My 2020 reading challenges recently went through a little overhaul. I started the year with a handful of challenges and a couple of planned readathons but recent events have decidedly changed my priorities. I still plan to continue some of my challenges, but I’ve also added a new one.
Before Covid-19 happened, before George Floyd was murdered, before many of us spent a considerable amount of time at home during lockdown, working from home, and practicing social distancing, I was a wide-eyed girl with some reading goals. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am incredibly lucky and privileged when it comes to this pandemic! Not only was my job never threatened by Covid-19, I simply work from home now and the Austrian government – as many faults as they might have – have handled the crisis pretty well.
But of course this year things have changed. I had more time for reading (which is great) but I’ve also used that time to rethink what I read, how I read, and how I talk about the books and authors I read. I’ll check in on all my ongoing and new challenges below and give you a bit more detail on how my priorities have shifted.
So. On to the challenges (past and present).
OWLs and NEWTs readathons
I participated in the OWLs readathon during spring and I not only finished all the prompts but even read an extra book for some of them. Way to go for kicking my TBR’s butt.
The second Harry Potter themed readathon I’d been looking forward so much is not happening the way it was planned because of the author’s transphobic comments on Twitter. That is a topic for a whole different discussion, so I’ll keep it really short and simple here. I believe trans women are women and trans men are men, and I am deeply saddened that the author of the books that helped me through difficult times both in childhood and as an adult doesn’t seem to see it that way. I will not be participating in the NEWTs readathon. G from Book Roast will not be hosting it although people are free to use the prepared reading prompts for their August TBRs. I look forward to whatever G comes up with for next year. It will not be a Harry Potter themed readathon but rather something out of her own imagination. And judging by the creativity she’s shown so far, I think we’re in for a treat. I cannot wait to get together again with this loving, diverse community for the 2021 readathons!
2020 Retellings Challenge
Books read: 13
Prompts fulfilled: 12/25
If I fulfill one more prompt (a retelling with a mythical creature on the cover), I’ll have achieved a Bingo. My original plan was to get a Bingo Blackout, fulfilling all the prompts, and while I may still manage that, I’m not going to actively seek out books for this challenge anymore.
The reason I read more books than prompts fulfilled is that I doubled up on one of the prompts and read two qualifying books.
If a book I read for a different challenge happens to fit one of the Retellings prompts, of course I am going to count it, but this year, a simple Bingo is good enough for me.
Read the Sequel
Books read: 11
This used to be one of my more relaxed challenges without any specific goal, but in 2020 I ramped it up and finally got caught up on some of the many series I had previously started. As I already did pretty well during the first half of the year, my focus will be on finishing series by Black authors for the rest of the year. Of course, I’m also desperate to read the final books in The Dark Tower series and the Renegades Trilogy, and to continue the Earthsea Cycle. Plus two treats I’ve been saving on purpose – The Stone Sky and Muse of Nightmares – for when I really need something I know I will love.
Novels read: 5
Novellas read: 4
Another challenge without a specific goal, this is one where I usually do badly during the first half of the year but catch up during the second. Up until last weekend, I was still busy reading everything I could for Hugo Award voting (I did very well this year!), but now the voting period is over, I’ll jump on all those new publications I’ve been buying for the last six months. There’s a Murderbot novel, a gothic novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a Zen Cho novella, and Katherine Addison’s Jack the Ripper fantasy book. I’ve been itching to read them all but I couldn’t because Hugo books came first.
10 New-to-me Black Authors
Books read: 2/10
This is my new challenge for the rest of the year. It’s not like I haven’t read books by Black authors in 2020 so far but most of them were by authors I already knew. Discovering new favorites can only happen when you dare to try something new. So it’s my goal to pick up books by 10 Black authors I haven’t read before. The first one I tried was Rosewater by Tade Thompson, and if the rest of that trilogy is as good as the first novel, Thompson may just become a new favorite.
I’ve been picking up books by diverse authors for years now and it’s been a very rewarding thing to do. Eventually, I stopped calling it a reading challenge because… well, it wasn’t a challenge, just something I did anyway. BUT. I am aware that I can do much better. I have discovered some Authors of Color since I started this blog, that I adore and whose work I’ve been following ever since. But there are still so many authors out there who don’t get the publicity their books deserve, who will never be shortlisted for a Goodreads Choice Award, simply because they aren’t well known enough. And I believe it is our job, as readers and reviewers, to help get the word out about these books. I may not be a famous blogger, I don’t have many followers (but I do have the best!), but even adding just my small voice might make a difference. Every time someone picks up a book I recommended, I glow with joy on the inside. And if that recommendation is for a book by a Black author, the person who picks it up may have a bigger voice than me and recommend it to their followers, and so on. So even a tiny contribution can do good in the world and I intend to do my part.
Goodreads Reading Challenge
Books read: 95/
Pages read: 24,209/35,000
I started out with a goal of 75 books. It’s the end of July and I’ve already read 95, so I’m going to go for 100, and then see how far I can go. Covid-19 had a large part in me reading so many books, but the Hugo Awards also helped. Novellas and novelettes can usually be read fairly quickly but they still count as “a book” on Goodreads. And since I binge-read all the nominated comic book series, I am way ahead of this challenge.
So I’m also tracking my pages read. In 2012, I read the most pages in a year (34,988 pages) and I want to surpass that number. It’s not really an important goal and I honestly won’t care if I don’t reach it as long as the books I read are good. But I like having a little something to motivate me, so why not?
That’s it for my 2020 reading challenges. The one I’m putting the most focus on is definitely the challenge to read 10 new-to-me Black authors. As for the rest, sure, I’m going to continue some series, I’m definitely reading new publications, and among them will be some retellings, but I will not stress out over them. The same goes for my Goodreads goal. I’ll have reached 100 books by the end of August easily, so everything that comes after is just a nice bonus.
There are so many books I’m looking forward to and thanks to the many recommendation lists, a lot of them are by Black authors. They’re not new-to-me anymore, but I’m dying to read more by Tochi Onyebuchi and Tade Thompson! I bought myself a gorgeous hardback edition of Octavia Butler’s Parable duology which I have yet to read, and I recently received a stunning paperback copy of The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna which only comes out next year but which sounds fantastic.
The next check in will be a wrap up at the end of the year and I certainly hope that I can report many finished challenges as well as a better ratio of Authors of Color. I’m working on my reading lists to get better statistics out of them (currently I’m counting Authors of Color but not specifically Black authors). I’ll let you know at the end of the year how everything worked out. Until then, happy reading, stay kind and stay safe!