Topic challenges for Literature SE were first proposed and enacted in March 2017. The motivation for these, as well as to bring our users together in a community activity of reading the same books or stories together at roughly the same time, is to increase the diversity of literature covered on our site, as well as perhaps our own diversity of reading material.
We ran 26 topic challenges, with varying degrees of success, between April 2017 and July 2019, each one lasting for one month. After that we had a brief hiatus to discuss the issue of waning participation, and then re-ignited the topic challenges in October 2019 under a new system, which is described as follows.
Each topic challenge lasts for two months, and is announced one month in advance. Each month a new one begins, so that at any given time, there should be two overlapping topic challenges ongoing.
Topic challenges are proposed by posting an answer to this very meta question - everyone feel free to join in with an answer below! Each month the highest-voted answer will be chosen and a new meta post will be created for that topic challenge.
Guidelines for Voting on a Topic Challenge
Voting on these challenges is pretty simple, but make sure you do it with care and thought.
If the post fulfills the spirit of the reading challenge, and does indeed offer exposure to culture or thought that many people might not otherwise see, we'd suggest voting up.
If the post does not fulfill the spirit of the reading challenge, and does not offer exposure to new culture or thought, then we'd suggest voting down. And maybe leave a comment about why you're not sure it's a helpful challenge suggestion, because it's possible someone just misunderstood the purpose behind this.
The above is copied from the original thread. From the 2019 discussion, another potential criterion for topic challenge success emerged: the existence of shorter works that are available online as part of the challenge. Thus it might be suggested to bear this in mind when voting: a topic challenge is generally more likely to be a success if it includes some shorter works available online. But of course, feel free to vote however you see fit. Diversity of topics is the most important criterion.
Guidelines for Suggesting a Topic Challenge
Here are the most important principles, again taken from the original 2017 thread and the 2019 discussion. The bullet points below are also largely inspired by the original 2017 thread, but I've edited quite heavily for brevity.
Your challenge suggestion can be... honestly, whatever you'd like it to be. Please do make challenges that fall outside of what users of the site might predominantly already read. That's sort of why we're doing this.
Post more proposals for shorter works that are available online. This makes the proposal more accessible to everyone. The potential downside to this suggestion is that it may be harder to find find non-English texts, especially non-English texts that are also available in an English translation, especially online, unless the content is so old that it is in the public domain.
When you propose a topic challenge, please consider the following:
- Why is this topic interesting? A short explanation to motivate people to take part in it is helpful. Motivations might include learning about a culture which is represented in, or which produced, that work of literature, or listing different types of interesting questions that might arise about it.
- What is included? If the challenge is wider than a single book or story - e.g. an author, or a wider set of works such as a genre - please try to include at least a partial list of some works included. Ideally, with links: either to more information about those works, or (if possible and legal) to sites where the works themselves are available to be read.
- Describe the sort of prior knowledge you think would be helpful to have. Please be mindful of the difficulty some texts pose. If a text would be valuable to study, but has a knowledge and time barrier that makes the book unreasonably difficult to delve into for someone outside of it, it may not be a good fit for a reading challenge.
- Please remember that the minimum age for the site is 13, and a percentage of our users are young, so please, within reason, attempt to suggest books that are not too graphic, or contain inordinate amounts of strong language. This doesn't mean that the book can't have language, but please keep this in mind.
Currently Ongoing Topic Challenges
- Jun–Jul 2021: Old English literature and its afterlife, suggested by verbose
- Jul–Aug 2021: Magda Szabó, suggested by Rand al'Thor
Upcoming Topic Challenge
Previous Topic Challenges
- Oct–Nov 2019: The Epic of Gilgamesh, suggested by Rand al'Thor
- Jan–Feb 2020: Lin Yutang (林语堂), suggested by Tsundoku
- Feb–Mar 2020: Haruki Murakami, suggested by CinCout
- Mar–Apr 2020: R. K. Narayan, suggested by Tsundoku
- Apr–May 2020: The Stranger / Meursault, suggested by Tsundoku
- May–Jun 2020: Guy de Maupassant, suggested by Tsundoku
- Jun–Jul 2020: Korean folklore, suggested by North Læraðr
- Jul–Aug 2020: The Tale of Genji, suggested by Tsundoku
- Aug–Sep 2020: the Shahnameh, suggested by Rand al'Thor
- Sep–Oct 2020: Nick Joaquin, suggested by Tsundoku
- Oct–Nov 2020: Rabindranath Tagore, suggested by Peter Shor
- Nov–Dec 2020: Ko Un, suggested by Eddie Kal
- Dec–Jan 2020/1: literary theory, suggested by Tsundoku
- Jan–Feb 2021: Theodor Fontane, suggested by Tsundoku
- Feb–Mar 2021: The Lusiads, suggested by Tsundoku
- Mar–Apr 2021: Mem and Zin, suggested by Rand al'Thor
- Apr–May 2021: Gargantua and Pantagruel, suggested by Tsundoku
- May–Jun 2021: the Mahabharata and its adaptations, suggested by verbose
Older ones (one-month topic challenges) are listed in the older meta post.