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Topic: Confessions of a Challenge First Timer

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Bruce -
Subject: Confessions of a Challenge First Timer
Date Posted: 11/18/2011 12:06 AM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2008
Posts: 3,412
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2011 marked by first attempt at various challenges which were met with varying success. First and foremost, I tackled the HF Challenge and did pretty well, I think. I achieved the Gold Medal, Around the World in 80 Days, Trend Setter, Over Achiever, and First Timer. I forgot to read Challenge #1 in chronological order and missed that goal and have not yet read a HF book involving Antarctica but the year is not over yet. I also attempted the Mystery Readers Challenge (5/12 and 4/6 on Bonus #2) and Contemporary LIt Challenge which I am one book short of completing.

In attempting these challenges I read a lot of books and authors I might not otherwise have read. This is both good and bad. Some of the books were great and I am appreciative that I was "forced" to read them; others were a waste of time. I'm sure it's the same for you, but reading a book I don't really want to read is not only a chore but it wears me out - dims my reading flame. I get that blah feeling after such a book and books suddenly lose their appeal for a while. It's like being hungry but not wanting to eat anything. I also have a huge stack of books that I have wanted to read that were put on the back burner in favor of a "challenge" book that I wasn't really excited about, so now I'm have to play catch up.

Overall, the challenges were a fun diversion and I'm looking forward to the new 2012 challenges but my goals and strategy will be different from 2011. This year, it was all about completing the challenges, finding books I could cram into the little challenge boxes. In the new year, it will be about reading books I would normally read with a few promising new books and authors thrown in. I plan on reading only what I want to read and then fill in the challenges as I go along and at the end of 2012 I'll see just how well my reading preferences match the different challenges. I won't read just for the sake of completing the challenge but I'll read for the fun of reading books that hopefully meet the requirements of the challenge. I might not totally complete any challenge, but I'm gonna have a good time trying.




Date Posted: 11/18/2011 12:35 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
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Bruce, I totally agree with you.  Here is what I wrote about last year's HF challenge:

"I'm doing the Eclectric Reader challenge, which I developed after years of failing at other challenges.  The goal is to read whatever I want, whenever I want and at the end of the year I will have completed the challenge.  Hey, it works for me."

I love this forum, but challenges drive me nuts.  Life is too short to read books that are not interesting to you.



Date Posted: 11/18/2011 12:58 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
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I see your point Bruce;  the first year I did fill out my list and found it very difficult to stick to it.  I will be filling in as I go again this year.


Date Posted: 11/18/2011 7:25 AM ET
Member Since: 5/19/2007
Posts: 4,727
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Bruce, I've felt exactly the same way.  I've done the HF challenges for two years; initially I started because I had a LOT of HF sitting around that I wasn't getting to; I kept reading for work (things I had to read) and my personal reading was getting pushed aside.  So the HF challenges were for ME.  And while I did manage to move a good many books off Mt. TBR, I acquired so many new authors!  Not in my plans, to be sure.

2012 is going to be a Read Whatever I Want and See If It Fits year for me as well.  Given the stacks around here, I have no doubt I can finish the challenge.  But my focus this year will be on catching up in some other areas as well.  

Look at us!!  Aren't we lucky to have such problems??  wink

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 9:33 AM ET
Member Since: 5/3/2008
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AMEN! yes

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
Posts: 4,136
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Bruce, you've learned the ideal challenge strategy, using the challenges for fun and to stretch your reading boundaries a little bit.  You will have a great time next year if you do that.

I love filling in the lists ahead of time, but I also change a good percentage of my books by the year's end, either because I start a book and don't like it, or because I happen to read a non-challenge book that I realize will fit the category instead.  I also purposely join challenges that I know are genres that I'm going to be reading anyway, so instead of forcing me to read the books, it just provides fun in matching the books to the categories.  Almost always, the categories that stretch my reading a little bit turn out to be rewarding, in the past few years I've probably read maybe 3 books that I really wasn't crazy about but made myself finish just because they were challenges.  I don't think that's too bad, considering that I read a few dozen that I never would have picked up otherwise but loved when I did.

