Why I’m (mostly) Giving Up Reading Challenges For 2021


Well, let’s just put this out there, 2020 was a rough year for a lot of us readers. The craziness of everything going caused a lot of us to shift away from our ‘obligated reading’ and focus more on mood reading as a whole.

For me, this was tough. I set a ton of goals for myself and I also joined in a lot of reading challenges. I had goodreads challenge, the Start on Your Shelf-a-thon challenge, r/fantasy Book Bingo challenge, Twenty Books of Summer Challenge–just to name a few! I was also trying purposefully, to read more books that I’ve had in my TBR for some time but of course that didn’t work out the way I wanted either.


So over the past year I’ve come to the following conclusion–I’m a mood reader and I have to stop setting up so many arbitrary book lists for myself because it takes SO much fun out of reading for me. If reading isn’t fun, what’s the point? It’s hard because I LOVEย  participating in challenges. But I also have a tendency to take on too much and this is something that I need to work on. (Am I the only one who feels like they’re a constant work in progress?) When I can’t make my goal, finish my list, complete the challenge, etc, I wind up feeling a tremendous amount of guilt. I made a commitment and now I can’t honor it and I feel terrible! The last thing I want to do is associate reading with feeling terrible.

So, my plan for 2021 is:

  • Limit the challenges I participate in. This is going to be tough because, like I said, I LOVE PARTICIPATING in things. But, I also have learn to have some self-discipline when it comes to jumping into things.
  • Customize the challenges I do participate in to make them ‘easier’ or ‘less stressful’.ย  For instance, only doing one row for r/fantasy bingo instead of the entire card,ย  or doing 10 books for 20 Books of Summer.
  • I’m not going to pick out a full TBR pile for any challenge I choose to do. I need the freedom to read what I want to read when I feel like reading it. I may pick a ‘limited’ TBR or a couple of books I want to read but it won’t be an exhaustive list.

So that’s it. I’m going to try and read like a normal person for most of the year and see what happens. I love reading challenges, so I won’t be giving them up completely, but I do need to take a step back and be more realistic with myself. What do you think about participating in reading challenges? Do you participate in any? Do you think you do too much or do you want to do more? Leave a note in the comment, I’d love to chat!

72 thoughts on “Why I’m (mostly) Giving Up Reading Challenges For 2021

  1. Susy's Cozy World says:

    “I am a constant work in progress” is my motto most of the days! And sometimes I have the same problem. This year I took part in less reading challenge than usual for the same reasons you mentioned above. Reading is a pleasure, and I don’t really want to associate it to stress and bad feelings!

  2. pagesandtea says:

    I don’t really take part in many challenges, usually just setting a Goodreads goal and doing Beat the Backlist which is fun. Apart from that I like to choose whatever I feel like reading at the time ๐Ÿ˜Š

  3. librarycryptid says:

    I like r/fantasy bingo but I think thatโ€™s because I read enough fantasy that I can casually complete it. There are a few squares that Iโ€™ll have to go out of my way to complete, but for the most part I just check the bingo card every once and awhile and go โ€œOh hey! This book I read last month fits in that square. Nice!โ€ So thatโ€™s really the only reading challenge I participate in.

  4. N.L. Baber says:

    Itโ€™s stressful just to keep up with all the great books being published. My own reading list is growing faster than I can read, but I want to support all these wonderful debut authors. Reading challenges came about to encourage people to read more and fall in love with books. I can see where a rush to meet a challenge might get in the way of fully immersing yourself in the world the author created for you. You are shortchanging the author as well as yourself.

  5. Tammy says:

    I gave up challenges a few years ago for the same reason, and honestly I haven’t missed them. I always see them and think ” that looks fun!” but then I usually forget I’m doing the challenge, lol. I will always do Goodreads, though. Good luck Lisa! I think your plan is a good one๐Ÿ˜

  6. evelynreads1 says:

    You definietly should only join challenges if you enjoy them! They should not stress you out, then the reading is no fun anymore!


  7. Farragut says:

    I fully agree with the “limited TBR” model–I have 800+ books on my TBR, so I make a mini TBR list of like 20 books that I aim for, but my goal is more like every other book I should try to pick from the mini list.

