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What I Learnt from Challenging myself to read 30 books in 30 days

23rd June, 2018

30 books in 30 days reading challenge

If you love reading, why not take up an impossible challenge of reading 30 books in 30 days and see how things turn out? Bad plan? That’s what happened on April 27th, 2018. It was a Friday and I was sipping my cup of evening coffee. I decided on an impulse then and there that I’d try out the 30 books in  30 days challenge. I had been toying the idea for a while (It was one of my New year resolutions as well). A rough look at the calendar convinced me that it was ‘now’ or next year. So without much thought into the matter, no reading lists planned, and a cup of coffee, I took the plunge.

The story of taking up such a challenge goes back way beyond in time. To be precise, to a time even before The Book Satchel was born. It was actually a dare that I had accepted three or so years ago but never got around to doing it. (Probably because of my fear of failing). But that day, I felt it didn’t matter if I failed or if I don’t begin on the first of the month with an organised reading list. I just wanted to try it out and read some good books, and that is all that mattered.

Week 1. I was super pumped and read seven books. Pleasantly surprised and secretly proud. I might finish this challenge after all.

Week 2. Zero pages. I regretted taking up the challenge. It turned out to be an exceptionally busy week and I read zero pages. I felt discouraged but decided to go ahead and keep reading. That’s when I received so many messages from the reading community asking me to keep at it. And phew! 30 days later my tally was 32 completely read books!

Wrap up

I read some amazing books over the month, as you can see from the ratings. Here is a quick wrap up of the books I read.

1.The Legends of Khasak by O. V. Vijayan – 4/5  (magical realism, rustic village scenes, translated from the Malayalam)

2.A life misspent by Suryakant Tripathi Nirala – 3.5/5 (biographical, caste system, political changes in India, translated from the Hindi)

3.When I hit you by Meena Kandasamy – 5/5 (brutal, autobiographical, abuse in marriage)

4.All the crooked saints by Maggie Steifvater – 3/5 (magic, saints and sins, love and betrayal)

5.The Girl who fell beneath fairyland and led the revels there by Catherynne M. Valente – 3/5 (fun middle grade read about Fairyland Below)

6.The Boy who lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente – 3/5 (middle grade read of a troll who is exchanged for a boy)

7.Day by Intizar Hussain – 4/5 (rustic village life, melancholic, translated from the Urdu, excellent translation)

8.Dastaan by Intizar Hussain 4/5 (magical realism, folklore and Indian history mixed with realism, translated from the Urdu, excellent translation)

9.Palestine by Joe Sacco – 4/5 (non fiction graphic novel, plight of the Palestinians, the art work might not be for everyone)

10.Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer – 4/5 (heart breaking read, excellent characters)

11.The Beekeeper by Dunya Mikhail – 4/5 (plight of Yazidi women under Daeesh (ISIS), translated from the Arabic)

12.Levels of Life by Julian Barnes – 3/5 (an account of grief over the loss of Barne’s wife, non fiction)

  1. Seven Sixes are Forty Three by Kiran Nagarkar – 4/5 (character sketch of a man and the confusions in his mind, translated from the Marathi)

14.Burning Secret by Stefan Zweig – 5/5 (engulfs the reader into the setting of the story, translated from the German)

15.Confusion by Stefan zweig – 4/5  (I didn’t enjoy this as much as the other Zweig novellas but it was still a good read)

16.Monstress Vol 1 (1-7 issues) by Marjorie Liu – 5/5 (a dark and violent tale of gods, men and half breeds, excellent artwork)

17.Monstress Vol 2 (8-12 issues) by Marjorie Liu – 4.5/5

18.Black Milk by Elif Shafak – 4/5 (non fiction, account of the internal and external conflicts of a mother and writer)

19.Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – 5/5 (coming of age story and themes of identity, graphic novel)

20.Blue is the warmest colour by Julie Maroh – 3.5/5 (coming of age story, sexuality, grief and loss in 1900s, translated from the French, minimal colour palette)

21.Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa – 3/5 (grief, losing loved ones, healing, art was not the kind I love)

22.Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – 5/5 (entertaining from start to end, funny story about a girl with super powers who wants to be the sidekick of a villain, graphic novel)

23.The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg – 5/5 (excellent world building, characters, myths and art)

24.The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter – 4/5 (reimagining of fairytales)

25.Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – 4/5 (autobiographical, themes of sexuality, making sense of her relationship with her father, lots of literary references, slightly heavy graphic novel)

26.Amulet – The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5 (Amazing graphic novel series! Great plot, good pacing and spectacular artwork. The whole series deserved a 5 star. It was that good)

27.Amulet – The Stonekeeper’s curse by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5

28.Amulet – The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5

29.Amulet – The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5

30.Amulet – Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5

31.Amulet – Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5

32.Amulet – Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi – 5/5

Partially read books:

The Idiot by Elif Batuman – DNF at 35% (This wasn’t a book for me and I didn’t want to keep reading just for the sake of it.)

