6 Challenges...how did I do?
The Re-Read Challenge
Goal: Re-read as many books as I want
Books read: 14
Goal achieved? Yes!
I ended up re-reading 14 books this year, three of which were on audio. Since I tend to reread either slowly or on audio, it generally takes me about a month to finish a book. Eleven books for the year makes sense.
The usual suspects appeared on this list: Karen White, Anne Bishop, Sarah J. Maas. I've reread their books for the past few years and don't see that stopping anytime soon.
I also revisited some old favorites with James Clemens (The Banned and the Banished series) and Alexandra Bracken (Brightly Woven), brushed up on Amanda Stevens (The Restorer) in anticipation of her most recent release, and did a reread of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black as a buddy read with my husband.
Revisiting old favorites was just as enjoyable as reading them the first time around. I love that I've embraced this challenge and provide myself the opportunity to experience books that have made me happy without feeling obligated to always focus on the new. I will definitely do this challenge again next year.
Goodreads Reading Challenge
Goal: 50 books
Books read: 66
Goal achieved? Yes!
I set a modest goal of 50 books, since I knew this was going to be a busy year. Plus, I love it when my progress bar says "you're x books ahead!" rather than "you're x books behind." It's much more motivating and makes me feel like I'm totally kicking butt. I figured I would probably surpass 50 books, but if I didn't, I'd be happy with hitting 50. This worked out well, and I think I'll make the same goal for next year.
Historical Fiction Challenge
Goal: 15 - 25 books
Books read: 17
Goal achieved? Yes!
I love historical fiction and I wanted to make sure I put some focus on the genre this year since it's so easy for time to slip away when it comes to reading (i.e. "has it really been four years since I last read a book in that series??" Sound familiar?).
While I included historical fantasy and historical lite in the list, what I really wanted to make sure I read was biographical historical fiction and non-fiction. Basically, I wanted to learn about history. To that end, I read four non-fiction books, which I consider a huge win for me, and seven biographical historical fiction books.
The unexpected standout for this year was the focus I inadvertently gave to the English Civil War and Restoration period, which were eras I had little interest or knowledge of prior and I do feel I gained a much greater understanding. I also gained more understanding of the earlier days of England during the pre-Stephen/Matilda snafu, which was another period of time I knew little about. This is exactly why I participated in this challenge, and why I will be joining again in 2017.
Keep the Books Off the Shelf Challenge
Goal: Read books I acquired in 2016
Books read: 40
Goal achieved? Yes!
The point of this challenge was so that I wouldn't continually add to my backlog of unread books on my shelves. Yes, it's important to read though the books I already own, but I think it's equally important to read the new books I get so they too don't languish unread for years. Isn't it better to read them when I get them rather than grow the guilt pile?
I got a boat-ton of books in 2016, so I knew I wouldn't be able to read most of them this year. And that's ok. I did end up reading a little over 10% though, which was surprising! That's also a much higher percentage that I've managed in years past. Also, 61% of the books I read this year were books that I acquired in 2016, so as far as the focus of this challenge, I think I did pretty good! I enjoy this challenge and I'll sign up for it again in 2017.
Read My Own Books Challenge
Goal: Read books I acquired prior to 2016
Books read: 10 read, 3 DNF'ed
Goal achieved? Yes!
I set a rough target of reading or DNF-ing 12 books this year. Working out to roughly one book a month, I figured that was doable. I ended up reading most of these in the early and middle part of the year, petering off with this challenge toward the second half of the year.
I really wanted to know whether the books I've been carting through multiple moves were worthy of the effort, or if I should cull them from my shelves once and for all. Of the 13 books, 7 of them were books I owned prior to 2015, which means I had gone through at least one move with them. I still have a lot of books I haven't read, but I think this is going to be a marathon not a sprint, and I think I made good progress in 2016. I'll be signing up for this challenge in 2017 and I hope to be able to read a similar number of books.
Library Reading Challenge
Goal: Read library books
Books read: 7
Goal achieved? Yes! Ish.
I didn't give myself a hard number to strive for, so it's hard to say if I achieve my goal here. There are about 43 books in my local library that I can't get elsewhere (unless I buy them), and I read/DNF'ed 7 of them (actually, I ended up DNF-ing 6 of those!). So, about 16%. Not bad.
There are some books on the list that if I moved before getting to read them, my heart wouldn't break. A few, though, I'd be seriously disappointed that I'd missed out on the opportunity to try them. Of the ones I did read, 5 were solidly on the latter list, so I'm glad I made time to try them, even if I ended up DNF'ing all but one of them.
It's strange, but this is the first time in a long time where I really don't spend much time at my local library. It's a hassle. The hours don't like up nicely with my schedule, the parking lot is annoying, and it's just so much easier to download library books or read my own. Shockingly, I ended up reading more of my own print books than print library books! I think this is the first year that's ever happened. I do still have those 36 books I want to try left on my list, so I'll be joining this challenge again next year and I'll try to focus more on the ones that are more of a priority to me.
Reflections and next up
Most of my challenges didn't have a hard number goal, which I like. It allows me to provide focus to my reading without strictly holding myself to an actual number.
I like that the Historical Fiction Challenge allowed me to focus on not only exploring history, but expanding the events and people I learned about. It wasn't until this reflection that I realized how much I had really dug into expanding my understanding of the English Civil War/Restoration period and the time prior to the Anarchy. This highlights for me how important it is to not only participate in challenges and track my reading, but to reflect on that reading as well.
Another area I'm happy to see is that of rereads. For so long I've wanted to reread books but felt guilty about doing so. Like I was taking time away from what I *should* be reading. Last year was the first year I joined the reread challenge and I'm so glad I did. By this point rereading is something I no longer feel guilty about and instead I value the time I devote to revisiting stories that have brought me joy.
I'm very pleased that I switched from a library-heavy approach to an approach that focused on reading the books I own. In years past, my focus has been reversed and while utilizing a library is never a bad thing, I think that did help me dig a hole by acquiring a lot of books and then ignoring what I had. Which led to guilt and feeling overwhelmed.
The constant reaching for more and neglecting what I have is a theme not just in my reading life, but in my life in general. Feeling guilty, overwhelmed, and constantly in a rat race toward the future hasn't been a healthy thing for me. This inward focus and appreciation for the here and now is a good thing for me and something I'd like to continue in 2017.
Overall, I'm happy with my 2016 reading experiences. I've learned a lot.