2021 Reading Challenges Recap

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Following this month’s theme of “books,” today I’m posting my annual end-of-year reading recap post. This is a tradition I started doing back in 2016 when I began participating in reading challenges and wanted to keep track of which categories I could check off (you can find all of my other year-end reading recap posts here). I also love to see what other people have read through the year and hear what they liked and didn’t like, so if you have a post floating around with your own reading list, let me know in the comments!

Overall Goals

My overall goal for the year was to read 36 books with the idea of finishing 3 per month. Last year I read 33, so I didn’t think this goal was too far-fetched, and it turned out not to be as I ended up reading 50 52 books (I’m updating as I go as I managed to get in a few more books after this post published but before the end of the year ?). I did count books we read for school and many, many kids’ books that I either read with my kids or pre-read for them. However, as both of my kids are now voracious readers, I knew a lot of pre-reading would be happening. I decided to count those books since my time is limited and I can’t read all.the.books all.the.time. Mothers, I’m giving you permission right now to count the books you read for and to your children for your own personal reading goals!

At the beginning of the year, I also wrote down the categories for three different reading challenges: The Back to the Classics Challenge (this is one I’ve participated in to some extent since 2017), The Literary Life Podcast 19 in 2021 Reading Challenge, and the Reshelving Alexandra 2021 Reading Challenge. I came up with ideas for a few of the categories and added them to a spreadsheet for the various challenges I’ve had since 2017, but I’ve learned in the past not to stick with these ideas too closely as it’s a great way to become burned out! I also share the spreadsheet with two other book-loving friends (one a high school English teacher) so they can play along, and we share ideas as well.

I do hope to be better about reading more for myself in the coming year. In the Charlotte Mason world, mother culture and, more specifically, mothers taking 30 minutes of reading time for themselves per day is kind of a duty we owe ourselves. Honestly, most of the time that 30 minutes is tough for me to not only fit into an already busy schedule but also to justify. I am resolving, however, to get over both of these hurdles in the new year.

And now on to the challenges and the books I read for each category!

The Challenges

Back to the Classics (10/12)

For this year, “classic” was defined as anything published before 1971 (which means it won’t be much longer before I myself am a classic). This is my favorite of the challenges and comes with prizes! I haven’t “officially” participated in it for the last few years, so I haven’t been eligible for the prizes, but as I said in the past, reading books for prices feels like a “Book It!” for grown-ups. 🙂 She hasn’t posted a new one for 2022, but she has been late with that in the past so I still have hope that it will happen.

  1. A 19th-century classic – Emma by Jane Austen (1815)
  2. A 20th-century classic – The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (1905)
  3. A classic by a woman author – The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
  4. A classic in translation – The Cross by Sigrid Unset (1922) (I FINALLY finished Kristin Lavransdatter after having started it in 2017)
  5. A classic by BIPOC author – The Street by Ann Petry (1946)
  6. A classic by a new-to-you author – Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886) (it’s true… I had never read any of his other books before this one)
  7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author
  8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title – Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (1877)
  9. A children’s classic – King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (1948)
  10. A humorous or satirical classic
  11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction) – The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford (1960)
  12. A classic play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (1605)

The Literary Life Podcast 19 in 2021 Reading Challenge (10/19)

This was my second year taking on a challenge from the Literary Life Podcast.

  1. A poetry anthology (I have been s l o w l y working my way through an Elizabeth Barrett Browning anthology over the last two years but still haven’t finished it.)
  2. A book (or selection) of letters
  3. A book from your to-be-read stack – Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  4. An ancient Greek or Roman work (we’re reading Plutarch for B’s citizenship, but I don’t think that counts as I’m using Anne White’s study guides)
  5. A book on education, art, or literature – School Education by Charlotte Mason
  6. A Victorian novel – Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
  7. A lesser-known book by a well-known author – The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
  8. A Shakespeare play – A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
  9. A book you have avoided – The Cross by Sigrid Unset (length was the primary factor in my avoidance)
  10. Finish a book you started but never finished – Emma by Jane Austen
  11. A literary biography
  12. Something Russian
  13. A regional or local book – Little Britches by Ralph Moody
  14. A 14th-, 15th-, or 16th-century book
  15. A book in a genre you don’t normally read – Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes
  16. An obscure book mentioned on the Literary Life Podcast
  17. A light comedic novel
  18. An “other world” book
  19. A travel book – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Reshelving Alexandria 2021 Reading Challenge (7/12)

Sadly, Reshelving Alexandria shut down during the year, so this challenge will not happen again in 2022. It’s back! Thanks to Jen @ Bookish Family for letting me know!

