Your (Unusual) Reading Challenge

Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.
— Virginia Woolf
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Set a reading challenge worthy of a writer.


Because writers never cease to struggle, as they translate life into language.

Because writers invent themselves with every book adventure and take their language with them.

Because when you read a great book, you are already embarking on the writer's journey.  

Because when you read, you write the story too. 

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Forget yourself, your language

Forget you still have some goals as you wrestle with the language. 

Forget, just like writers forget when they embark on a book adventure.

And like a seasoned writer, break a few rules. Defy convention.

Create a reading challenge that is just for you. 

Because reading like a writer will take you beyond simply reading...

Go Beyond the Book

Not everything I learned during my teacher training turned out to be useful in real life!  I suppose that's the job of experience--to show you where your education was inadequate.

But here is one piece of fruit I plucked during my studies.  I offer it to you:

When you set out on a reading adventure, make sure you travel through the entire journey...

  • into
  • through 
  • beyond

The story doesn't end when you close the book.  

Always do something to make that adventure your own.  

Take one more step on you journey through life and language.

(By the way, this is something writer's do all the time--they don't just learn from the language, they absorb it and make it theirs!)

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How you can go beyond the book

As you design your unique reading challenge, think about how you can challenge yourself to go beyond the book.  

  • Keep a reading journal--react with your thoughts about the book, the writing.
  • Write a book review on Goodreads or in our Facebook group
  • Discuss your book with a friend or a Book Club. 
  • Let your reading inspire your own creativity!

Try this:

Tell the story from another point of view. Imagine what happens next.  Write a new ending. Sketch a scene with your words...

Write something that is inspired by a book, but that is also your own.  (More on this soon).

Disrupt Your Reading Routine

Your reading challenge is not just a checklist of books to read! Challenge yourself to read in new ways.

What would it be like to try one of the following?

  • Read a book and watch the film
  • Read a book in your native language and your second language
  • Listen to the audio book (as you read, in the place of reading...)
  • Read a book again
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Mind if I share a personal example?

As your fellow book vagabond, I recently heard that a book I read and enjoyed in Spanish is also a great film!! 

So I'll be watching "Like Water for Chocolate" in its original version as part of my reading challenge...and perhaps re-reading the book, either in English or Spanish...

Be Mindful of Your (Book) Choices

Many reading challenges ask you to pick one book from a list of genres.  They ask you to commit to reading twelve titles in a year...

Ignore that advice.  

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Here's what you can do instead:

  • Pick a few books you know will inspire you, from genres or authors you love.
  • Pick a book or two that will challenge you--that break from what you typically read, that will make you uncomfortable, that will take you into uncharted territory!
  • Feel free to go into depth! Maybe you feel like exploring a specific theme, writing style or books by the same author.  Do it. 


Love to read? Want to find your voice? Sign up for a free, self-paced course. Read short stories, try out creative writing techniques with fun writing prompts.  Maybe tell a story of your own!

Love to read? Want to find your voice? Sign up for a free, self-paced course. Read short stories, try out creative writing techniques with fun writing prompts.  Maybe tell a story of your own!


Forget Your Goals!

I'm going to ask you to do something that might sound weird in this day and age.  

Don't set specific goals for numbers of books or kinds of books you'll read.

Instead focus on

  1. ritual
  2.  inspiration  

No numbers please!

Do not set a goal of a certain number of books to read per month or per year. I promise that having a goal will not make you read faster or more.  

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Can you picture Virginia Woolf checking off a 'to read' list 1000 books long?

Isn't it more likely that she read because she couldn't help herself?

Let the books come and go by themselves--maybe you'll read 1000, maybe not!  Don't bother keeping track.

Instead make reading books (and going beyond them!) something to do daily, a ritual.

  • Decide to read every night before bed... or whenever you take the bus...or instead of watching any TV that is unworthy of your time. 
  • Choose to jot reactions down in your journal when you read...or when you finish a chapter...or when you finish a book.

Let go of your goals and read mindfully

Since I've taken this approach to reading, I've noticed I've actually been reading more books than usual...

And that reading more books is not the most important change in my reading habit.  Because the way I read has changed.  

Since I've started choosing my books with a purpose, my reading has become more purposeful too. 

Want to test this with your own reading?

Write something down about the books that have become a part of you.  Make them unforgettable. Capture their feeling, their language and their meaning.  

You can also check and see if you're reading faster or slower, finishing more books or less.  But does that really matter? 

My advice to you: focus on really knowing a few hand-picked books that are important to you. 

That's a better goal than reading 12 books a year. 

Inspiration, not obligation

By all means, keep a 'to read' list. 

Add books to it often as you hear of them, as they are recommended to you...

Select the most promising or tempting among them and make sure you always have a stack of inspiring books on hand. 

But never forget:

Just because you have a map and compass in your backpack doesn't mean you can't careen off the path.

You are the author of your own adventure, after all.

Frankly, sometimes I take a break from one book to read another.  Or I read one book before bed, another when I'm waiting around during the day.  Different books, different situations.  

Weigh in

What books will you put on your 'to read' list?

Have you surprised yourself with your reading lately?

Have you done anything lately to go 'beyond' your reading?

Leave me a note in the comments below or join the discussion at the Vagabond English Book Club.