The Empty Shelf Challenge!

Book Shelf

This is a photo of one of my bookshelves in my home office.

Why is it empty? Because I plan to fill it this year.

And I dare you to do the same.

Today, I’m launching the “Empty Shelf Challenge.”

Here’s how you play along.

Empty a shelf in your house somewhere. Every book you read from now until December 31, 2014 goes on the shelf. (Waiting until January 1st to do something awesome is stupid and fake.) At the end of the year, I guarantee you will have read more than you did in 2013. Best of all, you’re scientifically more likely to accomplish something when you have people working on it with you.

I even created a shared Pinterest board. Each time you add a book, if you’re on Pinterest, you can add the picture of the shelf filling up. (Leave your Pinterest name in the comments if you want me to add you to the board. Start by posting your empty bookshelf!)

If you’re a digital reader, take a screenshot of the cover and share that. Or if you’re a library person, take a shot of it on your shelf and then return. Any and all books count, not just non-fiction.

That’s it.

You ready? The hashtag will be #EmptyShelf.

It’s time for the empty shelf challenge!

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    • Johnny says

      If you check Amazon or other bookseller, it will show the thickness of the printed version of the book in its description. You can use this to determine how much of your shelf you’ve “read.”

    • says

      I use GoodReads to keep track of all the books I read and you can set up custom bookshelves. I made a new one called emptyshelf and I’ll just add ebooks that I read to it. I can take a screenshot as it fills up.

      • Darcyjo says

        That sounds good to me. I don’t keep every book I read–anything I won’t ever read again (and isn’t a reference book) gets listed at to go to someone else to read.
        Besides, I have a constant flow of books coming in, and how else would I have anyplace to put them? :D

      • says

        That is a brilliant idea!! I get most of my books from the library. And though my librarians love me, I think it might test their patience if I refused to return their books until December. :)

    • Sue Anne says


      What’s your pinterest name? I need to follow you & you need to follow me back so that I can add you to the board.

    • Crystal says

      That was my thought! How on earth am I going to find an EMPTY shelf??!!
      (Maybe it can be a shelf in a cabinet. I gotta go move some cans around…)

    • says

      Buy another shelf? Use the top of a shelf? I had to clear one off too; still not sure where everything I cleared off of it is going to go, but it’s a start!

      • stephanie says

        I’m going to box up all of my books from one shelf. When it’s the end of 2014, it’ll be like Christmas again!

    • says

      I’m just going to use a “shelf” on Goodreads. That’ll keep the library and eBooks together also, and it will satisfy my librarian OCD tendencies lol

    • Rachel says

      I did that LAST year … and .. uh … they’re all still there! ‘Cause I found OTHERS to read in their place …. NEVER enough time.

  1. says

    Excuse me while I go buy another bookshelf (I honestly don’t know how I’m going to clear off a shelf any other way…)

    Also, I’d love to join the Pinterest fun. I’m Dan Cooper on there; if you search by my email you should find me.

  2. Jessie Cleveland says

    Ahh! Best idea ever- but what if I only go to the Nashville Public Library far more than I ever visit a Barnes & Noble??

    • Sue Anne says


      What’s your pinterest user name? Could you follow me — I’m Sue_Anne. I can add you to the board after you follow me.

      Sue Anne

  3. Sharon says

    Pinterest name is Sharon455. I use the Kindle app on my iPad, so will be sending screenshots. Does the book I started last weekend count? :)

  4. Athena Sparrow says

    This will challenge me to read more than just the books on my Kindle. Count me in! Athena Sparrow(athena612) on Pinterest!

  5. Mandie says

    E-readers should create a “collection” of empty shelf, and put books there once they’ve been read, or as you read them. =] I’m in! #EmptyShelfEreaderEdition

  6. Shonna Ryals says

    I love, love, love this idea!!! I plan on issuing this challenge to my students. Count me in! My Pinterest name is shonnaryals76.
    I use my Kindle for lots of my reading, but I’m going to clear a shelf and come up with a creative way for me to see the books I’ve read. Great challenge!

    • Sue Anne says

      What is your pinterest name? There are several Rebecca Vance’s on Pinterest.