I joined a lot of challenges last year, and  wasn't sure if I'd be able to finish all of them--in fact, by the end of summer I had decided to give up on the Classics challenge.  I really do like classics but almost every book I chose, including additional tries for each category, turned out to be duds.  When I realized I was dreading finding books that I wanted to read, I decided to give it up, because that is NOT what this is supposed to be about.  However, last month I realized that one of my favorite authors, Barbara Pym, can now be considered a classic writer (her books were written over 50 years ago and she is well-respected so I feel comfortable considering her books classics by my definition).  Since I can fulfill 2 of 6 categories with Pym novels, I've decided to go ahead and finish the Classics challenge too. 

But I might aim for slightly fewer challenge books this year--maybe 50 something instead of 60 something!


Date Posted: 11/18/2011 10:25 AM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
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I'm with you Bruce, I accept that I am challenge challenged and just read what suits my mood. If something fits the box great, but I want reading to be fun for me. New to me authors always upset the reading applecart anyway.

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 11:07 AM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 3,153
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Yes, Bruce, I totally agree.  I'm so happy with the classics challenge this year as we can fill categories with books from a list of 100 if we don't want to read a certain one.  I have accumulated so many HF books that I signed up for the light challenge this year with the idea that I will try to purge my shelves of many that I have not read.  And, if I don't complete that challenge so be it.  Challenges can be a chore but do get me reading books and authors I would not have read otherwise.  I skim books on the lists and discussions because I need to get on with what I have.  Still I find myself getting more books either at the thrift store or because an HF member has one they recommend.  My WL has changed little, except for those I am receiving, in the last few months!    

Last Edited on: 11/18/11 11:10 AM ET - Total times edited: 3
Date Posted: 11/18/2011 11:08 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2006
Posts: 1,930
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Oh Bruce, I did the same thing as you my first year also :-)

Now, I mostly read from my TBR and throw in a few new authors I want to try or anything that catches my attention in the library or books mentioned in the forums. I no longer feel compelled to read a book I am not interested in just because it fits a category challenge. I mostly use the challenges to broaden my horizons a bit and I feel no obligation to complete any of them. I think the challenges are fun and they help me vary my genres so I don't end up reading 50 books in one year on European HF . . .

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 12:07 PM ET
Member Since: 3/8/2009
Posts: 6,035
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It's nice to see that most of us have arrived at a healthy balance regarding the challenges.  I think I will finish the CF challenge this year, and maybe one of the four HF challenges, but I've also read some great books this year, so I'm happy with where I am landing.

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 1:02 PM ET
Member Since: 8/31/2007
Posts: 482
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It is definitely a science to go into a challenge. Usually I do "force" myself to put a few things on my challenge list, either because i've been daunted because they've been too long or because they've been on my TBR so long and they're being overshadowed by newer books. But definitely the key when determining your challenge books is to know exactly what you hope to accomplish and, knowing yourself, how you can best do that. It gets easier as years go on!

I also tend to stick to the medium-length challenges so that I can fit some things *I* want to read on the side. Allow yourself time for a break!

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 2:27 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
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I was just thinking about all the challenges I forced  signed up for this year.  I only have a few more books to read for the HF challenge, but I'm finding myself dreading to read them - I picked up Gone with the Wind, then put it down.  I read A Farewell to Arms and hated every single line in that book (but I finished it - don't ask me how).  I was going for the Gold Medal with all the achievements, but after looking it over, I decided I only need 2 more books to finish the challenge without the Over Achiever mantle.  I think I can live with that - lol.

As for the other challenges (Mystery, Contemporary, Classics) perhaps now I can salvage what's left of the year...

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 2:31 PM ET
Member Since: 10/6/2007
Posts: 3,141
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I came late to the Historical Fiction forums and at the time I was "madly" trying to finish the Mystery/Thriller Challenge, my first.  During the course of the Challenge I read a couple of so-so books simply to fill categories, but for the most part, I read books I truly enjoyed, some of which were on my TBR shelves.  The thing I have found to be most true is that via these forums I have been introduced into new authors --- which has also lengthened my wish list and added a few books to my TBR shelves as well.  Not sure if I will join any challenges next year --- my personality really does not like to join and NOT complete (hee hee) --- so I will definitely stay with the "what are you reading this month" forum threads, but may do a pass on the Challenges.  If I can somehow overcome my maniacal NEED to complete said Challenges, I may try to pursue some of the categories. 

