My 2017 Reading Challenge Recap

Every year, I participate in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and sometimes in more specific challenges, in addition to my personal reading goals. Last year was the first time I wrote up a recap of how well I met my goals. The end of 2016 was a triumphant time for me: it was the first time I had met my Goodreads Reading Challenge since starting college. This year, I got a little too ambitious and fell somewhat short of my goal. But overall, I would still count 2017 as a success.

For 2017, I decided to up my usual goal of 50 books to a whopping 65—which, looking back, was probably too big of a leap. As of writing this post, I’ve read 50 books so far this year, but at this rate it’s rather unlikely that I’ll make it to 65. You can check out all the books I’ve read for my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge here, and follow along with my progress. (And of course, feel free to follow me on Goodreads.) My favorite book from this year was S. A. Chakraborty’s debut novel The City of Brass, which I reviewed last month.  I also really loved Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones. I stayed mostly in my usual genre of YA fantasy novels this year, despite vague intentions to branch out more. However, I did read a lot of debut works by new authors; apart from City of Brass, there was Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly, The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis, and Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys.

In addition to my usual Goodreads Reading Challenge, I tried this year to join in Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge, after discovering its existence too late to participate last year. The Read Harder Challenge involves reading a book in each of twenty-four categories designed to push readers into going outside their comfort zones and reading more diversely. The categories change every year, and several of them are chosen by well-known authors. I really loved the idea of this challenge, but unfortunately I found that category- and genre-based challenges are especially hard for me as a book reviewer, since I often don’t necessarily pick what I’m reading next. After realizing this, I kind of gave up on the challenge after a few months, but I went back this week to fill in the worksheet retroactively, and found that I did surprisingly well: I got 14 out of 24 categories! I definitely missed all the genre-based ones that were outside of my usual reading tendencies, like “Read a book about sports” and “Read a nonfiction book about technology.” But I did okay on the more diversity-focused goals. The City of Brass was the perfect book for the category suggested by Jacqueline Koyanagi: “Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.” Bloodwitch by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is “a YA novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.” And I finally read Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which counted as “a classic by an author of color.” I don’t think I’ll try to participate in the Read Harder Challenge again next year, but maybe I’ll take a look at the categories if I ever find myself stuck in a reading rut and need to push myself to try something new.

Apart from these Read Harder categories, I also set a personal goal to read more diversely in general. In the past, I’ve participated in the We Need Diverse Books reading challenge and set a specific number of books that I hoped to read by and about members of marginalized groups such as people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, and members of ethnic, religious, or cultural minorities. I’ve found that setting a number goal hasn’t necessarily been helpful for me, so this year, I instead focused on increasing my awareness and actively seeking out these books. And that strategy seemed to work! I shelved just over twenty books onto my “diverse books” shelf on Goodreads, which is about 40% of the books I read this year. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, but that’s definitely better than I’ve been doing.

Books by marginalized authors don’t always get the same resources dedicated to their marketing and publicity as more privileged authors do, so it’s important to actively pursue these books, not just wait for them to fall into your lap as I learned last year. By filling my network and my newsfeeds with other people who value marginalized voices, I was better able to keep up with what new books by LGBTQ+ and authors of color where coming out. I also got the feeling that this year the publishing industry did a better job at devoting resources to getting the word out about some of these books, though I don’t necessarily have data to back that up. I’m definitely going to continue using the same strategies that worked for me this year to try to read even more diversely in 2018.

What are your reading goals for the new year? How did you do on your goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments!

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