Before I started blogging I had never even thought about setting myself goals when it came to reading. I read what I wanted when I wanted to read it (apart from the required reading for my university courses). But then I discovered book blogging and Goodreads, and, a little later, the Goodreads reading challenge and a whole new world opened up before me
, shining shimmering splendid.
At first I didn’t feel like setting myself a goal of having to read x number of books in a year, since I figured it’d only add more pressure to reading, and I didn’t need that from one of my favourite things to do. This was in 2014, and I read about 30 books then. In 2015 I decided to hop on the bandwagon anyway, and I set myself a goal of 50 books, which is (obviously) a lot more than 30. It took a bit of a final sprint in December, but I managed to reach the goal and it felt good!
However, it did also add pressure throughout the year, which ended up in me reading shorter books on purpose in order to keep up with my reading challenge, and not reading some of the tomes I did definitely want to read. The same goes for this year: I have again set my goal at 50 books, and it’s fun to strive for something, but the “1 (or 2 or 3) books behind schedule” stresses me out every time I open Goodreads. Plus, I still haven’t read The Lord of the Rings or The Mists of Avalon, both of which have been on my TBR for ages.
So, on the one hand, I’m reading more books than I did before because my goal challenges me to do so, but on the other hand I’m reading fewer of the books I want to read because that same goal stresses me out and makes me read shorter books just so I can see that number rise. This suggests that setting myself a specific number of books I want to read in a year, i.e. having a reading goal, makes me care more about quantity than about quality.
While that isn’t necessarily true (at least, I hope not), I do think us book bloggers as a species sometimes tend to get lost in the numbers a little bit, trying to reach that reading goal. And I’m not saying that placing quantity above quality is a bad thing – I’m not here to judge; you do you – but I do think a lot of people want it to be about quality, but somehow get caught up in the quantity thing. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that is what’s been happening with me lately.
The thing is, I’m not hating it: being pushed to read more books also means I read more of the books that are on my TBR – just not as many of the huge ones. But I do want to remain aware of the fact that I’m doing this – reading, blogging – for fun and I should read whatever I feel like reading.
Plus (and here’s another important point): I shouldn’t feel guilty for not reading. Because that’s happening, too. When I don’t read (much) for more than two days on end, I start to feel guilty – which is ridiculous. Somehow this goal of reading 50 books has (in my mind) sometimes transforms from a source of motivation to read more to a responsibility that I need to keep up with. Which is not what it’s supposed to be at all.
I think all this might be indicative of a larger issue, namely that of so many things being aimed at being competitive these days. And by that I don’t just mean competition with other people, but also competition with oneself. The entire existence of the Goodreads reading challenge is an example of that. I’m not going to get into all that here, because that’s just going to get tedious and make this post even longer, but I do think it’s a thing. And don’t get me wrong, I think ambition is a great thing, but too much of anything ends up being unhealthy.
One last thing I want to mention is a readathon that’s coming up, even though read-a-thons are basically the epitome of reading as a competition (no disrespect meant – I love readathons). I was already planning on writing this post when Marlin (who is a booktuber, check out her channel here) announced the Slowathon: a readathon aimed entirely at quality instead of the quantity. Sound familiar? I’m not sure yet if I’ll be able to participate actively, but I did decide that I will finally start reading The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and will take as long as I need to finish it. If you want to know more about this readathon, you can click here for the announcement video.
Now, let’s chat! Do you set reading goals for yourself? Do they make reading fun or do you feel pressured – or a bit of both, like me? Do you let your goals influence your TBR?