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More Than a Numbers Game

In reader circles, the end of the year brings a lot of reading challenge updates. And while I’ve been a faithful participant in these numbers-driven challenges for several years, I’m not altogether convinced they’ve enriched my reading life that much.

What has affected my reading life more are the meaningful, sometimes spirited conversations with other readers, thoughtful reviews, and book choices that create growth or challenge.

I'm never going to read 150 books in a year, and I’m not sure I would even want to. This year, my intention is to focus less on quantity, read books that help me understand and appreciate the world around me, and read more books published at least two years ago.

If you’re also looking for a way to move beyond numbers with your reading in 2024, here are a few challenges sure to inspire.

Magic City Books
Two challenges available here—one is a straightforward, standard reading challenge. The other, buzzier offering is super-secret. It’s available only in hardcopy and in person through January 31st and requires a password that must be sleuthed from a close reading of MCB’s weekly newsletter.

Popsugar 2024 Reading Challenge
In its tenth year, this is a 50-prompt challenge with an option for interacting with other participants on social media.

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge
Another decade-old challenge (this one with 24 prompts) created to help you diversify your reading list.

Professional Book Nerds
A 12-prompt challenge (one for each month) with a lot of room to make it your own.

Of course there’s always my friend Peter’s intentionally byzantine and seemingly random challenge titled, appropriately, “Peter’s Unnecessary Reading Challenge” with prompts like a book with some notable connection to one or more of the seven metals of antiquity or a book recommended by someone you don’t generally trust (no names necessary).

Peter may be onto something here, though, in creating his own challenge. Think about what you want to achieve in your reading this year. Do you want to read more diverse authors, read older titles, discover new authors or genres? Here are some of my favorite prompts pulled from a wide variety of challenges. These might be good starters for you to personalize your own challenge.

  • Read the backlist of a favorite author.  
  • Read a book that has been on your TBR (to-be-read) list for longer than a year.  
  • Read a book translated into English.   
  • Read a book suggested to you by a friend, bookseller, or librarian.  
  • If you’re primarily a fiction reader, read a nonfiction title and vice-versa 
  • Read a debut novel  

Of course, whatever you do, read what you love and never apologize for your reading taste!

Rebecca Howard is the regional manager of Tulsa City-County Library. During her 15 years with Tulsa City-County Library, Rebecca launched the readers advisory service Your Next Great Read, and served as TCCL’s county-wide Literacy Coordinator. Rebecca writes Public Radio Tulsa's monthly column Imprint.