Posted in theology

Reading Challenge 2023: Are reading challenges any good?

By Elizabeth Prata

As every new year comes around so do the ‘Reading Challenges’. And every year I commit to a reading challenge, and every year I fail. Or I think I do. I come home from work wiped out, mind bleary and only able to absorb kitten or thrifting videos … picking up but then putting aside the book I’m reading “until tomorrow”. Until suddenly it’s December and the same book is still staring dolefully at me from the same place I’d put it down.

So this year I vowed to ignore all Reading Challenges.

Then GoodReads sent me a link to “My Reading Activity” this year. I put my hand over my eyes like I was watching a horror film and clicked…but it wasn’t so bad. Hey! I read more books than I thought I did! I perked up and took a good look at the stats.

Twenty-four books, not so bad. I didn’t finish a couple, like the Trueman book, but I did skim the rest of it after I read the first chapters. I put down the “Book Lovers” book because it was supposed to be a romantic comedy but it was filled with rough language (f-bombs). Like, why do that? So I quit that one pretty early. Not all books are winners.

My favorites were A Night To Remember, A Sheep Remembers, Puritan, and Johnny Cash’s bio of the Apostle Paul, Man in White. Y’know, those were GOOD BOOKS! I’m glad I read them! So that is number 1 reason to dive into a reading challenge, you end up reading good books! Maybe not as many as I’d wanted, but some!

Looking back, another value of the reading challenge for me was that I know I would not have read Treasure Island unless I’d been challenged to. It is a classic and I like to read the classics, but I always put them off in favor of some other book, either an easy fiction or a spiritual book. Not so this time, and I completed the book. I’m glad I did. It was haunting and interesting and truth be known, challenging to read. So that’s good.

Another value of the Reading Challenge is that I tend to track my progress at GoodReads. I know in addition to the 24 books listed I read a few other booklets from Chapel Library, but now I do not remember which ones. At least I have these I’d tracked thanks to GoodReads.

And the value of tracking is not only to help me remember what I’ve read (either to revisit my enjoyment of the book or to continue to apply edification of the book’s concepts to my heart and mind) but to help me stop beating myself up for ‘failing’ to meet some goals. Now can objectively assess my reading progress rather than through the veil of “I’m too tired” and “I’m a failure”.

Hm, I guess there is value in doing a reading challenge after all. So far I’ve counted 4 valuable lessons for participating in one, with a 5th below. Here are the books I read in 2022.

  • A Sheep Remembers Calhoun, David B. Jan 2022
  • Hell Bay (Barker & Llewelyn, #8) Thomas, Jan 2022
  • A Time for Confidence: Trusting God in a Post-Christian Society Nichols, Stephen J. Jan 2022
  • Man in White Cash, Johnny Jan 2022
  • Borden of Yale ’09 Taylor, Geraldine Guinness Apr 2022
  • Moody: A Biography Pollock, John Charles Apr 2022
  • The Atonement Murray, John May 2022
  • Treasure Island Stevenson, Robert Louis May 2022
  • A Night to Remember Lord, Walter May 2022
  •  Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History
  • Sevilla, Charles M May 2022
  • The Sovereignty of God in Providence Reisinger, John G. May 2022
  • Our True Riches in Heaven MacArthur Jr., John F. Jun 2022
  • Blood Is Blood (Barker & Llewelyn, #10) Thomas, Will Jun 2022
  • Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) Peters, Elizabeth Jun 2022
  • Brothers, We Are Not Plagiarists: A Pastoral Plea To Forsake The Peddling Of God’s Word Schrock, David Jul 2022
  • The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution Trueman, Carl R. Jul 2022
  • The Blood of the Lamb: The Conquering Weapon Spurgeon, Charles Haddon Jul 2022
  • Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament Vroegop, Mark Aug 2022  
  • Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson Carson, D.A. Aug 2022
  • Because the Time is Near: John MacArthur Explains the Book of Revelation MacArthur Jr., John F. Nov 2022
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, Buck, Rinker Dec 2022
  • Benefiting From Life’s Trials: [James 1:2-18] (John MacArthur’s Bible studies) MacArthur Jr., John F. Dec 2022
  • Book Lovers Henry, Emily Dec 2022
  • To God’s Glory: Lessons on Puritanism: Puritan DVD Workbook, by Joel Beeke Dec 2022

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I see my pattern. I started off gangbusters in January, fresh from the new year, entering a new challenge. Then not much (at least not recorded) in Feb-March. April we have a week-long break so I read at home then. And of course as the end of May, June, July came I am on summer break, so I see I resumed then. September and October I’m in the flush of a new school year and consumed with that, so I see the reading dropped off. Then as November’s Thanksgiving and December’s Christmas school break approached and with it, the end of the year, I resumed my gangbusters attitude to try and meet the Challenge goals.

I decided to go ahead and do another Reading Challenge. I picked the G3 Reading Challenge again, because I like those guys and because I’m attending the National Conference this September. Below are the suggested books and the ones I chose under each suggested category. The Reformation Women book by VanDoodewaard isn’t strictly a marriage biography, but first, I own it already, and second, I want to see how these women, if they were married, managed in making such a global impact while married and attending to their home duties.

And that’s the other thing, I own these books already, except for Powlison’s Power Encounters. There is time enough to find that one either at a library or a book sale, or at the least, Amazon when the time comes to read it. That’s another benefit a Reading Challenge does for me, makes me take a hard look at my shelves, and focus on reading the books I already own.

So here is my checklist of books I’ve picked for the G3 2023 Reading Challenge:

I was glad to review my reading throughout the year because it helped me see my patterns. I don’t want to let two months go by without absorbing some good material. Of course, it isn’t a total black hole, I’m reading the Bible, and also stuff given out in Sunday School class, but still, it’s too long to just sink into a routine of only watching media and not reading.

I’m looking forward to this year’s books. What are your thoughts on Reading Challenges and such? Do you have reading goals for the New Year?


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.