Monday, April 17, 2017

Down With Goodreads Challenges (Re: Do We Read Too Quickly?)

A few weeks ago (actually, about a month now... oops) Emily wrote a post asking, Do We Read Too Quickly? In her post, she talks about how she often becomes caught up in finishing books so that she can add more books to her Goodreads challenge or whatever that it becomes more about finishing books than actually the reading them. One of the questions she asks is, "Are we so goal-oriented and productivity-obsessed with READING a book [that it] becomes more about FINISHING a book?" I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing through books to the end even if they're not enjoyable because that can be a unique experience, but I think there is something weird about how productivity and numbers-obsessed we often are when it comes to reading.

One of the things I've noticed in the online book community is that if you don't read a LOT of books, you often feel like you're falling behind. There are people constantly talking about books, and often the most popular people are the ones who are talking about the most books (how do they read so many books!??) Then there's the Goodreads challenge - you set a number of books you want to read each year, and that becomes THE reading goal for the year - the number of books you read. I'm sure it's been like this for a long time, but why did we decide that the number of books we read each year is the most important thing?

I have definitely been guilty of falling into the trap of wanting higher numbers. Even in years when I read lots of really fascinating, mind-stretching books, at the end of the year when I go to do my year-end wrap up post I feel disappointed in myself when I read significantly less books than the year before (even if it's still well over 50). And then I'm like, I read so many great books this year! Why do I care so much that I read 15 less books than last year?

I'd like to propose that we focus less on productivity in the number of books read, and be more intentional in the books we do read. Focusing on numbers often leads to wanting to read the fastest and most easily digestible books so you can get your numbers up, at least in my experience. But what about those 800 page books that take months to get through but are often absolutely fascinating and change your view of the world? (Some of mine have been Five Days at Memorial, Riel: A Life of Revolution and Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of New Hollywood.) Or what about those books that maybe aren't 800 pages, but take just as long to get through because they take so much emotional and mental energy, but in the end have a lasting impact on how you live your life or perceive others different from you? Or what about people who just can't read fast or read five books in one weekend?

I'd love to see the online book community focused less on numbers, and more on basically everything else. What do you think of goals for reading a certain number of books in a year? How else do you think society's focus on productivity and numbers as indicators of success impacts our reading habits?


Speaking of reading challenges (kind of), remember my 2017 reading goals? One of my goals was "Do a reading challenge on the blog! Which one? Who knows, not me!" Well, I found the challenge I want to do this year! It is called Women in Translation Month - started by blogger Meytal Radzinski to help promote books written by women in other languages that have been translated into English. WIT Month takes place in August, so I'll try to read some women in translation before then so I can have a bunch of reviews up that month. I am SO EXCITED about this challenge - Meytal shares a lot of my passions, for more international literature in the Western world, and for Western readers to get outside of our own anglophone-centered media bubbles. Reading books in translation is a great way to do that (and one of my other goals was to read 3 books in translation, so two birds with one stone! Yay!) Meytal also has a great list already on her blog and Goodreads. Let me know in the comments if you're planning to join me!!

(also I am working on a ~cool secret project~ which I will launch when I'm done exams, so stay tuned! ;) )


  1. Ugh, I related to this post way too much.

    I do read a lot, and read fairly quickly, but then I see people complaining on Twitter that they're falling behind because they haven't hit their 100-book count yet and I'm like O_O

    Reading is one of the few things I DON'T have a deadline on, and I'd like to keep it that way. Unless someone has specifically given me a book to review, I'll read that one quickly (unless life events derail, as with The Kingdom of Oceana, which I just reviewed). But otherwise, I'm kind of protective of my reading time. Even when reading for a purpose, so to speak. Like if my friend has asked me to vet a book, or if I've checked one out from the library and need to have it due back.

    Reviews start to pile up, too.

    Anyway, I hear what you're saying here and I completely agree. I'm off GoodReads (cut myself off in undergrad because my productivity in school was dropping at an alarming rate) but I still get the emails. Some of the book clubs seem exhausting. If you ever want to start a book club, though (even if it's just book buddies with a couple people), let me know!

    1. Exactly to all of that... I mean, there's a difference between wanting to read a ridiculous number of books just because you want impressive numbers, and wanting to read more books because you like reading.

      I would love to start a book club! I really just want a book club so I can discuss books with people, since people in my real life tend to get sick of all my book talk haha... ;)


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