-fi murder mystery romance. Sure, maybe it just has a slow start, but if you truly can’t stand it anymore, put the book down! You can try again later or not at all.

We put so much pressure on ourselves not to quit things. How many times have we been told quitting is an act of laziness or lack of determination? But in reality, giving up on a book is a way to maximise your time and energy for things that you actually enjoy and benefit you.

Besides, if you hate a book, it’s hard to soak in the contents and complete your reading challenge, anyway.

Take Your Time—You Don’t Have To Read Nonstop

We’ve all had that one serious book hangover. You know the feeling: books with worlds so enthralling that they seem to seep into your everyday life. Poems with vivid imagery that you can’t stop thinking about. A book hangover makes it hard to continue onto your next great read, no matter how amazing it may be.

Sometimes you may even need to take a break halfway through the book, whether it’s due to a gut-wrenching character death or a spine-chilling plot twist. And that is totally fine.

Take your time and allow yourself to mull over what you just read. It’s part of the reading experience, after all!

If you’re looking to increase your reading and decrease your stress, here are some great reading challenges without deadlines.

Life Happens, So Be Kind To Yourself

While I prefer to read when the mood strikes, some of my friends have schedules and a timeline. They want to finish a book every two weeks, or set aside a certain amount of time to snuggle up with a book and cuppa.

But life is full of surprises, both pleasant and unpleasant. You might have an exciting new project to complete, or an unexpected tragedy hits you when you’re already rock bottom, or maybe you’re simply tired.

It’s perfectly okay to put your reading challenge on hold and take time for yourself.

Respect your limits. Take care of yourself. You’re not a failure just because you didn’t read a certain number of books.