      If you follow me (Sue_Anne), I can add you to the board.

  7. Kim Wilson says

    I read anywhere from 1 to 4 or 5 books in a two week period (length of a library check out). I am quickly running out of books that my local library has that I am interested in and have had to resort to Interlibrary loans.

  8. Michelle says

    I love this idea but of course in true form I must adapt it and make it mine LOL. I, also, am an avid ereader as well as a paper book purchaser who has no room on a shelf. I did already resolve that this year I would make better use of my public library, so I am going to go with the pin idea and create a special board for cover pictures of the books I read this year. I expect it will be my largest board on pinterest. So now the question is do I pin my guilty pleasure books as well as the ones that make me seem intelligent and well read LOL

  9. Kris10 says

    You can make more room by getting rid of one of the two copies of “Blue Like Jazz” on the shelf above it . . . or better yet, both of them. :P

  10. Jonathan says

    Great idea … my only problem is that I come across a lot of great books and buy them at a pace that far exceeds the rate at which I find time to read them :/

  11. Cheryl Russell says

    Ha! Great idea. This will motivate me to move books from my “waiting to be read” shelf/shelves to a new “read it!” shelf. Which also means I’ll be clearing out already full shelves…..that will need filled next year. win, win, win.
    pinterest name is cherylwriter

  12. Angie says

    Great idea. Just cleaned off the shelf (in other words big pile of books on the floor now). my Pinterest username is angelfischwi.

  13. says

    I love, love, love this idea! But all of my bookshelves are packed, stacked 2-deep! Maybe I should purge a few books first, but that’s like parting with a friend… or maybe I just need to buy another book shelf. :) Either way, it sounds fun! Thanks for the invite. Becky

    • Jocelyn says

      I have friends who buy the under bed storage containers for their books. They also use books as furniture (stacked up with glad on top for a table etc) because they both read so much. And that’s with using the library as well!

  14. Erika says

    I don’t buy books anymore — or I very rarely do. And, when I do buy a book, it’s because the library didn’t have it, so once I’m done, I donate it to the library so they can have it in their collection and someone else can read it. I rarely want to read a book more than once and when I do, I can go find it. I do have some I’ve kept over the years. Don’t get me wrong, our house is FULL of books – I just don’t need to keep on collecting and I like to spread the joy.

  15. Teresa says

    Love this! I’m a Kindle reader, and each year I create a collection called ‘Read (Year). It will be fun to do this with a group. My Pinterest name is treesalyn.

  16. Dan from Georgia says

    I am not much of a reader, nor am I on pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, or the like. However, I do like this idea and I just may have to join. I just won’t share my filling shelf socially.

  17. Laura says

    I absolutely love the idea! My Pinterest name is txlaurabeth. Already love to read, looking forward to filling the shelf. :)

  18. Nathan Carman says

    Hey Jon. Love this idea. I already have a general reading board on Pinterst, but have now created a new bookshelf challenge board for 2014. I look forward to filling it up.

    Pinterest user name is DIYTrying

  19. Chelsea Roe says

    On another note, anyone else interested to learn someone color coordinated these book spines? ‘The Message’? Yea that’s in the white spine section…

  20. Barbara says

    Great idea! I’m in! My pinterest username is BabsKaye. I am interested in what they thought of the books they read, too.

  21. Rebekah Magers says

    Can’t wait. Good reason to buy another bookshelf. Have books piles on my floors! Pinterest name R Magers; please add me!

  22. Casey says

    At the risk of being Captain Obvious is this to motivate us to read MORE or just to keep track of what we are reading. Because if I read more my husband might ship me off. LOl I do think this is a great idea!

  23. says

    Love this idea and is something I would do, but we are living in a small house, & will be moving (we think) within 6-7 months.

    My wife would kill me if I cleared off a shelf of books only to refill it with new ones.

  24. says

    My pinterest name is Jennifer Webb(jennybek). I’m going to create a collection and (hopefully) keep track of my audible/kindle books. I’ll post pics of any IRL books, too. I like this idea!

  25. Kay says

    This could be feeding an addiction I already have. Nook, Kindle app on the I-phone, library card, and good old-fashioned books. And I just opened a gift card to McKay’s Book Store in Nashville!

    Pinterest: KYGirl Wildcat

  26. Delia Coker says

    I’m so excited about this challenge! Don’t know how to post a picture to your Pinterest though.
    I’m deliacoker.

  27. Susan says

    Great idea but disappointed that you didn’t suggest donating a bookshelf of books to your local library to be able to undertake this challenge. Just a thought…

  28. Abbi Hart says

    Great idea! I’m not joining in since I read about 200 books a year so I’d need to get another whole shelf. And even if I could get another shelf I’m still faced with the problem of the fact that I like to have my books sorted on my shelves! So I’ll just say good luck to you all!

  29. says

    An avid bibliophile being challenged to read more…this will be fun. I just cleaned off a few shelves of books to either donate to the church library or give to friends…And, my husband got me a Kindle for Christmas so I can finally join the ranks of the e-reading people.

    My pinterest name is Created for Home

  30. says

    What a wonderful idea! Goodreads has a similar challenge. I read 24 of the 30 books (80%) toward my goal. I’d like to join your challenge in 2014! Merry Christmas!

  31. Kat says

    Definitely taking this challenge! I already have about 30 books in my iPad, plus we have a library at work with plenty of great books. 2014 will be all about learning. Thanks for creating this #EmptyShelf challenge. My pinterest name is Kat_978.

  32. Elaine Puckett says

    My Pinterest user name elaine7488 – LOVE this idea – creating a new “collection” on my Kindle right now titled “Empty Shelf.”
    Thanks, Jon, and MERRY CHRISTMAS :)

  33. Rebecca says

    I’m in! My Pinterest name is Rebecca Sorrells. Question – I have several books that I have started. Do I need to start them again to count them?

  34. Keely Prohaska says

    My Pinterest is Keely08 GREAT IDEA! I’m looking forward to seeing what others are reading. Mine will probably mostly be text books – but let’s hope I find time for some relaxed reading. Merry Christmas!

  35. Hannah Swerens says

    Visual insentive is a wonderful thing! Great idea! I’m already trying to read a hundred stories in a year (fifty short stories, and fifty full length books), so this is great.

    My username is LeftyLizard.

  36. Jeanne Greenfield says

    I’m in! I’m going to suggest my roommates join us too!. My Pinterest name is jeanneg4 … gotta go now and empty my bookshelf.

  37. Heidi says

    I’m in although a little disappointed because I thought the challenge was to get rid of the Elf on the Shelf for 2014. Darn. Reading is great too though.

  38. katie says

    I think this is a wonderful idea! I will have to motify it slightly and buy another book case for 2014, I read atleast a book every two days. My goal will be to fill my new book case.

  39. Barb Yerian says

    I am excited for this challenge as I have some book that I own and want to read and others that I am waiting to purchase after reading those that I have.
    My Pinterest names is

  40. says

    My pinterest name is bungirlpin. Add me please!

    I think I’m going to have to figure out some kind of virtual shelf because I read both e-books and the regular kind… Anybody know of a good app/website/etc to keep track of both?

  41. says

    LOVE this! I already have one book to add that I finished yesterday! My husband and I are going to do this. My pinterest name is Melinda Prince (Melindarprince) and my husband’s is K Michael Prince (karymprince).

  42. says

    I’m amber_i_am on Pinterest. I’m going to use a Goodreads category as my “empty shelf” since I don’t have an empty shelf on any bookshelf in the house!

  43. Christopher says

    I made a pinterest account just for this. My username is CoffeyCM1984. I have to find a clear spot on a shelve somewhere.

  44. says

    Oy vey… I am the worst about actually reading, despite knowing what good things come from it. I have picked up much more since the start experiment though, and this sounds like a fun challenge! I’m in!

    I’m presuming picture books with the kids don’t count? I mean, for my shelf (though, oh! They should do it, too!)

    Pinterest: jenniferkaufman

  45. Amber says

    I’m new to GoodReads and Pinterest, but I’ve been looking for a way to track my list of books to read so I’m giving this a try.

    My pinterest username is beerendsa.

  46. says

    Do articles on count? :3

    No, but seriously, this is a pretty cool challenge. Trying to decide now if I’m going to get in on it. (I tend to get very excited about ideas like this, then realize I don’t have the time/interest/energy/focus for it, and abandoning it about a quarter of the way in.)

    Another alternative for Kindle readers: If you can find a cheap paperback version of what you’re reading at a used book store, you can put the physical one on the shelf while reading the electronic version. :)

  47. Kirsten says

    Add me … !! My user name on Pinterest is kcoquinn01. I also use to track all of my books on there (they have a yearly reading challenge) and I love that as well.

  48. says

    I’d love to do this and I love Pinterest! My user name is LeslieZander. My 13 year old is a voracious reader so I will share her books as well. She will easily outread me! She does not have Pinterest.

  49. Kara says

    I’m really excited about starting this! I would love to be added to the Pinterest board. My username is karawilliamson. Thanks!

  50. says

    I think I’m going to need a lot more than one shelf! lol I do need to clean out my bookcase though, and I probably need to be more purposeful in what I read anyway. Not to mention, how cool to keep track of everything you read in a year!

  51. Linda says

    Love this idea… My Pinterest account is lfrancia.. May have to use the good read shelf idea though because I do get a lot of books from the library and remade books occasionally

  52. Dana says

    Well, seeing I refuse to get a Pinterest account (because I am too busy reading, writing, dreaming, and creating), I will not be participating in this as a “group project.” I already started something like this in July by listing all the books I read. Plus, I have never played well with others…I do not need others to challenged myself and to meet said challenge.

    But good idea for all the social media people out there.

  53. BCM says

    Making this a bulletin board in my classroom for the second semester. Students will pin thumbnails of book covers on to the board as they finish reading them. Empty Shelf Bulletin Board!

  54. says

    I’m in! Especially if I can put One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish on my shelf, along with every other book I’ll read my son. Might need two shelves…those cardboard books are awfully thick.

    Pinterest name: jmariebrondyke

  55. says

    Love the idea, but I need to tweak it. I want to read the books I already own and EMPTY some shelves this year. I’ll collect them in one spot, (add my notes about kindle books) and donate them to charity next December.

  56. Megan says

    I have SO many books we have shelves double booked…Can I use the top of my dresser? That’s where I was planning to keep my books I wanted to read this year. My Pinterest is meglettx.

  57. says

    Jon, Don’t laugh, but we have a lot of books…but no bookshelf! I have them in bins, and in stacks everywhere. I keep asking BUT, long story (you need not know) we don’t have shelves, yet. SO, how about an alternative? Empty, crate, or stack? I know it’s not as nice to look at, LORD, I know. BUT, well…at least a girl can participate! Love your idea. And the getting more people involved thing- YES! So true. Thanks, Dawn

  58. Bailey says

    I just joined Pinterest for this, my name is Bailey Crawly. I have one board called the Empty Shelf Challenge, and my current display pic is of Homer Simpson.
    I would love to get in on this challenge, but I don’t have any free shelves, so I will take pics of all the books I read and at the end line them up and see what I have.

  59. Sheri says

    Love… Love… Love this idea.. I tell myself every year in going to read more. Great incentive. :)

    My Pinterest name is smayo70

    Sheri :D

  60. says

    LOVE this idea!! And I’m glad you added the part about digital books. I read most books on my Kindle. My Pinterest username is megandryann.

  61. Jim says

    Pinterest name is JokerJim… I’m using GoodReads to track my reading which will be both paper and ebooks. This is a great idea.

  62. Cameka S. says

    I’ve become a “collector” of books over the years which is sad because i used to love to read. This is a welcomed challenge!
    My Interest name is: CShelbyLPC (I think, Lol).

  63. says

    This sounds like a challenge I can actually commit to. I just graduated from college after working towards this goal for nearly 20 years. I am so looking forward to reading for pleasure again.
    My fifteen year old daughter wants to get in on it too! Excited for us to do this together!
    My Pinterest username name is sgcwarren and hers is girlnamedgrace.

  64. Jen says

    I love this idea! I’m an English teacher — always looking for fun things to do with reading. Please add me to the Pinterest board; I’d love to participate! My username is jnlondon.

