The 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge by Jess Witkins

Welcome to Life List Friday here at More Cowbell! Today, I have the honor of hosting one of the founders of the Life List Club, Jess Witkins. She’s talking about BOOKS, a subject near and dear to my heart, while I’m at J.A. Bennett’s blog asking, Have You Discovered Your “Life’s Work?”

To find out more about the Life List Club, click here (my goals are there too!). To join in the blog hop, either click the link to my post above or on any of the names in my right sidebar under Life List Club.

Here’s Jess with an AWESOME post! (p.s. There’s a FAB announcement at the very bottom of this post, so be sure to keep scrolling. 🙂 )


The 2012 TBR Pile Challenge
by Jess Witkins

It’s heeeeeeeeere! *cue horror flick scream*

Just kidding, this is an exciting challenge that is fast approaching with the new year. And it has nothing to do with underwear, a change for those of us who’ve been following Jenny’s blog. 🙂

Allow me to introduce to you the The 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge! Many of us, myself included, have a stack of books that is waiting for you to turn the cover.

Read me. I'm lonely. (Source: Google images)

My problem this year was that even though I had a shelf full of amazing looking titles and authors, I still purchased a ton of other books or rented from the library to get ones for bookclubs.

Joining a bookclub was something new for me this year, and it started out being something I thought I wouldn’t stick with. I thought, I have so many books to read already! But sometimes reading a book you wouldn’t have otherwise picked up can be a great thing, not to mention the vast perspectives I’m privy to every time we meet. I love the discussions!

Along with my bookclub, I also challenged myself to read at least 2 books a month as part of my Life List goals. For some that may seem small, and for others that goal is big. I hadn’t read consistently for some time and I wanted to get back into it. I know what a crazy work schedule I have though, so 2 books a month is just the right goal, and where possible, I have stretched myself to complete 3. It’s made me make time for reading, a hobby both rewarding and educational as I also started up writing again.

I now use my break time to read, which means I have to stay very focused on when I complete my other work so I don’t have to work over my lunch hour. I also read before bed each night, which has made me speed up other duties to allow for time to do so.

I have absolutely loved reading through so many books this year, and yet my bookshelf only grows more cramped. That’s when I discovered the 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge! (I like it in bold, I imagine an announcer reciting that every time I type it. Next, I’m adding horns!)

I first stumbled upon the challenge on Jillian’s blog A Room of One’s Own, and if you’ve never visited Jillian, she’s an excellent resource for classical literature. She’s got a long list to go through but provides well researched and interesting book reviews!

The original challenge comes from Adam at Roof Beam Reader and you can still officially sign up through December 31st.

The goal is to select 12 books you wish to complete throughout 2012, and upon successful completion, you are entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon Gift Card. I don’t know about you, but if I win, I’m buying more books!

Here are the rules:

1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later (any book published in the year 2010 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

2. You must write an original review/response (it doesn’t have to be anything fancy) for each book, to help us ensure you are actually completing the books you say you are.

3. The link you post in the Mr. Linky AT ADAM’S SIGN-UP POST must be to your “master list.” This is where you will keep track of your books completed, crossing them out and/or dating them as you go along, and updating the list with the links to each review (so there’s one easy, convenient way to find your list and all your reviews for the challenge).

What I love about this challenge is it gives me a goal to work towards AND saves me money! I was beginning to feel awful for buying so many books I hadn’t yet even read, or worse, received as gifts and still couldn’t thank the gift giver for recommending it.

This challenge will help me to make time for the books that have sat on my shelf too long! I’m sure I’ll still be finding more good ones, after all, new writers are popping up everyday, but this will help me to read books I’ve intended to all along with the new ones I’m just learning about.

Here’s my list: (Can also be found on my 2012 TBR Pile Challenge page)

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  3. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  4. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
  6. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  7. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  8. The Lace Reader by Bromonia Barry
  9. The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee
  10. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  11. The Preacher’s Bride by Jody Hedlund
  12. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben H. Winters, Jane Austen


  1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
  2. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

So, will you be joining me this new year? What books will be on your 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge? What are your favorites, just in case I need to edit my list before December 31st? 🙂

Jess Witkins claims the title Perseverance Expert. She grew up in a small Wisconsin town as the much younger youngest sibling of four, she’s witnessed the paranormal, jumped out of a plane, worked in retail, traveled to exotic locations like Italy, Ireland, and Shipshewana, Indiana, and she’s eaten bologna and lived to tell about it! She deals with it all and writes about it! Come along on her midwest adventures; Witkins promises to keep it honest and entertaining. Go ahead, SUBSCRIBE, you know you want to.

Follow on Twitter: @jesswitkins

ANNOUNCEMENT: At last, our Rock The Row Party prizes are up at the ROW80 blogsite – we’ve got photos and links and prizes…come visit!!!!

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm ( Write on!
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37 Responses to The 2012 To Be Read Pile Challenge by Jess Witkins

  1. Thanks for making me aware of this challenge – something I need so much!


  2. This is a great idea! Unfortunately I’m not even sure I could read 12 of my books this year. I’m struggling to get the one book club book per month finished as is. The good news is I’ve already read 3 on Jess’s list. Can I read yours??


    • Jess Witkins says:

      I hear ya on the book club taking away from our own growing shelves. I battled that too, but in the end the discussions were always worth it, so I decided to keep it up. I did include one book club title on my list, The Piano Teacher. And we’ve all talked about The Red Tent, so I may try to sway the members to do that one too, Then it will allow me even more books to read! LOL


  3. Pingback: My Five Year Plan (Or Lack Thereof): Guest Post by Sonia Medeiros « Jess Witkins' Happiness Project

  4. hawleywood40 says:

    What a great idea! I’ll give throwing my hat in the ring some thought – as much as I’ve had to revise my goals already these past few months I’m a little hesitant to commit, though : ). Maybe I’ll just visit my bookshelf and identify a few to play along in the background!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      Hey any amount helps that ever growing bookshelf! I’m glad I put this in my goal because it’s a fun one to work on. I unknowingly gave myself a goal that relaxes me and gets me excited again. So when the other goals aren’t going my way, this one takes over. LOL


  5. Marcia says:

    Like you, Jess, I have dozens of books on the TBR pile and keep buying more. Now I have some on my Kindle and they keep piling up! I saw this challenge elsewhere and gave it some serious thought but, I think for this year I’ll follow along unofficially because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to commit. On my TBR list are Self-Editing for Fiction Writers-Renni Browne & Dave King, A Self Publisher’s Companion-Joel Friedlander, The Lost Wife-Alyson Richman, The Tipping Point-Malcolm Gladwell, Sin in The Second City-Karen Abbott, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet-Jamie Ford, 22 Brittania Road-Amanda Hodgekinson, Letters From Home-Kristina McMorris, Those Who Save Us-Jenna Blum, Devil Colony-James Rollins, Flapper-Joshus Zeitz, Room-Emma Donohue. That’s 12, plus I’ve already begun Wicked-Gregory Maguire, Fly Away Home-Jennifer Weiner, The Yellow House-Patricia Falvey, Story Engineering-Larry Brooks, and Plot & Structure-James Scott Bell. AND that doesn’t include the books on my Kindle I’ve already started! I have to beat myself into remembering to finish one before I begin another! It’s just that there are soooo many books out there I want to read! Good luck with the challenge, Jess!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      LOL. You do have a big list. I love that Sin in the Second City is on it! Have fun reading about the daring Everleigh sisters. 😉 Wanna know what helps me to get through multiple books at a time? Audio books!!! I get them from the library and play them while I get ready in the morning or on long drives to the cities for work or home. But I also have a paperback book that I’m reading on breaks or in bed.

      P.S. I’ve decided, since I’m finally going to get a kindle, that I shall create the mechanism for the e-reader that will let you push a button to pick up the page you’re on and make it an audio book on command. So you can do both depending on what you’re working on. Read or listen. Since this isn’t around yet, I’m absolutely willing to take over the full time job of recording MY VOICE reciting all the popular novels coming out, AND I promise to do all the voices and accents in the story. What do you think? Million dollar idea, right? I know, it’s gold. Thank you.


      • Marcia says:

        I think Second City will be my next read! What an awesome idea! Hurry up and invent it! I’ll be your guinea pig for the voice of my stories! Try them out on me! It is a great idea…no joke. I saw someone online, a guy, who’s doing that. Can’t remember where i saw it, but it’s another stream of income! I’ve only imagined your voice up to now, so i definitely think you should do it.


  6. Julie Glover says:

    I love this idea! I’m all over it. I have had several books in the queue now for years, and I can’t believe I haven’t just plunged in already! Thanks for the heads-up.


  7. That sounds awesome! I’ve had to set goals for my reading as well and this looks like a good place to start, then again I would like to leave myself open to doing review for new authors. Lot to consider. Great post!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      I hope you participate! I love and hate the fact that while doing this I’m going to read other’s reviews and be like, “oooh, that book sounds good” and suddenly there it will be: the 2013 TBR Pile Challenge!!! LOL

      Bring it on!


  8. Love this idea — thank you for sharing it. I read a lot. I read all the time. I buy books, get them from the library, listen to the audiobooks in the car and while cooking/cleaning/gardening etc. I would like to add a few of your books to my to-be-read list, which I keep on goodreads. com
    Happy reading 🙂


  9. Hi Jess, I tend to read in spurts. I’ll read two novels back to back and then not read another for a long time. The club seems like a great way to stay honest. As someone who wants to be a novelist, I have to read more novels. But that means getting away from non-fiction, which I read quite a bit. I wish there was more time during the day!


    • Jess Witkins says:

      Oh man, don’t we all wish for more time? I’m like that when I try to plan vacations. I want to take a relaxing one, but I’m also like I MUST CRAM EVERYTHING I POSSIBLY CAN INTO THE DAY TO MAXIMIZE MY TIME OFF FUN! LOL One of these days, I’ll take a reading retreat.


  10. Jenny Hansen says:

    I read while I brush my teeth, blow-dry my hair, eat lunch. I’m not a big bedtime reader because I WILL stay awake, but there’e just never enough reading time once you’re a mom AND a blogger. 🙂


  11. I love this idea and will have to join the 2013 challenge. Believe it or not, when I bought my Kindle this last spring, I went through the stacks of unread books on my shelves and donated them to my local library. I new TBR pile — on my Kindle — is so much neater and most of the titles are from 2011. 🙂

    Wishing all who join the 2012 challenge a wonderful year of reading!


  12. Carrie says:

    interesting challenge. I know I have ton of books on my Kindle I need to read plus some that have been kicking around my shelves FOREVER…might have to take this on 🙂


  13. Oooh! Sounds like a great challenge. I have a huge to-read list. I’ve also made it a goal for ROW80 to read 2 fiction and 2 writing craft books a month. I had been neglecting reading for so long. Now, I’m getting back into the zone and I love it.


  14. I like the idea, minus the writing-a-review part. Ironic, since I was a book reviewer for several different publications for over three years. I have a stack of books at least twelve deep that have been on my TBR list for ages now. I may just tackle this project for fun.

    May I make one suggestion? Ditch Loving Frank (not that I’ve ever heard of it) for a spellbinding thriller about eco-terrorism that pits an evil megalomaniac with a penchant for blood against a single mother who is a newspaper reporter (girl power!) based in Portland, Oregon in this great book I’ve read (and others have provided excellent feedback on) called NO TIME FOR KINGS. I don’t remember the name of the author, but I think he blogs here, and I believe there’s a link to purchase the book right on his home page.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I’m with you on the “Yikes, I’ve got to write a review??!” part of this. It’s the main reason I haven’t signed up yet. That book sounds awesome BTW (both of them).


    • Jess Witkins says:

      LOL. Don’t worry, your book is on my Christmas list, so hopefully I’ll be unwrapping it in one week’s time and then it WILL on my TBR list for sure! Rules of the competition though require publication in 2010. Yours is extra.


  15. Sherry Isaac says:

    Jess, thanks for sharing this. Awesome. Not only did I join the challenge, but I have my post for this week at Romance and Beyond. WOO HOO.


  16. Callene Rapp says:

    I’m late, but soooo in on this one. This sounds managable even for the crazy train my life is. Thanks for posting this Jenny!


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