Good news—I just completed my 2016 Goodreads Reaching Challenge! This year, I set myself what I thought was a rather moderate goal: to read 50 books over the course of the year. Though in my high school years I think I could have easily surpassed that number, I’d been repeatedly falling short the last two or three years of doing the challenge because college really cut into my reading time. Ironically, I read far fewer books while studying to be an English major, but that’s what happens when you spend an entire semester reading War and Peace… Now, for my first full year after graduating, I’ve been truly taking advantage of the opportunity to read whatever I want again. And of course, having a book blog to write for weekly has certainly spurred me on.
You can check out all the books I’ve read for my 2016 Goodreads Reading Challenge here. And, of course, feel free to follow me on Goodreads to see even more of my book reviews, beyond those featured on The Gothic Library. Some of my favorite books from this year’s list include Cinder by Marissa Meyer, With This Curse by Amanda Dewees, and Strangely Beautiful by Leanna Renee Hieber. I also branched out into more nonfiction than usual this year with Carol Fisher Saller’s The Subversive Copyeditor, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, and Mary Roach’s Stiff.
Apart from simply having more free reading time than in college, I also developed a number of new reading habits this year that helped me to significantly boost my number of books. By far, the most life-changing of these was the addition of audiobooks to my reading repertoire. I began listening to audiobooks during my commute to work, but soon found that they are perfect for a bunch of other situations. With audiobooks, I can read while walking (without bumping into things!), and I can even read while at work if doing sufficiently mindless tasks. This has opened up plenty of extra hours during my daily life than can now be spent reading. This year, I also began to pick up more graphic novels. They read quick and can easily buff up your total. In the past, I was reluctant to spend money on such a quick fix, but while volunteering at a local bookstore I found that I suddenly had dozens at my fingertips that could be read during my shift. I started reading The Walking Dead and made significant progress through Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series. And of course, I’ve always had a fondness for young adult literature, but this year I expanded further into the children’s books umbrella and added a couple of middle grade novels and even picture books to my list.
This year, I believe I also made a goal to participate in the We Need Diverse Books reading challenge, though I can’t remember what number I pledged. WNDB is a movement dedicated to empowering and honoring the voices of marginalized groups, particularly in the realm of children’s books. Each year, the organization encourages supporters to pledge to read a certain number of books that feature rounded and realistic characters who are LGBT, people of color, people with disabilities, or members of ethnic, religious, or cultural minorities. I find that I constantly underestimate how difficult this challenge is. One thing I’ve learned is that it takes active work to read more diversely—books about marginalized groups won’t just fall into your lap and may take some work to find even when you’re looking. This lack of accessibility is caused by a number of factors—from roadblocks in publishing to the way that these books are marketed—and is part of what WNDB is trying to combat.
This year, I did really well at acquiring more diverse books, but not as well at actually getting around to reading them. But hopefully that means that next year I’ll have a head start. Reading diversely is sometimes even more difficult in the gothic genres, whose histories are entwined with colonialism, xenophobia, and fear of the Other. Luckily, I’ve been able to find some authors, like Leanna Renee Hieber, who work to actively engage with problematic aspects of the genre while continuing in the classic Gothic direction. I also read two new books this year that were excellent examples of diversity in one of my favorite genres, urban fantasy: Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older and Labyrinth Lost by Zorida Cordova. Hopefully reading more by these two authors will help me to meet my goal next year.
As this year was coming to a close, I came across a new reading challenge that I hope to participate in for 2017: Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. Book Riot is a website devoted to book reviews, podcasts, and online community. For the past two years, they’ve been creating a 24-book challenge designed to push readers to read more diversely and stretch outside of their comfort zones. The 2016 list included categories like “read a book set in the Middle East” and “read a food memoir.” I discovered the challenge too late to really participate this year, but I can’t wait to hop on the bandwagon once the new list is announced in the next week or so!
What were your reading goals for 2016? Did you meet them? What goals do you want to set for yourself next year? Let me know in the comments!