  1. Read a book aloud to someone else – Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
  2. A book published in the year of the ox – The Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson
  3. A book you would never read if judging solely on its cover – Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes
  4. A book republished this year
  5. A book published 50 or more years ago – Emma by Jane Austen
  6. A personal favorite from when you or your parent were a teen – Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (I had a crush on Rab)
  7. A book by an Inkling – The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  8. A book about a holiday of a religion not your own
  9. A book to make you laugh
  10. A biography of someone you’ve never even heard of
  11. A book of poetry
  12. A book about a culture rebuilding after a catastrophe – The Library Book Susan Orlean (okay, so this isn’t so much about a “culture” rebuilding unless you could the Los Angeles Public Library as a culture…which some could)

Next Year

I’m sticking with my goal of 36 books for the coming year as I think it’s reasonable and worked well this year. I do hope to read more for myself, but I am very thankful that I also have to read many books for my kids as it means they’re becoming readers by themselves. One of the things I have always wanted to instill in them before they leave our home is a love of books, and I feel they’re on the right path for that.

As for challenges, I always enjoy the Back to the Classics Challenge, though she hasn’t posted one for the coming year yet, so I’m not sure it will be happening. The Literary Life Podcast also has a challenge this year, but I’m not sure if I’ll try that one again. I’ll be on the lookout for more options as many of them seemed to spring up at the end of last year. If you have a favorite reading challenge, be sure to mention it in the comments below!

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    1. Oh yay! Thank you, Jen! I will add those categories to my list. 🙂 And here’s to hoping Back to the Classics also makes a sudden re-appearance!

  1. A little more “Book Club” than Reading Challenge, but I’ve enjoyed Well-Read Mom in the past. Not doing it this year because I’m committed (or trying to be) to reading books that I already own. It also follows the school year and starts in the fall. But great book selections.


    1. I responded to this in my head but apparently never did on the screen. ? It’s funny you mentioned that group, Karen, as someone else mentioned them just about a week or two before you did as well. I think it’s a sign. 🙂

  2. One of my favorite challenges and one I’m getting my kids into this year is Redeeming Readers reading challenge. I am definitely going to check out the classics one since that’s something I want to tackle more of.
    I definitely count all chapter books I read aloud or ahead of my children. Middle grade is a favorite genre anyways so I will often read them on my own. I don’t count picture books simply because it would make my number soar to crazy heights.

    1. Yes, I would feel extremely accomplished if I counted picture books. ?

  3. Thanks for this post Rebecca! I have never completed a reading challenge; finding time is so difficult sometimes. But I very much appreciate you giving us permission to include our homeschool pre-reads and read-alouds in our “personal” list! I’ve just upped my numbers. I would like to complete a reading challenge this year, and you have given me so many ideas. Please post the ones you will participate in for 2022 as I am now invested in your lists!


    1. C.S. Lewis said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” 🙂 I keep that in mind when I count the books I read for my kids as well. I’m not positive which lists I’ll be participating just yet, but I definitely plan to do the Back to the Classics Challenge if it’s back! I’m also toying with making one of my own. 🙂

  4. I love that you use the challenges to help you read widely but aren’t bound to finish them. I gave up early on because I didn’t think that I’d be able to finish. I also think it is important to count prereads and read alouds for our kids that is real reading too. I have a few reading groups/ buddies that help me remember to read adult books and more challenging books too. Though I really haven’t tackled anything really challenging or Russian in a year or more.goals. As my kids get older, my pre reading is definitely getting more challenging though, so I will get there naturally and eventually. Keep up the great work. Your newsletter is always a delight.

    1. I used to think I had to finish the challenges too and when I was actually participating in the Back to the Classics Challenge (where I actually signed up on the website to do it), I felt a lot of pressure and that was no fun. When I just started using it as a guide and stopped trying to fill every category by reading books I wasn’t enjoying, I liked it a lot more. 🙂 I definitely agree with you on the pre-reading! I read somewhere of an AO mom who decided to “re-do” her own education by reading all the AO Year 4 and up books on her own so I feel like I’m now doing the same for myself!

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