  65. Leslie says

    I’ll do what I can, Mr. Acuff. I’ll pack more books away so I can join the reading party.
    Hopefully books that you’re already reading count.

  66. Connie says

    I am Connielam1723 on Pinterest, I will probably do either a shelf on Goodreads or a new board on Pinterest. I am looking forward to this!

  67. Katt Stephens says

    I’m in! My Pinterest name is katt17

    I’m mostly an E-Reader, so I’ll probably just do my own Pinterest board rather than a shelf. If anyone has any good ideas about how I could do a shelf-like challenge, I’m open to ideas!!

  68. Wade Thompson says

    I was already planning on keeping a list of the books I read next year – an old and good habit I let die a few years ago. This might help.

  69. Heather says

    I’m in! Another no bookshelf geek, but I will hit up the local flea market for one. Though I will likely add before that happens.

    heyraet on Pinterest.

  70. says

    Yes, yes, yes to this idea! My Pinterest name is Glitzngrits. I’ll have to take a pic and upload it. I just finished a “spring cleaning” why wait till the spring and bring all that clutter into the new year?!?! I have a stack of books waiting to be read and an empty shelf waiting to be filled.

  71. Amy smith says

    My name on Pinterest is amyjonessmith
    Love this challenge..already started my first book!
    I also use goodreads to track my reading and will use a screen shot of that :) or of my nook!

  72. Cindy Malone says

    An awesome idea! I have “intentions” of being a prolific reader, but need some structure. This plan provides it!

    My Pinterest name is lifewriter.

  73. Jessica says

    I think this is a great idea!! I love to read, but I let other things get in the way and I haven’t finished a book in a long time. Starting with ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. :)

  74. says

    I just finished “Start.” :) I bought it for my dad for Christmas, so I had to finish it quickly before we celebrate this weekend. I love this idea. Thanks for sharing!

    QUESTION: When are you going to write a book called “Finish.” I’m really good at starting…

    So along those lines, do we have to FINISH the books before we put them on our shelf? :)

  75. says

    Just looking at that picture appalled me. I saw it on Pinterest and thought my heart was going to stop. So I came to this page and I’m now in love with the ‘empty shelf’. Following you on Pinterest, I’m

    Thank you for the motivation to play this game called life just a little better!

  76. Elizabeth Vander Esch says

    Please add me to this challenge! My Pinterest name is eveapple, at least I think it is. I can never remember.

  77. Nique says

    I’m in! My pinterest name is niqueslc . I don’t have an empty shelf… have to see if I can do something about that. :-)

  78. says

    I disagree that waiting until January 1 is stupid and fake. It’s a ritual, and there is power in rituals. There’s something symbolic about starting fresh on the first day of a new year.

    That said, I’ll still take that dare. My Pinterest account is I already finished two books since you posted this!

  79. theresa jones says

    I just started following the board! Can you add me? What a great idea! tlj4361 on pinterest. I’m gone till after the 1st but will add a pic when I get back. Can we post titles and brief review so others might find new books? :-)

  80. David Lerner says

    Pinterest name: davidlerner75

    Just joined today… for this… because of you. Well played, Jon Acuff. Well played… [slow clap]

  81. christy parker says

    Not sure if you will see all of these, but if you get to my name I would love to be on the board! This is a great idea!!!

    I feel nerdy but I am not sure if my screen name is other then my actual name, which is Christy Parker.

    Thank you!

  82. Rebecca says

    This sounds like fun. I have really slowed down my reading. I believe this will be a good jump start and provide continued motivation and inspiration. Thanks :)

    My Pinterest name is revkajewel

  83. Kimberly says

    Kimberly Merrell-Pelletier My husband and I both are going to do this. We might even encourage our 3 children. We might have to resort to baskets or spaces… all of our shelves are taken.

  84. Eileen Orona says

    Love this idea. If I can manage to place more than 1 book on my #emptyshelf, I’ll consider it a success! My Pinterest name is my5coronas

  85. Heather says

    Excited about this challenge! I’ll actually be able to track my reading :) please add me- @heatherhilbert on Pinterest!