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!
I wonder this every year, although my goal is a lot lower than it used to be. I know some bloggers just set it to 1, so you still get the handy area where you can see what you’ve read this year.
I have a love hate relationship with the whole thing. I like that it gives me some momentum and I probably read more shorter works because of it… many of them I might have avoided were it not for the challenge. Last year, I just lowered my goal the week before the end of the year, I’ll do that again this year rather than feel like I’m under pressure or failed.
Yes, I like the momentum and the helpful area showing me what I’ve read. Maybe I will just lower my goal around Christmastime.
You can also go to your “read” shelf and click the dirt by date read button so they all go in order. I DO like the page that shows me the covers when I join the challenge…. Really, want the challenge meant to incentivize those who don’t read a lot? I have another book blogger friends who read 300+ books. They’re all middle grade, and she likes it that way. So, it seems like the challenge isn’t much of a test of anything.
Yeah, next year I am just not going to get so het up about it.
I have a love/hate relationship with the Goodreads challenge. I love that it pushes me to read more and that feeling when I meet my goal is pretty great. I hate when it makes me feel guilty however, or when it causes me to change my reading habits (i.e. read shorter books) in order to not fall behind.
Yes – I think maybe next year I will just set it very low so I still get the display of books I’ve read, but not pressure myself to read a set number.
Honestly, the display is the best part!
I DEFINITELY start reading shorter books at the end of the year, too! All of a sudden it seems like I’m a graphic novel kick in December. I love graphic novels, and they are shorter, but they also take forever to review if I add images (which I think I should).
Setting the goal low is they key! I went to my worst year reading since I started blogging and realized that even if I had a worse year I’d still average roughly 5 books a month. Mine has stayed firmly at 60 for the last three years even though I crushed it two years and will barely make it this year. It’s a fun site, but sometimes that added stress just isn’t worth it.
Rationally speaking, I know that averaging 50 books a year is still a lot of books and I shouldn’t be putting pressure on myself. 60 books is even better! I think the low goal is going to be my approach next year – that seems to be the consensus.