Best 2022 Reading Challenges for Sci-Fi and Fantasy Readers

Happy New Year, Readers!

With 2021 behind us and the whole of 2022 ahead, it’s time to take stock of our TBR shelves and lists, think about new goals, discard what no longer serves us or brings us joy, and most importantly, READ!

A photo of a planner, an open book, and a board that says "Happy New Year 2022" next to a mug of tea, all one a gray knitted fabric background.

To that end, I’m rounding up the best 2022 reading challenges for readers of science fiction, fantasy, and other speculative fiction sub-genres!

Reading challenges can be a fun way to expand your reading horizons, explore genres or topics you might not have discovered on your own, and even to meet fellow readers. They can also be an added source of stress or guilt, so they aren’t for everyone. I like to use them as a guide or inspiration rather than something I must complete each year. 

Over the past several years, the number of reading challenges has exploded. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of challenges listed at the Reading Challenges Addict site’s page for 2022 challenges, and more beyond that.

Despite the proliferation of challenges, I couldn’t help but notice how few challenges there are specifically for speculative fiction. If spec fic is your main genre, it may not make sense to do a challenge within that genre… Or it could be the perfect opportunity to discover new authors and sub-genres (and there are so many sub-genres and sub-sub genres in spec fic).

So without further pontificating, here are the six reading challenges (in no particular order) best suited for readers who want to focus on speculative fiction in 2022!


Challenges With Prompts

The more traditional reading challenges include specific prompts, like “read a book set in a bookstore”. You can choose any book that satisfies the prompt, and usually a single book can satisfy multiple prompts and be used in multiple challenges.

Diverse Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books Challenge

This challenge isn’t limited to 2022, but I wanted to include it because it’s one of the few challenges focused specifically on speculative fiction. This challenge, which you can find at Storygraph, features sixteen prompts focused on finding books by own voices authors from a variety of backgrounds. Each prompt also includes a short list of suggested books, so this is also a great place to diversify your TBR in general!


Beyond the Bookends’ 2022 Reading Challenge

The Beyond the Bookends 2022 Reading Challenge logo.

Book blog Beyond the Bookends has a simple but great 2022 reading challenge that features a single prompt for each month of the year. With twelve prompts, this is a great option for people who’ve never done a challenge before, or who want a less-intense challenge that will still push their reading boundaries.

Additionally, all these prompts can easily be used to find a spec fic book (yes, even November’s “Read a book set in WWI”). You can also browse their previous challenges for more ideas and inspiration.


Unabridged Podcast 2022 Reading Challenge

The Unabridged Podcast 2022 Reading Challenge logo.

Most reading challenges focus heavily on adult fiction and nonfiction, which is why I like this challenge written by the three teachers that makeup the Unabridged Podcast! It has both a YA and middle-grade themed prompt, along with a few multimedia prompts (like reading a book and watching its tv or movie adaptation).

This challenge has ten prompts and a number of ways to get involved, including a Facebook group, a hashtag for Instagram, and an Instagram story template so you can share your progress!

Learn more about the challenge and give the podcast a listen over at the Unabridged Podcast website!


Book Riot’s 2022 Read Harder Challenge

The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2022 logo.

Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge is one of the most well-known challenges, and has one of the most lively and engaged communities. This year’s challenge features twenty-four prompts, which breaks down to two books per month. It’s much more doable than some of the other big challenges like PopSugar’s (fifty books)!

This is one of my favorite challenges, and the first one I ever participated in. While certain prompts (such as number six, “Read a nonfiction YA comic” and “Read a history about a period you know little about”) might be hard to twist to speculative fiction, a majority of the prompts lend themselves well to choosing a spec fic book. The active Goodreads community also makes it a great option if you’re looking for community as well as good books.


Challenges Without Prompts

Not all reading challenges are prompt-based! Some are based around numbers of books read, either within a theme or in general. For those who prefer not to be limited by prompts, here’s a couple challenges that are number-based.

SpaceTime Reading Challenge 2022

The 2022 SpaceTime Reading Challenge logo.

Writer and book reviewer Jemima Pett runs the annual SpaceTime Reading Challenge on her blog, jemimapett.com. This is a flexible challenge, and you can choose to aim for as few as five books or as many as forty! 

This challenge focuses on science fiction and time travel books only, and the host requests that all participants post reviews somewhere online (Goodreads is fine). Any book within the prescribed genres that’s at least 100 pages or more can count.


Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2022

Bev of the My Reader’s Block blog hosts the annual Mount TBR Reading Challenge, which challenges participants to read books in their to-be-read piles. The fun twist here is that each “level” of the challenge is pegged to a famous mountain. 

To conquer Pike’s Peak, you have to read twelve books from your TBR pile. To climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, you’ll need to knock off sixty books. And for Mt. Everest, you’ll need to read a whopping one hundred books from your TBR!

Library lovers, take note: Library books don’t count for this one; only books you owned prior to January 1, 2022.


