After a pretty unimpressive year’s reading in 2017 I’ve decided that after two years of being an official participant, I won’t be setting myself a Goodreads goal for 2018.
This is not to say I don’t want to read lots of books this year – I do. But I feel the challenge makes it counterproductive, in my case anyway, and it does more to hinder than help me get more quality reading done, so it has to go.
What I’ve noticed most in 2017 is that my reading became two things: anxiety-inducing and very safe, and neither of these things are ideal in a reader, let alone one who wants to become a better writer on the back of that.
Constantly thinking about having to read – even if I didn’t really feel like I wanted to – just to “stay on track” really put me off my reading entirely. I will admit that I cheated toward the end of December, setting my goal back down from 40 to 30 books, which was a total fudge but my anxiety about this did get that bad to the point that I didn’t want to let myself or the system down.
But reading should be a joyous and enjoyable activity, not something that stresses me out or makes me anxious. I noticed that I was getting anxious not because I wasn’t reading, but because I wasn’t reading quickly enough for meeting, or taking days off that adversely impacted, an arbitrary goal.
Reading shouldn’t be reduced to that – and I’m sure my comprehension dropped as I was always… mindful that I was reading to tick another book off the challenge list. And reading shouldn’t be devolved to that level of mechanical feeling, it should be fun and enjoyable and sadly having this figure that I needed to achieve in the back of my mind drove me to not read at all. So I certainly wasn’t enjoying the feeling that I had to churn through books to tick off an arbitrary goal.
As a reader I consider myself more relaxed, but that’s not to say I’m not devoted. I want to give a story my full attention, which is why often I only really read in bed (either before or after sleep), on the couch at home or, funnily enough, on public transport. I can’t really read anywhere as I have to be comfortable; if that makes me a slow reader so be it. To see people finding themselves reading everywhere – not because they want to necessarily, but because they have to for their challenges – is something I can completely relate to. It’s not for me and it sucks the fun out of it!
I also found that I was actively searching out books that would be “easy” to read, and that led my reading to stay very safe, and that’s a shame as part of the fun of reading, and certainly something I want to challenge myself to break out of, is experimenting with books. There’s a fair few books I started in 2017 but couldn’t get on with, and those failures for sure didn’t help with the anxiety. I felt I had to read “safe” books I could breeze quickly through – again, making reading less a leisure activity and more a chore, which is the anthesis of what I want reading to be – just to make up. All in all… it lead to my reading in 2017 being quite disappointing and led to this decision.
That’s not to say I hate Goodreads; it’s a wonderful service that I will continue to use to catalogue my reading and keep track – I find the stats are something that do drive me forward to keep on – but I won’t be setting a formal goal for 2018. I’d rather just make sure I read plenty of books this year, I enjoy them, get something out of them and use them to further my craft.
Therefore I don’t look at not having a reading challenge this year as bad thing, I’m sure it helps a lot of readers push themselves (and, conversely, people have the same experience as I have) but for me it’s not something I will pursue! I’d rather make reading a totally fun pursuit once again, that I can fit in with my life a lot more without the anxiety and stress I was experiencing.
I will be keeping a more informal track of my reading progress throughout the year!
Further reading I discovered in the process of writing this post: