As people started the year out with lots of reading challenges, from Goodreads to Pop Sugar, I also noticed an increased number of people on Facebook bemoaning the number of books they read in 2020, and are already worried about how many they’ll read in 2021. The question is…
Why do we set reading goals? Do they really help us read more (or read different types of books)? How guilty should we feel when we see we aren’t reaching these goals?
These are my personal opinions. I do not expect anyone to agree with anything here, and in fact, I’m certain that many will disagree and/or even hate many of the things I’ve written below. Sorry about that, but you are always welcome to express your own opinions – be they contrary or comparable – in the comments section. So, with that out of the way… let the controversy begin!
What made me think about this topic?
I noticed that during 2020, many people noted that they read a great deal more books when the pandemic set in, while others felt that they weren’t motivated to read as much because they were depressed by the whole situation. Now that we’ve suffered a whole year since the beginnings of the lock-downs, some people who read less are back to reading more, others are having an even harder time of it than they did last year.
There are several parts to this discussion. There’s the idea of the number of books you want to read each year (as in, Goodreads the challenge). Then there are the other reading challenges. For example, I do the Historical Fiction one, and the New Releases one. Sometimes I do the big summer book one, but only if I actually have books on my TBR that are 400+ pages (which seems to be increasingly common these days. In fact, I’m finding it harder and harder to find books in the 250-300 page range).
Don’t get me wrong – giving yourself a goal can be a very good thing. We like to challenge ourselves, so that we can be proud of our achievements when we reach our goals. The thing is, when I enter into these challenges, I always set my sights lower than I think I can achieve. For example, on Goodreads I made it to 64 books last year, and my goal was 63. However, you should know that I actually changed my goal about five times, when I saw I was ahead of schedule. In years past, I have been known to lower my goal, and not feel the least bit guilty about it. This year, I started out with 60, and so far I’m on track, but I might adjust that number if things change. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, and how that will impact the number of books we read?
That said, I’ve seen many people on Facebook and other social media places almost beating themselves up because someone else reads twice that many books, and they might not even get to 10 during the year. I’m trying to tell them that they shouldn’t be ashamed or cowed by someone else’s rate of devouring books. If you read only ONE book this year, but you read it with intense enjoyment, that’s a great achievement, and you should be proud of yourself. More importantly, everyone reads at their own pace. I’m dyslexic so I read slowly, but there are people who read very quickly. I therefore know better than most that comparing your consumption to someone else’s speed of reading is only going to depress you. Don’t do that to yourself, please just don’t!
As for all the diversity reading challenges, I get where they’re coming from, and I appreciate their wanting to promote diverse authors, and I understand the importance of doing that. However, if a book isn’t in a genre I enjoy reading, should I feel pressured to read it just because it was written by an author who isn’t white or straight or whatever? And in truth, I do read plenty of diverse authors, when they write something that piques my interest. I would also like to note that I’m willing to be pulled out of my comfort zone from time to time. However, I’m simply not going to commit to doing so through a challenge, because I know that I’m always going to prefer certain genres over others. Furthermore, as a reviewer, I think that I am more valuable to publishers when I stick to my favorite genres when offered a new release.
In addition, it is very hard for me to comprehend why people would go out of their way to do something that makes them suffer. I mean, we’re all supposed to be readers here; book lovers. Why torture ourselves with something we love? If that means reading only manga or only YA contemporary romance, then just read those. If that means reading five books during 2021, then BRAVO – that’s five more books than non-readers, so pat yourself on the back for your achievement.
My point is: My goals, my decisions. Nothing is set in stone. You need to do what is best for you, and everyone else be damned! Read what you want, and as much as you want. That includes reading books that you WANT to read, and not reading books that you think you’re supposed to be reading (because of the hype, or the type, or whatever). The point is to enjoy reading. Can we agree on this or not?
There you have it!
So… what about you?
Do you join in on reading challenges that ask you to set certain goals (numbers or types of book)? If you do, are you strict about keeping to them, or are you okay with changing them when you see you’re doing better or not as well as you originally thought? If you can’t adjust your goals, to you get anxious when you think you might not reach them?
This post is my 5th entry in the 2020 Discussion Challenge, hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight!