Newsletter 1

The Panic Read: Does It Really Matter If You Don’t Complete A Reading Challenge?

Jen Sherman

Staff Writer

Jen is an urban and cultural geographer who did a PhD on public libraries and reading. As a researcher, her interests are focused on libraries, reading, book retailing and the book industry more broadly. As a reader, she reads a lot of crime fiction, non-fiction, and chicklit. And board books. All the board books. You can also find her writing about books for children and babies at Instagram: shittyhousewife / babylibrarians Twitter: @jennnigan

Recently, fellow Rioter Rebecca Renner dispensed five tips for reaching reading challenge goals. Like Rebecca, I started the year with much hope when it came to reading challenges. I was so hopeful that I even signed up for two challenges—Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge as well as a challenge hosted by my local library.

Things were going well, and I was on track to finish by the end of the year. And then the end of the year drew closer. It is now early October, and although there are still technically almost three months to go until we farewell 2017, I have less than four weeks before my due date and a tiny demanding human enters my life.

I read Rebecca’s tips wondering if they would help me read six books in about three and a half weeks. I decided that the only one that I could realistically implement was the one where she suggests taking time out for reading every day. I’ve tried to do that, but even so, achieving the goal seems impossibly far away.

For the past month, I’ve been engaging in what I call ‘panic-reading’. This is the kind of reading you do when you’re in a panic and NEED to get it done. You know, the kind where you need to read something to prepare for a class and it’s the night before and you haven’t so much as looked at the title. Or the kind where a library book you’ve had for two and a half weeks is due in three days and you haven’t even opened it—and you can’t renew it because someone else has it on hold.

The Read Harder panic read is more of a medium-term panic read. The goal is still achievable if I did nothing else for the next three weeks but read. Or read nothing except challenge books. Up until a few days ago, I was still clinging to the hope that I would finish the challenge (I’d given up on the second challenge). Then I thought about why we do these challenges. Why do we sign up for challenges like Read Harder, or set numerical targets for ourselves?

We might do challenges as reminders for us to read more, or to broaden our own reading horizons and step out of our comfort zones. I took on the Read Harder challenge because I was slightly ashamed at how narrow my reading was, and how un-diverse my reading tastes had become. I wanted to feel like I deserved the title of ‘reader’ (even though I tell everyone else that as long as you read, I’ll call you a reader). I signed up to reading challenges to for myself to read more than just chicklit and crime fiction, and seek out new kinds of books and authors.

Over the course of the year, I have read books I would never have otherwise read, and my reading log for 2017 is far more diverse than any other reading log so far. I have read unfamiliar authors, new genres, and books I typically wouldn’t have even glanced at in the library or bookshop. So even though I may not reach the official goal of Read Harder, I feel that I’ve achieved my own goal of reading harder. I’m still going to try and ‘officially’ finish the challenge, but I’m also okay if other life events get in the way. After all, the challenges for me were simply tools to help me reach a different goal: to become a better reader.

What about you? Are you on track to finish the reading challenges you’ve signed up for? What are your thoughts on not finishing them? Will you be kicking yourself or accepting that it’s okay to not finish what you started?