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 4:26 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2010
Posts: 2,139
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Ahhh...I'm not alone! :) This was my first year at challenges as well, and I'm desperately trying to finish them but not sure I'll make it. I'm on the fence about joining any challenges next year. I really enjoyed doing them this year though, because I read a LOT of books I'd probably not otherwise have read and I found a lot of really great books along the way. I was also able to get several classics read this year that I'd wanted to read for so long. On the other hand, I kept getting distracted by non-challenge books that I really wanted to read, and a lot of them were door-stoppers! So not only did that put me behind in my challenges, but it also didn't get me too far in reducing my TBR pile any. (Though the biggest loser challenge has been pretty helpful with that!)

I've been thinking that my challenges for 2012 would be to read X number of books from my TBR pile, and then X number of books from a few genres I particularly enjoy (like HF!).

Date Posted: 11/18/2011 8:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
Posts: 2,438
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Ditto, Diane!! ... I love it when someone else says what I want to say, so I can just say ... uhm, what Diane said:


"I love filling in the lists ahead of time, but I also change a good percentage of my books by the year's end, either because I start a book and don't like it, or because I happen to read a non-challenge book that I realize will fit the category instead.  I also purposely join challenges that I know are genres that I'm going to be reading anyway, so instead of forcing me to read the books, it just provides fun in matching the books to the categories.  Almost always, the categories that stretch my reading a little bit turn out to be rewarding, in the past few years I've probably read maybe 3 books that I really wasn't crazy about but made myself finish just because they were challenges.  I don't think that's too bad, considering that I read a few dozen that I never would have picked up otherwise but loved when I did."


I think I will fulfill the GOLD challenge for this year, but not the Over-Achiever Badge. And, that's good enough! I'm already looking forward to the 2012 challenge! The challenges give purpose and definition to my reading choices, force me to pick up that long-ignored book and give me a great sense of accomplishment to mark them off a list. I really like having the structure of a challenge ... and try not to ever let myself too feel stressed or pressured to finish a book I'm not enjoying or to finish a challenge that just isn't happening.



Great thread, BTW, Bruce!


Last Edited on: 11/18/11 8:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 11/18/2011 9:23 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
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As many of you know I play in many swap games and run them as well so I most often read what I need for the games and work them into the challenges.

I have found some great books I would never have found without the challenges. I think my favoirte find for year that I would never have found otherwise was 1000 White Women. Very good. I also did the Mystery challenge and paranormal challenge. finished both of them.

My recommendation enjoy the challenges don't let them stress you out. I love looking at folks list to see what they are reading that I have never heard of before the challenge.


Bonnie (LoveNE) - ,
Date Posted: 11/18/2011 10:17 PM ET
Member Since: 2/17/2007
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Bruce this was my first challenge too. My advice to you is get yourself a Jerelyn...it has been my greatest accomplishment in finishing a challenge!


ps thanks Jerelyn for steering me in the right directions!

Date Posted: 11/19/2011 11:00 AM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,499
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So Bonnie, I curious what your "Jerelyn" did to help you finish?  :D

Date Posted: 11/19/2011 11:13 AM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,178
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Bonnie do I want to hear this?  surprise

Date Posted: 11/19/2011 11:16 AM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
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This was my first challenge as well.  I have done personal challenges before, but never anything in a certain genre.  I joined the HF challenge because I wanted to spread my "reading wings", but found that I actually read more HF than I thought, but also found that I really enjoyed books that weren't set in the here and now.  Finding authors that just take you away to a place you could never even imagine, or to a time you only know about from classes you had to take.  My favorite book that I read this year has to be Pope Joan.  Don't ask me why, but I continue to go back and think about that story.  I don't do that with books.  So this has been a very new process for me.  I participated in other challenges throughout the site.  Some I exceeded my challenge (YA; HF), one I didn't even get close (Classical), one I'm two away from (M/T) and one I'm completely finished with (Contemporary).  The skill I learned best this year is I can move books around to fit different categories and some books work for multiple challenges!!! lol  But the best thing is that I had lots of fun.

Now for next year, I'm going in with my eyes wide open. lol  I'm not doing as many challenges (as I completely overwhelmed myself) and my true goal is to read off my TBR.  I have so many books that I need to move along.  I have never done a large TBR goal (one year was 15), so this will be good for me.

