What I Learnt from Challenging myself to read 30 books in 30 days
23rd June, 2018
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!
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)
- 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.
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.
Tips to tackle the challenge
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.