The Monstress Vol 3 – 65% read; It was promising just like the first two books.

What I Loved

– The TBR collapse

The obvious advantage to embarking on a readathon or challenge! I might have made a teeny weeny dent in my TBR pile. (Let’s not talk about how many more books I added to the pile that month.)

-Reading what I love

It was refreshing to read my own choice of books. I try to manage between the books gathering dust on my shelves and the review copies that I receive. But often the newer books receive more of my attention. (The hype and the newness does get to me. I am a shallow book worm). Since I was very eager to complete this challenge, I decided to read the books that I’ve really wanted to read for a long time instead of books sent for review. It was the best decision ever.

-Challenging myself

I had decided that a reading challenge is never about the numbers (even though this one clearly has a goal of reading 30 books over the month). I wanted to read the books I am eager about, the ones that appeal to me rather than simply finish a book just to complete the challenge. I picked up a few non fiction books that I’d postponed reading for very long even though I knew I might not complete the challenge as I am slow in reading and understanding non fiction books. I read two or three non fiction books over a whole year, so including non fiction books made me feel proud of myself.

30 books in 30 days reading challenge
30 books in 30 days reading challenge

Tips to tackle the challenge

1.Short reads

Go for smaller sized books instead of chunky 1000+ pages books.

2.Choose your genres and mix up genres and formats

Non fiction requires more concentration than novels (atleast for me). However I still read a few non fiction books over the month. Choose the genres that you are enthusiastic about. Mix up your formats with physical books and e-books (maybe audiobooks too). Graphic novels are very refreshing to read for readathons.

3.Avoid classics

If you regularly read a lot of classics, go for it. But if you read more of newer books over classics, then such time limited challenge might not give you the time for indulging and savouring a classic.

4.Avoid experimenting

I think this point was the sole reason I finished my challenge. All the books I chose were ones that were highly praised and those that were gracing my TBR pile for very long. I didn’t experiement with new releases (Well, I tried The Idiot by Elif Batuman and that didn’t go so well). If you choose books that you are not very eager about or the ones you aren’t sure what to expect, you might get into a slump if they turn out to be bad reads.

 

Also, there are no rules. These tips worked for me, they might not work for you. Ange (Beyond the Pages) read classics and modern classics for her 30 books in 30 days challenge; Mia (The Cosy Reader) read huge books over a month. And they were successful. Simon (Stuck in a Book) is currently on a 25 books in 25 days challenge. Madame Bibliophile went on a ‘Novella a day’ challenge in May. So ultimately, it is upto you. Chart out a plan that works for you.

If you are interested in Ange’ s and Mia’s reading tips, check out Reading Tips from 5 Voracious Readers of the Internet.

The Frustrating bits

1.I am a mood reader

Swinging reading moods does not work for a challenge as this. In a normal reading month I’d have five (or more) partially read books at the end of the month. But I could not read in that manner since it would affect the challenge adversely.

2.I love my movie and Youtube binges

Reading is always a priority for me but I do enjoy other recreational activities too. It was impossible to do anything else other than reading.

3.Some days you really can’t get any reading done

This was the hard truth I realized in the second week of May. Sometimes you just can’t read and that might leave you demotivated.

4.You can’t choose any book

I badly wanted to read The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar but I had to postpone it for a month because of the size. It was an amazing read, so well worth the wait though.

5.No sudden plans

Just as the mood reader that I am, my plans to roam outside are sudden too. I missed making other plans on impulse this month; I was cooped up with books on the weekends. (It was an unexpected advantage that the summer heat was terrible to venture outside and my friends were away).

Next challenge?

Probably never. I enjoy a bit more laid back approach to reading. BUT I loved doing the challenge this month! It was so much fun. Moreover I read some amazing books which was a bonus.

Final thoughts

I ended up reading 32 books in 30 days, DNFing one. I am thrilled. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do this. I am over the moon!

It felt good to look at the stats at the end of the month and feel accomplished. It felt good to read such great books back to back and have an amazing reading month. A special shout out to all my wonderful people on Instagram and Twitter who constantly encouraged me. After the second week, I was pretty sure I would not be able to nail the challenge, but the Direct Messages and comments with motivating words really inspired me to read the next two weeks.

If you enjoyed this post, you would also enjoy my reading tips on How to read 20 books in a month complete with the breakdown of hours, my personal reading schedule and how to read more without making it a stressful hobby.

This Post Has 54 Comments
  1. Wow, that’s amazing! I did accidentally read a novel a day when I was seconded to a job in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and was commuting from Birmingham to Stratford every day. A 55-minute train journey that was very boring, plus a longish wait at the station in the evenings and a quiet place to have a lunch break and my goodness, I got through them!

  2. Congratulations – so impressive! As you know, I could only manage something similar with novellas, I’d never manage 30 books in a month that weren’t this size, I’m in awe of your achievement!

