Updated: Jan 2, 2020
How to read harder, wider, deeper (which is not as dirty as it sounds)
Reading goals and reading challenges aren’t a new idea, but they certainly seem to have become more visible recently. Goodreads can probably take credit for much of the interest, especially on social media, with sharing how many books we read each year and how many books we plan to read next year. Like it not, it’s a thing people do now. And by people, I mean book nerds like me.
For those of you who enjoy reading challenges or setting new book-related goals to coincide (or replace) your new year’s resolutions, here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Read harder and wider with reading challenges
Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge encourages readers to try new genres, read more diverse authors and topics, and pick up books out of their comfort zone. The categories change each year and there is a Goodreads forum to share ideas.
The Reading Women Challenge from the creators of the Reading Women podcast is all about reading more books by women. From their website: “Here’s the rundown: complete as many challenges as you can from the list below. If you have one book that covers two categories (or more!), feel free to count it for both. It’s not a contest. Our goal is to encourage you to read widely (and fight the patriarchy, but that was probably a given), so just have fun with it!”
Create your own. My workplace creates a reading challenge each year that counts for professional development. We set it up as a list of book categories and share our “reviews” in a private group on Goodreads. The winner gets a bookstore gift card.
2. Read wider and deeper by exploring one author’s entire backlist
Become the expert in a particular writer by reading everything she/he published including critical essays, interviews, and, of course, books.
Learn this author’s influences and study those writers and artists, as well.
Consider starting with authors you like but haven’t fully explored. Unsure where to start? You can’t go wrong with Toni Morrison and James Baldwin.
3. Read wider by choosing books across one particular genre
Choose your favorite genre and read the earliest writers, the classics. For example, if you are reading short fiction, check out Anton Chekhov. If you choose mystery, it’s time to check out Sherlock Holmes.
After the classics, read the favorites that everyone else seems to recommend or mention in this genre. Ask around. Friends (and strangers) on social media love to give suggestions about their favorites.
Read the contemporary books in your genre, too. Read what is being published recently and what is winning awards. In this way you will form a broad base of knowledge.
Of course, if all of this sounds like too much work and you would rather stick to reading for pleasure without any “rules” in mind, that is cool. I think there’s a way to read for fun and have goals at the same time. Reading is the reward. There’s no wrong way to do it.