Date Posted: 11/19/2011 12:32 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
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Diane's post fit me perfectly, too.  I have 130+ TBR (it seems to fluctuate between 130 and 140) and I love fitting books into challenges and changing it around throughout the course of the year.  I like planning and organizing it almost as much as reading them. :).  I did the 2009, 2010, and 2011 challenges, and 2010 was by for the most -- 50 books total, if I recall (I did the alpha challenge).  I thought 39 would be easy.  It wasn't.  For the first time, I struggled with it and abandoned a few books that I didn't like, and I'm a die-hard "finish it after I start it" (unless I drop it within the first chapter or two because it is TOTALLY not my cupa).  And I too ended up dropping the Overachiever.  The two categories I had left just didn't interest me. 

So I'm taking a more relaxed approach this year, too.  I've almost filled the medium challenge with TBR books that I want to read.  And I may end up doing the longer challenge, too, but it will be more of "if something a read fits" for that one.  And I may end up doing a few other genre challenges for 2012.  SHORT challenges.  The past two years I've read HF (and HR) overwhelmingly.  I thought this year I might branch back into some other genres, but I didn't.  With the 2012 HF challenge being only 18 books, I'll have plenty of opportunity to do other genres if I want. 

Last Edited on: 11/19/11 12:36 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Bruce -
Date Posted: 11/19/2011 12:52 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2008
Posts: 3,412
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The great thing about challenges is that I find the incentive to search out new authors and topics. I'm one of the few (the proud) men who like the Outlander series for example. I would never have picked up that book if not for this years HF challenge and I'm trying to convice a coworker to read Outlander. I have two SKPs sitting in my TBR pile and will get to them in 2012. Christa and the other challenge architects do a brilliant job. I'll enthusiastically tackle the same challenges this year (HF, contemp lit, mystery, and history) since those are the genres I read but I've learned to just  "go with it" and not brow beat myself and not try to force a round book into my square brain. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Date Posted: 11/19/2011 1:27 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2009
Posts: 9,178
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Bruce, My husband has listened to the first 3 Ountlander books on road trips, and liked them as well.  Good for you!  I know John (longblade) read Elizabeth Chadwicks books about William Marshall and said "they aren't girly at all."

John see Bruce liked Outlander, you should give it a try.smiley

Last Edited on: 11/19/11 1:28 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: what works for me...
Date Posted: 11/19/2011 2:43 PM ET
Member Since: 10/4/2010
Posts: 260
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Years ago I created a little rule for myself: read 100 pages of a book, then drop it if I really don't like it. I have made some exceptions for books that are so poorly written I can't get beyond, say, page 5, but otherwise, this strategy has worked well for me. Obviously, people could adjust this to fit their particular reading speeds and preferences.

I too read many books this year that I wouldn't have otherwise, & I am very pleased with that accomplishment. It's great being able to trawl guiltlessly through everyone else's challenge lists to find new reading possibilities!

Thanks to everyone who posted to this thread...I feel far less ridiculous now for having edited some of my challenge lists over 40 times. laugh

Date Posted: 11/19/2011 6:38 PM ET
Member Since: 5/27/2005
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Kristin, isn't it amazing the pressures and strictures we will put on ourselves - even in our hobbies! The first challenge - guess it was 2009, I set out my list and told myself I wasn't going to change mid-stream. Well, that all changed the minute I found myself forcing myself to read a book that was really - for whatever reason - a complete waste of my time. I told myself, the world wasn't going to spin off its axis if I changed my reading list around; that wasn't the point of the reading challenge, I wasn't violating any rules ... and, why, indeed, was I making myself miserable over something that I love to do ?!?

Giving myself permission to re-do a reading list, swap one book for another, put down a book I wasn't enjoying, etc. was very liberating ... and, in fact, has made the challenges all the more fun for me.

I think your 100 page rule is very sound. Linda read somewhere that another 'rule of thumb' is to subtract your age from 100 and the resulting number is how many pages you should give a book before moving on to another one. So, at my age of 52, a book has only 48 pages to grab & hold me. I think that is quite an injustice to some books that need more time to develop & unfold (i.e., one of Dorothy Dunnett's wonderful books).  And for some of us with more advanced years ... my word, that better be one heckuva prologue!  smiley