Do you have any reading goals for 2022? Are you planning on doing any reading challenges? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter @bookwitchblog, or Instagram @bookwitchblog!

Indie Bookstore Highlight: Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, PA

One of my favorite things about traveling to new places is visiting new-to-me independent bookstores! Two weekends ago I stopped at Wellington Square Bookshop in Exton, PA while visiting my family in Coatesville.

Wellington Square Bookshop opened in 2005 as a primarily used and rare bookstore, but expanded in 2009 to new books and gift items. They occupy a beautiful, expansive space in Eagleview Town Center, a somewhat hidden development surrounded by apartments and condos.

The store’s simple facade makes it look much smaller than it actually is, and belies the fact that this hidden gem is bursting with personality (although the stone lions guarding the door are your first clue). The first thing you see upon entering the store is a large fountain with goldfish spouting water from their mouths. I’ve certainly never seen any other book shops with fountains!

To the left is a nook with baby books and items like stuffed animals and specialty blocks, and beyond that is a nook full of unique cards and more gift items. I am an adult woman in my thirties, but I very nearly purchased a set of constellation blocks. As I’m writing this, I’m regretting that I didn’t.

New fiction and nonfiction are spread out on tables to the right of the entrance, and a glass case displays rare and valuable books. The small cafe is front and center, with a nice selection of pastries and candies in addition to drinks.

One thing I loved about this store was how each section felt like a room, and each room felt like a new discovery. There are plentiful nooks and crannies with cozy vintage chairs, couches, and tables. The furniture is well-worn, clearly used, but not shabby; it’s all perfect for curling up with a good book.

The mix of new and carefully curated used books lends the store an air of mystery, and the models of hot air balloons hanging from the ceiling lend an air of whimsy. I am a sucker for tin ceilings, and this store has a beautiful one.

Since this is a blog about speculative fiction, I’d be remiss not to mention the science fiction and fantasy section. While small, there was a surprisingly good variety and I found several authors I’d never heard of before. If discovering new authors isn’t the best thing about visiting an indie bookstore, I don’t know what is.

Wellington Square also has a small but mighty children’s section and a fairly robust young adult section, along with an impressive array of signed first editions for sale.

Although the best part of any indie bookstore is its unique selection of books, I also love seeing what gift items indie stores carry. If I didn’t have a large dog (and therefore a very dusty house), I would have absolutely brought home the book-shaped light I found. In short, I could have spent a lot more money than I did.

As it stands, I’m quite thrilled with my purchase of a new book and a handsome little etched glass globe, and I’m excited to stop in the next time I visit my family!

Wellington Square Bookshop also has an online store, so if you’re interested in checking them out virtually, you can do so here! Also be sure to follow them on Twitter and Instagram!

An Ode to My Favorite Bookstore for Indie Bookstore Day

This Saturday, April 24, is Independent Bookstore Day.

Indie Bookstores across the United States will be celebrating with special events, giveaways, unique merchandise only available on Saturday, and the same great customer service and care you always find from your local bookstore.

The Independent Bookstore Day logo, featuring a small stack of books floating thanks to 3 balloons.

As a bookish kid, I loved bookstores. Any kind of bookstore. Mall bookstores, Christian bookstores, the big Barnes & Noble an hour away I only got to visit on special occasions. But most of all, I loved our local independent bookstore, which unfortunately closed in 2016.

When I wasn’t reading, I was likely begging my parents to take me to the Chester County Book and Music Company, a huge (28,000 square feet!) independent book and music store in West Chester, Pennsylvania, about a half hour’s drive from my home in nearby Coatesville.

While CCBMC wasn’t as large as, say, The Strand in New York City or Powell’s in Portland, it was bigger than your average Barnes & Noble. To give you a sense of just how large it was, there’s an LA Fitness in the shopping plaza where the bookstore used to be—and the bookstore took up that entire space.

The only other nearby bookstore was a Walden Books in the mall about twenty minutes away, but its small, corporate layout paled in comparison to the massive rooms stacked with books, magazines, and CDs at the CCBMC.

It even had a restaurant, called the Magnolia Grill, so that shoppers could take a break from the work of browsing the huge store and get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. 

The outside of the Chester County Book & Music Company. Photo copyright Shelf Awareness.

I don’t remember how often my parents consented to drive me into West Chester to lose me in the stacks for hours and hours, only to have to track me down and drag me out kicking and screaming, but it was never often enough for my insatiable desire for more books.

If my mom drove me, I knew I’d have an hour or two max, and I’d be lucky to come out with one or two new books. But if my dad took me, well, that was a good day, because it meant I had up to three hours and could probably convince him to buy me three or four new books.

I had a system for browsing the Chester County Bookstore. First stop: the adult science fiction section, where I’d check for any new Star Wars novels and read the back of non-Star Wars books to see if anything caught my eye (I was looking for military sci-fi with female main characters). Then I’d head to the back room, which housed the massive children’s and young adult sections to see if there was a new book in the Young Jedi Knights series out yet. 

