January 22, 2020

Crush your 2020 Reading Challenge

Some readers approach a new year with a giant TBR list and a goal for how many books they want to read. Some embrace serendipity, reading whatever and whenever they want. Others, however, like to shake things up through a literary CrossFit workout known as the Reading Challenge. 

Designed to expand the horizons of the curious reader, reading challenges come in many forms. Most offer lists prompting you to seek out books with specific qualities, such as a debut novel, a book published the year you were born, or a fairy-tale retelling. If you’re reading this blog post, you’ve probably got a reading challenge in mind already. Whether it’s Popsugar or Dymocks or book bingo at the library, NoveList is your go-to resource for not just completing, but crushing it. We might not be able to help you find books to fulfill every prompt (you’re on your own for the ones based on book covers), but we can offer you search strategies that’ll put you way ahead of the game.

A few of the strategies below involve browsing or using NoveList’s Advanced Search feature, but for the most part, these searches are ready to be copied & pasted into the NoveList search bar. And these are just to get you started -- you can use Boolean operators such as AND, OR, and NOT to combine search terms however you want, and you can use the Refine Results panel to tailor your results based on your personal taste. (If you really want to be a high achiever, check out NoveList’s field codes  and story elements to learn about the building blocks of these searches.)

Search strategies for your 2020 reading challenge

  • A debut novel: RV Debut 
  • A book in translation: DE Translations
  • A classic you didn't read in school: DE Classics (it’s up to you to remember what you didn’t read in school!)
  • A retelling of a classic or a fairy tale: GX Classics-inspired fiction, GX Shakespeare-inspired fiction, or GX Fairy tale and folklore-inspired fiction. (These are for kids and teen books only.)
  • A book in a specific genre, or a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: open the “Browse By” menu in NoveList and click “Genre” to get started; to take a deep dive into the genres used in NoveList, download The Secret Language of Books. If you’d prefer to create a search, use the GN field code for a broad genre search (GN Romances will search for romances and all romance subgenres, such as Contemporary romances and Romance comics) or the GX field code for an exact genre search (GX Paranormal romances will net you paranormal romances and nothing else).
  • A book published in a specific year: PY 2020 (or whatever year you’re searching for). 
    Using the PY field code lets you search by a particular publication year; to fine-tune a publication date search, use NoveList’s Advanced Search.
  • An award-winning book: adding AND AW Y to any search will limit the search to award-winning books. For example, GX Horror AND AW Y will show you only award-winning horror books. To find out which award a book won, click through the book’s individual record and select the Lists & Articles tab. You can also use the “Browse by” menu on the top left of NoveList and select “Award Winners” to browse the 1,000+ awards we track.
  • A book with a certain word in the title: TI *silver* (or whatever word you’re searching for) 
    Don’t forget the asterisks; they’ll make sure you find books with compound word titles like Silverwing or Quicksilver.
  • A book that’s part of a series: adding SA Y to any search will limit the search to series books only. Clicking on the series title will take you to the series record, where you can see each book in the series listed in order. 
  • An audiobook with a specific narration style (read by the author, read by a full cast, etc.): Try our ready-made strategy for finding audiobooks, and check out all of NoveList Plus’ searchable audio characteristics in The Secret Language of Books.
  • A book that’s been adapted for the screen: GX Books to movies or GX Books to TV 
  • A book by an author who holds a particular identity: Use NoveList’s Advanced Search to search by author nationality, cultural identity (including LGBTQIA), and gender identity. We’ve got another ready-made search strategy for finding books by culture.
  • A book with a specific number of pages (or an audiobook with a specific running time): Use the Advanced Search feature to find books by length.

Good luck and happy reading!

Want to learn more about NoveList


Rebecca Honeycutt is a Readers' Advisory Librarian at NoveList. She is currently listening to Kate Allen’s The Line Tender, read by Jenna Lamia, and reading Adriana Herrera’s Mangos & Mistletoe (because it’s never too late for a holiday romance).


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