open-booksBack in 2008, a conversation on the Romance Potpourri Message Board revealed two things:  Many of us had massive to be read piles and most of us had no real motivation to pull books off of them.  In order to conquer those dual issues we created the Unofficial 9 in 2009 AAR Reading Challenge.  The goal was to read at least nine books on your TBR.  I did it, loved it (as did several others) and we have been doing the Reading Challenges ever since.

Here’s why the challenges are so great.  Reason one is that it has definitely helped expand my reading experiences.  I don’t know about the rest of you but I will often read a review on AAR, buy the book – and then let it languish in the TBR pile.  Because a part of the challenge is often to tackle new to you authors, it inspires me to tackle those books which were well reviewed at AAR written by authors unfamiliar to me.  I’ve found several DIK’s (and new authors to glom) thanks to that aspect of the challenge.

I also discovered a new sub genre thanks to the challenge: one notable year I wound up falling in love with Inspirational romance. Now about a third of what I read comes from that sub-genre.

Another reason I enjoy doing the challenges is the sheer fun of them. In 2010, we titled our challenge At the Movies and read books based on things like epic films, classic films or adventure films. In 2013 we did the Lean Mean Thirteen and had challenges based on the thirteen official Beatles albums, a challenge based on movies with the number thirteen in the title such as Oceans 13 and 13 Going on 30 and a challenge to read a book set in each of the first thirteen colonies of the United States.  2014 saw us doing the Back to School Challenge and tackling the Sonnet challenge (where we located books that matched the subjects or lines from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets) and the School Day challenge where we matched books to school subjects, such as a book about athletes matching the subject phys ed. For me, the creativity involved in hunting down a book that meets the challenge criteria when the option offered is so fun is part of the inspiration.  It turns cleaning out my TBR into a pleasure rather than a task.

Of course the main reason for doing them is to whittle down the TBR.  Mine is massive and I’ve reached a point where I’m not sure I will ever be able to rid myself of all those books. At least with the challenges I am making headway, however small that headway may be.

Since the boards aren’t active right now*, and since this has been such a fun thing to do for many, AAR has decided to continue the challenge as a monthly blog. Here is how it will work:

  • Step 1: If you have an idea for a challenge, please post it in the comments.

  • Step 2: During the first week of January we will compile the various challenges and post them in a blog.

  • Step 3: You can comment on the blog all month long, posting the books you read and what challenge they are a part of. 

  • Step 4: A new blog post will be opened up on the 1st of every month for you to continue to post about the books you’re reading for your chosen challenge.

Thanks for participating and Happy Reading!

~ Maggie Boyd


*(from Dabney) At this point, we are not sure if we will re-establish the message boards. That’s not a final decision but, until we can find a program that doesn’t drag down the site, we are living message boards free. It is our hope that we can move much of the discussions that took place on the message boards to the blogs.