  8. mistysbookspace says:

    I take part in a lot of challenges but I donโ€™t let it get to me if I donโ€™t reach my goals. Yes itโ€™s a bit of a bummer but I always say the fun part is just trying. I thought about not doing challenges in 202q but I just donโ€™t think itโ€™s in me to do participate in challenges because I love to try.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I’m so glad that works for you! I know I do see you participating in a lot and it looks like fun. I am the type of person that I take completing them too seriously which then makes it stressful when I don’t finish them up LOL.

      • mistysbookspace says:

        Yeah I think most people are like you. At least those that I follow. I donโ€™t know but ever since I started my blog Iโ€™ve never really took anything seriously and donโ€™t get stressed out or feel pressured or anything like that. I think Iโ€™m an odd ball lol.

  9. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    “If reading isnโ€™t fun, whatโ€™s the point?” PREACH!

    I’m definitely a mood reader, too, but I do get a lot of satisfaction when I tick things off a list the way I can when I give myself a TBR for a reading challenge. Ultimately, though, reading and blogging are supposed to be fun, and I’d hate to ruin my love of reading by turning it into homework. I still love taking part in month-long and year-long reading challenges, but for me I’ve been a lot easier for myself by allowing myself to stray away from the initial TBRs I set for myself and reminding myself that if I don’t quite reach the goal I was hoping to reach, it’s not the end of the world.

    I hope 2021 is an amazing reading year for you!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I also get that same satisfaction! I think that’s why I keep joining so many challenges LOL. But when I don’t reach the goal I feel bad. Even when I tell myself not to feel bad I can’t help but feel like a failure in some way lol!
      Thank you! I hope your 2021 is epic!

  10. Lila @ Hardcover Haven says:

    I 100% agree with your sentiments! I’m a BIG mood reader and participating in challenges and read-a-thons drives my perfectionism and performance anxiety absolutely bonkers. I do get FOMO sometimes, though, so in the past year I started participating in a few select read-a-thons. What I’d do to combat feeling boxed in is for each prompt I’d choose a selection of 3 to 5 books that I was really interested in at the time of the event, that way I wouldn’t feel like I was stuck to one book and only that book. I also feel like participating in these few events was a good mental health exercise for me. I have clinical performance anxiety and it really impacts me in school and in competitive events, so allowing myself to participate in something like a read-a-thon and “fail” with no consequences is like mini exposure therapy. Anyhoo, great post, thanks for getting me thinking!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes, that’s it exactly! I also have major FOMO and I’ll admit I’m a bit of a perfectionist. That sounds like a great way to approach those challenges and I’m glad that actually failing them is somewhat useful to you! You’re welcome!

  11. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    Challenges can indeed be fun, but after a while it seems as if the “work” component takes precedence over the “fun” one, and robs the reading of most of its joy because it all becomes a sort of race, even when it’s against ourselves. So no challenges for me, and welcome mood reading! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Marta the Monogamist Reader says:

    Great reflections and I embrace your decision. As long as I was jobless I was able to do TBR and reading challenges because I had a lot of time. Now that I’m back full time working I need my “escapism” and mood reading is the rule. I think I’ll try to take part in small/easy reading challenges just because I have a massive pile of books to get through.

  13. cupcakesandmachetes says:

    That’s what I did this whole year. I gave up challenges but I also gave up doing reviews. It became almost too job like and I found myself enjoying it less. I think in 2021 I’m going to get back to reviewing a little bit but perhaps only books I feel very strongly one way or the other on.
    I think you’ll feel very liberated as a mood reader. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Realms of My Mind says:

    I’ve slowly scaled back reading challenges and goals every year, mostly because I frequently would go back to old posts and discover I had made no progress on them. The only one that has been helpful has been my Great Series Read Project. Reading a sequel a month is doable, and it’s also something that sometimes happens naturally with ARC reviews, so one way or another I’m making “progress.”

    I think this year I’m foregoing long-term goals altogether. I’ll probably return to monthly TBRs because it helps me in the short term to grab a book and go “THIS MONTH. You are reading this book sometime THIS MONTH.” But yeeeah, no more long-term projects for me!

  15. Maryam (@thecurioussffreader) says:

    I tend to set very loose goals in order to make it easier for myself. I like to have a bit of structure but I don’t like having too many challenges or goals to complete because it can quickly become too much and then, it takes away the fun in reading (and blogging!).

