By Laura Giacobbo and Mariana Rodrigues
30 books may seem daunting at first, but if you think about it, reading 2 and a half books per month isn’t that much of a challenge if you choose books you like and set realistic goals for yourself. You’ll find that undertaking this challenge has many benefits; not only will this help you academically, but it can also affect your lifestyle and help you develop better habits. From our personal experience, reading can be a great way to unwind and improve your mood after a stressful day, as it allows you to redirect your focus to something productive while keeping yourself entertained. Additionally, this challenge is very flexible to your preferences; if the thought of reading two whole books in 30 days seems impossible, start with shorter books so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and truly have fun. You can also organise yourself to read more during periods of the year when you have more free time, for example, during vacation. This is a great way to get back on track if you find yourself struggling to get through a book due to schoolwork or feeling unmotivated.
How to go about the challenge
This challenge becomes a lot easier when you break it up into smaller parts. But first, how do you start? Before anything, we recommend you set up your reading goal online. The app Goodreads is a very useful tool in doing so since you can mark and review all the books you’ve read, as well as those which you want to read. Most importantly, it allows you to set up your reading goal for that year, keeping track of how far along you are, and how many books ahead/behind schedule you are too. This can help you better organise yourself and keep track of your progress without too much of a hassle. As shown below, Goodreads will display what you are reading, what your friends are reading, and suggestions based on what you’ve read in the past.
You can find Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/ , or download the app on your phone.
Although you don’t have to pre-plan every book you’ll read each month of the year, taking note of some books you’d like to start with can also give you a better sense of direction as you face the initial stages of this challenge. While doing this, ask yourself the following questions: What type of books do I like? What types of books would I like to experiment with this year? What books have my friends/family suggested? What books do I already have access to? Making a TBR (to be read) list is something many readers do and a great way to make sure you don’t forget about certain books you want to read in the future. You can do this on Goodreads by searching up the books you like and marking them as books you want to read; they also have great book recommendations for every genre, so this website is great for getting started with this challenge.
The questions above can help you gain an initial idea of where to start. Beyond that, considering where you can find books is also important. Remember that physical bookstores are not the only option; ordering or even reading books online, borrowing books from your friends, or even getting books from the school library are all practical alternatives. Although most bookstores here in Brazil tend to sell most of their books in Portuguese, it is also possible to find an English section by asking one of the workers. You can also order books in English from Amazon, or from the website of certain bookstores here in Brazil as well! Some of our personal favourite bookstores include: Livraria Cultura and Livraria da Travessa (which, by the way, has a store near school).
As you go along with the challenge, you’ll find that your motivation won’t exactly be constant, but staying motivated is all about your state of mind. Looking at this challenge like extra work won’t get you very far; instead, think of it as a way of becoming the best version of yourself, going out of your comfort zone, and really testing how far you can go. It’s also an opportunity for you to build a healthy habit, so it can be helpful for you to read as regularly as possible. Be it every night before you go to bed, or for an extended period of time on the weekends, finding times that you can fully dedicate yourself to reading is key to not only staying motivated but being disciplined. You can also use reading as a way to help you relax after you’ve completed a lot of schoolwork. That way, you can build a positive mindset toward the activity and genuinely look forward to it.
It’s important to tailor your approach to this challenge to best fit your own interests and needs. Because of that, we’ve added some more personalised suggestions below.
Book recommendations for each genre
Thriller: The Shining (Stephen King), And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)
Action/adventure: The Maze Runner Trilogy (James Dashner), Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
Mystery: The Maid (Nita Prose), A Murder is Announced (Agatha Christie)
Fantasy: The Atlas Six (Olivie Blake), Circe (Madeline Miller), The Shadow and Bone Trilogy (Leigh Bardugo)
Horror: Pet Sematary (Stephen King), Down a Dark Hall (Lois Duncan)
Romance: All The Bright Places (Jennifer Niven), Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Benjamin Alire Sáenz)
Use time away from school to your advantage: Sometimes reading two books in a month can be a very unrealistic goal because life can get very busy or you might be struggling with a reading slump (more on that on my next tip). I often find that I’m over 5 books behind on my reading goal as the year progresses, and it’s not exactly easy to read 5 books in a month. That’s why I always take time during vacation to read as much as I can. Usually, I read around 10 books or more during winter vacation in July with time to spare, and I end up ahead of my reading goal.
