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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Reading Challenges and Reading Itineraries

I rarely participate in reading challenges any longer, but I often choose to take a reading journey concentrating on an author, genre, setting, time period, or topic.

I recently found this DIY Reading Challenge that gives 50 ways to create your own personal reading challenge.  Here are a few that interested me:

9. Go to the library once a month, browse the stacks, and pick a book that looks interesting to you, but that you have never heard of and that no one has recommended to you. Make sure you’ve never heard of the author, either.

(#9 -- I have done this many times, but not recently--choosing this way can lead to new authors and subject matter.)

11. Pick a subject you’re interested in—it could be anything. Knitting. The history of French macarons. Space exploration. Sex toys. Seriously: anything! Now make a reading list that throughly explores that subject. Make sure to include books of different genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.) Think about the authors you’re including on your list—try to include authors from diverse backgrounds. Your reading list could be three or ten or twenty books.

(#11 -- What I like about this one is looking at a topic in different genres, including poetry.)

29. Find a class syllabus for a class you’d wish you’d taken in college, or a class that’s locally offered at a community college or continuing education center, but that you don’t have the time to actually take. Read all the books on the syllabus. Syllabi are actually quite easy to find—a quick google search of “Afro-American history” yielded dozens. Try a more detailed search to find a syllabus to match your particular interests!

(#29 -- Another version of the class syllabus is to look at the bibliography at the back of a book of fiction or nonfiction that provides great sources on the subject.  I've done this with both fiction and nonfiction titles.)

39. Get a group of friends or family together. Have everyone write down a book they love on a piece of paper and put it in a hat. Pass the hat around and have everyone draw a paper. Read the book you draw. When you’re done, have tea and discuss it with the person who chose it, or get together and have a big potluck.

(#39 -- I like the idea of exchanging titles by drawing from a hat.  Another version I've read about people doing is an actual book exchange.  The book might not be one you would ever choose for yourself...which can prove surprising.)

I also look at the books others choose for the reading challenges they are participating in and make a list of their choices.  Always a great source of interesting titles!

For years, I've gotten lost in a number of my own itineraries:

Reading Itineraries (mostly about my fascination with the Tudors)

In 2007, I read several fascinating books recommended on Lotus's blog about the Middle East, both fiction and nonfiction.

An Arctic itinerary that started with fiction and moved to nonfiction.

There are also the yoga book itineraries and the brain/neuroplasticity book itineraries.... I can get excited about finding books to add to previous itineraries as well.

What are some of your favorite book itineraries?


  1. I love these suggestions...especially the idea of reading itineraries. I kind of read that way any way, but I would never have thought to call it that. Great post! :D

    1. A lot of people read this way, following an idea or a topic. It is especially rewarding when you learn something new and find another connected path to follow. :)

  2. That DYI reading challenge is great. Lots of good ideas to make a challenge your own. I still participate in challenges and I would say my completion rate is 50/50 but I don't mind. I love the idea of a reading itinerary. I tend to sort of have some reading plans for the year but itinerary sounds done with more intention!

    1. It is fun to chart the way one book leads to another, isn't it? Sometimes it begins with a coincidental mention of a name, place, or event in several books, and when I realize that I decide to pursue it deliberately. A mention of Teddy Roosevelt leads to National Parks to the biography of his daughter Alice to politics of the day...

  3. What a great idea. I don't participate in reading challenges anymore but I do like the concept of this.

    1. People often dismiss mysteries, but I learn a lot from some of them because some will mention events that I'm unaware of and then start checking them out. Historical mysteries often lead to strange itineraries that wander away from the original topic. :)

  4. This is a great idea, Jenclair. I think all of these are very doable. I love the idea of number 39. I suppose that's kind of what we do in the mail book group I belong to, just different.