  16. Zezee says:

    I think that’s a good plan. I’m a huge mood reader too and struggled a bit earlier this year because of the many reading events and activities I had going on at once. I felt like I overbooked myself readingwise. I also plan to take it easy in the new year.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks! Yeah, that’s what happened with me. I had a big trip to struggle town over the summer while trying to complete my books of summer challenge. May we both have relaxed reading in 2021!

  17. HCNewton says:

    I haven’t gotten to the point where I’m planning 2021 reads yet (he says with 4 tour stops set for Jan and Feb…oops), but pretty sure I’m going to scale back. 2020 has taught me a couple of things about planning ๐Ÿ™‚

  18. Mary Drover says:

    I’m totally there with you, reading challenges can be really fun, but also put a lot of undue stress on something that’s supposed to be fun! I try to limit them to just ones I’m really hyped about, and though I do a monthly TBR on my own, I’ve also started to come around to this realization this year. Because why add stress onto something we enjoy during an already overly stressful year? It’s just not worth it, so might as well leave the stress for the things that actually deserve it!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yeah, going forward I’m all about making things more fun and less stressful! I’m the type of person who puts a lot of pressure on themselves naturally–I don’t need a bunch of more things encouraging that haha.

  19. JonBob says:

    I honestly think this is great and hope it means you manage to feel less stressed about what’s supposed to be our enjoyable hobby. I’m personally veeerry sparing about joining in events (and never challenges), I know it would just suck the fun out of reading for me and I don’t want to feel stressed or guilty about the things I do for fun. Guess this means you’re a permanent member of the mood reading club now, we’re very happy to have you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks! Hahaha, happy to be a member!
      I usually do 3-4 challenges a year minimum and 3-4 events, I think this year I’m just cutting back a lot. I’ll still do some but not in any way that it will cause extra stress. ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. Jorie says:

    Hallo, Hallo,…

    I am in the same boat rowing next to you!! I tried to scale down the challenges this year and focus on the bingo cards instead. Only THOSE stressed me out so much I think I was defeated before I began! ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Plus, I want to really hone in on my own reading challenges – one for INSPY and one for the Classics. With the Classics the hardest part was finding them all via my library. I decided to browse Scribd and found a heap but I recently was given the chance to try Audible’s Plus catalogue for a reduced rate for six months; I lost the first month or so, in time to listen ratios but what encourages me is how many Classics they have in the Plus catalogue!

    I’m starting to work on a short list of what I can start listening to and see where I can start to put a dent in my Classics Club List. Secondly, I love INSPY Lit and I want to redirect a lot of my focus next year on the authors I’ve known about and just haven’t yet read. Outside of those two concentrations – its my backlogue of reviews I want to reduce if not erase – I was hoping 2020 was the year to accomplish that but of course, this year just kicked me in the head all the way round. So, 2021 it is.

    I have some personal favourite events like: Wyrd And Wonder, Sci Fi Month, Mythothon and a few others I want to keep in my life plus some Cosy Mystery Bingo Cards I received during the #12DaysOfCozies event on Twitter — so those I’ll keep to use in 2021. I might use a few of the bingos but mostly my challenge page will be scaled back. I do track my audiobook + historical fiction reads every year, so those will stay but outside of that… its a scale back and a refocus for me this New Year.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I really didn’t try to scale back this past year but I’m definitely going to in 2021. I’m just hoping I can stick to my plan to have less plans! It’s so tough because I really do love joining in things, it looks like you do as well!

      Good luck with your challenges! I think you’ll do great at catching up and even if you don’t then it’s okay because this is a hobby and it’s supposed to be fun. Always remind yourself of that. ๐Ÿ™‚
      Wyrd And Wonder of course will be a given for me as that’s not much of a challenge considering I read fantasy almost year round–it’s one event that I always look forward to. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Meaghan @ Hail and Well Read says:

    Honestly, this seems like such a smart approach! I don’t do many reading challenges to begin with, mostly the GR challenge, but not meeting the goal of the challenge can feel really rough. Trimming back commitments and not pushing yourself to meet the overall goal if you’re not up to it is a great way to keep it from being too overwhelming. Fantastic post!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thank you! Yeah, I don’t have the type of personality where I don’t get disappointed in myself if I don’t finish something so cutting back on challenges altogether is the best option for me haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

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