Plan Your 2019 Year in Books With These Reading Challenges

2019 is approaching, children. As we get closer to the turning of the new year, it’s time to restart your reading lists and get to work on planning how you’ll spend your literary year. New Year’s Eve is my personal favorite of all the holidays; it’s a chance to get a fresh clean slate and set new goals and expectations for a new year.


For Those Who Were Left With Severe Reader’s Block in 2018:


2018 has been something of a tepid year. Compared to 2016, which set a new low for how horrific a single year can be, and 2017, which was basically the direct-to-VHS sequel to 2016, 2018 is not much worse, but it’s certainly isn’t any better. 2018 gave us a lot to be concerned about, and with all these things taking up so much space in our brains, there’s not much room left for reading. In 2019, you can try to reignite your love of literature with a simple reading challenge, like one of these.


The Color Coded Reading Challenge


Color palette

Image via slynyrd

If you often find yourself having trouble choosing a book to read, a challenge like this is an excellent remedy. The rules of this challenge dictate that over the course of the year, you read nine books that have titles or cover art corresponding to a particular cover. This challenge is a great one for those who need rules strict enough to actually make it a fun game, but not so strict as to discourage them from trying it. This challenge can also be combined with others for added fun and difficulty.


Read a Book About/That Takes Place in Each of the Fifty States


A map of books corresponding to each state

Image via Brooklyn Magazine


This particular challenge comes from a list of great reading challenges, this one in particular is a great option for anyone suffering from a lack of motivation to read. This challenge requires quite a bit of research, as well as an intense commitment. You’ll be steadily plowing through each book in order to get through all 50 books before 2020.


Picture Book Reading Challenge


Children's books

Image via AmReading


If you’re looking for a simple, easy challenge that you’re guaranteed to finish, look no further than this challenge. This challenge requires you to revisit your childhood and get back into the picture books you loved as a kid. There’s likely been a mountain of excellent picture books released since you were of the target demographic for them, so you’ll have a wealth of new reading material open to you that’s been under your nose for years.


Beat the Backlist


Dusty old books

Image via Lady Fancifull


While this is technically a 2018 challenge, the rules can be easily reconfigured to apply to 2019. The point of this list is to essentially ignore any new releases that will come in 2019 in order to get to books you’ve neglected in favor of shiny new ones. Aside from the “no-2019-releases” rule, the rest of the challenge is pretty open-ended; books are defined as “Any novel, novella, graphic novel, manga, or anthology bind-up,” in any format, ebook, print, audiobook, etc., and rereads of books also count towards your total, so long as they are of books released prior to 2019.


For the True Crime Lovers:

True crime has always been a reliable genre of literature when it comes to finding something thrilling, moving, and educational. If you haven’t given any thought to your 2019 reading list, consider making an effort to take in more true crime this year.


Just the Facts Ma’am


Film noir detective

Image via Giphy


This is possibly the most intricate and immersive challenge on this list, and thus, the most difficult, but if you’ve ever read or watched an excellent true crime narrative and fantasized about being the star investigator that cracks the case, this is the one for you.


“As was the case (pun intended) in the 2018 challenge, participants in the 2019 version of the Just the Facts, Ma’am Challenge will be playing detective. The objective is to answer all the important questions of Who, What, When, Where, How and Why to complete cases in either the Golden or Silver Mystery Eras (or for the more adventurous, both). I have added two more spaces to each category and have changed up some of the items to check off. [Thanks to Kate from Cross Examining Crime for her helpful suggestions!] See the Detective Notebooks below.”


This challenge even comes with prizes! So there you have an added incentive to complete this game of detective.


Calendar of Crime


rules for calendar of crime

Image via My Readers Block


This is another intricate challenge, but key for lovers of true crime. The rules are straightforward: for each month of the year, you need to choose a book that satisfies one of the month’s nine categories. The first eight categories in each month are the same, and the ninth is a unique category corresponding to the month, so the challenge is really only as difficult as you make it. Any mystery is a candidate for this challenge, of any publishing date.



The Ultimate True Crime Reading List from Penguin



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This isn’t necessarily a challenge per se, but this list does contain the true crime essentials, like Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon. This list contains 17 books, making it a very achievable challenge for the year, and one that can be easily combined with others. This list is a great way to bolster your true crime reading foundation.


The Sherlock Holmes Reading Challenge


Sherlock Holmes

Image via Kards Unlimited


This challenge was designed for Sherlock (as in the television series starring Benedict Cumberbatch) fans suffering in between seasons, but it also works for true crime fans who have either never encountered a Sherlock Holmes story, or Sherlock Holmes fans who could do with a revisitation to the series. True crime lovers ought to read at least one Sherlock Holmes book during their literary adventures.


For the Non-Fiction Lover:


Not all of us are fiction fans; there are plenty of readers who prefer to sit down with a book rooted in real life. Non-fiction may have a reputation for being less fantastical than fiction, and thus, boring, this is inaccurate. As the saying goes, truth is often stranger than fiction, so whether you’re a longtime non-fiction aficionado, or simply one wishing to bone up on true stories.



Memoir Reading Challenge


Nicole Richie: "I'm writing a memoir."

Image via Giphy


Memoirs make-up some of the most interesting volumes of non-fiction in publication. There are an astronomical number of memoirs in the world to choose from, and this challenge makes it a bit easier for you by giving you a checklist. To win this challenge, simply choose five out of the thirty-two categories and read a memoir that meets the category’s specifications.  This is a great way for lovers of non-fiction to delve into a world of more personal narratives while still hewing close to the factual/that which is based in reality.


Mental Health Reading Challenge


You are not alone

Image via ContactMonkey


This is the most open-ended challenge on this list, as you may read as many books as you like, at any level, as long as the book is about something mental-health related. The main point of this challenge is simply to make mental health awareness a focal point of your reading schedule. Books about mental health range from scientific explanations and expositions on psychology, to intimate, personal narratives on individual experiences with illness. Regardless of what kind of book(s) you choose to read, you will certainly come away with a greater understanding of mental illness.


Historical Fiction Reading Challenge


Old map

Image via Connecticut College


Yes, I know, historical fiction is not non-fiction, and I am by no means saying that you must read some fiction, but I amsaying that more than any other genre, historical fiction encompasses some of the most immersive fiction and non-fiction friendly books out there.


Epistolary Reading Challenge


Writing a letter

Image via Medium


For the Reader Looking to Broaden Their Horizons:

Reading Women Challenge


Covers of books by female authors

Image via Self



Diversity Reading Challenge


Chris Rock: "You want diversity? We got diversity."

Image via Absolute Internship


Postcolonial Reading Challenge



Image via Gfycat


In case you didn’t know, modern literature bears the unfortunate problem of having been irreversibly affected by the process of colonization.

The Ultimate Pride Reading List


Pride flag

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Here’s to hoping that 2019 brings on good fortune, and good reading!


new year's toast

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