2022 TBR Masterpiece Challenge

Our next readathon will be happening in October. Between now and then, we have a new challenge to keep us busy. But, by this part of the year many of us are already knee-deep in potential or ongoing TBR-related projects. So many books, so little time! A well-crafted readathon TBR can go a long way towards getting us closer to finishing our many reading goals.

Phase 1: Assembly

Step 1- Gather up all the books you have already started or that you are ‘currently reading’ for this year. Part of your mind has already been involved with those books, so just finishing some of them may help you feel less stressed. I often include at least one of the books I have been ‘currently reading’ for long enough that they have stalled out. Even if I just get a few more chapters done during sprints, that is often a worthy enough accomplishment

Step 2- Gather up all the books you have borrowed from the library or from friends/family that you are supposed to be reading soon. If you have a LOT of borrowed books, you may need to stick to library books, or just books you’ve been borrowing for the longest, or that you took custody of most recently. Just as with books you’ve stalled on, borrowed books can be great for sprints. They may also be a lure to get whoever you borrowed them from to participate in the readathon with you.

Step 3- List all the reading challenges and book clubs/groups you are involved with this year. Many of us try the Read Harder, 52 Books annual challenge, PopSugar, Book Bingo, etc. Many of us try to keep up with online or in-person book clubs, too. By this part of the year it can seem impossible to even come close to reading all the books for all the prompts in our challenges, and many of our book club books languish unread for months or longer after their official month is past.

Step 4- Decide how many books to include in your pre-readathon and readathon day TBRs. Do you find it stressful looking at a large TBR stack? Does the idea that you can’t get to them all keep you awake at night? Than be more sparing in your stack making. Think about how many days it usually takes you to finish a typical 200pg novel, and for the pre-readathon TBR work out how many days you have til the readathon. Based on these guestimated averages, set your pre-readathon TBR to be at most 1-3 books more than your guestimates would suggest (#days til the readathon/#days it takes you to read a 200pg novel = pre-readathon TBR).

Some of us are mood readers too much for a small TBR to work out. We can make a small stack, and even stick to it for a little while, but even in a 24hr readathon we wander off and read pretty much everything but what is on our TBR stacks. I am often in this group. I often choose a couple genres, plus borrowed books, challenge/club books, and ones I am ‘currently reading’. In each genre I pick about 5-10 books to be in my TBR stack, especially for pre-readathon weeks. When I get close to the actual readathon, I usually choose about 10-15 books from what is left on my original pre-readathon TBR. I might add a few random extra books, but I try to limit my TBR to no more than 20 books for a readathon. That usually gives me enough variety that I stick to my stack (mostly) during the readathon.

Step 5- Make your TBR. Post a photo of your TBR on social media so we can all admire your selections and be inspired to add new titles to our own stacks.

Phase 2: Reading

Now that you have a shiny new TBR, it is time to dive in. If you, like me, read every day anyway, you may simply ease into your TBR by continuing whatever book you were ‘currently reading’ last. Here are some ideas if that doesn’t seem satisfying enough, though….

Buddy Reads- If other people are also reading a book you are reading, you get people who can chat with you about your book, and you all might be more likely to finish it. The trick to these, if you feel like you have too many commitments already, is to choose a book you already have or want to have on your TBR for this event, probably a book you actually have on hand so that there is no need to wait for holds or shipping while everyone else finishes the book and moves on.

Reading Sprints- These don’t have to be official, or shared, though we do occasionally have ‘official’ hour long sprints during our readathons, and we often have sprints that one of us posts on social media. These are an easy way to focus on reading during a busy schedule. They also make it easier sometimes to focus on boring or difficult books. To do a reading sprint all you need to do is decide how long your reading sprint will be- 15min, 30min, an hour, etc.- and start reading when the sprint time starts. It works better when you silence your phone and ignore all distractions during the sprint, of course, but if this doesn’t work out don’t worry. Try again when you can, and after a while you may find it easier to focus on your reading when you want to or need to.

Reading Relays- These are a bit like reading sprints, but are usually a series of sprints, based on either time or page numbers/chapters. Set up a small stack of books for the number of sprints you have time for. For sprint 1, read the first book in the stack. At the end of that sprint, switch to the second book for sprint 2. Book 3 is for sprint 3, book 4 is for sprint 4, etc.

I like this game for rainy weekend days or sick days when I have nothing to do but read and relax (and do housework, I suppose). I set up 3-5 categories, with 2-3 books in each category. If I have 3 categories, I go back to book 1 for the 4th sprint, and cycle through the first 3 books til I finish them. If I finish book 1 during its second round, in sprint 4, then the next time that category gets its turn I move to the next book in that category. If by the end I have completely finished one of the categories but barely made a dent in others, that is a great indication that my actual reading appetite may require more books from that category for a while(really helpful when I am in a reading rut). If whole books are a bit much for the time you have, I’ve also played this game using different short story collections for each ‘category’.

Fall Pre-Readathon Reading Challenge

  1. A non-fiction book.
  2. A book with more than one poem in it.
  3. A play written by a woman.
  4. 5 books with autumn colored spines or covers.
  5. A short story collection by an author who did not publish a full-length novel.
  6. A book by Stephen King, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, Louis L’Amour, James Michener, Michael Crochton, or Robert Ludlum.
  7. A book by Anita Shreve, Jane Smiley, Barbara Kingsolver, Jan Karon, Pearl S. Buck, Jane Austen, or Edith Wharton.
  8. A book set on each continent (7 total- North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, Antarctica/Oceania)
  9. A book about the future, published before 1960.
  10. A book from a series of more than 3 books.

This list would have us reading 20 books to finish all the prompts, though if you wish you can of course combine some of them to read fewer books. If you run out of books to read before the readathon and need a few more prompts…

A. A book that was mentioned by, or being read by a character from one of the books you read for the first 10 prompts.

B. A non-fiction book about a place or subject that featured in one of the books you read for the first 10 prompts.

C. 5 books by one of these authors- Georgette Heyer, Arthur B. Upfield, Ngaio Marsh, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, Sue Grafton, Alexander McCall Smith, Susan Wittig Albert, Boris Akunin

D. 3-5 books by one of these authors- Andre Norton, Julian May, Joan D. Vinge, Michael Moorcock, Ben Bova, J.D. Robb, Larry Niven, Robin Hobb, Jack McDevitt, Mercedes Lackey, Kim Stanley Robinson, Octavia Butler


4 thoughts on “2022 TBR Masterpiece Challenge”

  1. Great ideas for a pre readathon challenge. I don’t have borrowed books or library books.

    Are all the challenge categories mandatory? I don’t have the following:

    A book with more than one poem in it.
    A play written by a woman.
    A short story collection by an author who did not publish a full-length novel.


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