Since I started this blog in 2014, I have always participated in the Goodreads reading challenge. On 1st January, or sometimes shortly after, I click the little button on the GR app to set myself a target number of books to read that year. In 2014, I set myself an initial goal of 50 books and read 59; in 2015, I had a goal of 70 and read 72; in 2016 I set myself a goal of 60 and read 50. This year, the target is 50 books, but I am unlikely to meet it (Goodreads cheerily announces you are five books behind schedule every time I log in).
I have been wondering whether challenging myself to read a specific number of books in a year actually works for me. As a competitive person who loves lists and charts and goals, I was genuinely a little bit upset when I “failed” my self-imposed challenge last year, no matter what a ridiculous problem that is to have. I am feeling the same way this year: I have been searching through my bookshelves not for the books I want to read next, but for those I think I could probably race through.
Sitting on my shelf is Dominion, by CJ Sansom. It’s an alternate history novel in which the Nazis won WWII and invaded Britain, but somehow didn’t immediately off Churchill, who is leading an underground Resistance in Leicester or Birmingham or something. Yes, you read that right! A novel set somewhere in the UK other than London! It sounds pretty fantastic, as does The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddharta Mukherjee. However, there is a problem: Dominion is 800 pages long. The Gene is 592 pages of dense scientific writing. There is no way that I can plough through these and seven other books before the end of the year whatsoever, let alone read them slowly enough to enjoy them.
Instead, I am currently reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick, which only has 193 pages and which I am not really enjoying at all. It has all the problems endemic to classic science fiction (definitely drug-fuelled; women characterised largely by breast size and obedience level), but lacks the compelling plot and fascinating ideas that I love about Asimov’s Robot series. I think I am making my peace with the fact that I don’t like PKD’s writing. And yet I am persevering through the novel, because I want to see that nice shiny certificate appear on Goodreads at the end of the year.
Frankly, I am not sure that this is a good way to continue being someone who reads for pleasure. Even though I love challenges, I don’t think this particular one is working for me any more. Next year, I think I will set my goal very low (maybe ten books?), with the aim of preventing myself from getting swamped and spending December reading short books that I don’t like at all. I still want the certificate, of course – I just don’t want to work so hard to get it!