    1. Thank you. I don’t think I could’ve done it without reading so many graphic novels though. But no complaints. I’ve been meaning to read these for a very long time. Congratulations to you too for the novella a day challenge.

  3. That is so amazing! I can’t even think of doing this. It was good that you chose to pick up books that you wanted to read than review copies. I think that is what matters in the end – the kind of books. I’m inspired to read more. Hope I read at least half this number in a month some time!

    1. Yes! That really helped I believe. Because all the books were such good reads so I was still interested in reading them. I read a fair share of graphic novels too. I’ve had many of these of my TBR but they always got postponed because of reading newer books. I think the challenge was the perfect excuse to read them up.

  4. Wow, this is amazing!! The amount of dedication and motivation this must have taken is incredible. Congrats on completing the challenge!

  5. Wow, that’s so incredible, congratulations on completing that great challenge! 😀 You have read some great books, too : I have Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Nimona and Anya’s Ghost on my TBR and I’m so very happy you enjoyed all of these 😀

  6. Okay this is AMAZING and I’m cheering so much for you!! I have done this before, but like usually I end up filling the gaps with either comics or manga??So I’m not sure if that’s cheating or not. But like one year I read 300+ books and I still have no idea how I did it. This year I’m only up to 100 and I’m EXHAUSTED.Anyway! I love how you recapped this and definitely understand those drawbacks…also reading smaller books instead of anything the size of a cubed brick is a great idea. (Although Extremely Loud and Incredible Close is one I’ve read and it’s huge!!)

    All the respect to you right now, this is amazing. 😉

    1. Thanks so much Cait. Manga and comics are perfectly fine. I sneaked in a lot of graphic novels too. 100 books and two of your own is just amazing. So I am even more proud of you.

    1. Thank you very much, Susie. I didn’t think i could do either. It was a pleasant surprise. Though I should say it is mostly because all the books were good books and I had no bad reads over the month.

    1. Thank you Laila. Probably that is because I seldom review graphic novels here. (To be honest, I don’t think I have even a single review here) But I really enjoy reading them. Glad you loved Nimona too. x

  7. I still haven’t read any Catherynne M. Valente. But damn Resh this is quite the challenge and you did it so beautifully! I must try this sometime.

  8. Well done! I do plan to do this at some point but will wait until the mood is right (and I have some time of work preferably. I might need a few days of to make sure I manage 30 books in 30 days).

    1. So true! I really felt the lack of planning during the second week of May when I could get no reading done. I hope you will find a good spot over the year to try out the challenge x

  9. That’s an amazing challenge that you completed Resh and congratulations once again 🙂 These kind of challenges are really good for shrinking your TBR pile. But yes, like you said, you really have to focus on that thing only.
    I am so happy that you did it 🙂

    1. Thank you Fay. I wanted to do it this year since otherwise I would have to postpone it to next year since I was more busy. I was a bit unorganised so I’d advice you to start it with a bit more planning

  10. Resh, what an accomplishment! CONGRATS! I enjoyed following your journey and these tips are amazing. I think I’m going to try some of your suggestions, just taking a month to read what feels right! Could I do 30? Maybe not, but this makes me want to try 15 books in 30 days AND 30 classics in 12 months…

    1. Thank you!! And all the best to you. I say set a number that you feel comfortable. Earlier during the year I tried out a five books in seven days challenge (mostly because I never thought I could do a 30 in 30 one) and it was much easier and felt good.

  11. How do you manage to read a full book in a single day? It happened to me once with some easy short novel, around 170 pages but I spent almost all my day reading. I wonder, do you spend 16h/day reading, or how long?

    And, how much do you retain of what you read? That is a more important point for me, rather than nailing the challenge; otherwise all those 30 days would be lost time, if you don’t get a value/memory from the books.

    To me happens that if want to understand what I am reading, really catching the details, I can’t read more than 20 pages per-hour (and that’s a lot already). Especially with non-novels.
    Do you have some peculiar reading speed skill? Or maybe the skill is in being able to retain even reading fast and superficially?

    Am rather curious cause would be a dream to me to be able to read so much.

    1. I did not read a book a day. I read multiple books at a time instead of finishing one book and then picking another one. So they kind of get read simultaneously. If you are curious about my reading schedule, I’ve linked it at the bottom of the post – how I read and how many hours it takes me.

      I don’t have any peculiar reading skill but I think I have increased my reading speed over the years. My usual speed is 50 pages in half an hour and the fact that I included quite a handful of graphic novels for this challenge definitely helped in reading so much this month. x

  12. I hadn’t even realised that we were overlapping in our challenges, somehow! It was really fun, and it sounds like you got a lot from yours too – super impressed that you did 32, even with that week away from reading. I’m keen to try it again some time, but certainly not for a bit…

    1. Yes, it was fun and I am glad you enjoyed your challenge as well. I might add I could read so much only because I have included many graphic novels which take substantially a lot lesser time to read than full fledged ones. But most of the books I read were the ones I’ve had on my TBR but kept postponing. So that’s good news.

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