2020 Ultimate Read/Release Challenge Guidelines and Themes

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Welcome to the 2020 Ultimate Read/Release Challenge! This challenge started several years ago as a TBR reading challenge and has changed to include releases and themes. I am the latest in a long line of hosts.

This challenge is for readers and/or releasers. Each book can earn up to three points:

Read = 1 point. All books count, including registered books, audiobooks, e-books, library books, and non-registered books.

Release = 1 point. Books must be registered. Both wild and controlled releases count and you can count releases from other challenges.

Theme = 1 point. If the book you read and/or release fits the monthly theme, you get another point. Each book can receive a theme point only once. Embedded words are allowed, and theme words can occur in the title or in the author’s name. In some months, cover pictures also count for this point. Book titles can be in any language.

You can read a book one month and release it during another month, or release books you’ve read in the past or haven’t read at all. Just remember that a book can receive a theme point in only one month.

Join us at any time! I will post a new thread each month where you will list your books and the points you’ve accumulated. For BC books, please include the BC link in your post.

The goal of the original challenge was simply to read more TBRs. For me, the main goals are to read more, to release books rather than hanging on to them, and to have fun choosing what I’ll read next. I will not be keeping a master points tally or awarding prizes. You can tailor this challenge to make it more difficult or competitive. For example, set a points goal at the beginning of the year, count only books that fit the theme, don’t use embedded words, or challenge a BC friend to a competition.

Some participants like genre-related themes and others don’t. I’ve included genres or general topics in some months. If you don’t like them, just stick with the word themes. I’ve also incorporated themes from established release challenges, ideas from participants, and themes that appeared in past years. Thanks for your ideas, and feel free to contribute ideas at any time!

See the next post for the year's list of themes.


Here are the themes for 2020 and some examples of acceptable books:

January: Fast asleep
Words related to sleep (for example, doze, nap, snore, night, dark, bed, cot, sheet, blanket, tired, rest), including sleepwear (such as slipper, robe, nightgown) and words related to the act of waking up (awaken, rise). Also, creatures that hibernate (such as bear, bee, snake). Cover pictures of beds, bedrooms or people or creatures sleeping are also included.

Examples: The Sweetest Dream, The Night She Died, BEDford Square

February: Birds
Words related to birds, including types of birds (such as parrot, robin, swallow), parts of birds (such as wing, beak, feather), things birds do (such as fly, sing, perch), and items associated with birds (nest, egg). Cover pictures of birds are also included. This theme is inspired by GoryDetail’s Great Backyard Bird Count wild release challenge, and your wild releases may count for that challenge as well (last year’s thread: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/558743).

Examples: The Flying Troutmans, Blackbird, A Siege of Bitterns

March: In the kitchen
Words for things you would find or do in the kitchen, including any type of food or drink (bread, tea, banana), kitchen appliances and furniture (sink, chair, oven), words related to cooking and eating (e.g., boil, snack, pot, fork). Also, cookbooks or books (fiction or nonfiction) where the main character is a cook, bartender, caterer, or restaurant owner, even without a theme word. Cover pictures that show a restaurant, a kitchen, food, a utensil, or someone cooking will also count. Some words will qualify for GoryDetail’s Wine and Food challenge (last year’s thread: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/558744).

Examples: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Blackberry Wine, Jar City

April: Senses
Words related to the five senses: sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch. This can include the body parts involved (such as eyes, tongue, nose, ears, skin) and other related words like sound, stare, aroma. Solittletime’s 2016 Be Sensible challenge has a great list of ideas for words: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/531735.

Examples: Sacred HEARts, Close Her Eyes, The Corpse with the Golden Nose

May: Government
Words related to government, including royalty (law, rule, minister, council, act, election), as well as names of specific politicians, rulers, dynasties, etc. Cover pictures of royalty or government buildings also count, as do biographies or novels about a politician, government worker, aristocrat, or member of royalty, even without a theme word in the title. Some words may count for AlterEgoZoe’s Royalty challenge (last year’s thread: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/560271).

