5 Steps To Plan For A Reading Challenge

I wrote a post about this at this time last year, in preparation for my First Annual While I Was Reading Challenge. I’m sharing it again now, with a different title and a few tweaks.

With a little over a week left in 2018, many of us book nerds are busy planning our reading lists for the New Year.

If you’re participating in a reading challenge for 2019 or thinking about it,  I certainly hope you will join my 2019 While I Was Reading Challenge!

In addition to my own challenge, I’ll once again attempt the Annual PopSugar Reading Challenge, which I finished this year, along with Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.

Adding together the prompts from all three challenges gives me 62 slots to fill. My goal for 2019 will be to read 125 books, which leaves me with 58 “freebies.” The good news is, as of today I’ve read 152 books this year and might finish one or two more. Plus I’ve already penciled out title ideas for those prompts and can fill all but maybe four with books I already own.

So with all this planning happening around my book shelves, I’ve had a couple people ask me to share tips for how and why I choose my books for my reading challenges.

Reading habits are highly personal and subjective, so you may find this advice doesn’t work for you. I’m not the sort of person who likes to “just wing it” in any aspect of my life! I thrive with structure and guidance in all aspects, especially reading. I’ve found that getting through 100+ books a year takes quite a bit of strategy. So here’s my advice…

5 Tips For Preparing For A Reading Challenge


  1. Comb through your shelves at home

Print out your challenge list, grab a pencil, and look through all the books you already own. Jot down any title that seems like it’d be a fit for each category.

My book cart houses my immediate TBR titles



2. Review and update your To Read List

This is a great opportunity to buy, or at least make note of, any books you’ve been wanting to read. Look through lists of best sellers from 2018, or any other lists that may appeal to you (maybe from The Great American Read), and see which of those you’re interested in that could fit a challenge category.


3. Think outside the box


This is the most crucial step, especially if you’re doing a reading challenge to get outside your usual reading habits. If you generally stick to fiction, that’s probably what you’ll think of when you initially brainstorm the challenge categories. Here are some other aspects to consider:

Classics you’ve been meaning to read forever

Non-fiction, including memoirs and biographies, and coffee table books

Young adult and middle grade novels, as well as children’s books

Read through a cook book

Re-read one of your favorites. (I highly recommend listening to the audio book of a beloved title, for a completely different reading experience)


Read a travel guide for some place you’d like to visit



4. Choose more than one option for each category

You don’t ever want to feel like you absolutely must finish a book to check off that prompt. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, there will be lots of options for each category, especially if you are creative!

*Decide ahead of time if you’re going to “double dip,” meaning permit yourself to use one title for more than one category.


5. Don’t force it

If you start a challenge and don’t like how it feels to be choosing what to read next based on the list, don’t continue. Reading challenges aren’t for everyone. Quit a book if you aren’t feeling it. Use this as the wonderful opportunity it is to cull your shelves. If you start a book and don’t like it, you don’t have to keep it. Give it away and free up that space for more titles you will love!



How are you preparing for reading in 2019?! Are you participating in a reading challenge?

Do you have any advice to add to my list? I’d love to hear from you!

And remember, you can join in the discussion for my While I Was Reading 2018 Challenge on Facebook and Goodreads! I’d love to have you on this journey with me, and all my supportive bookish friends!

You can download a printable list of the challenge categories here.

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