Getting over a reading slump: Reading slumps can be the biggest obstacle you face when trying to complete this challenge, and they are very unmotivating. A few ways to cure a reading slump are to:
Reread books you really like – many people say rereading books is pointless or boring, but there are so many benefits to reading a book you like again. For one, you might not notice important details the first time you read a book, and rereading a book after you’ve gained a lot of insight on it can completely change your outlook.
Find shorter books to read – a good way to get back into reading is by finding shorter books. You could even read short stories, as they are very easy and quick reads.
Read along to audiobooks – this is actually a great way to read classics, as reading along to someone else helps you maintain your attention and focus on the task at hand. If you use YouTube videos, for example, you can also adjust the speed at which the person talks so that you can read at a comfortable pace; this might also help you get through a book faster.
Try reading different genres of books – stepping out of your comfort zone can be a great way to find new interests and add some variety to your reading challenge. Books of the same genre can seem very repetitive after a certain point, so discovering new authors and genres might be very useful for keeping you motivated.
Do this challenge with friends: Having a small community of people who like reading as much as you do is a great way to simultaneously keep yourself motivated and help motivate others. Through Goodreads, you can follow other people you know and follow their progress, as well as see what they’re reading. Taking a look at what other people are reading is a good way to discover new books if you’re unsure what you’ll read next, and seeing their progress in their reading challenge is oftentimes very inspiring, so undertaking this challenge with friends to support you and be supported is one of the best things you can do. If your friends aren’t particularly interested in reading, feel free to follow us on Goodreads to do this challenge with us (we’ll link our accounts below)!
Read book series: Reading an entire saga often feels smoother than reading several stand-alones. I highly recommend finding trilogies or smaller series that can help you bump up the number of books you read, without having to commit yourself to countless different storylines. That way, you can check several books off your challenge, while only having to devote your attention to one central theme/fictional universe. The feeling of finishing an entire book series is also very fulfilling, and the overall experience is much more heartwarming, since you’ve had more time to get familiar with the characters, setting, etc.
Vary the length of your books: Search for longer/shorter books depending on the time of year. If you’re really busy, shorter books will keep you engaged without taking too much of your time, and can also help you catch up to your goal whenever you fall behind. Last December, I was 13 books away from my goal, and reading shorter books was the only way for me to get back on track. That being said, remember to test yourself! Read books that are longer than you’re used to, don’t be afraid to take on larger books. You’ll find that a good 400-page book passes by just as quickly as an average 200-paged book. By the end of the year, all the pages that you’ve read will add up in Goodreads’ reading “Year in books” report, similar to spotify wrapped, and you can see the total number of pages you read, as well as your average book length for that year.
Get into the mood of the book you’re reading: If you find yourself away from home, try to pick up a book that matches the atmosphere of the place you’re in. For example, reading a book that takes place near or even in the sea when you go to the beach, or a scary book when you go someplace old and archaic. Alternatively, you can pick up a book that matches your mood, or even the season of the year. All of these things help you to better connect with the book, and transport yourself into the story, making it all the more engaging to get through it. However, if that doesn’t work, you can always try one of the following:
Listen to music that reminds you of the book or its setting. Whether you make your own playlist, or find one online, this can also help you stay focused while reading.
Read with ambient music/sounds in the background, since this has a similar effect to regular music, but can be better if you find that regular music distracts you rather than helping you concentrate. You can even light a candle to set the mood of your current read.
Read with ambient videos: these are often designed to include visual and sound elements that take you back to the atmosphere of the book you are reading. More famous books often have ambient videos made specifically about them on Youtube, but you can always find videos that match the mood you’re going for.
Read outside! Reading in the same place all the time can feel repetitive. Finding alternative locations can allow you to have a more fun and dynamic experience.
Taking the time to read during the day is an excellent form of relaxing and prioritizing your personal well-being. In proposing this challenge, we hope to incentivize you to take more time for yourself this year and work towards self-improvement in your reading goals. Moreover, we hope to make this process as smooth as possible with our guide and to remind you that reading can be easygoing and entertaining. We’re confident that if you keep our tips in mind you’ll be able to complete this challenge this year and develop healthier habits to maintain in the future!