Examples: The King’s Bishop, Buckingham Palace Gardens, The Law of Dreams

June: Games and sports
Words related to any kind of game or sport, including board games and card games. This includes equipment and places (bat, card, pool, field), verbs related to games and sports (deal, swim, jump, run), and words related to competition (race, win, lose). Biographies of or books where the main character is an athlete also count, even without a theme word in the title, as do cover pictures that show something related to this theme.

Examples: Royal Flush (poker hand), Tree BRIDE (ride), The Long-WINded Lady

July: Colours
Names of colours and related words (e.g., hue, shade, rainbow).

Examples: Girl in Hyacinth Blue, Purple Hibiscus, The Whitechapel Conspiracy

August: The written word
Words related to writing, including the tools (computer, ink, paper), things that are written (story, poem, letter, book, list), ways of writing (scribble, scrawl), and people who work in the publishing industry (writer, editor, printer, bookseller). Also, books (fiction or nonfiction) about writers or editors, nonfiction books about writing and editing, nonfiction collections of letters, and epistolary novels (told through a series of letters), even without a theme word. Phrases such as “A novel” or “Poems” used as a subtitle don’t count. Cover pictures showing items related to writing do count.

Examples: Our Story Begins, The Bookman’s Promise, Dear Exile (collection of letters)

September: The high seas
Words related to the ocean, including travel on the ocean (boat, ship, sailor, pirate, row, drown), words about the ocean (rough, deep, waves, salt, surf), and words related to things that live in the ocean (whale, fish, shell). Also books about ocean voyages (e.g., Life of Pi). Cover pictures that show the ocean, a ship, sailors, etc., also count. Some of the words may count for Bascula’s Pirate challenge (last year’s thread: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/563231).

Examples: GROWing Pains (row), The Boat People, Saving Fish from Drowning

October: Calendar
Words you would find on a calendar, such as names of days, months, holidays, seasons or phases of the moon; the words “calendar,” “day,” “week,” “month,” “season,” “equinox,” “solstice,” “holiday,” or “year” or variations. Titles that contain a particular year are accepted, but other numbers on their own, without a calendar word, don’t count. Cover pictures that show a calendar are accepted. Some words may count for DragonGoddess’s Tick Tock challenge (last year’s thread: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/563481).

Examples: A Year of Writing Dangerously, A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman, Saturday

November: Four or more
Books with four or more words in the title, not including the series name or subtitle. Also, books with a number of four or higher in the title, or books that are number four or higher in a series.

Examples: Buried in a Bog, Six Feet Under, The In-Between World of Vikram Lall

December: First names
Books (fiction or nonfiction, including biography) containing someone’s first name in the title. If the title contains a last name that can also be used for a first name (such as Scott), that counts. Also, baby name books and books with the word “name” in the title. For obvious reasons, author’s names can’t be counted this month. This theme coincides with SqueakyChu’s What’s in a Name? challenge. See last year’s post here: https://www.bookcrossing.com/forum/23/564197.

Examples: Aunty Lee’s Delights, The Riddle of St. Leonard’s, Typhoid Mary


I like this month's themes. Thanks for posting!


kingfan30 1 yr ago
Thank you
For the themes, already got my thinking cap on 🤔👍


I do so look forward to sorting my TBR books into the themes at the beginning of the year and shuffling my shelves to bring the current theme to the top. So even if I don’t get round to posting, or I only do it once every six months, I’m still participating in spirit. And I just realized that a book that I haven’t found a theme for before, will actually fit the sports and games category because it was written by WINifred Holtby! Looks like I shall finally be reading Mandoa! Mandoa! this year. Hooray!


This looks like a fun way to make my way through the piles of books I have, and very timely as I am currently sorting through them all making sure I have journaled/registered them.




Thanks for hosting this challenge again. Looking forward to sorting my books into themes for this year.


I may try to participate at some level or other this year. :)


I kind of dropped out last year when things got busy, but I'll try again this time.


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