The Reading Challenge That Almost Ended Our Relationship

The Reading Challenge That Almost Ended Our Relationship

Sep 12, 2018

Okay, this blog post title is a tad bit dramatic, but let me tell you about this reading challenge my partner Shelly and I got into, and the app that resulted from it. First, let me set the stage:

One of my New Years resolutions for 2017 was to read one book a month. I hadn’t been reading as much as I wanted to, so that seemed pretty doable. The results? I fell short of that goal by six books. Fast forward to 2018, I set my resolutions for two books a month. Two — the nerve! I actually started out strong, but then fell off late Spring and didn’t resume until June. When I got back in a groove, I started to encourage Shelly to get back into reading, which she loved doing and did often just a few years back.

When one of us finished a book (or read any interesting point along the way), we’d give a recap and talk about it. We quickly found ourselves talking shit about who was reading more and, as we do with other affairs in our relationship, we made a bet: whoever reads the most books (i.e. words) by Thanksgiving 2018 only had to pay 20% of our next vacation. If you did the math correctly, the loser has to cover 80% of our next vacation!!

Once we pinky-promised this bet and made it official, it’s like other facets of our relationship didn’t matter anymore :(*. Any free time we had, she would take out her Kindle Paperwhite and devoured books. I watched her read two books over a weekend and was like, “this is cool and all, buttttt...” I’d say something to her and would have to repeat myself because she was lost in Shonda Rhime’s Year of Yes or Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians. What started out as a simple, light-hearted reading challenge suddenly turned into madness!

Enough was enough!, lol. Unless we were both reading at the same time, like on a commute into the city or reading before knocking out at night, we decided to read on our own time (plenty of time to read at least 30-60 min a day) and couple-time was couple-time.

We initially kept track of the books we read via Google Sheets: title, author, number of pages, number of words, date started, and date finished (images below). In the “overview” tab, we could see who was in the lead and how far back the other one was. This low-tech process met our needs at first, but we soon wanted more “features” and thought it would be cool to make an app out of this reading challenge.

Google Sheets Reading Madness
Shelly's Library, which shows the books she has read and is currently reading, along with some basic info.

Google Sheets Reading Madness
My Library, which shows the books I've read and am currently reading, along with some basic info.

Google Sheets Reading Madness
The "readerboard" (see what I did there?) that shows how many words we've read, who's in the lead, and how far behind the other person is.

As a software developer, I love the idea of encouraging others to read and competing against them in this way so this became a perfect “passion project” or “breakable toy” to create. In two weeks working on the app here and there, Reading Madness was born and came alive. Though it's not the prettiest app yet and there's a ton that can be done with an app like this, it completely replaces the Google Sheets we used before and we’re excited to continue using and making it better. See what it looks like below!

Reading Madness app -- Shelly's Library
Shelly's Library in the Reading Madness app!

Reading Madness app -- Danelson's Library
My Library in the Reading Madness app!

Reading Madness app -- Shelly's Library
The Readerboard in the Reading Madness app, which shows different rankings!

If you’re an avid reader or find yourself wanting to get (back) into reading, check out the Reading Madness app and join the challenge! I’d love to hear your feedback after you use it.

Shelly and I have over two months left before our reading challenge ends, so I'll be back with an update later! Invite your friends and join in!

Keep reading and leading,

* Mostly kidding ;)