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Decades Reading Challenge

Back by popular demand, 2024 will mark the fifth year of the Decades Reading Challenge. This was the first reading challenge we launched in 2020 with a small group of readers. We love seeing how it’s grown, with nearly 7,500 readers registering to participate over the past four years.

Throughout this 2024 reading challenge, we’ll be reading some of the best books set in each decade from the 1880s through the 2010s. Whether it’s your first time or your fifth joining the Decades Challenge, we’re happy to have you!

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How Does the Decades Challenge Work?

Every month, you will read a book of your choice set in a specific decade, working your way chronologically from the late nineteenth century in January up to the early twenty-first century by the end of the year.

For each monthly prompt, we do the research for you! Our carefully curated book recommendation lists span a wide variety of genres, allowing you to spend more time reading and less time researching.

Join our Facebook group to chat throughout the month with others who are reading about the same challenge themes. Then, when you finish your book for each prompt, go deeper with book club-style conversations in our Together Book Discussion Forum.

Challenge Participant Quote that reads: "The guides are thoughtful and thorough with variety and choice. We’re not all reading the same things, we don’t need to, and we are still on the journey together."

What Kinds of Books are Included?

As with our other challenges, we provide carefully researched lists of highly-rated titles for you to choose from for each reading prompt. The Decades Challenge is perfect for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, including sub-genres like romance, mystery, literary fiction, and more.  However, you don’t have to be a fiction reader to participate. We also include non-fiction suggestions about important people and events from each decade.

In addition to a range of genres, we always try to include diverse characters and authors. The books are a mix of new releases and older books that may be easier to find at the library without a wait.

Within the book list, each recommendation includes a synopsis of the book and additional notes to help you select your perfect read. Many also have ratings from our readers who participated in prior years.

Stack of 3 books in a hand, in front of a wall of books

Join the Decades Challenge

Our Friday email newsletter is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting the newly updated book lists, and we will help you stay on track with friendly reminders while allowing you the flexibility to read at your own pace.

When you sign up using the box below, you’ll get a welcome email with a link to download the cute printable tracker for this challenge. If you’re already on the email list, it’s okay to fill it out again for this year’s tracker using your same email address.

If you’re participating in the challenge, in addition to signing up for the email list, we recommend joining our Read with the Book Girls Facebook group. It’s a friendly place where we discuss books, both for the challenges and anything else that we’re reading.

Reading Challenge Prompts & Book Recommendation Lists

Since this challenge is in its 5th year, we have book recommendation lists published for all twelve of the monthly Decades Challenge prompts. However, we do a major update to each list by the 3rd Friday of each month prior to the prompt.

For example, the February list will be updated by Friday, January 19th. The updated book list will be included in the email newsletter on that date. Books will be removed, and others added, so we recommend waiting until the updated list is finalized before choosing your book.

JANUARY: Books Set in the 1880s and 1890s*
FEBRUARY: Books Set in the 1900s and 1910s*
MARCH: Books Set in the 1920s
APRIL: Books Set in the 1930s
MAY: Books Set in the 1940s
JUNE: Books Set in the 1950s
JULY: Books Set in the 1960s
AUGUST: Books Set in the 1970s
SEPTEMBER: Books Set in the 1980s
OCTOBER: Books Set in the 1990s
NOVEMBER:
Books Set in the 2000s and 2010s*
DECEMBER: Books that Span Multiple Decades

*For the months that cover two decades, you only need to read one book from that time period.

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Printable Book Lists

Readers who support The Book Girls’ Guide through our Buy Me a Coffee (BMAC) membership site have access to two different printable versions of this book list beginning on 12/8/23.

New for 2024, members can print a single page containing all the book titles from each guided challenge list. We will also continue providing the journal page format, which has space to indicate your interest level in each book, jot down notes, and rate the books once you have read them.

Printable pages showing book titles

Our BMAC members (we call them our BFFs) help cover the cost of running the challenges so we can keep them free for everyone. You can read more about why our members are essential and learn about the perks of membership.

What Do I Do When I Finish Reading My Book Each Month?

Book Logs – Share Your Book Rating and Review

As a member of our email list and Facebook group, Read with the Book Girls, you can share your rating and other thoughts about your monthly challenge reads via our book log form. We share a link to the book log in the Friday newsletter every week.

The book logs help us determine which books should stay on our recommendation lists, which should be removed, and whether any changes are needed to our descriptions. Additionally, we use the log data to calculate the “BGG Reader Ratings” that you’ll see noted for many of the books.

At the end of each month, we compile an infographic highlighting the top books from each challenge prompt. It’s become a fun tradition that many look forward to in our newsletter!

Discussion Groups – Join the Conversation

Throughout the month, there will be opportunities to share your book selections and chat with other readers participating in the Decades Challenge in our Read With the Book Girls Facebook group.

At the beginning of each month, we’ll start a discussion thread for each book in our Together Book Discussion Forum. The first time you visit the Together Forum, you’ll complete a simple one-time registration. We suggest starting with this handy tutorial to see how everything works.

When you finish your book for each prompt, visit Together to engage in book club-style conversations. We invite you to add questions in the forum and engage with others who have read the same book. Just keep in mind that the discussions may contain spoilers as they’re intended for those who are finished reading. If you can’t think of what to ask, check out our universal book club discussion questions.

Additional Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to participate?

All our reading challenges, as well as our other book lists and resources, are free for everyone! It takes an extraordinary amount of time to put together and administer the challenges, but we never want finances to be a barrier to participation. At the request of some of our readers, we established a totally optional Buy Me a Coffee membership for anyone willing to help support our work.

How do I find the recommendation lists when I’m ready for a new book?

You will always find a link to the two most recent reading prompts for the Decades Challenge right at the top of our homepage at bookgirlsguide.com. You’ll also find a link to the Decades Challenge book lists in the Reading Challenge section of our newsletter each Friday morning. Be sure to register for this challenge via the email form in the blue box above to be added to our weekly newsletter list.

Do you host any other reading challenges?

Yes! We have five reading challenges – three of which are “guided challenges” (including the Decades Reading Challenge) and two that are self-paced. You can find more details about all of our challenge options here.

Reading Challenges from Book Girls Guide - 5 Options Showing Printables

You are welcome to join in as many challenges as you would like each year. Many of our readers participate in more than one.

If I’m doing more than one challenge, can a single book count twice?

Yes, absolutely! In fact, we even help you find books that meet more than one challenge with a special crossover list that we update and share in the newsletter each month. This list identifies the books that meet more than one challenge prompt for that month.

Do audiobooks count?

Yes! We’re equal-opportunity readers. Whether you choose a paper book, ebook, or audiobook, if you finish the material knowing the story the author set out to tell, you’ve “read” the book!

Can I choose my own book?

Absolutely! You can choose any book from our list, or any other book that meets the challenge theme of the challenge prompt. In fact, if you really enjoy an off-list book you select, we’d love to hear about it on this form.

Can I recommend a book for one of the decade book lists?

Yes, we’d love to hear your recommendation, and you can submit it using this form. Please only recommend books that you’ve already read and rated highly.

How do I get the printable reading challenge log?

Just scroll back up and fill out the email form in the blue box, which is located above the links to all the book lists.

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What if I signed up, but didn’t receive the email?

Sometimes, our emails might get trapped in your spam filter. If you signed up but haven’t received the email with the printable reading tracker, be sure to check your spam folder. To keep future emails out of the spam folder, be sure to add our email address to your address book, or drag our emails over to your Primary tab in Gmail. If you’ve checked your spam folder and still don’t see the email from us, then please send us a quick email to hello(at)bookgirlsguide(dot)com and we’ll get it sorted out for you as quickly as we can.

Can I join a reading challenge after January?

Absolutely! How you choose to participate is totally up to you, so there’s no such thing as being behind. Any month can be a great time to start!

If you’re a voracious reader, you can double up and complete multiple prompts in one month. Sometimes, people jump in and start with the current month’s prompt, while also picking a second book from earlier in the year.

But really, no pressure from us. We’re happy for you to join in whenever and wherever!

What happens if I miss a month?

Nothing at all! Life happens, and we’re committed to our challenges being fun and not stressful.

While it feels great to make it to the end of the year with all 12 months completed, sometimes it’s better to skip a month and move on to the next prompt when you can. You can also go back and read the month you skipped if you’d like, but please don’t feel any pressure to do that.

Do I have to go in order?

Yes and no. Our idea for the challenge was based on reading your way chronologically through the decades to better understand how daily life changed throughout the years. Additionally, we’ll be updating the book lists each month based on the schedule we’ve laid out, so reading in order will ensure that you always have the best, most up-to-date book recommendations based on reader feedback from last year.

If the discussion groups are important to you, that’s a good reason to stick with the recommended order of the prompts. That way, you’ll be reading about the same decade as other participants.

Can we use the challenge for our book club?

Absolutely! We’ve had many book clubs use our challenges and reading prompts to help guide their book selections throughout the year. One suggestion is to give each member a link to the book list for each prompt and let them vote on their top 3 options to help narrow down the book options before making the final selection as a club. We also have a list of Universal Book Club Discussion Questions to spark insightful conversations, no matter what title your club is exploring.

Reader Quote: "I joined this year’s Decades Challenge because historical fiction is my favorite genre. The challenge allowed me to broaden my choices and learn about events I didn’t already know."

We look forward to reading with you this year!

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Angela & Melissa

The Book Girls are best friends who jointly read over 200 books per year. We started Book Girls' Guide in 2019 to help others de-stress and find joy through the power of a great book. We do in-depth research on thousands of novels and non-fiction titles each year to provide curated book lists covering a variety of genres.

Steph Hanzlik

Friday 19th of January 2024

This is my first "toe dip" into The Book Girls offerings and challenges. Being an avid reader of historical fiction, I'm really looking forward to the Decades Challenge! Thanks for such a terrific offering!

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