Reading Goals: Fun Challenge or Added Pressure?


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 meshining 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?

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Hi! I'm Anne and I love reading, baking and writing about both of those things. Welcome!

15 thoughts on “Reading Goals: Fun Challenge or Added Pressure?

  1. I’ve tracked my reading for more than a decade, but I only started setting goals in the last couple of years. I don’t find it stressful but I also set goals that I feel are definitely within my reach – I wouldn’t try to nearly double my reading in a year!

    But I’ve been using goals to get out of my reading comfort zone a little more, rather than focusing on just the overall number of books. Because, as you said, I don’t want it to just be about quantity. I decided I wanted to read more Spanish books and more nonfiction than last year, and to read several new books for each one I re-read. I’ve discovered some books I absolutely love that I probably never would have picked up if I weren’t deliberately trying to challenge myself.

    1. Yes, maybe nearly doubling my goal was a bit over ambitious :’) I did manage to reach it, but it was a bit of a struggle in the end, which isn’t the right approach, I’d say.

      That does sound like a much better approach, and I think I want to set more of those types of goals for 2017. I think I’ll still set a Goodreads reading challenge, but just as extra incentive, not as a “I MUST REACH THIS” type of thing.

      Thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry for the ridiculously late reply!

  2. This is the first year since about 2012 or 2013 that I haven’t set myself a specific number of books to read on Goodreads. For the reason that the whole “you are x books behind” stresses me out as well, and I always end up reading short books. I’ve got some longer ones that have been languishing on my shelf, simply because they won’t get my final tally up high enough.

    This year has been a lot more relaxed. I’m doing a bunch of other reading challenges, but they’re more genre focussed challenges, rather than number challenges – and the ones that are numbers focussed are really low pressure too (like, trying to read more of the unread books I already own).

    I can safely say that I won’t be setting myself a Goodreads target next year – I’ve still managed to read 54 books this year without even aiming for it, so I’m happy with that and I don’t feel like Goodreads is judging me for being behind on my challenge!

    1. That’s exactly what happens with me as well! I think I’m still going to set a number of books on Goodreads in 2017, but keep it to a rather low number so it’s just extra incentive instead of a stress factor.

      Genre focused challenges seem like a lot more fun! I think I’ll go with that for 2017 as well. Wow, go you! 54 is a lot! 😀 Goodreads does seem a little judgy sometimes, doesn’t it… Perhaps I’ll have to rethink setting a goal for myself. The genre-based stuff seems like a lot more fun anyway.

      Thank you for the comment and I’m sorry for the extremely late reply!

  3. The slowathon is such a great idea! I definitely tend to get caught up in the numbers, even though I know that it really makes no sense to do so. Who cares how many books I read? I would much rather read fewer quality challenging books than a bunch of tiny books that I can whip through with ease.
    Great post!

    1. I ended up not being able to participate in the slowathon, but I do still like the idea! I hope Marlin will organise one again 🙂 And same! There are so many huge books on my TBR that I’ve been meaning to read for aaages…
      Thank you! Sorry for the extremely tardy reply!

  4. I set a goal on Goodreads, but it’s generally one I know I’ll meet easily.

    The way I get around putting this pressure on myself is to track the number of pages I read per day instead of number of books per year. I don’t set a goal for this (40 pages per day is about ideal), it’s just something I tally up at the end of the year. It means I can still pick up a giant tome and have no worry about getting behind on my goal. I also know that there will be days when I only read a few pages and days when I read a few hundred, so I don’t feel bad about not reading on certain days, either.

    1. That’s a good strategy – I think I’ll do that for 2017 as well, or just not set a goal at all.

      And keeping track of pages is very good one as well! That adds a bit more of an incentive to read really big books too. Thanks for the idea! And I’m sorry for the ridiculously late reply!

      1. Good luck, and no worries re: reply time. I am terrible at replying to comments on my blog, and I can relate to life getting in the way for sure!

  5. I always set my Goodreads goal on one I know I’ll reach. I set it lower than my yearly average of books I read, because while it motivates me to read then, it doesn’t stress me out. I also have no problems with lowering my goal throughout the year… Sometimes life can get extremely busy suddenly, or your circumstances change. And you have to take that into account I think, you can’t predict those things in the beginning of the year.

    1. I think I’m going to do that for 2017 as well – or just not set a goal at all. Last year the challenge really stressed me out at the end, even though it was a lot of fun as well. This year I’ve already lowered it from 50 to 40, and I doubt I’ll even manage to make that. I think I’m going to focus more on pages and genre-based challenges/goals next year. 🙂 Thanks for your comment, Jolien, and sorry for the stupidly late reply!

  6. Hi I was just reading this post because it interested in books and because this came up when I searched baking. I’ve never heard of Good reads, but I used to set my self goals that I would either achieve or give up. I think I might set a goal for next year, but not to high. Genre based might be a good idea. Also, you don’t have to reply to this if you are to busy

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