After participating in the year-long reading challenge Start onYour Shelfathon in 2020, I knew I wanted to do at least one reading challenge in 2021 to help guide my reading. I like the idea of reading challenges and that gamification aspect, especially how they make me look around and mix up my TBR and sometimes even search outside of it to meet challenges.
So I figured I’d go find a really popular reading challenge like “Beat the Backlist” or something similar and join in.
… But I know that you know… that I’m not telling the truth. (*cue music*)
Okay no. I went to The StoryGraph, which has this excellent collection of reading challenges, and picked one that only five other people are participating in (maybe?), but… it made me smile. I joined the Psych Reading Challenge. This is a full-year challenge with prompts inspired by the USA show Psych, which aired from 2006 to 2014 and has had two feature films in 2017 and 2020.
I loved this show, and have rewatched it twice now. It’s not perfect, and it became more self-aware in both it’s portrayal of the police and Black characters later in the series. But it’s ridiculous and makes me smile, so I don’t think I’ve every clicked a “Join this Reading Challenge” link so quickly.
The Psych Reading Challenge is hosted by voidshelves on The StoryGraph, who I believe also blogs at The Void if I’ve been cross-referencing adequately. There are 15 prompts, and here’s my TBR for this challenge which I intend to finish by the end of the year!
1. Santa Barbara Police – An ACAB Nonfiction Novel
First up, to make sure we acknowledge that this lovely show is set at a police precinct, read a book that educates you on the problems with how police works in America and police brutality. ACAB! This can be a book on defunding the police, a memoir about someone who has experienced police brutality, whatever you want as long as it helps educate you.
For this challenge, I’ll be reading Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea J. Ritchie. I’m actually picking up a paperback copy of this for the challenge. I really wanted to read a book specifically talking about Black women and how the police system as it stands affects them.
2. I Know You Know That I’m Not Telling the Truth – Read a Book with “Lies/Lying/Liar” in the Title
Shawn Spencer, our boy, is lying about his psychic abilities. The book you choose should have a title with “lie” or any of its iterations in the title. If you REALLY find nothing that works with the word that you want to read, you can change this to be a book that centers around lying or features lying as a prominent plot point.
For this prompt, I’ll be reading Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard. I picked up a paperback of this secondhand a long time ago and haven’t read it yet… but I also have this on Apple Books that I got for free at one point, so I may end up reading that ebook instead!
3. My Name is Shawn Spencer, and This is My Associate, Jazz-Hands – Read a Book With Mistaken Identity
How many names has Gus been introduced as? So many. Read a book that relies on someone using a different identity.
Poor Gus only ever got introduced by his real name once in the series… and that was by Lassiter, the cop character, and not his best friend. Sort of sad? For this challenge, I’m planning on reading Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. It’s a play I know pretty well, but it’s been a while since I read it in its actual form (vs. the many retellings) and I want to revisit it.
4. You Heard About Pluto? That’s Messed Up, Right? – Read a Book Set In Space
We love Gus’ best pickup line. Read a book in space in honors of Gus’ many failed attempts at winning over women.
As tempted as I was to pull out How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming for this challenge (a book I liked pretty well when I read it in 2018!), I decided to look to my TBR instead and for this prompt I’ll be continuing the Illuminae series by reading Gemina.
5. Spot the Pineapple – Read a Book With Easter Eggs
One of the fun things about Psych is looking for the pineapple in each episode. Read a book that has hidden elements you’re searching to find.
Every time I rewatch Psych I’m so on-point looking for the pineapple… then I forget about halfway through the series – gah! Well, regardless, I’m a big fan of Easter eggs and references to pop culture and the such, so this was a super easy prompt for me. Really, the challenge could only be filled by Ready Player Two. I put the audiobook on hold with my library back in November… and last I looked, I should have it by hopefully July? I’ve heard really mixed things about it – I’m looking forward to listening to it myself.
6. Suck it! (Shawn and Gus) – Read a Book With a Dynamic Duo
Ah, Shawn and Gus, what an iconic friendship. To celebrate this iconic friendship, read a book with a dynamic duo of some sort.
As much as I love Shawn and Gus… and Batman and Robin… and all sorts of “dynamic duos”… the original has to go to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. With that in mind, I decided to tap another sequel on my TBR to meet this challenge, and so I’m going for the second book in the Charlotte Holmes series, The Last of August. I liked A Study in Charlotte more than I expected when I read it in 2019, and haven’t gotten to the second book yet. If you read YA and are looking for a Holmes retelling, I’d recommend these ones.
7. Since I’ve Met You, I’ve Been Thinking About Buying a Car (Shules) – Read A Book With a Slow-Burn Romance
Shawn Spencer and Juliet O’Hara experienced a four season slow burn before finally getting together. Read a book in honor of them.
Okay so Leah and Jefferson’s relationship in the Gold Seer trilogy has been a slooooow burn so I’m going to take this as a sign that, clearly, I need to finish the trilogy in 2021 and so for this prompt I’ll be reading Into the Bright Unknown. My husband got me this for Christmas (because he’s the BEST and I kept telling him about “that book with the gold-finding magic) but I’ll still probably listen to the audiobook version because there are no holds and I’ve been enjoying those.
8. You Astound Me (Shassiter) – Read a Book With Rivals to Lovers
If you’re like me and you love Shawn’s constant flirting with Carlton Lassiter, you’re probably a slut for the rivals / enemies to lovers trope. Here I want you to find specifically a rivals to lovers trope.
I don’t really go looking for certain kinds of romances when I read books. Romance is sort of a thing that seems to be inevitably in every book whether I like it or not. For this one, I actually had to hit the trope lists to find a book and ultimately, I chose Serpent & Dove for this challenge. It was on my TBR and I nearly got trampled and did have a security guard get up in my face when I was trying to maneuver around the Epic Reads booth near handout time for this ARC at BookCon 2019… so I have some negative feelings about it from that experience? … Still, there was an audiobook I could borrow and people seem to really like this book… so… I’ll try it. I’ll try.
9. Henry Spencer’s Life Lessons – Read a Book With A Strained Parent/Child Relationship
Henry and Shawn Spencer don’t have a great relationship- but it’s one that goes through a lot throughout the seasons. Read a book with a complex parent/child relationship with a lot of love but a lot of anger.
I was digging through lists to find a book for this prompt when it occurred to me that His Dark Materials is perfect for a poorly functioning parent/child relationship. It’s been a few years since I read this series, but it’s a childhood favorite, so, for this challenge I’ll be rereading The Golden Compass.
10. Interim Chief Vick – Read a Book with a Pregnant Protagonist
Vick was an amazing Chief, and one thing I loved about her character when we met her was that she was pregnant. You can be powerful and still be pregnant, so read a story with a pregnant protagonist. Preferably one where the pregnancy is not the main focus of the story.
This was admittedly another “I scoured the internet trying to find a thing” book. Thing is, when a protagonist is pregnant, that’s usually the twist. Unless the book is a romance paperback, it seems, which is not my cup of tea. Finally, I landed on Exit, Pursued by a Bear which has been on my TBR for a few years and while it’s a little out of my normal realm, it’s still a book I’m interested in reading.
11. Psych: The Musical – Watch a Book That Connects to a Musical in Some Way
Is the book about a musical? Is it a book that inspired a musical? Are the characters putting on a musical in the book? There just has to be some sort of connection to musical theater in the book.
I’ve been meaning to reread Wicked for a few years now and this prompt just seemed like the perfect time to do that. Although I may end up picking up a new copy… I’ve got a mass-market paperback with sprayed green edges, but the text is really condensed and small.
12. An Evening With Mr. Yang – Read a Book with an Innovative Antagonist
The three episodes of Mr. Yang and Mr. Yin are some of the best Psych episodes to date. Read a book with a dynamic antagonist that opposes the protagonist in an interesting way. It doesn’t have to be a villain, exactly, but it does have to be an innovative opposing force for the main character.
Finders Keepers was already on my TBR as I read Mr. Mercedes a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. Stephen King has a way with interesting, innovative antagonists and as soon as I read this prompt, I thought of Brady Hartsfield. I have every confidence that the antagonist in the second book of this series will be just as twisted.
13. Pierre Despereaux – Read a Book With a Heist
Need I explain more?
I love a good heist! Death Prefers Blondes has been on my TBR since before publication. I don’t read lot of heist books, but I do find them conceptually interesting. And I love heist movies. There weren’t many heist books on my TBR already… so I’m really looking forward to reading this one.
14. Dual Spires – Read an Adaptation
This can be a book that adapts classic literature, or something that was later adapted into a movie, or a book that was adapted from a movie! If adaptation is involved, it’s all pretty epic.
This worked out really well – Inkheart was already on my hardcopy TBR! It’s six books deep at the moment, but if all goes well I’d anticipating reading it in February, Psych Reading Challenge or no Psych Reading Challenge. This also means you can anticipate a book vs. movie on this one in… probably April (spoiler: I actually really like the movie, so this is going to be difficult)?
15. Psych Man and Magic Head – Read a Book With Superpowers/Superheroes
I personally love the comics based episode, and any jokes about magic head. Read a book with superpowers. Real ones, not fake ones like Shawn.
Emily Lloyd-Jones’s book The Hearts We Sold was a standout read for me in 2017, so I am excited to be committing to read another of her books this year! Bonus points because there’s an epidemic involved, and at the moment all pandemic/epidemic-driven books feel like alt history. Like a few others on this list, Illusive has been on my TBR for a long time, and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Well, that’s it! Fifteen books I’ll be reading scattered through 2021, in various formats. This challenge was a difficult one for me, forcing me to really look outside my normal comfort books and areas to find those books that would fulfill the challenges and in the case of Invisible No More, encouraging me to open up my TBR and seek more non-fiction books to educate myself. Something I should do more of.
I’m really looking forward to reading these books and sharing them with everyone this year!
Are you participating in any themed reading challenges this year? If so, which ones? Why did you pick them? Drop your own TBR posts and videos in the comments!