Then I’d spend some time wandering through the rest of the store, looking at whatever caught my interest. I’d pick books up, smell them, page through them, check the price, check my wallet, sigh, and put them back on the shelf. 

I’m not sure what my mom did while I browsed, but my dad spent most of his time in the music section of the store. While the rise of Wal-Mart, Target, and the internet eventually forced the Chester County Bookstore to drastically downsize its music section, in its heyday it had a larger selection than Sam Goody and FYE combined. I’d always take a pass through the music section, but $15 or $20 for a CD could buy me two or three mass market paperbacks.

I dreamed of working in that bookstore when I grew up, but it wasn’t to be. A Barnes & Noble opened in nearby Exton when I was in high school, and the rise of Amazon shortly thereafter eventually forced the CCBMC into a much smaller space, and then eventually out of business.

Me with sci-fi author David Weber at a signing for Mission of Honor at the Chester County Book and Music Company in 2010.

Thankfully, communities and readers have recognized the value of small (and large) indie bookstores, and they are popping up again all over the country. They offer what Amazon can’t: events and book signings with your favorite authors, personalized customer service, a sense of community and connection, local jobs, and a comfortable place to hang out surrounded by books and people who love them.

My favorite bookstore may no longer be in operation, but the spirit of the Chester County Book and Music Company lives on in the hundreds of indie bookstores across the country. Join me in celebrating these vital elements of our communities this Saturday.

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Shout out your favorite indie bookstores on social media by tagging them and using the hashtags #BookstoreShoutOut and #IndieBookstoreDay.
  • Sign up for a virtual Indie Bookstore Day event over at IndieBound.org! With seven different events across topics and genres, you’re sure to find something that interests you.
  • Visit your favorite indie bookstore on Saturday, April 24! Indulge in a shiny new book (or two or three), pick up some exclusive Indie Bookstore Day merch, and have fun! Check out this website to find an indie bookstore near you.

If you love audiobooks and are looking for more ways to support indie bookstores, check out Libro.fm, which is offering free audiobooks for those who make a purchase of at least $15 at their local bookstore between April 24 and 26. Libro.fm financially supports indie bookstores and costs the same as Audible; what’s not to love?

What’s your favorite indie bookstore? (I’m asking for a friend. Who is me. So I can visit.) Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @bookwitchblog!

Introducing a New Line of Bookish Enamel Pins and Buttons!

The Book Witch is pleased to announce a new line of bookish enamel pins and pinback buttons!

A proof image of a hard enamel pin featuring an open book sprouting a rainbow.
My first pin design: Read the Rainbow!

My first ever enamel pin design is inspired by Reading Rainbow and the idea that books are magic. It features seven colors of glitter enamel and is cast in polished silver metal. This two-inch pin is already in production and can now be pre-ordered in my Etsy shop for a discount!

Stay tuned for future enamel pins, as I have a whole world of ideas buzzing around. Think galaxies, wardrobes, and… emojis? 😉

I’m also pleased to share a range of pinback buttons made from recycled books and comics! 

Three pinback buttons made from recycled book pages with highlighted words: book, literature, and the library. The pins are photographed against a background of stacked books.

These buttons are designed to show off your love of books, individual genres, warm beverages, and more! Pinback buttons will come in three sizes and be available for sale soon! Be sure to follow me on Instagram and Twitter to be the first to know when new buttons drop.

Want to help out but not quite ready to buy yet? Be sure to favorite my shop to be alerted when new products are added, items go on sale, and more! Plus, making my shop a favorite will help me in search rankings on Etsy, too.

Making Buttons from Recycled Books

As a bookseller & reviewer, I get a lot of advance reader copies from publishers, in both physical and digital formats. It’s awesome! I get to read books before they come out and publishers get early feedback on their new releases.

There’s just one problem: ARCs can’t be sold, and most of the usual suspects (libraries, Goodwill, etc.) don’t accept them as donations, either. So what to do with all those ARCs?

For books I absolutely loved, I always pass the ARC on to a friend or leave it in a Little Free Library for a stranger to discover. 

A stack of books, pages face out, with a witch hat on top of the stack. Pins and buttons are held between the pages.
A few of my own button designs mixed in with some of my favorite bookish enamel pins from Ideal Bookshelf, the American Bookseller Association, Out of Print, and indie pin maker Fandom Planet Designs!

But what to do with the rest, especially when there are piles upon piles of them all over my house? Tossing them in the recycling bin seemed so heartless and mechanical. 

I tried donating them to schools or women’s shelters, but COVID has made that process even more difficult, and the truth is that the cheap binding on ARCs mean they won’t stand up to more than a few readings anyway.

So, I thought, why not UP-cycle them and turn them into wearable art? I always wanted a button maker, and this was the perfect excuse to buy one!

If you have ideas for designs you’d like to see, words you’d like me to feature, or want to request a custom button, let me know on Instagram, Twitter, or through email at kelly@bookwitch.blog